Cyclists and runners say they face near misses with reckless motorists on Cayman’s roads on an almost daily basis.
Drivers parking in cycle lanes, buzzing by cyclists as they overtake and pulling out of junctions in front of bikes are among a litany of concerns reported by cyclists.
The death of Geoff Cornwall, a popular triathlete who was killed after his bike struck a vehicle that had come to a stop in a cycle lane earlier this month, sparked new debate over the dangers faced by runners and cyclists on Cayman’s roads. Mr. Cornwall’s death is still under investigation and there is no suggestion at this stage that the driver of the vehicle was to blame in that incident.
But regular cyclists and runners say they face frequent issues on Cayman’s roads with impatient or bad drivers who put their safety at risk.
Jerome Ameline, who runs Revolutions spinning gym and cycle shop, said the biggest concern was drivers passing too close to cyclists. He said he had nearly been hit on several occasions and almost all of the people he cycles with have had accidents or near misses.
“People are texting and driving and then they pass you by two inches,” he added.
On one occasion, recorded on video by a cyclist with a helmet camera, he said a truck had pulled out right in front of a group of riders, causing several to crash. No one was seriously injured but he said the incident was fairly typical on Cayman’s roads.
He added, “A lot of people tell me they don’t want to buy a bike because it is too dangerous.”
Orrett Connor, one of the organizers of the Daybreakers recreational cycling group, a group of riders who are out on the roads several times a week, said there needed to be mutual respect from cyclists and drivers. He said he had heard complaints on both sides, with some motorists also expressing concern about large groups of bikes taking over the whole road.
He said he was particularly concerned about drivers failing to observe a reasonable passing distance from bikes when they overtake. He said other jurisdictions mandate a minimum 3-feet passing distance.
He believes some drivers deliberately pass cyclists as close as they can while others are just careless.
Mr. Connor, who hosts Radio Cayman’s morning talk show, said he had his own incident on Cayman’s roads several years ago when his leg got caught by a passing truck, which carried him and his bike along the road before he fell into the gravel.
“You can’t really call yourself a cyclist unless you’ve had a near miss,” he said.
Mr. Connor, who used to work as a driving instructor in New York, believes all road users would benefit from more training. He said it was mandatory in New York for new drivers to go through a minimum of three hours of classroom training before they could take their test. He believes a similar system would work in Cayman.
Craig Merren, president of the Cayman Islands Cycling Association, said a national campaign involving police, sporting associations, the vehicle licensing department and government was needed.
“We need to focus on the safety of all road users. This cannot be solved by drivers, cyclists, runners, walkers or the average commuter traveling via bicycle or as a pedestrian,” he said.
He warned the problems would get worse as the island continues to grow and he called for a six-month campaign backed by enforcement.
Runners have also expressed concern about the safety of training on Cayman’s roads. Steve Durksen, who was taking part in the PACCE Journey for Life Run over the weekend, said he was concerned to see an abandoned car on the roadside near the Kimpton Seafire, in the path of cyclists who were out training for next month’s triathlon.
Mr. Durksen, a regular runner who has been competing in events in Cayman for 12 years and will take part in the Chicago marathon next month, said the situation had got worse in recent years.
He said, “In addition to motorists driving while texting or speaking on their mobile phones, I have observed cars dangerously overtaking other cars during my marathon training this past year. I have decided it is no longer safe to run on the main roads in Cayman …. I will be putting further marathon training on hold until I can find safe routes for long training runs.”
Cayman Islands Traffic Laws do not currently contain any specific reference to cycle lanes, which are fairly new in Cayman.
According to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, motorists can get a $100 ticket for blocking a pedestrian path, a measure which is sometimes used for cycle paths as well. Police say there is no specific passing distance in the law or regulations but motorists are required to have “due regard for the safety and comfort of other road users,” including by keeping a safe passing distance.