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Cyclist hit, killed in Chapel Hill

Posted October 3, 2014

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— A woman riding a bicycle was hit and killed Friday morning in Chapel Hill when, police say, a car pulled out of a gas station and hit her.

Investigators said the 57-year-old, whose name wasn't released, was riding down a hill against northbound traffic on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard around 9:30 a.m. when the accident happened near the intersection of Hillsborough Street.

The woman was taken to UNC Hospitals, where she later died. Police are not releasing her name until they have notified her family.

A police spokesman said no charges have been filed at this time and that they continue to investigate the case.

According to North Carolina law, bicycles are considered vehicles, and therefore, cyclists are required to follow relevant traffic laws. That includes riding in the same direction as other traffic, using hand signals and obeying traffic signs and signals

Cyclists, however, say that in the area where Friday's death occurred, riding against traffic is the safest option for cyclists exiting the nearby Bolin Creek Greenway.

The trail ends at the sidewalk near the wreck, they say, and anyone exiting the trail with the intention of heading toward downtown would travel south on the sidewalk past the gas station to the intersection.

At that point, they say, they would be able to safely cross the street to enter southbound traffic lanes.

Jason Merrill, owner of Back Alley Bikes, is a member of a Chapel Hill steering committee that put together the Chapel Hill Bike Plan – a plan released this year that's aimed, in part, at improving the safety of bicycling in the town.

"People tend to ride where they feel most comfortable, even if it's not truly the safest place," he said Friday.

Merrill added that the Martin Luther King Jr.-Hillsborough Street area is an example of the existing infrastructure issues.

"I think that points to gaps in infrastructure and information," he said. "It's not clear to cyclists the appropriate places to ride their bicycles. It's not clear to cyclists or drivers where various road users are going to be coming from. There's not a designated place."

Since the release of the Bike Plan, Merrill said, the town has been working to improve such issues.

"The Town of Chapel Hill genuinely wants bicycle facilities to improve, and they are now willing to pay for it," he said. "Unfortunately, for this cyclist, it's too little too late, but hopefully for the next generation of cyclists, which I think we are going to see a lot more of, the facilities will be better and the roads will be safer."

144 Comments

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  • Sally Bethune Oct 3, 2014
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    View quoted thread


    Totally inappropriate comment. Actually, it makes no sense. If you cannot add to the conversation, don't say anything at all!

  • David McIntee Oct 3, 2014
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    So sorry for the loss to the family and friends of the deceased.

    These cycling accidents are going to increase. Out in rural Orange Co. there are many close calls with the cyclists, and often it is the cyclists who are the culprits, often riding 3 and 4 deep (THEIR interpretation of "share the road").

    I hear people moan that their are so many cyclists in Europe. Well, folks, this isn't Europe.

  • Jim Scarborough Oct 3, 2014
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    I commute by bike 19 miles each way once a week from Apex to Raleigh - Salem to Old Apex to Hillsborough to NCSU to Cabarrus. The worrisome parts aren't where you'd expect. It's the narrow passages. Hillsborough westbound where it goes down to one lane. Chatham St. eastbound in front of Bojangles where there's a concrete median. South Salem where it's two lanes with no shoulder. People want to pass me, and sometimes they don't see me as early as they should despite my best efforts.

    Rule number 1 for bicycle safety is be visible. Rule 2 is be predictable. Going against traffic violates both. I have twice recently encountered cyclists going the wrong way in downtown Raleigh while I was driving my car. They seem to appear out of nowhere (because I just turned onto the street), and they're already making a 4-point violation, so how would I know what they're going to do next?

    It's time for emphasis on cycling safety: be visible, be predictable. And for drivers, be respectful

  • Thomas Fenske Oct 3, 2014
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    A lot of people who post haven't read the story. I've been a cyclist most of my adult life but you ride WITH the traffic, not against the traffic. It doesn't matter if a cyclist has the right to use the full lane or not ... that's the *other* lane. Believe me, I've had plenty of drivers pull out in front of me when I was on the correct side of the street. Given her age, she grew up in a time where the prevailing instruction was to ride against the traffic, but that changed a long time ago.
    No matter, it is a horrible tragedy and to the person who cried "murder" ... sorry, this was not 100% the driver's fault.

  • Chad Hines Oct 3, 2014
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    Throw these drivers in jail for murder and maybe, just maybe people will start to pay attention to cyclists. Im sick of distracted drivers doing everything 'but driving' on the roads.

  • independent_thinker Oct 3, 2014

    So many complaints against cyclists. I've never had a nasty or dangerous encounter with a cyclist. I also know that according to the NC Driver Handbook:

    "Bicyclists usually ride on the right side of the lane, but are entitled to use the
    full lane."

    That's right ladies and gentleman, the full lane. They owe you nothing. To the extent a cyclist pulls to the right, they are being courteous, not abiding by any law.

    Slow down, grow up, and get out of your self absorbed bubble folks. There is no right or guarantee that you get to travel at or above the speed limit.

    It's no wonder teens drive unsafely and are involved in tragic wrecks given the scary statements I see posted here and the appalling lack of knowledge regarding vehicle and traffic law from so-called role models.

  • Rachel Durham Oct 3, 2014
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    I was there, i saw it happen in front of me. The girl who ran up to the driver and screamed STOP you have a person under your car! When the driver kept driving. Unaware. The screaming of the driver will forever haunt me and the person half under the car, may she rest in peace. I wish people would see this as it is an accident. She was not a cyclist she was a person and now both lives are ruined forever

  • mustang1993cp Oct 3, 2014

    I am sorry that this happened and I will keep the family in my prayers. .... I thought that if where a cyclist .. that you are suppose to ride with traffic and obey all of the laws just like your in a car..... I didn't think that bike where allowed on side walks.. plus I have seen cyclist get passed on the road then get to a stop light or a stop sign just pass and go to the front. .then you have to pass them again. ... I feel that it is wrong for people to do this on bikes... this is especially bad around Jordan lake ... I feel that they should not ride two wide because it is unsafe for them and the car... when they are fixing to be passed. .... I have scene this in towns and just in rural areas. ... I feel that the cyclist should remember they must obey the laws just like people in cars..... a concern resident

  • miseem Oct 3, 2014

    The driver might have been lucky this was a bicyclist instead of a pedestrian. Especially if there was a sidewalk. That's why you look right and left when pulling onto a street, even if you are turning to the right. Otherwise, you may run over a jogger and that will be your fault. A little extra safety always helps, like telling your kids to watch for traffic even if the school bus has their red lights flashing, don't be so engrossed in your smart phone that you walk into traffic or don't notice a red light when driving, and look both ways when entering a street.

  • Whatev333 Oct 3, 2014

    Where I come from, they have this great invention on almost all rural roads. It is called a paved shoulder, usually 1 to 2 feet wide. What bicyclists do is they ride either to the right of it or directly on the white line on the side of the road. They don't believe in them down South y'all. SMH

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