Everything turned to slow motion.
Bob Sergi was riding alone on Marshland Road three years ago when a Jeep hit the back tire of his bike. He went flying, and for a moment, it felt like a dream. He had been riding three or four feet from the side of the road, going around 17 miles per hour, when he was launched forward.
While heading for oncoming traffic, Sergi noticed a police car about a mile up the road, writing a ticket. That’s what he remembers the most about the collision that would total his bike, crack his ribs and leave him with a lot of road rash. Thankfully, oncoming traffic stopped around one yard away from him when he skidded to a stop and landed on his back. His mangled bike landed on top of him, hitting his face, close to a yellow biking sign warning drivers to look out for cyclists.
He didn’t think he was injured at first. The police officer up the road drove him home, and hours later he went to urgent care. His injuries were minor, but he thinks if he had not been wearing a helmet he would have been killed.
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“It wasn’t my day to go,” Sergi said. “God didn’t want me yet.”
The man driving the Jeep was never cited, Sergi said.
It took two months for Sergi to recover from his injuries, and after, he got back on his bike, which Sergi had been riding on roadways for around five years. His wife, Jackie, was wary.
He wasn’t afraid to ride, but being hit stuck with him. “I don’t go on Marshland Road by myself anymore,” he said.
Sergi was one of the more than 90 riders in the annual Ride of Silence on Hilton Head Island. The event is in its ninth year, and is organized by Kickin’ Asphalt, a bicycle group that formed in 2006 and promotes safe group bicycling and rides every Saturday morning. The ride takes place on the third Wednesday of May across the world.
In 2016, there were 445 rides in 50 states and 48 countries. The first Ride of Silence took place in 2003 in Dallas to honor Larry Schwartz, an endurance cyclist who died when he was hit by a passing bus.
The event aims to honor those injured and killed while bicycling on public roads. The ride began at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Port Royal Shopping Center Plaza. The ride was nine miles long, leaving the Street Meet parking lot headed south on U.S. 278. It ended back at Street Meet.
John Marcinowski, the organizer of the ride, said that since last year’s Ride of Silence, there have been four bicyclist fatalities.
A special report from The Island Packet earlier this year reported that in 2016 there were 72 pedestrian and cyclist collisions in Beaufort County. Eleven were fatal.
Most collisions occur at night. Adding more lighting is a possible solution, but residents are divided about whether lighting should be added, an Island Packet survey found.
Frank Babel, the co-chairman of the Hilton Head Biking Advisory Committee and one of the first members of Kickin’ Asphalt, said the ride raises awareness about bike safety. But, there is no “silver bullet.” Babel doesn’t think there should be a lot of lighting added on the island, but problem areas, such as the mid-island corridor, might benefit from more safety efforts, such as signalized crossing. Any added lighting should be done thoughtfully, he said.
Babel says the death of orthopedic surgeon Jeff Garske last year has affected the biking community on Hilton Head. Garske was killed in a hit-and-run on the Cross Island Parkway near Marshland Road — the road Sergi was on when he was hit. Garske was also a close friend of Sergi, which made this Ride of Silence more poignant for him.
Sergi believes that there should be more police involvement in protecting bicyclists, along with a raised awareness among residents about bicyclists on the road and more patience from drivers.
“That’s the way things are with bikers,” Sergi said. “They really are second class citizens.”