On Sunday, July 21, 2019, Valerie Flogel was biking south on the Military Ridge Trail in Madison, when she was struck and killed by the driver of a SUV at an intersection with Highway PD. This is the fourth bicycle fatality reported in Wisconsin this year, an increase from two at the same point of 2018.
According to a crash report, the crash happened at 3:40pm after Flogel, 56, did not stop before proceeding at a stop sign posted at the crossing. The Dane County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed that Flogel died from injuries sustained in the crash. The driver of the SUV was not injured in the accident. There is no indication given in the report of the driver committing any traffic violations. The report notes that Flogel was wearing a helmet.
The rate of bicycle fatalities in the state of Wisconsin, and across the nation, was at a peak in the 1970s. While those fatality rates initially decreased in the following decades, they have actually been increasing since a low point in the 1990s. In February of 2019, the Governor’s Highway Safety Administration projected that “6,227 pedestrian fatalities occurred in 2018, the highest number in nearly three decades.” ( https://www.ghsa.org/resources/news-releases/pedestrians19 )
This crash, and the increased number of bicycle fatalities which we have experienced in Wisconsin in 2019, indicates more than ever that people who drive and people who cycle should be aware of the higher risk of crashes at the intersections of roads and trails, and to slow down and exercise greater caution when approaching.
The Wisconsin Bike Fed encourages people who drive and people who cycle to remain vigilant about following existing traffic laws, and continues to advocate for laws and policies to improve the safety of sharing the road between people who cycle and people who drive.
Stop signs on trails warn bicyclists that they will be crossing a road with traffic. A crossing on a trail is a crosswalk and all laws of a crosswalks apply to bicyclists as well as pedestrians. The operator of a vehicle is required to reduce speed, or stop if necessary, to avoid endangering, colliding with or interfering in any way with pedestrian travel. Wisconsin State Statute [340.01(75)]
A person must stop and look for traffic before entering the roadway. People driving must drive slowly and watch for people crossing. It is essential that we all do whatever we can to make sure that we do not cause injuries or worse, to ourselves or others when on the road.
It is unfortunate, and a tragedy, that Valerie Flogel lost her life on a trail crossing a road. As road users, we all have the responsibility to watch for other people and do everything we can do to make sure we do not injure or kill others. If you are riding, watch for vehicles that may not stop at a crossing and if you are driving, be prepared to yield to people crossing the road.