Police in Platteville are investigating a crash Sunday night that resulted in the death of the 12th person killed this year while riding a bicycle in Wisconsin.
The crash occurred about 11 p.m. on Highway 151, east of the intersection with Phillips Road, in a business district with car dealerships, restaurants and retail stores east of the University of Wisconsin – Platteville campus. City officials and businesses on the route have been talking about improvements that would include sidewalks to make the route safer for people on foot.
According to the police report, a pickup truck driven by Tyler P. Sullivan, 19, of Platteville, was westbound on Highway 151 and struck a 22-year-old man on a bicycle, James Thomas, a UW-Platteville student and a Chicago native.
Thomas worked at HyPro Inc., a parts manufacturer located on Phillips Road.
The Wisconsin State Patrol conducted a preliminary crash investigation Sunday night and will return for more work on Thursday.
With the fatality, the number of people killed while biking in the state this year now stands at triple the total in 2014, and slightly above the five-year average, which is 10. The 2015 total to-date equals the number of fatalities in 2011, the highest figure in the past decade.
The initial report from Platteville police does not include information about the man on the bike, and whether he was using lights to make himself visible to motorists. The roadway on which he was riding is a two-lane arterial, with a paved shoulder.
Roughly 75 percent of the crashes that killed people on bicycles in 2011, 2012 and 2013 occurred on roads with speed limits of 35 mph or higher and thoroughfares or high-volume arterial streets, according to an analysis by Robert Schneider, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee.
Wisconsin State law requires people riding bikes to have at least a front head light and a rear reflector or red blinking light when riding at night:
Bicycling at night requires at least a white front headlight and a red rear reflector. The white front light must be visible to others 500 feet away. The red rear reflector must be visible to others between 50 and 500 feet away. A red or amber steady or flashing rear light may be used in addition to the required reflector. These are required no matter where you ride–street, path or sidewalk.
It is also important for people behind the wheel to remember that crashes are more likely at night and properly adjusted, clean headlights are required. Perhaps more important is to consider how long it takes to stop in an emergency. It can take 200 feet for a car to stop on dry pavement if you factor in the “thinking distance”, or the distance the car travels in the time it takes the driver to see the hazard, decide to brake and actually apply the brakes. Given headlights illuminate 150-250 feet on low beam and 350-500 feet on high beam, the margin of error is very small and the consequences of failing to stop in time can be tragic.
Less understood is the requirement for people to reduce their speed when roads have blind curves and hills .
346.57 Speed restrictions.
(2) REASONABLE AND PRUDENT LIMIT.
No person shall drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard for the actual and potential hazards then existing. The speed of a vehicle shall be so controlled as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any object, person, vehicle or other conveyance on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and using due care.
(3) CONDITIONS REQUIRING REDUCED SPEED.
The operator of every vehicle shall, consistent with the requirements of sub. (2), drive at an appropriate reduced speed when approaching and crossing an intersection or railway grade crossing, when approaching and going around a curve, when approaching a hillcrest, when traveling upon any narrow or winding roadway, when passing school children, highway construction or maintenance workers or other pedestrians, and when special hazard exists with regard to other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions.
The difference between the posted speed limit and the safe speed can be very different, particularly in Wisconsin’s unglacieted driftless region around Platteville.
Click here for more bicycling safety tips provided through the Wisconsin Department of Transportation Share & Be Aware program.