Mike Bitton - back on his bike
POSTED: Wednesday, April 6, 2011 - 4:42pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 - 7:26pm
BATON ROUGE, La (NBC33) — To encourage drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians to help make our roads safer, the Capital Region Planning Commission (CRPC) has launched a media campaign featuring bicyclist Mike Bitton, an LSU graduate student who was gravely injured when he was struck by a driver on May 15, 2010 while riding his bicycle on River Road.
While Louisiana law requires drivers to allow a 3-foot safety zone when passing bicyclists, the public education campaign is also aimed at encouraging drivers and bicyclists to respect each other on the roads.
East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Ascension, Livingston and Iberville Parishes are participating in the Capital Region Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Campaign to educate the public on the rules of the road and how to travel more safely. Participating parishes are declaring April Bike Month in support of the public education campaign and to help bring greater focus to bicycle safety at a time when spring weather draws more bicyclists outdoors.
Bitton, who is completing his PhD in coastal geography with a dream to teach others to save valuable coastlines, spent seven weeks in the hospital fighting for his life but has returned to LSU and continues daily physical therapy to recover from his injuries.
Bitton ‘s injures included 4 shattered and 4 fractured vertebrae, five brain bleeds, separated shoulders, a split sternum, multiple broken ribs, collapsed lung, hernia and severe abrasions and lacerations. He lost 15 pints of blood and suffered two months of memory loss. The driver who hit Bitton did not stop. He was found lying in a ditch by other bicyclists.
Bitton and the wrecked bike he was riding are featured in a TV spot, print ads, billboards, online ads, posters and hand-outs which will appear throughout the five parish area, with a message he hopes will resonate with drivers. He was recently cleared by doctors to ride his bike again and is serving as Honorary Chairman of the East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor’s Family Bike Ride on April 9th.
Bruce Wickert, chairman of the Capital Region Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Education Committee, said he believes Mike Bitton’s participation in the campaign helps by putting a human face on the bicycling community and makes it easier to understand the need to treat fellow road users with respect. “We are very fortunate that Mike Bitton is both willing and able to share his story. When you see the injuries he suffered, it’s very clear that drivers who fail to obey the law risk seriously injuring or killing a bicyclist. Mike’s story is remarkable and we appreciate that while he continues to heal, he is willing to tell his story in hopes that our roads become safer for all users.”
Bitton, a skilled cyclist who has competed in triathlons, is known as one of the safest riders on the road. But he is pleased that the public education campaign is aimed at both drivers and bicyclists. “We need to educate drivers that bicyclists have the right to use the full lane and Louisiana law requires the driver to allow 3-feet when passing,” Bitton explained. “But it’s also important for bicyclists to know and respect the laws. If we all respect each other’s rights to be on the road, hopefully we can make our roads safer for everyone.”
CRPC Executive Director Huey Dugas called Bitton a “bicycle safety champion” for sharing his story. “In addition to catching up on his post-graduate studies, working and doing daily physical rehabilitation, Mike readily agreed to volunteer his time to help us educate the public. With more people riding bicycles for recreation, exercise and transportation, it’s critical that we work together to make our roads safer for everyone.”
The ad campaign is designed around the theme, “Don’t Be a Road Hog” and educates the public on four key messages: “Give me 3”, referring to the law that requires drivers to allow 3-feet when passing bicyclists; “Lights @ Night”, a reminder that state law requires bicycles to have a white light on front and red light on the rear when on the road at night; “Share the Road”, meaning that bicyclists are allowed to use the full lane when riding and should always ride with traffic; and “Walk Smart”, a pedestrian safety message to encourage walkers, joggers and runners to avoid distractions such as cell phones and always walk against traffic.