Darkness, headlights cause RAGBRAI crashes
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Two bicyclists were struck by vehicles in two separate crashes early Tuesday near Lake View when the cyclists were obscured by vehicle headlights in the morning darkness, Sac County Sheriff Ken McClure said.
Dennis Murphy, 38, of Urbandale, was struck about 5:35 a.m. by a pickup truck traveling at 60 mph about two miles north of Lake View. Michael S. McGowan, 44, of Miami, Fla., was struck about 6 a.m. by a car just east of Lake View.
Both are riders of the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, which stopped in Lake View overnight Monday.
Murphy was taken by helicopter to a Des Moines hospital. McGowan was taken by ambulance to Loring Hospital in Sac City. McClure declined to give details about the cyclists’ injuries due to medical privacy laws.
In both crashes, the vehicles’ drivers said they didn’t see the cyclists because: it was dark; the bicycles had no lights; and oncoming vehicles’ headlights obscured their view.
Neither driver faces a criminal charge for the crashes.
Susan Patterson Plank, a spokeswoman for RAGBRAI, said cyclists are told to ride in daylight and start each day no earlier than 6 a.m.
“We want people to start early to avoid the heat but not so early that they’re in danger,” she said.
A guide for cyclists on RAGBRAI’s website says: “Riding in the dark on unknown roads without support is foolish, even if you have lights.”
Patterson Plank said the two Tuesday crashes were the sole serious bicycle-vehicle crashes of this year’s RAGBRAI as of this morning.
Murphy was southbound on a bicycle about 5:35 a.m. on Rolf Avenue a little more than two miles north of Lake View when he was struck by a southbound truck driven by Michael L. Judd, 66, of Sac City.
Murphy hit the hood of the truck and was thrown an unspecified distance onto the roadway. He suffered multiple major injuries but was conscious after the crash, McClure said. Murphy wore a helmet.
He rode with another cyclist who was not struck.
That segment of highway was part of the Monday RAGBRAI route. It’s unclear why Murphy rode it Tuesday morning.
McGowan rode a bicycle about 6 a.m. on Iowa Highway 175 when he was struck by a car driven by Chenoa Bronson, 21, of Sheldon.
McGowan rode with two other cyclists, and the group made a wrong turn and left the RAGBRAI route. They turned around on Highway 175, just east of its intersection with U.S. Highway 71. One of the three bicycles had lights.
Bronson was westbound on Highway 175 and struck McGowan at an undisclosed speed, and McGowan’s body broke out the windshield of the car, McClure said.
McClure was not available this morning to give more details about the crash.
“Cyclists need to be lit,” he said Tuesday of riding in the dark.
Patterson Plank said RAGBRAI officials do not give specific recommendations to local law-enforcement officers about how to make roads safe near the route.
“We know that they know their community better than we do,” she said. “They know the places that traffic will be bad.
“We focus on the route.”
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