Tragedy struck Newton County last week when a bicyclist died after being hit by a school bus on Hwy. 278.
According to Covington Police, the cyclist was riding on a sidewalk, coming down a hill, and the bus was heading down the road, with the driver obeying traffic laws.
In the span of just a moment the normal scene of vehicular and pedestrian travel turned to tragedy.
With springtime among us and summer to follow, it is a great time for all of us to get out and enjoy nature and move around town. As a result we are seeing more and more pedestrians enjoying the sidewalks, trails and roadways of Newton County.
We encourage local residents to leave their televisions behind, and even save gas and leave their cars in the driveways, to enjoy our beautiful county. But we implore everyone to use Tuesday’s tragedy as an important, and unfortunate, reminder of the potential dangers inherent in doing so.
While the sidewalk seems like the most prudent place to ride a bicycle away from fast-traveling automobiles, it is not the safest place to ride. The Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety says bicyclists riding on sidewalks have nearly twice the risk of a crash as those riding on the road. The governor’s office states that bicycle riding is not allowed on sidewalks, unless a cyclist is under the age of 12.
According to “Kids and Bicycle Safety,” a publication from the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration, “the safest place for bicycle riding is on the street, where bicycles are expected to follow the same rules of the road a motorists and ride in the same direction.”
If the rules of the road can help cars, motorcycles and trucks to navigate, they can help bicycles get from point A to point B safely as well. Bicyclists should travel in the direction of traffic, use signals for turns and stop at stop signs and traffic lights.
With bicycles on the road though, it is also on the shoulders of motorists to be safe and recognize that cyclists have a right to be there. Drivers should provide at least a three-foot buffer between their vehicles and the bicyclist. Bikes also should have the right of way in bike lanes, and motorists should be mindful of bike lanes when making turns.
What happened between the school bus and cyclist on Tuesday was indeed a horrific event, and we feel for the friends and family of the victim, as well as for the bus driver. Unable to change what has happened, we can only hope that the tragic accident can serve as a precautionary tale for others, to keep it from happening again.