Following the death of Kenneth Spence earlier this month, nine local cyclists urged the College Station City Council on Thursday to consider measures to better protect them and promote safer biking throughout the city.
Spence, a 46-year-old College Station resident, was killed Jan. 4 after the driver of a Chevrolet Suburban hit him from behind as he was biking northbound on the Texas 6 access road near the intersection of Peach Creek Cutoff. The driver of the vehicle told police he had been blinded by the sun. Some of the cyclists who spoke during the Hear Visitors portion of Thursday's council meeting said that Spence isn't the first friend they've lost in a crash involving a bike.
For Beth Boudreau, the loss of Spence -- whom she called a "foundational member" of the cycling community -- caused her to question "whether we're doing everything we can" to meet the need for safe cycling as College Station adds more residents.
"When I feel fear about doing something that I love, and when I hear friends of mine express fear about doing that which make their lives complete, I just want folks to know that it's important to consider this as a problem, and also that there are steps that we can take, real steps that will start improving things," she said.
Boudreau acknowledged that this won't be an easy problem to fix. Potential solutions that she and the other cyclists asked council members to explore included better education and signage, development of a low-speed riding loop and drafting a safe passing ordinance. Under such a law, drivers would have to leave a specified amount of space to vulnerable road users. Also mentioned was a device used by police in Houston that measures the distance between cyclists and passing vehicles.
Distracted drivers were another main concern expressed by the cyclists. Bryan resident Robert Van Brunt said Spence is the second cyclist he was close to who was killed in College Station. Van Brunt mentioned the importance of having hands-free driving ordinances in both Bryan and College Station.
College Station had previously banned nearly all uses of electronic communication devices while driving through an ordinance that was passed in late 2016 and fully implemented at the beginning of 2017. The city ordinance was repealed later that year, though, after a statewide texting ban went into effect.
While council members are prohibited from responding to speakers during Hear Visitors, at the end of Thursday's meeting Councilman Dennis Maloney requested an update on cycling safety in the community, which the rest of the council supported. Councilman Bob Brick also asked that a presentation about the potential for developing a veloway be brought back as a future agenda item.
"Anything that can make it safer on our streets, I'm all for it," Maloney said.
The potential for a veloway -- a flat, outdoor loop that would be exclusive to cyclists -- was discussed last year, but council members agreed to focus on other ongoing projects. Robert Rose, who owns the Cycles Etc. shop in College Station, has spoken about the need of a veloway during several meetings, and he floated the idea again Thursday.
College Station resident Patrick Stoddard, whose wife, Kati, also spoke during the meeting, said he believes the issue amounts to a lack of education and knowledge about the rights of cyclists. In the event of a crash, a cyclist will at best walk away with some injuries and a damaged bike, Stoddard said, and at worst won't walk away at all, as was the case with Spence.
"[Spence] loved everyone, and he left behind a wife and a young daughter, and that's heartbreaking," Stoddard said. "Every time I get on my bike, I have to think about that. I've got a 15-month-old daughter and I have a wife, and I want to get home to them at the end of my rides."