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Recent Cyclist Death Fuels Political Debate

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A cyclist fatality on Shore Drive in Virginia Beach, Virginia continues to fuel debate on why charges have not been filed against the driver who struck and killed cyclist, Daniel Hersh on April 19. The race for Virginia Beach commonwealth attorney has just entered the fray, as challenger Mark Hardman accused incumbent Harvey Bryant of failing “to pursue justice against drivers who injure or kill cyclists.“

The fatality is a hot topic locally; there seems to be much division between motorists and the cyclists. They both want ownership of the roads, but the road’s design is not welcoming to bicyclists and the roads have become more crowded with vehicles. This is in part due to a lack of leadership in preparing for the explosive housing market several years ago that made many realtors rich and many travelers weary.

The Tidewater Bicyclist Club has organized rides and the local community has filled the editorial pages of the Virginian-Pilot and blogs with their concerns related to this fatality. The TBA is a passionate group with a growing membership, and I got an immediate response from their Vice-president and President in regard to my article about fatalities on Shore Drive, Drive Safely on This Death Drive. The article proved to be a bit prophetic, as it was published within one hour of Hersh’s death.

Several years ago, just blocks from where Hersh was hit, a motorist hit our Dumpster, slamming it into our store building. Our electrical box was destroyed at impact and part of the wall fell over near where I was standing. Electricity was disabled, and for weeks we were running on only partial power from a rented generator and drop cords. We lost a lot of business during that summer month. As far as I know, the driver did not get a ticket for her reckless driving. She even tried to leave the scene by crashing through our fence, busting the pad lock open, before police arrived.

How is it that a driver can get a ticket for not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign, but a driver recklessly running into a building doesn't? More importantly, how can a driver get a ticket for following too closely, but not for fatally hitting a cyclist from behind?

There appears to be a focus on DUIs when it comes to getting tickets around Virginia Beach. Just yesterday, local Hall of Fame inductee, Bruce Smith, of the Washington Redskins, was arrested for DUI — for the third time. There’s a lot of temptation to drink here, as bars line the streets. But the woman who hit Hersh, passed a blood-alcohol test and there was no sign she was distracted, according to commonwealth attorney, Bryant.

Except that she hit from behind a cyclist who was wearing a helmet and a yellow windbreaker with reflective stripes. Yet the driver has stated that she never saw the bicyclist. Would the same excuse exonerate a driver who hit another car from behind? Hardly.

I have to agree with Hardman’s point of view. I mean, a life was lost. Sure, the driver involved in an accident of this nature is somewhat punished by their own guilt, but that may not send the right message to everyone.  What about those who have little remorse to begin with? Would a mere misdemeanor not be warranted?

I met Hardman weeks ago and he seemed intent on listening to others. Perhaps Hardman is the best man to get justice for the cyclists' rough road to freedom in Eastern Virginia, since he is a former national collegiate cycling champion, but he may be fighting for his own justice, as well; he was fired from his prosecutor job in the neighboring city of Portsmouth, after announcing his bid for Virginia Beach commonwealth’s attorney.

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About Larry Estes

  • The preventative measures must be holistic, involving all parts of the problem. Enforcing cyclists to get a license might help, as might a similar program for pedestrians like something I would label “Defensive Walking.”

  • PGB

    Lets be serious folks. Although nobody deserves to die in an unfortunate event, the truth must be told that cyclists think they rule the road. They have no concept or understanding of the rules of the road. They also should learn to share the road with motorists. On more occassions,cyclists are the ones going in and out of lanes and not following the rules of the road or traffic signs.not to mention the attitude that comes with it. If motorists need a license to drive on the road, so should cyclists. My sympathy and condolences to the friends and family of the deceased.

  • Larry,
    Could not find your email address. Please read the linked article in the URL box.