Why hitting a bicyclist can be no worse than a speeding ticket

Why hitting a bicyclist can be no worse than a speeding ticket

42-year-old Kristin Blaise will be facing multiple surgeries for injuries all over her body. She was listed in "fair" condition at a Tyler hospital as of Wednesday afternoon.

The accident was attributed to 20-year-old driver Devin Hunter's distraction courtesy of a cell phone.

Flashing lights at dusk on Old Jacksonville Highway Tuesday signaled that one cyclist was down and many more were down in spirit.

"We were about the third on the scene and as soon as we saw the helmet we knew it was Blaise," fellow cyclist Cori Moore said.

Around Tyler's tight-knit cycling community, Moore said the immediate reaction came quickly.

"That's 200 plus cyclists that won't be messing with their phones," she said.

Blaise is a longtime member of the Tyler Bicycle Club--a safety captain many called "Mama Bear" whose insistence on following the rules forged friendships and perhaps saved lives.

"She is a stickler for the rules so we knew without a doubt it wasn't because she was doing something stupid," Moore said.

Officer Don Martin said Tyler Police investigators at the scene agreed.

"[Devin Hunter] was driving down the road," Martin said. "He admitted to being on his phone."

Hunter received a ticket, but he is not accused of criminal negligence in causing Blaise's injuries.

"There's a lot of bicyclists out there now," Martin said. "And everyone needs to share the road as long as they do it properly."

Martin said that means cars should get over and give bicyclists their own lane when they can. Cyclists should let drivers by in tight situations.

"Drivers have got to realize that we're their parents," Blaise's friend and fellow cyclist David Starrett said. "We're their brothers or sisters. We work with them, you know? We're in the community with them.">

Starrett started biking with Blaise 15 years ago. He said she's still the first one to welcome newcomers.

"That's when she has fun on a ride," he said.

Starrett said sharing the roads in Tyler has gotten tougher as a growing city pours out onto the pavement. He's hoping that cyclists' efforts to respect the rules of the road get matched by laws that make it tougher to get away with careless driving.

"When you're not paying attention and you hit someone, there needs to be something that's a little more strict and would get the message across there," he said.

Martin said doing anything more than ticketing distracted drivers can be tough since the State of Texas has no law preventing general cell phone usage on most roads. That means it is very difficult to prove someone doing something legal (i.e. using a cell phone) is criminally responsible in an accident.

You can make cash or check donations to help cover blaise's medical funds at Elite Bicycles in Tyler.


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