Bike Accidents Continue in Nevada, a Cycling Hub

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At a moment when Nevada is being recognized for its impact on cycling – both past and present – the state is also continuing to struggle to bring down the frequency of car accidents involving bicycles. Despite those efforts, accidents continue to occur; most recently, a cyclist was involved in an automobile crash near Reno’s popular Midtown neighborhood, just blocks away from two schools.

Congress Recognizes Nevada’s Cycling Past

Longtime residents of northern Nevada will know that cycling legend Greg LeMond has ties to the region; one could even argue that LeMond owes his success in part to the area’s hilly landscape and the once-generous zoning practices of the Reno-area public schools. LeMond grew up in the Washoe Valley, a bucolic agricultural area between Reno and Carson City (formerly along U.S. Highway 395, now reclassified as a spur of Interstate 580). Despite living in the Washoe Valley, LeMond attended Earl Wooster High School, which is located in the old southeast of Reno. (Recent emigres unfamiliar with Reno’s historical geography may prefer to read that Wooster is located near the Reno-Tahoe International Airport as well as Benson & Bingham’s Reno Personal Injury Law Office) The solution: LeMond biked to school. [1]

Bicycling to school served LeMond in at least two ways. It allowed him to cross-train for another sport – freestyle skiing, popular in the Reno area given its numerous offerings for epic skiing – and it also allowed him to maintain a quasi-normal high school experience. (LeMond could not participate in team sports, which generally demanded extensive after-hours participation; this also drove him into the individualistic sport of professional cycling.) [2]

LeMond was immediately dominant in the sport, winning 11 straight races and becoming the youngest cyclist to qualify for the U.S. Men’s Olympic team. In the 1984 Tour de France race, he placed third; the next year he came in second, and the year after that he won the race. No American rider – not even any non-European rider – had ever won the Tour. LeMond’s place as a cycling legend was already secure, but then tragedy struck. [3]

In 1987 LeMond suffered devastating gunshot injuries while turkey hunting. Doctors thought his prospects for survival were dim, and they did not think he would ever be able to ride a bike again – let alone compete. Instead, LeMond won the Tour de France in back-to-back races in 1989 and 1990. [4] It was a stunning comeback, and last month the House of Representatives voted to award LeMond the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his achievements. [5] The Gold Medal is one of the nation’s highest honors, representing Congress’s “highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.” [6]

Other notable (non-military and non-political) recipients of the Gold Medal include:

  • The Wright Brothers
  • Thomas Edison
  • Robert Frost
  • Bob Hope
  • Walt Disney
  • Roberto Clemente
  • John Wayne
  • Jesse Owens
  • Jackie Robinson
  • Frank Sinatra
  • Jack Nicklaus

As this list indicates, many of the Gold Medal recipients have been honored for their achievements in athletics or the arts. [7]

As required by the special rules for the Gold Medal, the House passed the bill to honor LeMond by at least a two-thirds majority. [8] The Senate’s rules require that two-thirds of senators co-sponsor the legislation; the status of that effort remains uncertain.

Reno's Own Greg Lemond

Challenges to Nevada’s Cycling Present

If LeMond’s accomplishments have not done enough to bring national attention to Nevada’s bicycling scene, then the Nevada 508 race may help to do so. A Nebraska woman’s victory in the solo female category – there are brackets for men and women and for solo riders and for teams – made headlines in her home state when after she completed the renowned 508-mile race across Nevada’s “Loneliest Highway,” Highway 50. [9] Locals from Reno to Las Vegas and everywhere between will know that Nevada has been investing more in bicycle infrastructure, safety, and awareness. These investments have followed – but also been encouraged by – individual Nevadans’ growing appetite for bike-able communities. The outlying community of Fernley – about 30 miles east of Reno – is contemplating adopting a transportation component to its master plan for the first time, in part to respond to concerns over bike safety. [10]

But challenges remain despite the state’s emergent reputation as a bike-friendly place. According to the Nevada Department of Transportation, around ten bicyclists are killed in car-bicycle accidents each year in Nevada. In 2016 six cyclists were killed, in 2017 the total was nine deaths, and in 2018 the figure fell to eight. [11] [12]

And as tragic as the fatal bicyclist crash statistics are, they only tell part of the story. A recent crash is illustrative. On the night of Wednesday, October 16th a cyclist suffered minor head injuries after being struck by a car at the intersection of Vassar Street and Wilkinson Avenue in Reno. The driver was cited for failing to yield, while the cyclist was cited for failing to use appropriate reflective gear as required by law. This emphasizes the responsibilities we all have when it comes to bike safety. [13]

Bringing our story full circle: this intersection is just blocks from Wooster High School, where Greg LeMond began his cycling career. Indeed, the crash site is just one block from Vaughn Middle School and two blocks from Veterans Memorial Elementary School. It is fortunate that the resulting injuries were minor, but the outcome could have been far worse. It is a good reminder to us all to take adequate precautions, and it shows why communities like Reno must continue to invest in preventing car-versus-bike accidents.  After all, Greg Lemond may never have grown to be a three time Tour de France winner and recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal if he had been severely injured in a bicycle accident; the State of Nevada must ensure we keep all riders and pedestrians safe by ensuring the roads are equally designed and equipped with bike lanes so the road can be equally shared by cyclists.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greg_LeMond

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greg_LeMond

[3] https://www.rgj.com/story/sports/2019/09/19/house-approves-cyclist-greg-lemond-receiving-congressional-gold-medal/2378638001

[4] https://www.rgj.com/story/sports/2019/09/19/house-approves-cyclist-greg-lemond-receiving-congressional-gold-medal/2378638001

[5] https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/116/hr3589

[6] https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/116/hr3589

[7] https://history.house.gov/Institution/Gold-Medal/Gold-Medal-Recipients

[8] https://www.congress.gov/congressional-record/2019/09/19/house-section/article/H7814-1

[9] https://www.omaha.com/livewellnebraska/fitness/papillion-woman-bikes-miles-to-nab-victory-at-nevada-cycling/article_c85d5df2-6ac7-5ccb-939f-6f77781284dd.html

[10] https://www.rgj.com/story/news/local/leader-courier/2019/09/19/transportation-plan-address-driver-cyclist-and-pedestrian-needs/2374708001

[11] https://www.nevadadot.com/Home/Components/News/News/2382/395

[12] https://www.reviewjournal.com/traffic/fatal-crashes-in-nevada-hit-10-year-high-in-2018-1568510

[13] https://www.ktvn.com/story/41192865/bicyclist-suffers-minor-injuries-after-crash-near-vassar-street

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