Following crash, former NBA player Shawn Bradley hopes to spread ‘public awareness’ about bicycle safety

ST. GEORGE — New details about the incident that left former NBA player Shawn Bradley paralyzed were released Tuesday to St. George News in a partially-redacted police report of the incident.

FILE- In this Nov. 22, 1997, file photo, Dallas Mavericks’ Shawn Bradley (44) looks to pass as Milwaukee Bucks’ Ervin Johnson (40) defends during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game at the Reunion Arena in Dallas. Former NBA player Shawn Bradley was paralyzed when he was struck from behind by a vehicle while riding a bike near his Utah home, saying in a statement nearly two months after the accident he intended to bring awareness to bicycle safety | Associated Press file photo by LM Otero, St. George News

Bradley, 49, was riding his bike northbound on North Country Lane near his home in St. George on Jan. 20 when a passing car struck him on his left side, causing him to crash into a parked vehicle on the right shoulder of the street. The police report states that the driver of the moving vehicle gave Bradley room along the fog line with space for him to navigate between the parked car and passing traffic; however, when the driver of the moving vehicle looked back in his rearview mirror, they saw Bradley flipping forward before landing on his back in the roadway.

Though the driver of the passing vehicle reported traveling no faster than 14 mph and Bradley’s Garmin equipment showed he was traveling no faster than 10 mph, according to the report, the traumatic spinal cord injury Bradley sustained required neck fusion surgery.

Bradley issued a public statement on the accident through the Dallas Mavericks, one of his former NBA teams, on March 17. As of the release of that statement, Bradley was still hospitalized and undergoing intense physical therapy and rehabilitation. No update has been provided since.

“Doctors have advised him that his road to recovery will be both long and arduous, perhaps an even more difficult physical challenge than playing professional basketball,” the statement says.

Bradley said in the release that he plans to use the accident to shed light on and “bring greater public awareness to the importance of bicycle safety,” which puts a well-known face on an issue that has increased with the population boom of St. George: bicycles and motor vehicles sharing the roadway respectfully and, most importantly, safely.

A satellite image of the roundabout intersecting North Country Lane and Stonebridge Drive where former NBA player Shawn Bradley was struck by a car riding his bicycle | Photo courtesy of Google Maps, St. George News

St. George Police officer Tiffany Atkin told St. George News that during peak cycling season, the police department might respond to bicycle-involved traffic incidents monthly.

“It just depends on the time of year and what’s going on,” Atkin said. “Maybe it’s monthly or maybe we could go a few months, multiple months, and it doesn’t happen. So it’s hard to say how often but it does happen. We have a huge cycling community here.”

Atkin also noted that while many car-bike interactions happen on busier, main roadways, this accident happened on a quiet backroad with a speed limit of 30 mph. Bicycle safety is important everywhere the road is shared.

Atkin said the best way to keep everyone safe is to know the rules and be respectful of one another.

“The cyclists have the right to ride two abreast,” Atkin said. “They can ride side by side. They can ride in the travel lane, and they (drivers) should know what those rules and laws are regarding that. You’ve got to give them (bicyclists) 3 feet regardless – you have to give them 3 feet.”

St. George police officer Tiffany Atkin speaks with St. George News on bicycle road safety, St. George Police Department offices, St. George, Utah, March 24, 2021 | Photo by Rich Allen, St. George News

These rules are evolving, as well. This year, the Utah legislature passed Cyclist Traffic Amendments, designated HB 142 in the 2021 Utah Legislature, legalizing the “Idaho stop” for bicyclists, or a rolling stop at intersections where traffic is not as busy. Bill sponsor Carol Spackman Moss told the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Committee on Feb. 25 that it is more dangerous for bicyclists to come to a complete stop and have to rebuild their momentum in the intersection rather than slow down, look both ways and pass through quickly to minimize time.

Atkin, at the time of her interview on Tuesday, was unaware of the rule and said it’s important for all road users to stay informed on changes.

In Bradley’s case, the driver of the moving vehicle reportedly stated they believed they gave Bradley enough room. This was not disputed at any point in the police report. The cause is still undetermined. It is unknown what rules, if any, were broken by anyone involved, stressing the importance of simply having respect for unmotorized counterparts on the roadways.

Atkin said that while there may be some “friction” between car drivers and motorists, common understanding can be a key difference in avoiding accidents like this.

“We all just have to do our best to realize this is part of our lives,” Atkin said. “Regardless of your feelings about whether cyclists should be on the road, you’ve got to give them that space and that respect, and the cyclists need to do the same for the drivers … I think just a lot of patience and understanding would help. It’d go a long way.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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