How Cyclists Are Reacting to This Month’s Deadly Crash in Nevada
On December 10, a driver killed five people on U.S. Highway 95
On December 10, a driver crashed into a group of cyclists heading south on U.S. Highway 95, just outside Las Vegas. They were out on a celebratory 130-mile loop to commemorate the retirement of one of their own. Of the 20 cyclists on the road, seven had been drafting behind a silver Subaru, also part of their party, which was holding food, water and spare tires. The truck pinned these men and women to the Subaru as it collided with the riders. Five were pronounced dead on the scene, two others were rushed to the hospital.
While this is the deadliest cycling tragedy in Nevada since 2004, it bears haunting similarities to a crash in Michigan four years ago. In both cases, trucks were driven into a group of cyclists, killing five. And in both cases, the driver had methamphetamine in his system. Writing for Outside, Eben Weiss points out that the likely severe charges for the offender this time around (the Michigan driver was sentenced to 40 years in prison), will do little to heal the hurt felt in the cycling community of Southern Nevada, or the cycling community nationwide.
Until there is real change, cyclists must continue to wager the risks of sharing roads — and an activity they love — with drivers who hold little regard for their lives. Speaking to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, longtime Las Vegas biking advocate Alan Snel said: “As a bicyclist, you could do everything absolutely correctly, and you could still be maimed or killed.” Weiss agrees: “When we ride, death rides with us, whether we invite it along or not.” In an auto-centric world, most drivers aren’t charged for reckless behavior. The driver on methamphetamine then seems like a murderous outlier.
There is a reason that 50% of Americans want to ride bikes more and don’t: they’re afraid of getting hit by cars. The country went through a well-publicized biking boom this year, leading to shortages at factories and cycling shops. This is a good thing — biking gets safer as more people bike. But in order to bridge the activity’s popularity right now with long-term sustainability, bikers of all levels need to feel safe immediately. They need to have their concerns heard in their communities, and turned into legitimate infrastructure and laws. It shouldn’t take a tragedy of this magnitude, or a headline this salacious, for officials to start discussing ways in which they can protect their citizenry.
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