Schneider: Lansing-area bicyclists question verdict in death of cyclist

CHARLOTTE - Last week's acquittal of Michael Morgan in the 2009 death of bicyclist Bill Petry has local cyclists suddenly questioning the wisdom of venturing out in traffic on a two-wheeled, muscle-powered vehicle.

Jim Booth of Lansing wrote: "The message (the jury) has sent to drivers everywhere is that bicycles really don't belong on our roadways."

In Monday's column I quoted Carl Archambeau of Grand Ledge, who wrote: "It has always been my understanding that a bicyclist has the same rights and responsibilities as a motorist, but if this case establishes a new precedent, it puts bikers at a higher risk ..."

Archambeau asked: "Can you find out what the future holds for bicyclists ... regarding the use of the roads?"

Since Monday I've been hearing from bicyclists echoing Archambeau's plea: "Yeah," they say. "Find out!"

Indeed, we've been led to believe that bicyclists have the same rights to the road as drivers. Of course the wise ones don't force the issue. They stay as far to the right as possible, knowing that no matter how right they are, they'll never win an argument with a two-ton pickup.

Morgan, 48, a former Eaton Rapids and DeWitt Township police officer, was charged with negligent homicide. He, in his Chevy Silverado, and 68-year-old Petry, on his bike, were both southbound on Canal Road in August 2009 when the truck struck the bike.

The prosecutor argued that as Morgan passed Petry he failed to allow enough clearance and sideswiped the bike. But the defense countered that Petry might have veered toward the truck.

Moot point, says Booth. Didn't Petry have right to the full width of the lane?

"Everyone knows," he wrote, "that bicycles (or cars for that matter) may weave or drift somewhat when moving, so we know that when passing such a vehicle, we have to leave them space.

"I sat at pre-trial and trial and there was no evidence presented that experienced bicyclist Bill Petry rode in other than a straight line near the edge of southbound Canal road. The evidence of the bicycle damage was that it was sideswiped and not struck consistent with a swerve into the path of the overtaking truck."

Taken from http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2011106140345

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