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In wake of death, Pelotonia route safe, organizers say

Despite the death of a rider in Ohio State’s Pelotonia tour this summer, organizers said safety along the route to Athens doesn’t need improvement.

Michelle Kazlausky, 57, was hit and killed by a pickup truck at the intersection of routes 180 and 374 in Hocking County, said Lt. Jeff Skinner of the Ohio Highway Patrol.

“One of our officers was monitoring that position and the officer saw some bikes coming, stepped down to the road to stop traffic, and the first vehicle coming toward him failed to stop,” Skinner said.

The driver, Ervin Blackston, 57, had reported working on the brakes earlier that day, Skinner said.

The patrol determined that the brakes failed on the 1985 Ford pickup truck, and Skinner said Kazlausky failed to heed the stop sign as she approached the intersection where she was struck.

“Cyclists are supposed to obey all the normal traffic laws that apply to cars on the road,” he said. “No one saw (Kazlausky) stop at the stop sign.”

Though it’s impossible to determine how many of the 4,047 riders obeyed the rules of the road, some reported that they frequently stopped at intersections.

“People would stop at the stop signs and red lights,” said Blake Chaney, a second-year in Zoology who rode in the tour. “Everybody who I was riding with, the whole time obeyed the traffic signs, just like anybody else would have.”

Despite Kazlausky’s death, event officials insist that the tour was safe for cyclists and will be next year.

“I had a number of friends who rode this year, who are big-time cyclists and have ridden in events all over the country, and they told me this is the safest, best-organized event they have ever ridden,” said Alec Wightman, a James Cancer Hospital board member.

“Obviously it was tragic, and I’m sure that everything that was done in the past will be done next year, and then some.”

During the tour, police officers were stationed at busy intersections to direct riders and other traffic.

Jessica Kinman, the tour’s spokeswoman, would not say whether there will be any changes to the tour next year.

Organizers are still determining how much money riders raised in the second year of the tour. Last year, the tour raised $4.5 million for OSU’s Comprehensive Care Center, said Juli Capani, Pelotonia volunteer coordinator. Fundraising for this year’s tour ends Oct. 22. 

Riders choose one of four endpoints on the route. The longest ride, spanning two days, takes participants to Athens and most of the way back to Columbus.

“Everyone who rode the first year, rode the second and brought friends along,” Wightman said. “I expect it to keep growing.” 

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