Bicycle festival draws strong support system

By Emily LeCoz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Dozens of cyclists and supporters attended the city’s second annual John Paul Frerer Memorial Bike Ride and festival Wednesday at Fairpark.
The event raises awareness about bicycle safety while honoring those who, like Frerer, have lost their lives or been seriously injured in bike-related accidents.
“Bicyclists and motorists need to be aware of each other,” said the fallen cyclist’s sister and one of the event organizers, Danielle Frerer. “That’s why were doing this, to keep it relevant.”
John Paul Frerer was a Tupelo High School senior who died while cycling in August 2009 when a truck struck him. Since then, several other cyclists have lost their lives while riding in Northeast Mississippi.
Wednesday’s gathering featured a silent ride down West Main Street, in which some 50 cyclists participated. Afterward, organizers served hamburgers, hotdogs and chicken to an estimated 200 festival-goers, who munched their dinners while listing to the Jeff Houin Jam Band perform in front of City Hall.
“This is a good way to show respect,” said Sam Gregoor, an Australian exchange student attending Tupelo High School.
Gregoor said he doesn’t ride bikes for fear of being struck by a vehicle. But those are dangers competitive cyclist Adam Morris of Tupelo says he faces weekly.
“They’ll run me right off the road,” said Morris, who rides daily. He did say such incidents have decreased since the Frerer family launched its fight for bicycle safety in the wake of John Paul’s death.
In addition to the public awareness campaigns and annual Bike Weeks, the Frerers and their supporters successfully lobbied the city and state to adopt 3-foot rules mandating motorists maintain a 3-foot distance when passing cyclists.
“I think it’s certainly an appropriate time to remind us of everyone’s responsibility for bicycle safety,” said Mayor Jack Reed Jr. “That includes motorists and cyclists. We all are in this together, and if we want to have a healthy community we need to have a safe community.”