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In memory of Miles and Cal

GCBL staff  |  08/18/08 @ 8:15pm

Biking can play a role in reducing our carbon footprint and improve our health, but safe roads are very much on our mind this week. Tragically, Miles Coburn, an experienced cyclist who taught biology at John Carroll, was struck and killed by an SUV while riding his bike in Newbury Township on Saturday.

Coburn's brother, Chris, said their 86-year-old father had biked to work and turned his sons into cyclists and environmentalists.

It gave the Coburn brothers the opportunity to reflect and see the environment from a different perspective, Chris Coburn said. "It's a family vocation for all of us."

Miles Coburn, of Cleveland Heights, is survived by his wife, Peggy Spaeth, who is the Heights Arts executive director, and two children, a son, Kevin, at Ohio State University, and a daughter, Rosey, at home.

We mourn for this loss and are reminded of the words of Eleanor McMahon whose husband was killed by a recklessly operated car while riding his bicycle. McMahon opened the 2008 Cleveland Bike Week with a presentation about the importance of enforcing safety laws in her native Ontario, Canada in order to cut down on fatal accidents on the road.

McMahon quoted Gregg Easterbrook of the Brookings Institute who famously said, "Why are we so worried about terrorism when the real concern is the 245,000 Americans who have died because of one specific threat (traffic accidents) since 9/11, and no one seems to care..."

Society has grown complacent and accepted that level of collisions and fatalities, McMahon said.

While she tells lawmakers that the annual economic cost to society of injury and property damage due to traffic collisions is estimated at $11-27 million dollars, the most effective tool in slowing aggressive drivers was Ontario's recently passed anti-street racing law. It increases fines for street racers and aggressive drivers to $10,000 and allows police to immediately suspend a driver's license and impound a vehicle for seven days. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving also supported it).

The legislation went into effect in Ontario in November and is being credited with a 45% decrease in vehicle fatalities (and officers finding fewer repeat offenders). Why?

"Because they take your car, and that's what moves people."

We also mourn the recent passing of Cal Kirchick, who was a great advocate of bike safety through clear, enforceable laws. Kirchick, a lawyer at Baker Hostetler, was a key author of the state's recent Better Bicycling law, and logged some 8,000 miles a year on his bicycle including many while commuting to work downtown.

He was working to set up a meeting with counties, townships and municipalities in Northeast Ohio who still need guidance on how to properly enforce the laws, and who want to improve driver awareness so that they know that people riding a bike or walking enjoy the same rights to the road.

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