CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Every year, there are fatal crashes on Ohio roads, collisions between smaller-wheeled machines like scooters and bikes--and much larger vehicles, like trucks and cars.
Many departments of transportation classify bike and scooter accidents in the same category as pedestrian crashes, particularly because a similar dynamic exists. When a scooter, bike, or person collides with a car, the chances of the crash being deadly inevitably goes up.
Jacob VanSickle, the executive director of Bike Cleveland, a bicycle advocacy organization, says overall the city is making progress in promoting bike rider safety. While there were nearly a dozen bike riders with serious injuries involved in crashes last year, just one person has died in the previous three years, according to city data.
However, he says not every driver is courteous toward bike riders like him.
"I think for me a lot of it is just being buzzed by motorists, so that relates to motorists not passing me close enough. Being within inches of my handlebars. Almost being right hooked by motorists, so turning in front of me at intersections, kind of speeding up to get ahead of me and then turning in front of me," said VanSickle.
The state of Ohio has a 3-foot buffer law on the books, requiring drivers to pass bike riders by three feet before re-entering the lane with the bike. VanSickle says it’s important for motorists to follow that law to ensure protections for everyone who uses the road.
"When you're on a bike, you're a very vulnerable road user," he said. "You're not surrounded by chunks of metal to protect you. Really, from our perspective, someone on a bike is just like somebody in a car trying to get where they want to go, and they need to be treated with a little bit more caution and a little bit more respect on the roadway by people driving."
Other people who use less traditional, but smaller wheeled vehicles, face similar challenges, and these accidents are often placed in the same category as bike crashes. Last year, Cleveland saw its first fatal car-scooter crash, when a man admitted to using drugs before getting behind the wheel and driving into downtown Cleveland. In August, he hit and killed Jenasia Summers, who was riding a scooter on East 9th Street.
Last week, that man was sentenced to prison after pleading guilty for his role in Summers' death, and her mother addressed him in court.
"She touched lives wherever she went. Now I live my life without her. Physically absent, spiritually present is our new slogan," said Jennifer Summers.
While scooters have added a new element to the bike-pedestrian-large vehicle dynamic, many of the same precautions apply. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, the most important steps you can take--no matter where you are on the road--is to pay attention to the road, not a smart phone or any other distraction.
This year, 207 people have died on Ohio roads. That’s down from 208 on this day last year.