According to an April 2013 report by the U.S. Department of Transportation, deaths and injuries to bicycle riders increased with 677 pedalcyclists being killed and an additional 48,000 being injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2011.
The majority of pedalcyclist fatalities, 201 (30 percent), occurred between the hours of 4 p.m. and 7:59 p.m. The second highest number of fatalities, 142 (21 percent), occurred between the hours of 8 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. Pedalcyclists ages 45 to 54 had the highest fatality rate.
Richard Burns, 82, said he wants to enjoy what is left of his life and “I prefer not to have it ended” — at least not while riding his bike.
The octogenarian was on his way home Monday from taking a radiation treatment at the Cancer Center — riding his bike down Keith Street, being careful to stay in the side area outside of the white line.
That didn’t keep a car from swerving over the line and hitting him from behind. He was scratched and bruised, but no bones broken, he said, and the bike wasn’t damaged.
The driver didn’t stop. Although someone stopped to help, a good description of the car was not given, except it was a small dark car, so the police didn’t have much to go on. Burns said if you see an accident such as this happen, it’s more important to be sure the driver stops.
He was about halfway between Willow and Inman streets when it happened. Burns is one of the few people who travel by bicycle to the Cancer Center to receive radiation. Diagnosed last fall, he is midway in his treatment. His weight dropped to 135, so he suspected he had cancer before the diagnosis.
But his bike riding didn’t stop. After his first cancer treatment, he said going home, the treatment felt like a light sunburn.
His regular ride in Cleveland is along Inman Street to 25th Street where there are bicycle lanes. (They disappear at intersections.)
He got hit from behind, which almost never happens to cyclists.
He says there is no excuse for hitting a rider if rules of the road are followed by drivers. Bicycle riders, as drivers, obey stoplights and stop signs and give way to traffic. “We cooperate with traffic so as not to interfere.” He said a cyclist needs to go slower in the city, where there is turning traffic.
This was not his first close call. Once when he was going down Ocoee Street, a car turned left and barely missed him. He caught up with the driver and told the lady, “You came close to killing me.”
“I didn’t see you,” she replied nonchalantly. “Have a nice day,” she said, and left.
“I need to carry a pencil around so I can get license numbers,” he observed.
Burns corresponds email with an orthopedic professor whom he knew in Michigan when in college. They rode bicycles together. But after 50 years, the professor wrote he doesn’t ride so much anymore — “because he doesn’t want broken bones.”
On learning of near accidents, he tells Burns, “I told you so.”
His wife, Martha, of 55 years (anniversary in November) shares his enthusiasm for bike riding. She rides to Hobby Lobby, a 12-mile loop from their home just 1/2 mile off the bypass.
And he often gets together with his two sons and grandson to ride “just for the fun of it.” The younger son, 51, who works for TVA, enjoys a 40- or 60-mile ride. His older son, 53, who works for Little Debbie, doesn’t ride as much.
Burns never owned a bike until he was a junior in college (1951). “When I was a kid,” he said, “(we were) poor folks and didn’t have a bike.” He remembers an uncle put an old bike together for the kids and that was his first taste of bicycling, which ended with a crash. He noted that in a bicycling magazine, an article teaches kids how to ride without mishaps — good for people who are teaching children how to ride.
Now he looks at cycling as a healthy exercise as much as it is fun. He recommends bike riding, as it is good for legs and lower body. And if you’re riding outside, he said, you can see the birds and trees and talk to people. His own riding around town — it was a 5-mile ride to get to the Banner, a 10-mile loop — is a normal activity. In Cleveland, Burns takes the Thursday evening ride with Scott’s Bike Group — the slow group, he said.
But it’s not unusual for Burns to take a 100-mile ride. He has ridden across the state of North Carolina — 50 or 60 miles intervals — from Murphy to Manteo. He also rode from Michigan to New York in 1994 — though not in one concentrated ride — and from Buffalo to St. Thomas with a headwind all the way.
Burns has had two incidents with heart concerns — in 1996 and 2001. His heart rate went to the 20s and he saw dark spots.
“If death comes that way,” he mused, “there is no better way to go.”
He says he wonders which one will go first — he or his wife. “I have to,” Burns told her, “because I couldn’t stand your being gone.”
But he quoted a saying, “If God has a work for you tomorrow, no one can take it away today.”
He said he read where Geronimo died in his bed despite all the death-threatening situations he was in.
“Resurrection means you hold no fear for the future,” he said. “The world is filling with so much hate, but the ‘Jesus’ camp doesn’t fear for the future.” However, he concluded, “I love family and life.”
Not deterred from riding because he was hit, Burns said he likes being out there, “but I don’t appreciate someone not stopping after hitting me.” He said he can’t understand why anyone would run off.
And, “someone out there lost a mirror,” he confided.