published Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Chattanooga: Meek’s death touches bicycling community

by Adam Crisp
  • photo
    Staff Photo by Margaret Fenton
    About 50 cyclists gathered Monday morning outside the J. Avery Bryan Funeral Home on McCallie Avenue to escort the body of fellow cyclist David Meek to Chattanooga Memorial Park Cemetery. Mr. Meek was killed by a truck while riding his bicycle on Ashland Terrace early Friday morning.

The type of cycling accident that killed a Red Bank business owner and father of two is all too common, cyclists say.

David Leonard Meek, 51, died Friday as a result of a bicycle accident on Ashland Terrace. Chattanooga police say Mr. Meek was thrown from his bike and fatally injured when a large truck traveling on his left snagged an attached saddle bag.

“People in vehicles get too close to bikes. ... It happens every day I ride,” said Sgt. Doug Elliott, who supervises the Chattanooga Police Department’s nine-person bicycle unit. “They forget that they have mirrors and anything else sticking out from their vehicles, and they don’t give us enough room.”

Police haven’t said whether the driver of the big truck was at fault. Lt. Kim Noorbergen, police spokeswoman, said the crash is under investigation.

Tennessee law requires motorists to give all cyclists at least three feet of space when passing, but according to the police report Mr. Meek was biking about 6:30 a.m., when it still was dark.

“David was a real stickler for the rules,” said fellow cyclist and friend Jim Farmer. “His bike was lit up like a Christmas tree at night.”

Mr. Farmer said his friend was an advocate for Chattanooga’s bike-to-work program. He built and sold Privateer Bicycles and also owned Tennessee Tool and Machine Works. That’s in addition to being an active member of the Chattanooga Bicycle Club and Scenic City Velo, another cycling club.

On Thursday evening, Mr. Meek posted a message encouraging other bikers to take to the roads Friday because of the beautiful weather.

“Tomorrow promises to be a beautiful day,” Mr. Meek wrote. “It’s the next day of the rest of your life. See you on the road.”

Mr. Meek was passionate about biking and inspired many people to take up the activity, Mr. Farmer said.

“He was the real deal, and he did all of it for the right reasons,” Mr. Farmer said. “He didn’t want praise or a trophy. He just enjoyed being a part of it.”

On Monday, a group of nearly 50 cyclists rode in front of the hearse carrying Mr. Meek’s remains to his burial. His private funeral was held Monday morning. A throng of well-wishers turned out for the family visitation the night before.

Mr. Meek is survived by his wife, Suzanne, and a daughter and son, Holley and Mitchell.

about Adam Crisp...

Adam Crisp covers education issues for the Times Free Press. He joined the paper's staff in 2007 and initially covered crime, public safety, courts and general assignment topics. Prior to Chattanooga, Crisp was a crime reporter at the Savannah Morning News and has been a reporter and editor at community newspapers in southeast Georgia. In college, he led his student paper to a first-place general excellence award from the Georgia College Press Association. He earned ...

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blaudeman said...

As another "2-wheeler" I must tell you that I have been "pushed aside" by automobiles making completely illegal turns or lane changes in traffic more times than I can remember.

Riding my 350 pound scooter (it's as long as any Harley motorcycle) I know I'm a lot more visible than a bicyclist, so I'm sure those smaller (more vulnerable) riders are even at greater risk. I guess the message is; "Get the ---- off my road or buy a pickup truck!"

Bill Laudeman

March 10, 2009 at 5:53 p.m.
rolando said...

Any needless death diminishes us regardless of the victim's age or station in life. There is always a grieving family left deepest condolences to Mr. Meek's family [for what they may be worth].

I have ridden bicycles/motorcycles for literally decades, mostly accident-free. But most of those years were in California where the pedestrian is [or was] king.

The ONLY way I would ride a bicycle here in Tennessee -- or most other uncaring states -- is to strap it to the bike carrier on my car, drive it to a road with AT LEAST three feet of asphalt between the road edge and the white line. [I know Tennessee speeding, corner-cutting and line-riding car/pickup drivers, you see.] Canoeing is sort of that way -- drop off, paddle downstream, pick-up.

Yes, bicyclists and motorcycle riders legally have a equal share of the road with cars/pickups. Anyone foolish enough to contest that on the spot with a two-ton vehicle is going to lose.

The ONLY working and workable solution is bicycle-only edgee-of-the-road lanes with limited access points and first-offense mandatory loss of license for ANY motorized vehicle abusers regardless of size/wheels. Concrete-filled six-inch steel pipes buried upright in the 3-foot lane center would do nicely to discourage misuse.

March 10, 2009 at 7:30 p.m.
rolando said...

Please correct my first paragraph, last sentence. It should read to the effect that I offer my condolences, for what they may be worth, to Mr. Meek's family.

My apologies for my very poor sentence structure.

March 10, 2009 at 7:32 p.m.
moonpie said...

This is indeed a tragic death. As someone who walks along the side of the road in my neighborhood, and as someone who has cycled in the past, it is indeed shocking how little sway is given by some motorists.

However, the best laws and the best education will never correct all human error.

We don't know what caused this wreck: a minor distraction such as a bad song on the radio, the glare of on-coming lights, or the lighting of a cigarette....

but it is generally the case when a vehicle and a scooter, or a motorcycle or a bicycle collide, generally the rider of the ladder is the worse for the wear.

This being a hard fact of life, we will never prevent all avoidable deaths. However, we can strictly enforce safety guidelines.

I suggest diligence in enforcing the laws. If an officer sees cars not giving the proper right of way, pull them over and write them a ticket to the driver with the threat of loss of driver's license.

It is certainly impracticle to put bicycle lanes on all existing roads. Until we have them, and even once we do, we don't have many other options other than strict enforcement of existing laws.

March 10, 2009 at 9:37 p.m.
woodlase said...

In this town I could hardly fault the truck driver. Chattanooga has some of the narrowest roads I've ever driven anywhere in my life and thats in 500 cities plus in the USA. No bike lanes per say either. I would blame the City for this one. I've been around this town since 1971 and haven't seen any real upgrading to National Code for roadways around here. People in Chattanooga are at a MAJOR disadvantage when it comes to commuting by bicycle.

March 10, 2009 at 9:40 p.m.
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