We now have some additional facts about the circumstances of the crash that killed 47-year-old Stephen Rader in last Friday in Madison and the crash involving 15-year-old Brittany Barnstable on May 18 in New Berlin. In both cases Rader and Barnstable were riding in bicycle facilities, but the crashes are still under investigation to determine cause.
According to Tom Held’s blog The Active Pursuit, Madison police report Rader was riding eastbound in the bike lane on Mineral Point Road near the West Town Mall when a westbound tow truck turned left to go south on S. Yellowstone Dr. when the truck collided with Rader. You can see the layout of the intersection in this Google Streetview
In the case of the Barnstable crash, The Bike Fed was able to get a copy of the MV4000e Crash Report filled out by the police. The report shows that the 15-year-old Whitnall High School freshman was riding on the New Berlin Recreational Trail at 4:30 pm when she was hit by a 52-year-old woman driving an SUV southbound on Sunnyslope Road. Stop signs are posted on the trail at the road crossing, and caution signs warn motorists to watch for trail users at that location. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Jan Uebelherr wrote a touching story about Brittany and that her life spirit lives on through the organs she donated to others. You can see a Google Streetview of the intersection below:
There were witnesses to both crashes and you can watch for more information here and on Tom Held’s his blog The Active Pursuit . As soon as we have a better understanding of how these crashes happened, we will report it. At this point while the crashes are under investigation, it is unfair to cast blame.
That said, I do think it is important that both these people were killed while riding bicycles in well-marked bicycle facilities. Certainly we cannot hold the drivers of the motor vehicles automatically responsible, but we can all remember that when we get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, we must be extra vigilant around more vulnerable users of the road. Even if we might not be at fault, nobody wants to be involved in the death of a person walking or riding a bicycle. Bike paths like the New Berlin Recreational Trail are built to create safe places for people of all ages and abilities to walk, run, bike, and skate. When we approach an intersection with a trail, we should slow and look for small children, dogs or even careless adults.
Driving a car in a populated area is akin to hunting in a populated area. I have hunted on public land in state forests as well as on a friend’s farm in hundreds of acres of forest in Ashland County. While I am cautious and follow hunter safety guidelines in both areas, when I am in a state forest, I am extra vigilant. Even in gun season for deer, there might be a family dog, or hiker in the forest not wearing blaze orange who crosses my shooting lane. Driving a car near a marked bike lane or trail is like a firing gun in a public forest, both are capable of causing serious injury and death to innocents if not used with the greatest caution.
Most everyone who reads this probably also rides a bicycle, but we can all be more careful. Even if you are “innocent,” nobody want to have any part in the death of another road user. Let’s all take this opportunity to keep the family and friends of Rader and Barnstable in our thoughts and prayers. Let us also pledge to ride our bicycles cautiously and according to the rules of the road and to be extra careful when we are behind the wheel near more vulnerable road users.