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June 24, 2015

Bikers protest conditions for bicycles in wake of deadly St. Louis hit-and-run

St. Louis Post Dispatch – June 24, 2014 12:45 am • By Walker Moskop

A bicyclist killed in a hit-and-run accident Friday night rode 100 miles a week and was dedicated to safety, his wife said Monday.
Police were still searching Monday for the hit-and-run driver who killed Rick Beard, 54, of the 7900 block of Davis Drive in Clayton. Beard was struck about 8:45 p.m. by a car that then sped away.

Police Chief Sam Dotson said Monday that video footage from a camera mounted to Beard’s bicycle showed that Beard rolled through a stop sign at North Sarah Street and Cook Avenue just before the accident.

However, it wasn’t clear from the video what caused the accident, Dotson said. Tail lights were visible in the video, but police were unsure if they were from the vehicle involved.

The video showed Beard leaving Forest Park and making his way through city neighborhoods before approaching North Sarah Street and Cook Avenue, an intersection with a four-way stop.

Police recovered a black and maroon 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix in the 4700 block of Kensington Street. Investigators believe the car was involved in the crash and are analyzing it for evidence.

Sonia Beard said cycling was her husband’s primary source of exercise. She said he chose routes through residential areas instead of using main roads, wore reflective clothing and outfitted the front, rear and sides of his bike with blinking lights.

She said bicycle safety was so important to him that he would routinely stop and admonish ill-equipped cyclists about wearing bike helmets.

“He’d stop strangers and have a conversation with them,” his wife said. “He would remind them the right way you have to dress when you’re on a bike.”

A small group of cyclists gathered outside of St. Louis City Hall on Monday morning to draw attention to roadway conditions for riders in the city.

A dozen or so protesters stood outside the steps with large cardboard signs that combined to read, “No more dead cyclists.”

Michelle Funkenbusch, an attorney who has represented cyclists injured in accidents, said she was pleased with investments the city has made over the years to make roads more bike- and pedestrian-friendly, such as adding bike lanes, but that more needed to be done. “A bike lane doesn’t protect you if you don’t have barriers,” she said.

Funkenbusch said the biggest challenge was the attitude held by some drivers that cyclists don’t belong on the roads. She noted that she has had to hop curbs on a few occasions when cars have crowded her off the road.

“We think the city is very supportive of cyclists,” she said. “We just need drivers to get on board with that.”

Jeff Rainford, chief of staff for Mayor Francis Slay, is meeting with the group this week. He said they seemed to be misinformed about changes the city has made and projects underway to make roads safer for riders and pedestrians. “We’ve been addressing this issue for a very long time,” he said.

Among other changes, he cited adding new bike trails, buffered bike lanes that provide space between the motor vehicle and bicycle lane, as well as the city’s “Complete Streets” initiative, which encourages the city to incorporate access for cyclists and pedestrians into the design of public transportation projects.

The city has 16 miles of dedicated bike lanes and three miles of buffered bike lanes. There are also 36 miles of off-street trails and 74 miles of shared bike/motor vehicle lanes marked with “sharrows.”

By the end of the year, the city will have 36 miles of dedicated bike lanes, 10 miles of buffered lanes and 97 miles of shared lanes, according to Slay spokeswoman Maggie Crane.

The cyclists who gathered outside of City Hall spoke with Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed, who agreed to sponsor a bill that would require motor vehicles to stay a few feet away from cyclists when passing them. Similar measures have been enacted in other cities and states.

2012 Bicycle and pedestrian accidents in the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County

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