Bicycling can save gas but cost injuries

Kathy Uek

Andrew Palmgren has been hit four times while riding his bike. Once he landed on the roof a car. Another time he flipped over a vehicle landing on his head, which sent him unconscious to the hospital.

"I've also been doored," said Palmgren, sales manager at Landry's Bicycles on Rte. 9 in Natick.

The driver of the car didn't see Palmgren. When he opened his door, it hit Palmgren's shoulder, resulting in bruises, cuts and a torn shirt. The car didn't fare well either. The door almost came off its hinges, he said.

With the price of gas topping $4 a gallon, more people are riding on two wheels rather than four and sales records prove it. At Landry's Bicycles as of Saturday, July 5, sales for the month were up 12 percent compared to the same day last year, said Palmgren.

Jeff Johnston, owner of Milford Bicycle reported a 20 percent year-to-date increase in sales. "Gas has a lot to do with (the increase), the Milford bike trail helps and we get a lot of referrals," said Johnston, owner of the Main Street shop.

"They buy a lot of hybrids, family stuff and high-end mountain bikes. The bike industry has had a pretty solid year."

With many customers dusting off their old bikes to do errands, Johnston's sales represent an increase in service as well.

Now that motorists share the road with more bikers, safety is a two-way street. "Bikers have to obey the rules of the road, just like an operator of a motor vehicle," said Sudbury Police Sgt. Richard MacLean. "The same law applies to bicyclists at stop signs and red lights. Bikers should also wear appropriate gear - including a helmet."

With scenic roads of Sudbury attracting bikers, MacLean has noticed an increase in recreational bike traffic on weekends.

"We've been fortunate with the increase in bike traffic that the accident rate hasn't risen," said MacLean. "For the most part people are riding appropriately."

In the last two weeks, two children were hurt in bicycle accidents in Ashland. None of the injuries were serious, but Ashland Fire Department took one child to the hospital.

"One went through the intersection on his bike at Summer and Rte. 135 and hit the rear side corner of the car very hard," said Ashland Fire Lt. David Iarussi. "He was not wearing his helmet and was going too fast. He got six stitches in his hand."

The other child went into the road between two parked cars and hit the back tire of a car.

"These children have to follow the rules a little more carefully and to especially remember to stop when crossing roadways," he said. "Motorists have to be aware, but bikers have to be more aware. Cars are bigger and heavier - they rule the road."

As gas guzzles more disposable income, Iarussi has seen more motorcycles, scooters and bikers on the road when he rides to work. Two Ashland firefighters now commute to work on scooters, he added.

Steve Hewins, a resident of Maynard and formerly of Natick, remembers as a young boy always riding his bike, which needed a small license plate, all over Natick to play pickup games of basketball, flag football and stickball.

"We rode a lot more as kids because our parents didn't give us cars," said 48-year-old Hewins, who also remembers his grandfather, Don Chasse of Saxonville, saying he rode his bike across country in the '30s. "When he came to a place where he couldn't ride his bike, he got on the train and then got off again when he could ride."

Hewins, who has never been hit, admits "people in cars and on bikes should be looking twice instead of once."

At Landry's, Andrew Palmgren sees two-wheeled transportation as something positive. "Society will be getting healthier - children will not be obese - there will be more infrastructure locally and a better sense of community."

Kathy Uek can be reached at 508-626-4419 or