Cycling safety advocate treats second crash with Tucson driver as a teachable moment

2013-10-10T00:00:00Z 2013-10-10T13:28:45Z Cycling safety advocate treats second crash with Tucson driver as a teachable momentBy Kimberly Matas Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Firefighter Brendan Lyons is still in one piece, but his bike isn’t.

Lyons and his girlfriend, Lorena Evans, were cycling in the Catalina Foothills on Friday when an inattentive driver crashed into them. Evans suffered a broken arm that required surgery. Lyons remains hospitalized with multiple injuries.

The bike Lyons was riding is in 16 pieces, and those are just the parts that were found after the crash.

The driver received two traffic citations — one for failing to stay in his lane, the other for failing to give a bicyclist a 3-foot berth — said Deputy Tracy Suitt, a spokesman for the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.

“The guy in the vehicle took his eyes off the road and just came right up into the back of Brendan,” Suitt said. The force caused Lyons to collide with Evans.

Lyons, whose emotions are still raw when speaking about the wreck, wants drivers and fellow bicyclists to learn from the incident. Several years ago, after another run-in with a car, he founded the Arizona chapter of the nonprofit Look! Save A Life to promote cycling safety.

After word spread in the cycling community following Friday’s crash, Lyons received support in his mission from two Arizona lawmakers — House Republican Ethan Orr and Senate Democrat Steve Farley, both of Tucson.

The legislators met Wednesday morning in Lyons’ hospital room to discuss ways to make cycling safer.

“This isn’t a one-sided attack against drivers,” Lyons said.

“As a firefighter I see these collisions. I see what it does to the patient. I see what it does to the remorseful driver.”

The answer, Lyons said, is “as simple as paying attention.”

To that end, he wants Arizona to pass a law similar to one in California that bans motorists from using handheld devices such as cellphones. He also wants a cycling safety component included in driver-education courses and testing to get a license.

And, he said, “Every child under the age of 18 should be required by law to wear a helmet.

“A lot of kids don’t wear helmets because it’s not cool. What’s not cool is being dead. If I wasn’t wearing a helmet, I’d be dead,” Lyons said.

Orr, an avid bicyclist, said he has already been working on a package of safety bills he intends to introduce to the Legislature in January.

“It really shouldn’t be a cyclist versus driver kind of thing. It’s just common sense,” he said.

Some of the issues Orr intends to address in the package are: expanding the berth given to cyclists from 3 feet to 5 feet; allowing footage from helmet cameras to be admissible as evidence in court; and adding a cycling safety component to driver-education classes and license requirements.

“Most drivers are very conscientious and very good, but some aren’t. I think it’s just a misunderstanding of how dangerous it is,” he said.

Orr hopes passage of the legislation will give motorists an “understanding of how vulnerable cyclists are. What could be a bump or a scratch to a driver could be deadly to a cyclist. It really is not a game that you play.”

For more information about Lyons' nonprofit, go to Look! Save A Life/Arizona on Facebook.

Contact Kimberly Matas at kmatas@azstarnet.com or at 573-4191

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