HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Danielle King said there’s no better feeling than riding a bicycle. She said it’s what helped her get through the pandemic and what continues to keep her enjoying life.
“This is something fun that we do and like to do. It’s good for our health and it’s good for the environment and we deserve to have that,” said the Morrisville resident.
As a former Bike Durham board member and ambassador for Trek Chapel Hill, King said she and others get out to ride every Saturday and take bicycle safety very seriously.
From the moment King gets on her bike, she makes sure to wear bright clothing, a helmet, a bike equipped with front and rear lights and even a radar detector to tell her when vehicles are coming.
“We ride early in the morning, we ride on slow roads with slower speeds and we try to avoid heavy traffic areas,” said King.
It’s why King and the other cyclists decided to ride on an Orange County rural road Saturday morning near Hillsborough.
“I had gathered about 12 of our friends together to go on this ride because we were also celebrating my husband’s birthday,” she said.
After celebrating at Eno River Farm, the group started heading back on Lawrence Road. At one point King said a driver behind them started yelling and honking their horn while they were pedaling on an incline.
“We have the right to take the lane because we are going slower and you can’t see over the top. From a safety perspective, we’re riding side by side, making the way up this little hill… We have nowhere to go, there’s no shoulder, there’s no bike lane, we’re taking the lane as we should because that’s the safest thing to do,” said King.
With the larger number of bicyclists in the group, King said it was safer to ride close together instead of in a single line to allow drivers a shorter length to pass with oncoming traffic.
Sensing that something might go wrong, King said she hit record on her cellphone as the upset driver started to pass and yell profanity. At one point, the driver passed in front of the group and then some of the cyclists tumbled and went down.
“(The driver) completely stopped for no reason in the middle of the road causing us to slam on our brakes, and I crashed into my friend in front of me and then into the back of his truck before landing on the ground,” said King.
Video from the cyclist’s cellphone showed some of the riders approach and question the driver who stopped.
At one point, one of the bicyclists yelled, “It was just a little hill that we needed to climb, why were you going so fast? That was unbelievable!”
The same man explained to the driver that the group had the right to the road and that they were trying to quickly return to a single-file line once at the top of the hill.
King said one of the members from their group called 911 but the driver fled before help could arrive. They were able to file a report.
“Luckily, for me, there were no serious injuries from this. I have no visible scars, but it’s heartbreaking to know that someone could weaponize their vehicle just because we’re inconveniencing them for a minute or two,” said King, still shaken and with tears.
She continued, “I’m not going to stop riding, but the fear is always there. The risk is high but, you know, we deserve to be there too. We just chose a different vehicle.”
As a bike safety advocate, King said she continues to work with bicycle groups and members of Bike Durham to provide safer roads and bike lanes.
“I want to make sure that cyclists know how to behave safely in the road and the proper road behavior and etiquette, but also to educate drivers that there’s a safe way to pass us.”
BikeWalkNC Executive Director, Terry Lansdell said it’s important that drivers leave at least four feet of space between the vehicle and cyclist when passing. According to North Carolina law, drivers are able to pass on a double yellow line only when it is safe and where there is enough sight and distance to do so.
Law also says that bicyclists may ride two abreast but should check local ordinances for variations of the rule. In this case, Lansdell said the driver not only failed to yield but also made an aggressive act.
“As a community, we’ve lost too many people lately to car violence, pedestrians and cyclists who’ve been killed by drivers not respecting the lives of their fellow human, and I think that’s always in the back of my mind,” King said.