A man driving a logging truck from Mauston drove too fast for conditions and killed a 68-year-old retired reading educator riding her bike on a rural highway along Petenwell Lake, according to a police report released Wednesday.
No citations have been issued against the driver, Wayne Kobylski, 42, but police continue to investigate the crash on County Highway Z, one-quarter mile south of Alpine Road in the Town of Rome.
The reports lists Kobylski’s speed and improper overtaking as factors leading to the death of Judy Gause, who taught in the Wisconsin Rapids School District until 1999 and wrote individual journals to share with all nine of her grandchildren.
“They were the light of her life,” says a memorial posted to Grandma G. “She had a way of making each individual feel like they were her favorite.”
Judy and her husband, Robert, shared nearly 48 years of sailing, biking, kayaking, cross country skiing, running and traveling together.
On Nov. 4, Grandma G. was riding south on the picturesque two-lane highway in Adams County about 4 p.m. Kobylski’s semi-tractor trailer crashed into her from behind. Although the roadway at the crash site is flat and straight, the trucker told police he did not see Gause.
She became the 14th person killed in Wisconsin while riding a bicycle this year. In all but two of the fatalities, failure by the motorists to follow a basic rule of driving – be aware of what’s ahead – caused a death. Twelve of the victims were hit from behind by motorists.
It appears from police reports that four of the people on bicycles were riding at night without lights or proper high-visibility or reflective clothing. This may represent a contributing factor, but shouldn’t excuse the motorists who failed to be watchful for others on the road.
Ensuring the safety of ourselves and others should be our number one priority when we drive; more important than texting, eating, daydreaming or speeding to our next stop.
It’s also important to remember the key messages the Wisconsin Bike Fed shares through its Share & Be Aware program:
- Be mindful of speed. Even five miles per over the limit can mean the difference between avoiding a crash and causing one, and also the difference hurting someone or killing them. Few people know this, but it is actually illegal to drive over the posted limit even when passing.
- Slow down: Drive slower than the posted limit when conditions make the posted speed limit unsafe, particularly when sharing a narrow road with more vulnerable road users walking and bicycling. There are many situations when we should slow down and drive well below the legal posted limi, such as if you have difficulty seeing the road ahead of you due to heavy rain, snow, sun glare, or sharp turns, or if slippery roads make steering difficult. In some situations, you may want to pull off the road altogether.
- When we are behind the wheel, we all need to remember to watch for people on bikes and foot: Bicycles are legal vehicles on Wisconsin roads and cyclists have the right to ride. Pedestrians have the right to cross roads at intersections and cross-walks, and the law requires motorists to yield to them. Nearly 30 percent of the pedestrians killed in Wisconsin are killed by motorists who failed to yield to them in a crosswalk.
- Walk against the flow of traffic on roads without sidewalks, but never ride your bike against the flow of traffic. State law requires people walking on roads without sidewalks to walk on the left side of the road, but it is illegal and much more dangerous to ride your bike against traffic.
346.28(1)Any pedestrian traveling along and upon a highway other than upon a sidewalk shall travel on and along the left side of the highway and upon meeting a vehicle shall, if practicable, move to the extreme outer limit of the traveled portion of the highway.
346.28(2) Operators of vehicles shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians, bicyclists, and riders of electric personal assistive mobility devices on sidewalks as required by s. 346.47.
The number of people killed while riding bikes this year has reached the highest total in more than a decade, approaching the 18 killed in 1999. Reversing that trend should be simple.
All 15 fatal crashes in 2015 would have been prevented if the motorists (and in few cases the bicyclists) had followed the basic rules of the road. To be safe and protect others, click here for a refresher on the basics.