The increased risk of crashes involving bicyclists across Texas has San Marcos cyclists calling for safer bike paths and more consideration on the roadways.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT), bicyclist fatalities have increased over the last five years. In 2020, 82 people died from bicycle-related crashes.
Crash data collected from the Texas Peace Officer's Crash Reports (CR-3) received and processed by the Texas Department of Transportation indicates there were a total of six crashes involving pedalcyclists in San Marcos in 2021. Four out of the six reported crashes resulted in minor injuries.
“I’ve been hit a couple of times, on campus and around town,” said Art Naylor, an urban and regional planning junior. “At the corner of Charles Austin and Aquarena Springs somebody hit me when I was taking the crosswalk it was really scary and I was really angry, but I felt like my life was threatened.”
Naylor said the ongoing construction on campus and around San Marcos has impeded his ability to get to and from the university safely. Because of the increase in construction and bike trail detours, Naylor calls on drivers to be more vigilant on the road.
“They just started that new project from 123 to Hopkins on the feeder lanes and highway and the first thing they did was tear up the multi-use path which is the only safe bike connection from the east side of I-35 to the west side of I-35," Naylor said.
Eric Gilbertson, an assistant professor of philosophy, cycles to the university daily. He said the most dangerous part of his ride is by Sessom Drive where the bike lane ends. Like Naylor, he calls on drivers to be more considerate of cyclists.
“I don’t know if drivers are aware enough of cyclists in general and I think that having bike lanes would increase awareness to cyclists,” Gilbertson said.
While bike lanes are intended to keep cyclists safe on the road, Peter Tschirhart, associate dean of the Honors College and avid bike rider, said in some instances, bike lanes don't protect cyclists enough.
“They're essentially glorified shoulders where all the trash and road gravel gets put and it’s not really a suitable transportation lane,” Tschirhart said. “Car drivers need to understand that roads are public space and cars are not the only vehicles in the world.”
Despite, fewer drivers and cyclists being on the road during 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of accidents inclined. According to a national study by the Governors Highway Safety Association, collisions between drivers and cyclists are expected to rise. The 2020 study sites speeding, drunk and drugged driving, as well as distracted driving as reasons for the surge.
Bicyclists like Aziel Garcia, a Spanish junior, said reckless drivers make it harder for bicyclists to travel safely on the road.
“The thing that makes me feel unsafe is the way people drive, they drive extremely fast," Garcia said. “Driving should be considered almost like holding a gun, driving is very dangerous, and you can definitely hurt a lot of people doing it.”