UW-Platteville ride will honor former student, encourage safety

A group ride led by Wisconsin Bike Fed Share & Be Aware Ambassador Cody Shaide will take on added meaning Tuesday night, serving as a memorial to a former University of Wisconsin – Platteville student killed bicycling in the city.

The group ride, organized in partnership with the UW-Platteville Office of Sustainability will start at 6 p.m. Sept. 22 at the Markee Pioneer Student Center, University Plaza, 1. Schaide will provide an overview of bicycle safety and guide riders on a one-hour ride along the community trails and safe routes in town.

The first 25 UW-Platteville students to join the ride will receive a set of lights, for free.

“Platteville experienced a tragic bicycle crash on Sept. 13 that claimed the life of a community member, James Thomas,” Schaide said. “It is crucial to respond to this tragedy in a show of support and by raising safety awareness.

James Thomas shows his smile for the UW-Platteville Pioneer Involvement team.

“The mission of this ride is to honor the memory of James and to show support for bicycling in Platteville.”

Thomas was killed about 11 p.m. on Business 151, east of the intersection with Phillips Road, in a business district lined with car dealerships, restaurants and retail stores. He worked at HyPro Inc., a metals shop and parts manufacturer on Phillips Road, near the crash site.

A pickup truck traveling westbound on Business 151 hit Thomas, who also was westbound, according to the police report.

The 22-year-old Chicago native had planned to return to school in January, according to Valarie Wetzel, his supervisor in the UW-Platteville Pioneer Involvement Center.

Thomas worked with the involvement team, helping to motivate and coordinate student groups and organizations on campus.

Wetzel said he impressed the team and his fellow students with a ready smile, and outgoing personality. He performed in the Teaching Awareness Through Drama skits that help orient incoming students.

“He was always smiling, always had a great warm attitude and was very engaging,” Wetzel said. “He was always a happy person and very dedicated to his family.”

The Wisconsin Bike Fed Share & Be Aware ambassadors provide safety education in-person through events like the ride Tuesday night. The Bike Fed also offers free educational and ride safely information here.

Remember these distances can be longer at night and on roads with curves and hills.

When we get behind the wheel, it is also important for all of us 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.

Even less understood is the legal requirement for people to reduce their speed when roads have blind curves and hills, etc.

346.57 Speed restrictions.
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.
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.

While this crash appears to have happened on a flat, straight stretch of highway, the topography of the driftless region around Platteville requires people in cars to drive with extra caution. The difference between the posted speed limit and the safe speed can be very different in Wisconsin’s unglaciated areas.

The University provides bike safety information and guides through its Office of Sustainability. That information can be found here.

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