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Safety issue in cyclist’s death

Goshen crash sparks questioning

– It was a clear, late summer afternoon.

There was no rain, the sun was still out and the temperature that September day had recently peaked around 80 degrees.

About as good as it can get for cycling.

What happened next, though, on County Road 127 northeast of Goshen, just off the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, was anything but idyllic. For reasons no one can say exactly, cyclist Dale Ewers, 38, and from Goshen, crossed from the trail onto County Road 127 into the path of an oncoming southbound sports utility vehicle and was hit and flung from his bike. He suffered head injuries, was transported to Memorial Hospital in South Bend and five days later, Sept. 10, died.

Ewers’ family and friends are left reeling. Elkhart County officials are redoubling efforts to install warning signs for motorists along county roads that cross the Pumpkinvine trail. At the same time, the crash underscores the import, particularly for cyclists, to be ever vigilant, even within the relatively safe confines of bike paths.

The path itself isn’t necessarily the problem, said Ewers’ mother, Kelly Foreman, who lives outside Bremen. It’s the many places where the 16-mile Goshen-to-Shipshewana Pumpkinvine trail crosses county roads, particularly the unmarked spots in Elkhart County, like the County Road 127 crossing.

“The path itself, that’s safe,” she said. “It’s the roads going across it that aren’t.”

Ewers, a purchasing agent at KIK Customs Products, had been on a health kick, as Foreman, a receptionist at a recreational vehicle company in Nappanee, puts it.

Monica Brock, Ewers’ girlfriend and a cyclist herself, said they would exchange notes on their bike rides. She lives in Indianapolis and theirs was a long-distance relationship.

It’s no surprise Ewers would be on the trail. And he was no novice to the subtleties of the path, formed along the abandoned corridor of a railroad line. He knew its contours.

Thus the questions. What happened? Why did an experienced cyclist, someone familiar with the Pumpkinvine, die from an accident while traveling the trail?

Heidi Davies, a close friend of Ewers, who visited the crash spot after the accident, noted the vegetation growing along the Pumpkinvine trail, hindering the ability of eastbound cyclists to see County Road 127 traffic, at least on the approach to the crossing over the road. Brock, who also visited the spot, noted the absence of warning signs for vehicles traveling County Road 127 on either approach to the trail’s crossing point over the roadway.