Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 12, 2013

Cyclists: Tragedy has changed Traverse City

BY ANNE STANTON astanton@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Bicyclists somberly rode in and parked their bikes at Kelly Ann Boyce’s funeral at F&M Park.

Sam Zubalic, 20, now rides with more caution. She has taken to riding the sidewalk for safety reasons and thinks others are doing the same. Drivers, in turn, appear more respectful.

“On my way here, I was at a four-way stop on Eighth Street and all the drivers motioned me to go through,” she said.

Riders said they’ve already seen a change in Traverse City since the early July 5 death of Boyce, a free-spirited 29-year-old who was struck and killed by the driver of a dark SUV or pickup truck as she bicycled to her Washington Street home.

Courtney Saxon, who rides her bike daily from a neighborhood near West Junior High to her job at Xylo Bistro Cafe, said the town seems less hectic, in no small part because the National Cherry Festival is over.

“Drivers in different states, they just don’t realize it’s very different here, with all the people biking and walking around,” she said.

Biology teacher Tom Czarny said he will still ride at night, but added he bought blinkers and a headlight for his bike shortly after learning of Boyce’s death.

“This has made me a lot more aware of our fragility,” he said. “I always thought people would respect the space we need. I’m not that sanguine anymore. It’s gotten to the point I just don’t want to ride on the roads anymore.”

Czarny said he rides almost exclusively on bike trails because he doesn’t want to put his life in the hands of distracted drivers.

Sierra Porter, 23, said she doesn’t own a car and gets into town on the TART trail on her Schwinn bike.

“I’m definitely shaken. I’m scared to ride my bike on the street, let alone after this,” she said. “But I truthfully think there’s good that comes out of this; the cars are more aware.”

The tragedy hit home for Liz Jones, 27, who often rides her bike around town.

“I saw her, I was with her that night, just before it happened,” she said. “The other night, my window was open and I heard an engine revving, and it gave me a lot of anxiety. But I know (Kelly) would want us to ride just like we did before and do what we want to do.”

There is talk of a bumper sticker that express support for TC bikers, said Jones’ friend, Mandy Novack, 26. And she thinks drivers seem to be more willing to give them space on the road, if they don’t already.

“This week I saw traffic almost stop if there’s a bike, and slowly go around them,” she said.

Carol Thayer, another friend, also is optimistic.

“Even if it changes one driver’s attitude, it will help,” she said. “Maybe the others will see the care they’re taking to get around a bike, and do the same thing.”

Tim Werner, a bicycling advocate who unsuccessfully ran for a Traverse City commission seat, attended the funeral to support Boyce. He doesn’t believe riding sidewalks is the answer — studies show that can be even more dangerous than staying on the road because you’re not as visible. Improving the city’s infrastructure is the answer, he said.

“It’s not one small thing, it’s how do we make the improvements to shift the culture so people can feel comfortable biking and walking,” he said. “It’s extremely unlikely it would have averted this tragedy, but I would like to see a shift in everyone’s thinking to the friendly side, bicycle friendly, pedestrian friendly, accepting of each other, no matter what mode.”