CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Less than 20 miles and 20 hours apart from each other, two wrecks in two different counties ended in fatalities in Central Virginia.
Around 3:30 a.m. Sunday on Hull Street Road, 28-year-old Wilson Jones was killed when a driver of an S.U.V. struck him while he was riding on Hull Street Road. The driver has been charged with multiple felonies, including DUI, manslaughter and hit and run.
Shortly after around 9 p.m. Sunday, a crash involving a car and a bicycle claimed the life of another person, according to Henrico Police. This one occurred near the intersection of Chamberlayne and Parham Roads.
Pedestrian and cyclist safety group Bike-Walk RVA said the region has seen an uptick in fatalities for those who utilize Central Virginia roadways outside of motor vehicles. The groups said in 2020, the Richmond Metro set a record high for pedestrian fatalities since they began tracking data.
Louise Lockett Gordon, the director of Bike-Walk RVA, said a combination of speeding and distracted drivers plus an uptick in the popularity of SUVs are the factors behind the spike in deaths.
“They don’t have anything to protect them when it comes to an incident like a crash, unlike when we’re in our vehicles driving,” she said of pedestrians and cyclists. “As speeds increase, someone who's traveling around 45 miles per hour and hits a pedestrian, there’s only about a ten percent chance of the pedestrian surviving.”
Though that percentage is slightly lower, the threat to cyclists involved in a wreck with a vehicle is significant. Many people in Central Virginia rely on bicycles as a main mode of transportation and Lockett Gordon said there are few places in the region where biking infrastructure connects across county lines.
“Instead of thinking of our streets as just for vehicles, they’re really for everybody,” Gordon said.
Just like cyclists much obey the rules of the road, drivers should be aware of how they are supposed to interact with someone riding a bicycle legally on the street. As of July 1, Virginia law requires drivers to move over the equivalent to one travel lane when passing a cyclist if they cannot give them at least three feet of separation within the travel lane.
“Giving a pedestrian some space when they’re crossing a crosswalk, giving a cyclist space when they’re traveling, doesn’t cost you anything and it could mean safeguarding someone’s life,” she said.
Virginia is also studying the implementation of what is called the “Idaho Law,” where bicyclists treat stop signs as yield signs and stoplights as stop signs. Lockett Gordon says advocates expect the General Assembly will take up the idea next year following the study.