Bicyclists, drivers: watch out for each other to prevent tragedy
By Anna Marie Tomczyk
Bicyclists and drivers should use extra caution this summer when sharing the road, especially with bike-to-work events and changes in Illinois cycling laws, said Cynthia Jenks, director of the Chemical Sciences and Engineer Division (CSE).
One new law allows drivers to pass bicyclists in a no-passing zone, which concerns Jenks for good reason. Her 13-year-old son, Timothy Jenks, died in a triathlon training session involving his bicycle and a passing car in a no-passing zone on a rural road.
“Everyone should understand that bike safety is not just about cyclists wearing helmets, using lights at night and having reflective clothing,” Jenks said. “Both drivers and cyclists need to use caution.”
Jenks’ concerns come when more cyclists are expected on the roads during National Bike to Work Week May 14-18 and Chicago Bike Week June 21-29. Advocates say cycling saves gasoline, eliminates pollution and provides various health benefits. Argonne even offers a bike share program, where participants can complete an online safety course and earn a bike helmet.
Jenks’ son, Timothy, and his twin sister, Olivia, were wearing helmets and protective gear while practicing for a triathlon with a group near Cambridge, Iowa, in June 2014. The exercise involved drafting, where the cyclists ride fast and close to each other to reduce wind resistance, like the Tour de France. Timothy’s front wheel touched the wheel of the bicycle in front of him, causing him to veer. Just then, a car struck Timothy. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The 25-year-old driver was charged with passing in a no-passing zone.
“She was not under the influence or texting. It was just an accident,” said Jenks, who splits her time between her homes in Iowa and Elmhurst, Illinois.
Olivia, who witnessed her brother’s accident, took a while to return to cycling. But this fall, she enters as a freshman at Arizona State University and will compete in collegiate triathlon.
“Cyclists should wear helmets, wear reflective clothing and take precautions,” said Jenks. “But both cyclists and drivers need to be aware of their surroundings, be aware of any sudden changes in speed and what’s going on in their location.”