A Columbus cycling advocate is urging city police to adopt a policy that would require officers to interview all parties and take reports on all incidents involving bicycle-vehicle collisions, even when no one is hurt.
Catherine Girves suffered a concussion and other injuries Feb. 12 when she ran into a car that turned in front of her along Spring Street just east of Cleveland Avenue Downtown.
Girves, the executive director of Yay Bikes!, said she blacked out. She called 911 but told the dispatcher she didn’t think she was hurt.
“Adrenaline is magic,” she said during an interview this month.
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After contacting a colleague who works in the bicycling community to see what she should do, she called 911 a second time. The city sent an ambulance, and while Girves was sitting in the back, a police officer approached.
“I attempted to give the officer who arrived on the scene information,” Girves said. “He said, ‘I’m not going to write a report unless you go to the hospital,'” Girves said.
A medic unit ultimately took Girves to OhioHealth Grant Medical Center. But she wasn’t diagnosed with a concussion until a doctor’s visit a few days later. Police did file a report, but Girves said police did not ask her to provide information.
“I’m looking for police to come to the scene no matter what and have them take a report, and to include the cyclist in the report,” Girves said.
“The concussion research is very clear,” she said. “It is common for people to think they are OK when they are not.”
Girves has spoken with Councilman Mitchell J. Brown, who leads the council’s public safety committee. Brown said he asked Columbus Police Cmdr. Christopher Bowling to review the policy to see if police should take reports in all cases.
“An officer, in my opinion, should probably be sent to the scene to take a report,” Brown said. “I think they need to review it and determine if that is the best way to handle it.”
Bowling said if police change the policy, officials also have to review the policy regarding collisions involving scooters.
Girves is scheduled to meet with Deputy Police Chief Kenneth Kuebler and Deputy Public Safety Deputy Director Kate Pishotti on May 7.
The Dispatch asked Columbus police to provide records of all crashes involving vehicles and bicycles in 2018. The unit provided a list of times, dates and locations of crashes where the bicyclist was at fault. It could not provide a breakdown of collisions in which the motorist was at fault in vehicle-bicycle crashes.
Erin Synk, a South Side resident and Yay Bikes! board member, said more data can help officials make better decisions to make roads safer for bicyclists.
“I generally feel safe,” said Synk, who commutes from her Merion Village home to her Downtown job using the bicycle lane on 4th Street. “I really appreciate those bicycle lanes.
“You ride enough, eventually you’ll have a close call.”