A 53 year old male bicyclist on his way to work was killed in Arthur, Illinois by a driver who crossed the roadway center line, according to The News-Gazette. The motorist, 41 year old Jessie Lee Wilson of Mattoon, Illinois, was allegedly driving northbound on Moultrie Country Road 1800 East when he crossed the center line to pass a northbound bicyclist and struck the southbound cyclist, Velvon Schrock, 53. The collision occurred at around 6:50 a.m. on Friday, October 31st. The driver was cited for improper overtaking.
Mr. Schrock sustained massive head and neck injuries from after being struck by the front of the motor vehicle. He was a worker at Lambright Distributors in Arthur, and is survived by his wife and three sons.
A press release from the Illinois State Police in Pesotum engages in victim blaming. Despite charging the driver with improper overtaking of another bicyclist, according to The News-Gazette, the release states that Mr. Schrock "was not riding as close as practical to the right hand edge of the road. He was also not wearing a bicycle helmet or any contrasting clothing." It is not clear how the state police determined where Mr. Schrock was riding and why they felt that his position in the roadway was not as close as practical to the right side of the road. The Illinois Vehicle Code states that a person riding a bicycle must "ride as close as practicable and safe" to the right edge of the roadway. (Emphasis is mine.) There are numerous exceptions to this requirement that include passing another cyclist, preparing to make a left turn, when necessary to avoid dangerous condition along the right side of the road, and when riding in a substandard width lane. "A 'substandard width lane' means a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle. . . and a vehicle to travel safely side by side with in the lane." Illinois bicyclists are not required to ride as close as possible to the right edge of the road. It is not clear why the state police chose to suggest that Mr. Schrock's position in the roadway some how contributed to this sad event.
Also suspect is the state police's statement that Mr. Schrock was not wearing a helmet or contrasting clothing. Neither is required under Illinois law. Also, it is not clear whether use of a helmet would have made a lick of difference. The collision that killed Mr. Schrock seems to have been head-on along a rural highway. It seems likely that under the circumstances a helmet would have made little difference. As for contrasting clothing, the crash occurred during daylight hours and there is no indication that weather played a role.
The press release from the state police seems to have been more editorial than thoughtful investigation. The suggestion is that Mr. Schrock did something wrong simply because he was riding his bike to work instead of driving. This is wrong legally and ethically. Illinois law grants the same rights to bicyclists to use our roads as to drivers. It is the role of the state police to enforce the laws of our state, not comment on the transportation choices of its citizens.
Services will be held for Mr. Schrock tomorrow at 9 a.m. at the HCK West Building, 2008 CR 1800 East. Arrangments are to be made by the Edwards Funeral Home in Arthur.