CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – The bicyclist who was critically injured after crashing into a car door as it opened last month in Chapel Hill has died, friends said. Days after his death, some in town are eying potential changes aimed at reducing cases of the type of crash involved in this case.
Chapel Hill police said Nicholas Watson, a resident of the town, had sustained life-threatening injuries after the Jan. 25 crash along West Franklin Street near Graham Street. Gregory Jansen, a longtime friend, said Watson died last Friday after more than a week in the hospital.
“It’s pretty senseless how suddenly he’s gone,” Jansen said of his friend — someone he said was well known throughout Chapel Hill. He recalled how Watson would bring his landscaping equipment during daily visits to area parks to fix landscaping problems he noticed.
“He was a big presence. He was a big personality,” Jansen said. “He was a big part of all our lives.”
Jansen told CBS 17 that Watson was riding an electrical bicycle at the time of the crash. It was a bike he had worked on for months. Jansen said Watson was initially riding in the pedestrian lane along Franklin Street, but crossed into the road because of a fallen sign blocking his way, when he slammed into a car door as it opened.
For Jansen, it’s still hard to believe he will not speak to his friend again.
“I can still hear his voice in my head sometimes, telling me what he thinks about something,” he said.
Calls for new regulations
This case has prompted a push for tougher regulations when it comes to drivers who open their car door without looking.
Wednesday night, Chapel Hill town council is expected to hear a petition filed by one resident who called on the town in a written statement to adopt an “anti-dooring” ordinance.
The legislation exists in numerous other states, including neighboring states like Virginia and South Carolina. The city of Raleigh has an ordinance on the books, as well.
Anti-dooring measures can lead to penalties for drivers who are deemed to have unsafely opened a door.
Chapel Hill town staff responded to the petition filed with the town, indicating both the mayor and council “are interested in what [the petitioner has] to say.”
Chapel Hill police said the driver who opened their car door on West Franklin Street, prompting this crash, will not be charged.
Lasting impact of this case
A cyclist himself, Jansen told CBS 17 he hopes this case serves as a reminder for drivers to exercise caution when getting out of the car.
“We are all in a hurry, and if you…don’t look, just pop your door open, you could kill somebody,” Jansen said.
And despite the tragic nature of this case, he believes Watson’s passion for inspiring positive change in the community would make his friend proud of the conversation his death has provoked.
“Nick would want me to highlight that the world can be a better place than it is,” Jansen said. “He was interested in life being better than it was.”