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Pourchot: Bicyclists deserve same respect as cars on road (column)

3:51 PM, Jul. 26, 2013  |  Comments

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The driver of the truck that knocked me off my bike and threw me into the gravel at the side of the road did not stop. As I lay there motionless, the driver did not bother to see if I was dead or alive. The side mirror of the truck hit me with such force that it was torn from the side of the truck.

This was around 5:20 p.m. June 29. I was riding my bicycle with my husband, going north on Highway X. We were just south of Highway C, east of Knowlton in southern Marathon County. We were wearing brightly colored jerseys, helmets with mirrors and we were hugging the white line next to the road's gravel shoulder. There were no other vehicles in sight.

The truck that hit me did not bother changing lanes and certainly did not give me the clearance of three feet that bicyclists are entitled to by law. As I lay stunned in the gravel, my husband immediately called 911. He was able to identify the truck as a small, white pickup, older, with possibly a roll bar. We believe the truck continued on Highway C.

Six people stopped to assist me, including two first responders who stayed with me until the ambulance arrived. I was treated at Aspirus Trauma Care and released three hours later.

Crash 'replays in my head'

I was lucky. I had no broken bones and no internal injuries. I was left with a deep bruise to my left hip and cuts to my left arm. I always wear a helmet when I ride my bike, and this saved my head and face. In the days that followed, my body was swollen and sore.

Physically I'm healing. The cuts are gone and the bruise on my hip is fading. There was muscle damage to my hip causing swelling that I was told could linger for up to a year.

But emotionally, I'm still struggling. I'm grateful to be alive, but angry that someone could knowingly hurt another human being and not care enough to stop. It was the scariest experience of my life. I can still hear and see the impact, which replays in my head like a bad movie. The mirror was just 6 inches from the side of the vehicle, which means I was, in a very real sense, six inches from dying.

I refuse to let my fears limit what I love to do most, which is biking. I've since forced myself to get back on my bike and face my fears. I have to admit, my heart still races when a vehicle passes, but it's getting easier.

Give bikes three feet

Drivers, here is what I ask of you. Please give bicycles the same respect you would any other road user.

After speaking to several friends and acquaintances, I've learned that many people actually feel that bikes do not belong on the road, only on sidewalks or bike paths. But that's wrong. Bikes have just as much right to use the roadway as cars - legally, and morally, too.

In a perfect world, all roads would have designated bike lanes. But they don't. Give bikes at least three feet - it's the law.

Bikers, here is what I would ask of you. Always wear your helmet. It saved my life and it could save yours, too. Keep right and bike in a single-file line, giving vehicles plenty of room to safely pass. Respect on the road goes both ways. We share the road.

Some negative views of motorists come from experiences with bikers who have not moved over. Please help improve our reputation.

And finally, here is would I would ask of everyone. If you have any information regarding the truck in question, please contact the Marathon County Police Department.

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