Road rage incident sends bicyclist to hospital; Ostrander man to be sentenced

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Andy Heath and his wife Kathleen are avid bicyclists. He's completed an Ironman and she's participated in Pelotonia.

Last July, they decided to take a ride along a road they've ridden dozens of times along Belpoint Road and Hinton Mills in Union County.

"It was a sunny perfect afternoon; perfect day for a bike ride," Heath said.

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That bike ride would turn into a nightmare for both of them.

"An injured bird had literally dropped out of the sky in front of my wife and she veered around the bird," Heath said.

Behind them was a driver waiting to get around them. Heath suspects their bikes swerving must have looked to the driver as if they were trying to block him.

"I suspect that he thought that was an intentional act on my part. I'm trying to not try to run over an obstacle in the road and I think that was a trigger for him to take action," he said.

That action led to to the driver to getting out of his car and shoving Heath off his bike to the ground.

"My injuries were a shattered elbow, a detached tricep tendon," he said.

He now has a plate and eight screws keeping his arm together.

The driver, Phillip Hughes of Ostrander, eventually pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, which is a felony. He will be sentenced at the end of January.

He wrote a letter of apology after he pleaded guilty to the charge saying, "I'm sorry for my actions... I am a better person than I showed you and the community."

"There will come an opportunity to change lanes and pass. At the end of the day, it's a little bit inconvenient. Fifteen seconds, 30 seconds out of your day is time enough for everyone to get home safely," Heath said.

Bicycles are defined as "vehicles" under Ohio law. State law allows bicycles to be lawfully operated on virtually all Ohio roads except freeways or certain limited access roadways.

The key "bike law" in Ohio states that a bicycle must be operated "as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable."

Cyclists are also permitted to ride "two abreast," meaning side-by-side, in the same lane. Ohio law does not require cyclists to move out of the way of faster traffic.

Like all vehicle owners, cyclists must abide by certain equipment requirements when riding on the roadway. They must use a white light on the front of the bike and both a red reflector and a red light in the rear between sunset and sunrise or whenever the weather makes lights necessary.

Many serious or fatal crashes occur at night or when weather causes poor visibility. Some cities may have other equipment requirements written into their municipal codes. Dayton, for instance, requires all cyclists to wear helmets and to equip their bike with a bell that is audible for up to 100 feet.

Traffic law allows motorists to cross a double yellow line to pass any slower vehicle if:

  • The slower vehicle is traveling at less than the posted speed limit.
  • The faster vehicle is capable of passing the slower vehicle without exceeding the posted speed limit.
  • There is sufficient sight distance ahead to permit the passing maneuver to be safely accomplished, taking into account the speed of the slower vehicle.

This is not specifically a bicycle law, but rather a law that covers passing vehicles such as slower moving tractors and Amish buggies. However, it does apply to bicycles. If a motorist can follow the listed rules to pass a cyclist while crossing a double yellow line, they are free to do so.