Kylie Bruehler at a funeral service to bury her parents, struck by an out of control motorist in San Antonio Texas. Local cyclists form an honor guard. (Photo by Tom Reel/Express-News)
Something about this tragic photo pierced through and really hit me hard even though I've gotten pretty jaded lately. Transportation issues can turn into a mess of statistics, but this puts a very human face on the consequences of reckless driving . This little girl's parents, Gregory and Alexandra Bruehler, two experienced road cyclists, were riding a tandem bicycle together when they were prematurely taken out of this existence together after being dragged 200 feet by a driver who unexpectedly swerved into the shoulder where the couple had been riding. The lost innocence of this girl's face is the reason we simply must fight for and demand safer roads for everyone. No criminal charges have been made against the driver, and the incident was written off as just an accident as most tragedies on the road are.
Where is the accountability, what good are laws, and drivers licenses if in the end the outcome of most crashes are considered blameless accidents without penalty even when clearly one party was at fault. The State of Texas was on the verge of passing a bill with explicit legal protections for vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians, with common sense measures like defining safe passing distance as some states have already done. After years of work from Texas activists, the bill went through the senate with a landslide 25-6 majority, only to be shot down by veto from Governer Rick Perry. Ugh.
My girlfriend and I are also both experienced cyclists who occasionally tandem ride, and dream of having a nicer tandem suitable for longer travels some day. I could easily put my self into the shoes of that couple, loving life and riding bikes together. In researching more about this story I stumbled across the Twitter account of the mother, who like any serious American cycling enthusiast was following the likes of cycling greats like Lance Armstrong and Levi Liephiemer as I also do myself. Sadly their 7 year old daughter now has to go on without them though I'm sure they'll never be forgotten.
These are human beings on the road out there and even if your out there doing everything right, all it takes is a few seconds of someone else careening unexpectedly off course to change lives forever. I hope we can live to see a day without tragedy like this as a daily occurrence in cities and towns across our country. Whether you ride a bicycle, a motorcycle, drive a car or even just walking across the street, we all can die out there when due care is not taken by all parties.
I first saw this story on the Tucson Bike Lawyer blog with a link to the original news story. More in depth blogging on this incident and the failed vulnerable road user bill by San Antonio local Veronica Flores. The obituary with more details about the couple is posted here.
A trust fund has been set up for 7 year old Kylie Bruehler and donations can be sent to Kylie Bruehler Benefit Fund, c/o 24165 IH-10 West, Ste. 217-270, San Antonio, Texas 78257-1160.