Refugees involved in bicycle collisions | News
At least three Afghan refugees have suffered bicycle accidents in recent months on their way to and from work, two of which injured refugees and one caused property damage, according to Nohemy Johnson, employment coordinator for the International Center.
The first crash, Johnson said, happened in late February. A customer was cycling home after working the second shift hours and was hit by a car.
“It was a hit and run,” she said. “He was left there semi-conscious and…someone passing by saw him, called him and he was taken to hospital.”
The client broke his ankle, which left him out of work until he was cleared by a doctor to return.
“He has insurance — all of our clients have health insurance — so luckily the health insurance covered the expenses, but it doesn’t cover all the money he doesn’t earn,” Johnson said. “His income is gone, so that’s something we tried to deal with.”
The client is no longer eligible for cash assistance through the International Center, but Johnson said they are working to ensure he has all his basic needs met.
“It was a big roller coaster for this client to have left his country because of a war, then the United States told him they were going to help him, so he comes here and gets injured,” said- she declared. “That was the first accident, and that’s when we kind of started to realize that bikes might not be the safest form of transportation for our customers.”
The second accident, she said, occurred early in the morning with a client who was cycling to work and was also hit by a car, leaving her jaw broken.
A volunteer from the International Center was able to quickly help the client by taking him to a dentist for medical treatment, Johnson said.
The third accident, she said, was another customer who was cycling home from work and was hit by a car, totaling his bike.
“I’m trying to get in touch with the insurance company for the party that hit our client,” she said.
Johnson told Bowling Green that a refugee was hit by a car while cycling home from work and was killed in the accident.
Incidents like this, she said, are reasons why transportation infrastructure should be reviewed and expanded in the city like Owensboro and other surrounding areas, with more refugees coming in from Afghanistan, or potentially from Ukraine, in the not so distant future.
“That’s been a problem we’ve had with all the previous refugees as well,” Johnson said. “I haven’t heard of any being hit, but I’ve heard of close encounters. But it’s the only means of transportation they have, so they kind of have to put up with it, risking their lives to get to work so they can meet their family’s basic needs.
Currently, Johnson said the International Center has about 40 to 50 clients using bicycles as their primary means of transport to and from work, which includes not only Afghan refugees but also those from other countries.
These customers, she said, are not just taking a 5-10 minute bike ride, but riding at night or early morning in the dark for 20-30 minutes, riding up to four miles, can -be more sometimes.
“We’re still hoping the city can eventually expand (transit) hours because it’s not a problem that’s going away,” she said. “We will welcome more refugees as the time comes. We’re not necessarily expecting Ukrainians right now, but we weren’t expecting 200 Afghans all to come to Owensboro within a month, so anything could happen.
“I just want to make sure my clients come to a place that has infrastructure built to be able to keep them in the city they live in.”
While the Owensboro Transit System (OTS) operates between 6 a.m. and 7:35 p.m. Monday through Friday, it does not allow people working second and third hours to use transit options, a Johnson said.
OTS manager Pamela Canary previously said OTS had been the subject of a consultation which did not recommend extending hours due to operational costs and low attendance.
Regarding whether the city or county could incorporate bike lanes to accommodate an influx of cyclists, Owensboro Town Manager Nate Pagan said there have been recent discussions within from the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), which works on transportation planning, for a Complete Street Model.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, complete streets are streets designed and operated to enable safe use and support mobility for all users. These are people of all ages and abilities, whether they travel as drivers, pedestrians, cyclists or public transport users.
Tom Lovett, DFO coordinator, said the city has a master plan for incorporating bike lanes in specified areas, but the only ongoing project he is aware of that will add a “mixed-use trail” is the enlargement of the KY 54.
He said for bike lanes to potentially be added there would likely need to be evidence and public concern about bike-related traffic incidents in specific areas of the city.
“We should look at why these crashes are happening, where they are happening and is this something we can fix with a bike lane,” he said.
If it’s a problem of individuals not knowing bicycle laws, like which side of the road to ride on, he said education about those laws is more likely to be what which would be needed.
According to Andrew Boggess, spokesman for the Owensboro Police Department, there is no way to specifically track the number of collisions in the city involving bicycles. He said the city sees bicycle collisions “occasionally, but it’s not frequent.”
“I’m sure there are some that aren’t reported to us,” he said.
Mayor Tom Watson and Executive Judge Al Mattingly said they were also unaware of any other bicycle-related incidents or complaints from the public recently.
Without the expansion of public transport or additional safety measures for cyclists, Johnson said the only options the International Center has been able to count on are recruiting more volunteers to help provide transport for refugees and continue to provide bicycles to those who want or need them.
Very few refugee clients, she said, have driver’s licenses, and while many are in the process of receiving driver’s licenses, most do not have the funds to purchase a vehicle.
Johnson said while carpooling options with other employees would be a viable option for many, most refugees are not fluent in English and may not feel comfortable communicating those needs with others. employees.
She said the International Center would welcome all volunteers to help transport refugee clients to and from work, as well as anyone willing to offer ride-sharing options who may have similar work schedules.
Anyone interested in offering these services, she said, can contact the International Center directly by calling 270-683-3423, and it will coordinate with clients.