Cyclist Gay Simmons-Posey was killed by an automobile-bicycle crash on April 17, 2006, in Austin. A trailer pulled by a vehicle clipped her, and a second vehicle (which subsequently left the scene) then hit her after she fell to the ground. The cyclist was riding in the same direction of traffic, as required by law, and was wearing a helmet.
Simmons-Posey was riding on Loop 360 – Capital of Texas Highway, a popular cycling route in central Texas, in training for the BP MS 150 ride from Houston to Austin, which was scheduled to take place a week later. Her tragic death caused heated debate and many discussions in Austin and central Texas regarding the safety concerns for cyclists riding on state highways. This debate reverberates across Texas and has an impact on all cyclists.
Bicycle-automobile crashes are a major concern for Texas Bicycle Coalition. It is the primary reason why the Coalition continues to advocate for cyclist rights and safety with legislative measures such as the Safe Bicycle Passing Bill. It is why the Coalition continues to work closely with the Texas Department of Transportation and community leaders to find the most effective solutions in local Texas communities.
The Coalition plans to work relentlessly in the next regular legislative session to advocate passage in the Texas Legislature of the Safe Passing Bill, sponsored by Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston). The bill would require a motorist to give at least three feet of clearance when passing a bicyclist and would require a commercial vehicle to give at least six feet of clearance when passing a bicyclist.
Approximately 50 cyclists per year are killed in automobile crashes. About 40 percent of those are killed by motorists traveling in the same direction. Most of those 20 deaths per year, like Gay Simmons-Posey, could be prevented if this law were enacted and obeyed by motorists.
Senator Ellis wrote a letter to the editor in the Austin American-Statesman in response to Simmons-Posey’s death and expressed his hope that members of the Texas Legislature will pass this bill in the 2007 legislative session. Texas Bicycle Coalition is working with Senator Ellis and the cycling community to ensure that this bill will be passed — one more step in creating a bike safe community in Texas.
You can help the Coalition ensure that the Safe Bicycle Passing Bill succeeds in 2007 by encouraging your State Senators and Representatives to vote in favor of the bill. Opportunities to attend legislative committee meetings and the Cyclists in Suits bicycle advocacy day will be announced next spring. For more information about reaching out to your elected officials, visit our Get Involved pages.
The heated Austin-area debate following Simmons-Posey’s tragic death resulted in several media calls to Texas Bicycle Coalition. In response to those questioning why cyclists need to ride on a highway, the Coalition explained that, in addition to having the legal right to be on the roadway, cyclists training for an event such as the MS 150 need to be on the roadways to help them train at higher speeds and practice long-distance riding.
In response to Simmons-Posey’s death, the Coalition coordinated a meeting with the Texas Department of Transportation’s district offices and cycling leaders to brainstorm creative solutions to prevent further cycling fatalities in Texas. Much of the meeting involved taking a look at what other communities around the world have implemented in their urban planning for safe roadways. Some of the solutions discussed included placing overhead signs to remind motorists that cyclists may be riding in the area and painted markings on the road in spots where cyclists may need to cross traffic, such as exit ramps.
There will be a follow-up meeting in the next few weeks to lay out the long- and short-term goals and the engineering and education solutions the group discussed. Robin Stallings, executive director of Texas Bicycle Coalition, has also met with Gay Simmons-Posey’s family, and they are extremely interested in solutions that will help prevent these tragic crashes in the future.
The Texas Bicycle Coalition staff extends its sympathy to all those who’ve lost loved ones in bicycle crashes. Join us in our efforts to make Texas a safer state for all cyclists by contacting us at [email protected] or [email protected]. Cyclists can also participate in the Ride of Silence on May 17 to honor cyclists who have been injured or killed. Cyclists are encouraged to organize a Ride of Silence in their communities if none is yet planned.