Young Detroit Cyclist's Death Highlights Need For Better Biking Infrastructure, Safety Education

DETROIT—Nothing underscores the need for safe road user habits more than a tragic death. Regrettably, this was the case Tuesday evening when an eight-old-boy, out riding his bike on Detroit’s West Side, lost his life to a hit-and-run driver.

Emergency dispatchers received a call at about 7 p.m. that night that the child, whom WDIV-TV identifies as Darrin Wilhite, had been hit on West Chicago near Abington.

The driver then kept driving with the boy pinned under the vehicle, which police believe was a Red Ford Explorer. Eventually the boy came free, though the man kept driving with the bike stuck underneath until finally it dislodged at West Chicago and Rosemont. The collision resulted in the young boy’s death.

Detroit Police told Mode Shift Wednesday morning that a person of interest in the case had turned themselves over to them. Fox 2, citing sources with the department, reports that a 49-year-old Detroit man has confessed to the crime.

No biking infrastructure of any kind is currently in place along the stretch of West Chicago where the incident occurred, according to Googlemaps and photos of the scene. Protected bike lanes or even buffered lanes may have provided a safety barrier between the child and the SUV, had they been in place.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 48,000 bicyclists were injured and 677 were killed in 2011 as a result of accidents involving motor vehicles. Of those who died, 31 were under the age of 10.

Motorists should allow three feet of clearance when passing a cyclists on the road, according to the agency. They should also look for bicyclists before pulling out of a parking space or opening the door to their vehicles.

Cyclists should ride with traffic and follow the same rules of the road as motorists when out on a ride. Reflectors and flashing rear lights should be used when riding a bicycle at night to decrease the chance of a fatal accident.

Currently, Detroit does not have safe passing laws in place or programs to educate drivers or bicylists about road safety. Perhaps it's time.


Do you think Detroit needs to step up their game when it comes safe biking infrastructure?

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