From the Arkansas Times blog:
Update from David Goins of Fox 16 on the accident in which a car plowed into a pack of cross-country bicyclists near McCrory this week:
McCRORY, AR - Arkansas State Police confirm one of the seven cyclists injured in an accident Tuesday in Woodruff County has died.
According to a fatal crash report released Thursday, Lee Levitan, 18, of Milton, Massachusetts died as a result of injuries sustained in the accident north of McCrory.
Levitan and twelve others were on the American Challenge a six week cross country bike trip from South Carolina to California when a car struck seven riders on Highway 17 around 4:30pm Tuesday.
Tom & Liz Costley of Overland Travel in Massachusetts released the following statement on the company's website:
"This morning we received confirmation that Merritt Levitan of Milton, Massachusetts, died as a result of injuries sustained in a terrible incident that occurred outside of McCrory, Arkansas, while participating in an Overland bicycle touring program. Liz and I, and the entire Overland community, are heartsick by this tragic loss. We extend our deepest condolences to Merritt's family, friends and loved ones."
Arkansas Roads: Dangerous For Cyclists
Last year, a cyclist attempting to circle the world by bike in a Guiness World Record effort was struck and injured near Judsonia in White County. Prior to that, another cross-country cyclist was struck and killed by a motorist, also in White County. We've had two local riders and friends killed by cars in the last couple of years, Marilyn Fulmer by a grandmother running a red light and Diane McConnell who was struck by a motorist on Kavanaugh Blvd. as she rode home from a bike advocacy event in downtown Little Rock. I'm sure there are others that I don't know about, and we regularly hear stories of encounters with drivers who are careless, aggressive, and just plain mean when dealing with cyclists on the road. We are buzzed, yelled at, honked at, run off the road and often scared shitless by drivers who are either inattentive, angry, or who find some sick humor in the act of putting another human being at risk.
We have a 3-foot safe passing law that requires motorists to give cyclists a 3 foot buffer when passing. There has not been a single ticket written under this law, even in cases where cyclists were struck and injured or killed.
That's got to change.
I don't even want to hear about cyclists rolling stop signs or that "we shouldn't be on the road". Bullshit. The first time a cyclist running a red light or texting on the road kills a driver, then we can have that discussion.
I recently read a Facebook thread in which an Arkansas State Trooper was talking trash about bicyclists on the road illegally "impeding traffic." One of his buddies responded by saying that he appreciated the post and that now he "wouldn't feel bad when cyclists get mad at me for passing too close." Huh? You risk my life and you're smug about it?!
I won't pull the statute, but the trooper was flatly wrong, and when called out on it he admitted his error, but said he didn't understand why bikes are on the road when we have perfectly good sidewalks. This trooper is one of the folks who is supposed to be protecting us from a-holes like his bike-buzzing buddy and instead he is stirring the pot of animosity toward cyclists. Please consider another career, sir.
I don't have the answers, but we need action at the state level to at least demand that motorists learn that cyclists have a right to the road. I don't know how to teach simpletons that we are human beings with value, and that this is a fact that doesn't change when we get on a bicycle. If this driver had rear-ended a car load of slow driving grannies with babies-on-board, there would be hell to pay and cries for his head. As it is, most Arkansans are probably saying, "Too bad, but what were they doing riding bicycles on a road?"
The answer to that question is simply that the roads belong to us, too. Respect it.