Cyclists call for safer bike lanes; tougher penalties


There's a new push for safety after an accident that killed a bicyclist last week.

Twenty-three-year-old Neil Kelty died Thursday when his bike collided with a school bus. Investigators say the bus driver turned left across the bike lane and into Kelty's path.

Now there are new efforts to make roads safer for cyclists. Some are pushing for tougher penalties for drivers who hit them. This week, the city will announce plans for safer bike lanes with a visit from the US Transportation Secretary.

Steve Sweitzer is an avid cyclist who is very upset at what happened to Neil Kelty.

"It pisses me off that something like that happens and no one was charged," said Sweitzer.

While Sweitzer sticks to trails and country roads, he too has been hit. It happened two years ago while crossing 75th on the Monon trail.

"I had the green light, I started across and someone came flying over there," he said.

He tore up his leg, spent two weeks in the hospital and now wears a brace. He kept the bike, which split in three different places, and turned it into a "ghost bike" to get people's attention. It's painted white and chained to a post, along with a message.

It caught the attention of a passing cyclist, who asked about it. Sweitzer explained, "I got nailed right here. Someone hit me crossing, so I thought I'd put it up so people would be alert through here."

He likes the idea of protected bike lanes like those along Shelby Street where posts separate bikes from cars or even the Cultural Trail.

Kevin Whitehead is a father of two young boys who love to ride around their quiet neighborhood. He's also head of IndyCog, which advocates for cyclists. He, too, is glad to see the city getting more separated bike lanes.

"It's a really big deal between the Pacers bike share and protected lanes, I think we'll see a big jump in people riding bikes," he said.

Whited says that will have an impact on safety.

"People often say it's dangerous, 'I'm scared to ride a bike.' Research has found the more people on bicycles the safer it becomes, because you would expect with more people on the road, drivers tend to drive slower," he said.

Still, like Sweitzer, Whited would like to see drivers face heightened penalties when hitting a cyclist or pedestrian. He hopes to push for a vulnerable road user law.

"I constantly in my position as executive director of IndyCog get calls from people saying I was struck by a car and police let the guy go home and it was totally his fault and there were no tickets issued and I think that is wrong," said Whited.

As for the safer bike lanes, Mayor Greg Ballard will share details of the program Tuesday morning along with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. We should learn where those lanes are planned, how much they'll cost and who's paying. Watch WTHR for updates.