Bike vs. auto yields no winners

Two islanders were hit by cars this week.

The 27-speed bike was a beauty; now its wheels are bent, its seat torn from the frame.

A sticker on the mangled carrying rack reads, “We are traffic.” But the cautionary message went for naught April 16, when island bicyclist Chris Stanley was struck from behind by a vehicle just south of the intersection of Day Road and SR-305 – by, police say, a driver who drifted onto the shoulder at 50 mph while reaching down to answer her cell phone.

“The driver never saw him,” Bainbridge Police Traffic Officer Rob Corn said. “She felt the impact and looked up.”

The bashed-in windshield of the 1996 Corolla, now held in evidence in a police storage shed, shows the force of the impact. So too does the accident investigators’ paint on the highway’s shoulder, which marks the 85 feet Stanley was thrown before landing in a gully next to the highway.

Stanley was airlifted to Harborview Hospital with serious internal injuries and injuries to his extremities, according to information provided to the Review. Though alert and able to move both arms and legs, Stanley has had several surgeries and may need more, a source said.

Puget Sound Blood Bank will be taking donations for Stanley from 1-6 p.m. April 30 at the Bainbridge Commons.

Corn said the driver, a 23-year-old Bangor woman, used her cell-phone to call 911 after the accident; neither she nor the Stanley family could be reached for comment.

“(The driver) did what she could to help the guy out,” Corn said. “It’s real regrettable, but it happened. You can’t turn back the clock.”

The driver has not yet been cited. The case has been forwarded to the Kitsap County Prosecutor for review; she could be charged with vehicular assault, or receive the lesser sanction of a citation for negligent driving and a $538 fine.

Dana Berg, president of Squeaky Wheels, the bicycle advocacy organization of which Stanley is a board member, sees the accident as a vehicle for legislation.

She is planning a public meeting to mobilize support for a ban on cell-phone use by drivers on Bainbridge roads, and to begin to build a coalition to push for a statewide ban.

Since the accident, she said, the organization has received more than 50 emails supporting a ban on cell-phone use in cars, not all of it from bicyclists.

“It’s not just a bike-car safety issue,” Berg said. “It’s a road safety issue. The impairment (of using a cell-phone) is similar to driving drunk.”

Police say such distractions are part of a larger picture of driver inattention.

“You see everything,” Corn said. “They’re talking on their phones, they’re working in their day planner, they’re yelling at their kids. They’ve got pets bouncing around on their lap. You see everything.”

The April 16 incident was at least the third bike-car collision on Bainbridge in three years.

Last June, a bicyclist died when he ran into a vehicle at the intersection of Agatewood and SR-305; two years ago, a rider was struck on Sportsman Club Road on the day of the Rotary Auction.

Such accidents have effects that may outlast even the prolonged recovery of the victims.

“In this one, the driver’s definitely at fault – the biker didn’t do anything wrong,” Corn said. “But even the one up on Agatewood, where it wasn’t (the driver’s) fault, it happened and you’re still stuck with that.

“You’re always going to think ‘what if I would have paid better attention?’”

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