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ECMC statistics show it's risky out there for walkers, bicyclists and motorcyclists

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Mike Desmond
/
WBFO News
Slow Roll rides past a memorial on South Park Avenue for a bicyclist killed in an accident last month.

When a Slow Roll bicycle tour went along South Park Avenue last week, the 600 riders were split into two groups. Each stopped at a light pole covered in flowers for a message and a moment of silence.

That’s where musician and bike rider Sara Rogers was killed and two other bicyclists were injured last month.

Slow Roll Co-Founder Seamus Gallivan said the irony is that a rider was hit by a car on the way to the Slow Roll event.

“We just have to understand that paint will not protect us. It's window dressing,” Gallivan said, pointing to faded bike lane markings and cars parked on the bike lane. “As we see from tragedies like this, it does nothing to prevent a driver from hitting a cyclist. Maybe, mentally, someone sees it. The data shows people are being hit by drivers on foot, on bikes in rising numbers.”

The most serious injuries wind up in the Emergency Department at Erie County Medical Center, the area’s trauma center. So far this year, ECMC’s emergency room has seen 62 pedestrians, 27 motorcyclists and 12 bicyclists. The numbers aren’t all that different from last year, as the busy season starts.

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Mike Desmond
/
WBFO News
A memorial has been created at the corner of South Park Avenue and Columbia Street for bicyclist Sara Rogers, who was killed in an accident June 17, 2022.

“We see road bicyclists, the serious ones, who wear the Spandex and the fancy equipment who get hit by cars while riding and doing the right thing. They just are frequently on country roads with very high speed limits,” said Dr. Johanna Innes, an EMT and physician in ECMC’s emergency room. “And then we see people who get on a bicycle, perhaps under the influence of substances, who maybe are not as well balanced as they could be.”

Innes knows the risks of the road, as someone who has been involved in a bad bike accident, learning the hard way that a helmet is necessary.

The right clothing can also make a big difference, especially when it comes to motorcyclists. Innes said motorcyclists who, for example, wear t-shirts and shorts as opposed to leather, will often end up with severe skin injuries.

“Fractures are fractures, right? Those are going to happen either way. But you definitely don't see the terrible injuries as far as skin loss and stuff like that in people who are wearing full safety gear,” Innes said.

Gallivan blames the drivers who believe they own the road.

“One hundred years of car culture has produced a sense of entitlement among drivers, that anything that is slowing them down is a problem. When in fact, those are people,” he said. “We have to treat each other like people and not obstacles, in order to really share the road.”

If that doesn’t happen,Innes and the rest of the ECMC team will be seeing more torn-up riders and walkers.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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