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‘A bad day for bicyclists’: Child dies, man seriously injured in separate bike accidents in Pullman

UPDATED: Wed., July 18, 2018, 9:49 p.m.

A 6-year-old boy was killed and a 60-year-old man was hospitalized in separate bicycle accidents Sunday in Pullman.

“Sunday was a bad day for bicyclists,” Pullman Police Department Cmdr. Chris Tennant said. “You have basically two bicycle accidents on Sunday – none of them involving motor vehicles, just bicycles themselves.”

According to police reports, 60-year-old Dean Singh sustained a serious head injury Sunday morning after his brakes failed while he was navigating a steep hill on Center Street that feeds toward an intersection at South Grand Avenue. Tennant said Singh, who was not wearing a helmet, was unable to stop at the bottom of the hill and sped through the intersection, where he hit a curb and crashed. Singh was transported to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, where he remains in serious condition.

Later that afternoon, Denny Curran, 6, was fatally injured by his handlebars in another solo bicycle accident. Curran was taken to Pullman Regional Hospital before being transported via Life Flight to Sacred Heart, where he died Monday morning. Police said the handlebar grips and bar end-caps on the bicycle appeared to be damaged, exposing a sharp edge that caused the injury.

While there is no sure-fire way to stop accidents from happening, Jen Jackson, who works with the Palouse Bicycle Collective in Moscow, said there are a number of steps cyclists can take to help make a ride as safe as possible.

Sometimes, however, “even perfect planning doesn’t equal perfect results,” Jackson said. “You could do everything right – I think life just throws sticks in your spokes sometimes.”

Jackson said handlebar end-caps are an easy feature to overlook, mentioning many of the used bikes PBC takes in are missing them, but it is also an easy problem to fix. Most bar end-caps cost less than $2, Jackson said, and installing them is as simple as pounding them into place.

“(We) tell all our mechanics ‘Every bike that comes in here that’s missing plugs – put them in there,’ ” Jackson said.

Jackson said when it comes to preparation, safety gear like helmets are a common starting point, but it is also important to check a bicycle before taking it for a ride. She said she often reminds cyclists to remember their ABCs – air, brakes and chain. With brakes, Jackson said, it’s important to ensure that the pads grip the wheel tightly and the levers that trigger them aren’t pinching too tightly against the handlebars. She said it is also important to make sure the chain is undamaged and being properly routed along the teeth of the gears and derailer. As for tire inflation, Jackson said just give them a squeeze. Jackson said most bike shops – including PBC – perform safety checks for free.

“Generally if you go walking speed on your bike, I think it’s just as safe as walking,” Jackson said. “But there’s a lot of accidents that happen to walkers as well.”

Tami Goetz, also with PBC, said another primary safety concern is rider behavior. Bikes are small compared with other vehicles on the roadway and easy to overlook, Goetz said, meaning riders must drive patiently and defensively to be as safe as possible. She said it is important for cyclists to know and use hand signals to show their intention to turn or stop.

“We have to learn how to be patient for each other in terms of infrastructure of travel,” Goetz said. “We just need to understand how different modes – not just cars and bikes – but all of us, use sidewalks and roads and transportation in one space.”