POSTED: Monday, May 13, 2013 - 10:30am
UPDATED: Monday, May 13, 2013 - 6:15pm
BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — You’ve seen the memorials around town and heard the horror stories, but local cyclists say drivers are not phased.
“How many people need to die before they start doing what they need to do," Mike Bitton said. "For whatever reason, people get into a half ton of steel and they think they're indestructible."
It was a close call for LSU grad student Mike Bitton. He was hit by a car on May 15, 2010 River Road in Baton Rouge.
Bitton was training for a race when he was hit by a car and left for dead in a ditch.
"Multiple brain bleeds, ribs broken, 8 broken vertebrae, 4 shattered torn glut torn Achilles tendon, leaking lungs, bleeding lungs," he recalled.
His story was used in a massive campaign to raise awareness for cyclists, and their rights to the road. But even with all the airtime, the stats are still shocking.
Last year in Louisiana 892 cyclists were hit by cars. Twenty-four of those crashes were fatal. Seventy-nine cyclists were involved in wrecks in East Baton Rouge Parish alone. Five people died.
Nathan Crowson was one of the five. He was riding along Perkins Road with a friend, when a drunk driver plowed into both of them.
Crowson died, and Danny Morris still has trouble walking.
Careless drivers are one thing, but cyclists say there are some out there who harass cyclists on purpose.
In 2012, Baton Rouge Police arrested Theodore Wisner after he allegedly clipped a cyclist with his SUV on purpose. He reportedly beat the cyclist up, slammed the guy's bike into a tree, and rode off with his helmet.
“We’ve had beer cans thrown at us, trucks doing what’s called buzzin’ - see how close they can get to you,” Tom Clement, a member of the Baton rouge Bicycle Club, explained.
All of those actions are against the law.
In Louisiana, drivers are required to give cyclists 3 feet of space when passing.
Bitton, and countless others, do not think it’s too much to ask for.
"If motorists could take just like an extra 2 or 3 seconds, you’re not going to be late, anyway,” he said. “I think there would be a lot less accidents on the roads here in Baton Rouge."
Because cyclists say they have places to go, too.
"People need to realize this is the only transportation some of us have."
Baton Rouge has plans for a new bike path through the city. The route will be a safe and scenic route through several BREC parks.