UPDATE: The woman killed in this week’s cycling on the Natchez Trace has been identified as 51-year-old Esther Hagemen of the Netherlands. She had been biking south on the Trace when she was struck from behind by a southbound 2009 GMC Suburban. Hagemen died at the scene.
From Today’s NEMS Daily Journal
Cyclist’s death prompts reminders about road awareness
By Danza Johnson
HOUSTON – The name of the woman killed while riding her bicycle on the Natchez Trace Parkway on Wednesday isn’t being released.
Chief Park Ranger Allen Etheridge said Thursday that the female cyclist is from the Netherlands and efforts were being made to contact a family member.
She died after being hit by an SUV while riding her bike about 3 p.m. on the Trace in Chickasaw County near the Witch Dance pullover. Chickasaw Coroner Andy Harmon said she was pronounced dead at the scene.
Etheridge said the woman driving the SUV stopped when she hit the cyclist and remained on the scene. Both were traveling southbound when the accident happened and the woman driving the SUV has not been charged with a crime.
With spring rushing in, Etheridge said cyclists are pedaling on the Trace more frequently. The Trace is a national park, so it’s considered a recreational road and a popular cycling area.
More than a million vehicles traveled the Trace last year, making it the seventh most popular national park in the country. It stretches from Natchez to Nashville.
Etheridge said that as frequently as motorists and cyclists share the Trace, both should be aware of one another.
“Motorists should look out for bikes and share the road,” he said. “But the cyclists share the responsibility as well. They have to protect themselves and ride defensively. Everyone can use the Trace, we just have to be aware of one another.”
Wednesday’s accident raised awareness among other cyclists using the Trace. John Mitchell and his friend, Charles Palmer, ride bikes on the Trace about four times a week. Both men said they plan to ride with more caution from now on.
“It’s so scenic out here that it’s easy to just lose yourself and your focus while riding,” said Mitchell. “But it can be very dangerous to ride out here. Most people are very kind to cyclists but some don’t want to share the roads. I definitely thought more about safety today than I did when I rode Monday.”
Palmer said he is already a pretty defensive rider and plans to continue to be.
The Trace is more narrow than normal highways, according to Etheridge. A normal highway road width is 24 feet, but the road width on the Trace is 22 feet, providing less room for error by a cyclist or motorist.
When riding a bike on the Trace, Etheridge said there are rules people should follow to increase safety.
“Make sure you wear reflective clothing,” he said. “Ride during the daylight hours and let someone know where you’re going. But the best advice I can give you is to ride and drive defensively.”
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal