Brunswick legislator's crash draws attention to bicycle safety

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BRUNSWICK — State Rep. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick, is recovering after being hit by a car while riding a bicycle on Federal Street, an incident that helped refocus attention on bike safety concerns.

Daughtry is on crutches following the May 6 crash. In an interview May 13, she said she did not wish to discuss the extent of her injuries.

The section of Federal Street where Daughtry was hit has been a center of attention before. Last year, the town spent $1,350 to paint new bike lanes and markings called “sharrows” on the half-mile stretch of road.

Daughtry was traveling north on Federal, in one of the sharrows, when she was hit by a car. Police said the driver who allegedly hit her, Gary Babine, 71, of Brunswick, did not see her while making a left turn from Green Street. He was issued a summons for failing to yield at a stop sign.

The charge is a civil violation, and comes with a $131 fine, according to Police Cmdr. Marc Hagan.

Rich Cromwell, co-chairman of the town’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, said Monday that probably “no amount of bike lanes or sharrows” could have prevented the collision because, he felt, negligence was involved. 

“Getting the sharrows (on Federal Street) took about three years,” he said. The important thing now “is to educate people” about sharing the road, he added.

Daughtry took a similar lesson from the experience.

“The biggest thing I’ve realized,” she said, “is we all have to be mindful.”

“Signage is a good thing … but a lot of it is publicity,” she added.

Meanwhile, attorney Lauri Boxer-Macomber on Monday said “this (incident) was entirely preventable.”

Boxer-Macomber is an attorney at Kelly, Remmel & Zimmerman in Portland, and part of the national Bike Law network. She is representing Daughtry in her collision case.

Regardless of bike lanes or sharrows, she said, “riders to have the right … to use the full lane.”

“The key thing right now is really alerting the public to (that) fact,” Boxer-Macomber said.

Area bikers were poised to reinforce that right Wednesday night with the annual Ride of Silence through Brunswick and Topsham. Each year, the Merrymeeting Wheelers Bicycle Club organizes the ride in memory of those hit or killed while riding.

This year, the ride is dedicated to 34-year-old Joseph Lamothe, of Lisbon, who was struck and killed while riding his bicycle on Route 196 in April.

Cromwell, a member of the club, said usually between 15 and 30 people attend the ride.

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or wwuthmann@theforecaster.net. Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

Brunswick state Rep. Mattie Daughtry was hit by a car while riding her bicycle on Federal Street May 6. The town last year painted new “sharrows” on the stretch of road to increase bike safety.

Daughtry

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Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.
  • Chew H Bird

    Best wishes on a speedy and full recovery. Regarding the comment by the attorney… Part of my driver education class in the 1970s was to drive as far to the right as possible to avoid an accident with an oncoming vehicle. My father was taught the same thing by hos father. The reason I mention this is there are a lot of older drivers, especially in the summer, who were taught to drive as far to the right as possible.

    Part of the reasoning back then was an oncoming single light at night might be a car with only one headlight as opposed to a motorcycle. Another part of the reasoning was back in the 1970s and earlier there were generally very few bicycles using busy streets in Maine and most roads were designed for vehicles rather than shared use.

    While this accident was apparently caused by not paying attention, there are many older drivers who through decades of driving experience simply stay to the right whenever possible. While this is not an excuse, we have no requirement for ongoing driver education in Maine and there is no competency standard for bicycle riders using busy public roads. Brunswick has a very poor track record regarding vehicle collisions with pedestrians and bicycles and while the driver is virtually always at fault (and assumed to be), extra care should be taken by cyclists and pedestrians when using busy streets.

    • Scott Harriman

      Your comment illustrates how poorly we do at keeping drivers abreast of changes in the law or best driving practices.

      Once someone gets their license there is no requirement for ongoing education, which is unacceptable given the danger that unsafe drivers pose to other road users.

      We should, at a minimum, require a written refresher test at each 6-year license renewal and a complete redo for people with a significant number of infractions.

      • Chew H Bird

        I would actually prefer a 4 year written and driving test. Driving is a privilege and the responsibility that goes with it needs, in my opinion, to be reinforced on a regular basis. That said, I am against discriminatory driving requirements that penalize older drivers. Increased awareness of rules a regulations, as well as upgrading best driving practices, would create safer drivers at all ages. I would like to actually resolve some of the problems we have on public roads instead of basing changes on insurance company statistics (designed to protect profitability instead of lives) and perceptions based on ego or agenda rather than competence.

        • Ted

          “That said, I am against discriminatory driving requirements that penalize older drivers. ”

          I’m not. Neither am I against discriminatory driving requirements for teens.

          People at both ends of the age spectrum have special factors that warrant extra attention. My own mother drove until her stroke at 92 (the day after she drove home from New York), and she shouldn’t have been! I finally had to tell her that I would not be a passenger in her car, and her own cardiologist told her she should not drive. I couldn’t bring myself to take her keys away (she was adamant that I not do that), but lived in fear that she would hurt or kill someone with her car.

          Many older drivers don’t see as well, don’t hear as well, and have considerably slower reflexes, not to mention other impairments. I think it’s perfectly reasonable that they should be tested every two years to make sure they are still safe to be handling a two ton hunk of steel.

          As for the driver who hit Mattie Daughtry, he hit someone else today.

          • Chew H Bird

            Farmers are among the safest drivers in the world because farming is often a family business where kids drive all sorts of things at a young age so by the time they are on the road “the thrill is gone” and their skills are already polished. Older drivers who drive poorly (failing to account for limitations) were probably bad drivers for their entire life.

            Good drivers, (those educated and aware of their limitations) are often good drivers throughout their lives. A four year test, every four years, would (in my opinion) be far more effective in weeding out poor drivers than any age mandated restrictions.

            No system is perfect, but our failure to require ongoing training for driving is a major shortcoming in keeping our roads safe for everyone. If Chris Karamesines can pilot a fuel dragster at 84 years old and Don Garlits try to break 200 mph in an electric dragster, the rest of us can learn how to drive in a safe manner on a public road.

          • Ted

            If Chris Karamesines or Don Garlits crash, they will do so in a place where they won’t take anybody else with them. And they are professional drag racers, not run-of-the-mill drivers like the rest of us.

            I’m talking about driving on roads, highways, and streets where there are thousands of other cars, not to mention pedestrians and bicyclists.

            Maybe a test for everyone every 4 years is a good idea, or maybe testing older adults every 2 years is a good idea, or maybe we need to have stricter laws – something like 3 accidents and your license is suspended and you go to driver’s ed. I don’t know which would me more effective, but something should be done. As we are all aware, driving is a privilege, and we need to be responsible for living up to it.

            And btw, I’m implicating myself here. While I don’t consider myself a doddering codger at 60, I could live with getting re-tested every 2 – 4 years. If it winds up saving a life, it’s a small price to pay.

            But then, maybe self-driving cars will make this a moot point. That’s in the future, however, and we should do something in the mean time.

          • Chew H Bird

            My theory is recurring testing (and education) would create safer roads for everyone, reinforce the privilege rather than “right” mentality, not target specific age groups, and include some sort of requirement for use of other devices on primary roads (bicycles or whatever) so that everyone has some investment in public safety. If we want to share roads we also need to share responsibility, regardless of who or what is deemed at fault by design.

            I don’t know the answers, but I do know that what we have created (regarding road safety) can be greatly improved.

          • Scott Harriman

            “As for the driver who hit Mattie Daughtry, he hit someone else today.”

            Link:
            http://bangordailynews.com/2016/05/23/news/midcoast/brunswick-driver-triggers-second-crash-in-two-weeks/