The Vilas County Sheriff’s Department reports that a crash on Highway 70 east of Eagle River killed a person riding a bicycle about 8 p.m. Wednesday – the 13th bicycling fatality on Wisconsin roads this year.
The four fatal crashes in the past three weeks matches the total for all of 2014, and the state is nearing the highest number of deaths on bicycles in a decade (14 in 2005). On average, 10 people on bikes are killed in Wisconsin each year.
According to a sheriff’s department press release, a car traveling eastbound on the eastern edge of Vilas County struck the bicyclist riding on the two-lane highway. Initial reports suggested the person riding did not have lights or reflective clothing, while riding in the dark. The crash occurred at the location below.
All four of the recent fatalities occurred at night, and in at least one of those crashes the bicycle was not equipped with lights. Initial reports in the deaths of James Thomas, in Platteville, Mario Esquivel-Flores, in Beloit, and the victim in Vilas County did not confirm the use of lights.
Wisconsin State law requires people riding bikes to have at least a front head light and a rear reflector or red blinkie light when riding at night:
Bicycling at night requires at least a white front headlight and a red rear reflector. The white front light must be visible to others 500 feet away. The red rear reflector must be visible to others between 50 and 500 feet away. A red or amber steady or flashing rear light may be used in addition to the required reflector. These are required no matter where you ride–street, path or sidewalk. [347.489(1)]
For relatively little money ($30 or less), anyone can purchase a highly visible bicycle light set.
We will continue to follow this crash looking for more information in the hope that nobody else need die in this fashion.
Of the 13 people killed while riding bikes this year, nine of them were hit from behind.
That scenario accounts for roughly 12 percent of all crashes involving bicyclists in Wisconsin, but nearly 40 percent of fatal crashes according to an analysis by Robert Schneider, an assistant professor and traffic safety researcher at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. Schneider reviewed reports of all crashes in 2011, 2012 and 2013 for the study.
Similarly, he found that crashes on rural roads accounted for a small percentage of the total, but a high percentage of those that resulted in serious injury or death. More than 70 percent of the crashes that killed people on bicycles occurred on roads with speed limits above 35 miles per hour, like Highway 70 in rural Vilas County.
Click here for guidance to stay safe while bicycling and free educational materials.