VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Conte’s Bike Shop claims to be the largest independent bike retailer in the country, and they know all about the crash statistics involving bicycles. 

Tony Bronkema has worked for Conte’s six years and was a police officer for 21 years.

“We have seen a big increase in cycling since the pandemic. Cycling is more popular and of course, we have more cyclists on the road,” Bronkema said. 

What does he blame most for crashes?

You guessed it. Distracted driving.

“It’s a major part,” Bronkema said. “It is distracted driving, texting and looking at your phone. I think another part of it is people are not aware of where they should be riding a bike.”

It’s always nice to have an adequate shoulder to give you more room.

“A lot of times people honk at them. … That is very dangerous,” Bronkema said. “They drive as close as possible…we have had trash thrown at them, and frequently our group rides, people have put tacks on the road because they don’t want the cyclist to come through there.”

Bronkema is a bicyclist at heart and has been a Conte’s employee for six years. He said a helmet is critically important.

“Massively important,” Bronkema said. “If you go down on a bike and (are) not wearing a helmet, there is no way you can keep your head from hitting the pavement.”

In February, beloved Norfolk Bike Shop owner Mike Shipp was killed in South Carolina after getting hit by a pickup truck.

“There was a commemorative ride for him,” Bronkema said. “Everybody who knows someone who gets killed, definitely makes everyone thinks about what they are doing.”

Bronkema has some ideas on how to keep yourself safer on the road.

“Whenever there is a car going by you at 55 mph it’s definitely something you are paying attention to. There are things you can do to mitigate that,” Bronkema said.

Bronkema said the flashing red light is a vital piece of equipment, but he also said new radars are important too.

“This is a radar that shoots behind you,” Bronkema said. “This is an actual light and a camera with looped video, so if something happens it will record the incident…what you will see on the device is lights getting brighter going up as the car gets closer…it will give an audible tone on your phone that a car is approaching.”

Bronkema said if you are a driver and you see a bicyclist you need to do this.

“By state law, they have to give you three feet,” Bronkema said. “If there is an open lane, you are supposed to move to the lane next one over to at least give the cyclist three feet.”

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