Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 14, 2013

Editorial: Can bicyclist's death spur change?

Our view
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — It’s impossible to fathom what went through the driver’s mind as he or she plowed into bicyclist Kelly Ann Boyce early July 5, just a few hours after fireworks burst above West Grand Traverse Bay in a celebration of our nation’s birth.

Perhaps the driver didn’t see her tucked near the curb, well out of the driving lane, as she peddled achingly close to her home on Washington Street in Traverse City. Maybe the driver was drunk or drugged or distracted and drifted into her — the driver’s fault, for sure, but nothing borne of malice.

But that’s benevolent thinking, and any benefit of the doubt that one could extend to Boyce’s killer vanished forever during the horrific seconds that followed.

The unmistakable, impossible-to-ignore impact of vehicle on human, then her screams so piercing and anguished that neighbors started from their slumber as the vehicle dragged her a block then sped away and vanished as she lay bleeding — well, there’s simply no mistaking evil.

No one without access to the driver’s mind knows if he or she embraces the death of this young woman, much-loved and married nearly a year.

And no one in the traumatized Traverse City community truly knows if the driver is responsible for incidents in 2010 and 2012 in which local women on bicycles were hit by someone who piloted a vehicle similarly described as the one that struck Boyce — a dark pickup or SUV.

In one of those incidents a pregnant woman who received multiple injuries said the hit-and-run driver veered at her.

It’s clear Boyce’s death spurred to action a community that extends far beyond the bicyclist crowd that’s long had an uneasy relationship with northern Michigan’s non- — and yes — anti-bicycling factions. Boyce’s slaying hit home for most everyone here because the apparent randomness and savagery creates a sense of vulnerability in us all.

There’s a terroristic element to her death, and as such communities often pull together when confronted by inexplicable violence.

Police are flooded with tips, a reward pot grows daily, bicyclists are more alert and cautious, and Traverse City area residents overall express sadness about the death of a young woman most never met.

The universal hope is that police catch the killer and the criminal justice system puts an end to that threat.

But more is needed, and Boyce’s death should spur intelligent discussion and solutions to real problems that exist in a region that’s bursting at the seams with bicyclists but doesn’t always know what to do with all of them.

An area replete with wonderful bike trails in some places falls woefully short of dedicated bike lanes or other features that can help ensure bike safety.

And to be sure, it’s incumbent upon bicyclists to learn and strictly practice rules of the road when sharing space with motor vehicles.

Heavy traffic and one-way streets frequently prompt bicyclists to behave dangerously or with little regard to motorists, and collectively they must act lawfully if they’re to maintain the momentum necessary to add and enhance safe riding resources.

Kelly Ann Boyce’s death wasn’t about bike safety, but it’s quite possible it reflects at least one warped, hateful mind’s approach to bicyclists.

Regardless, there’s reason to hope the death of a woman described by friends as “a gem,” “a bright spirit” and someone “possessed by life” can spark a change in local attitudes, both toward bicyclists and among them.