The cycling community is saddened but not surprised by the death of one of their own on local roads Thursday.
Cyclists, some of whom ride hundreds of miles each week, say that it can be dangerous and that vehicles often pass within an inch or so of them, even when they’re in a bike lane.
A young Navarre woman died Thursday after losing control of her bike on State Road 87 and being hit by a Publix semitruck. Her identity has not been released.
But Chris Jernigan, a Milton cyclist, was heading south on 87 when his group passed the northbound woman. She was wearing a helmet and was in the bike lane, he said.
Moments later, they saw an ambulance and emergency responders heading north.
He said the newly widened SR 87 has one of the widest bike lanes in the area, measuring about 3 feet in some places and 4 in others. But when you factor in the width of a cyclist’s shoulders and the fact that debris tends to end up in bike lanes, it can still be uncomfortably close.
He also said traffic on the roadway has picked up considerably with the closure of the Pensacola Bay Bridge and that there were a lot of trucks passing in their direction.
“They did not give us a lot of room and, just guessing, they were not going the speed limit,” he said.
Jernigan and the two cyclists he was riding with had to head back north along the route, which forced them to walk their bikes past the scene since the road was closed. He saw the truck and the bike, which he described as extremely mangled.
He’s planning to put even brighter lights on his bike and may wait until the bridge reopens before riding SR 87 again.
Cyclists say that when large vehicles pass closely, it can be unnerving.
“If you have a large vehicle coming up like that, the amount of wind can actually push you off the road or suck you in,” said David Murphy, an avid cyclist from Pensacola. “You end up with a pressure wave in front of that vehicle.”
He said that the victim had a small bike frame, which meant she was probably no taller than 5 foot, 2 inches. He guessed that she was probably pretty light, too.
“I’m 210 pounds,” he said. “When a vehicle passes, you can feel it. It’s physics.”
Murphy and Jernigan said that no one in their cycling circle knew the young woman, but that they are all upset.
“She’s a fellow cyclist,” Jernigan said. “That could just as easy have been us. It really aggravates us because motorists see us as an inconvenience. They don’t see us as somebody’s loved one.
“They just see us as something that’s in their way to get to where they’re going.”