Coppell Cycling Community Nervous After Rash of Accidents With Cars

City installing new signs

After a rash of bike crashes this year between cyclists and cars, the city of Coppell is busy putting up new signs along a popular riding route.

At least five cyclists have been hit by cars over the last six weeks in Coppell, killing one man and seriously injuring several others.

Coppell has a thriving cycling community, but cyclists say they're more nervous than ever before. And this week, the city is doing something to improve safety.

According to Coppell's "Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan" document, about 70 percent of bike riders self-identify as "fast and highly experienced," compared to just a small percentage in most other cities in Texas.

Ken Bauer is one of those riders. Ever since he first clicked-in with a group ride five years ago, he was hooked.

"It's been the people, it's been the camaraderie, it's been the rides," he said.

But after at least five cyclists were hit by cars in the last six weeks, the excitement of a daily group ride turned to concern.

"As a group we are all more defensively riding, and more aware, and doing everything we can on our side," he said. "You see a lot more distracted drivers this year. Look around and you see people on cell phones, you see people texting."

Most of the injured cyclists had serious injuries. Photographer Wade Livingston died after being hit in January.

Last month a driver T-boned into Melissa Horner when turning on Parkway Boulevard. She had a serious concussion, broke bones in her hand and her leg and has knee and ligament damage.

"It's a slow recovery process. I've never been through anything like this before," she said.

Coppell has an avid cycling community with scores of riders, and by all accounts it's growing.

"It's such a great community to get hooked on riding," said Jim Harris, the leader of the group Safe Cycling Coppell. "We're so close to Grapevine Lake, Lewisville Lake, we have access to a lot of nice country roads."

As the city's population grows, so does the risk to cyclists.

"(As) more and more cars are on our roads, the roads here continue to expand," Harris said. "And we have more cyclists. The higher numbers create more conflict."

There's been an out-cry for months now, cyclists say, for the city to act.

"I think with that many accidents in such a short period of time, there has to be some acknowledgment that it's not as safe as it needs to be," Horner said.

"I think there has to be a recognition that they're not doing enough at this point with safety, awareness and education," she added.

That's starting to change, cyclists say. Last week, a handful of new bike safety signs started going up along Parkway Boulevard, one of the city's major thoroughfares for both cars and riders.

The signs explicitly say that cyclists are allowed to use a whole lane, and that drivers must move over in order to safely pass.

Many cyclists say they prefer those signs to "Share the Road" bulletins. Some drivers, they say, interpret "Share the Road" as meaning it's incumbent on cyclists to move over for a car.

A half-dozen signs are up now, and about 60 more will go up over the next two months.

And the city is still tweaking a project to add miles of protected bike paths—a bike lane with a raised curb for safety—over the next year or two. It's part of a larger Safety Plan still being analyzed and debated by consultants and city engineers.

Coppell cyclists had hoped the issue of bike paths would be discussed by city council next week; instead it's been tabled until a council work session at the end of the month.

In the meantime, Coppell's Parks and Recreation Department is hiring a consulting engineer to review the plan for potential right-of-way issues.

"I think urgent action around this master plan is really important," Horner said. "There can no longer be a lag in safety."

Horner's slow recovery from the injuries continues. Once a near-daily rider and accomplished triathlete, doctors still can't tell her when she'll be able to get on the bike again.

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