TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) – A wreck on the Harrison Bridge earlier this summer where a driver was distracted reaching for a cellphone and hit and seriously injured a bicyclist struck a nerve with the local bicycle community; and that community isn’t small.
“Cycling is growing in this community,” Bicycle Lafayette president Aaron Madrid said. “I used to think it was my imagination.”
After the incident, local bicyclists took to government meetings asking officials to talk more about bicyclist safety.
Since then, a group of Tippecanoe County, Lafayette and West Lafayette officials and local cyclists have met three times to talk about what can be done.
“It’s enforcement, it’s education, it’s engineering,” Madrid said.
Discussions are preliminary, but Tippecanoe County Highway Department Director Opal Kuhl said the county is taking care of some things on the engineering side.
“The county is patching the bridges and replacing some joints, doing some dig outs and smoothing out parts of the bridges that needed some work on them,” Kuhl said.
West Lafayette and Lafayette both added bike lanes, and signs called ‘sharrows’ indicating cars and bicyclists should share the lane.
“We also need to now educate the public on what that means to them as they’re driving,” West Lafayette Police Deputy Chief Chris Leroux said. “Bicyclists are supposed to be by law on the roadway. That’s where they belong.”
In the next week, thousands more bicyclists, drivers and pedestrians will hit Tippecanoe County roads. Leroux said safety education never ends.
“Every year we have 6,000 to 8,000 freshman come in,” Leroux said. “We don’t know from what country or what state they’re from, so it’s a continual process for us to educate.”
The group continues to talk, and members hope to roll out a new education tool.
Leroux said police foot patrols will be out on Northwestern Avenue next week to make sure everyone is traveling together safely.