Deadly Pufferbelly Trail crash raises questions about crossing safety

Drivers should not stop for trail users looking to cross the road. Instead, trail users should stop and wait until the road is clear before crossing.

Posted: Sep 21, 2021 7:37 PM
Updated: Sep 22, 2021 8:53 AM

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) -- Karen Kaehr frequently rides her bike on Fort Wayne’s trails, and she’s almost been hit crossing the road many times.

“I’m very cautious, I look both ways, but you’ll start and sometimes you’ve got a car coming 30-35 miles an hour, and you’re not sure if they’re going to stop while you’re in the crosswalk,” she said.

She was sad but not surprised Thursday when she rode up on the Carroll Road crosswalk moments after 63-year-old Leisa Elser-Patrick was struck and killed by a car.

She’s biked the crossing since then, and has been extra cautious.

“[Monday] when I rode, a lot of people wanted to stop for me,” she said. “I don’t. I stop back and I wave them on. I will not cross in front of a car.”

Megan McClellan, the executive director of Fort Wayne Trails, said drivers often want to be nice and let people cross.

But that’s not what’s supposed to happen.

“Trail users should wave the car on,” she said. “People have had good luck with looking away, acting like they’re doing something else so that the car doesn’t think they’re about to cross”

As trail users approach the crosswalk, they’ll see a stop sign and a red flashing light.

Drivers on the other hand will see a yellow flashing light, meaning proceed with caution.

Trail users are supposed to stop and wait for traffic to clear before crossing.

But that changes if someone has already started to cross the road.

“If a pedestrian or bicyclist is in the roadway and the vehicle comes upon them, then the vehicle has to yield the right of way to them,” Chief Deputy Tory Hershberger with the Allen County Sheriff’s Department said.

In Thursday’s incident, the sheriff’s department says a truck stopped for Elser-Patrick but a car went around the truck and hit her in the crossing.

The investigation is ongoing.

“Could [the driver] be cited? Certainly, they could be cited,” Hershberger said. “But there could be other more severe charges as the investigation unravels and unwinds.”

Kaehr hopes trail users and drivers can learn from what happened.

“Just educating the people that are using the trails, how to use the trails,” she said. “That you don’t let traffic stop and you keep them moving, that can eliminate a lot of our problems.”

McClellan says she is receiving feedback from the community about these crossings and will take that input to the city and county, which owns the trails.

You can submit comments to Fort Wayne trails here or call (260) 969-0079.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1000163

Reported Deaths: 16309
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1347632106
Lake660041156
Allen57441793
Hamilton46100461
St. Joseph44109607
Elkhart35696507
Vanderburgh32087477
Tippecanoe27796257
Johnson24902443
Hendricks23738354
Porter22802362
Madison18614404
Clark18424250
Vigo17347301
Monroe15180197
LaPorte15046250
Delaware14984259
Howard14626287
Kosciusko12217147
Hancock11630175
Bartholomew11505179
Warrick11255189
Floyd11013214
Wayne10897250
Grant9964218
Morgan9404176
Boone8863116
Dubois8227130
Dearborn817093
Henry8139151
Noble7984106
Marshall7838134
Cass7499119
Lawrence7403170
Shelby7138114
Jackson694088
Gibson6533113
Harrison644491
Huntington633999
Knox6273106
DeKalb626397
Montgomery6208109
Miami589797
Putnam575377
Clinton570271
Whitley560455
Steuben554675
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White415962
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Fayette404286
Jennings385160
Posey375343
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Newton156048
Benton150217
Brown144547
Martin137419
Switzerland134211
Warren120516
Union106815
Ohio84112
Unassigned0538

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 1499485

Reported Deaths: 23327
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1626291662
Cuyahoga1447662412
Hamilton1044761409
Montgomery731681240
Summit610421094
Lucas55643904
Butler51076707
Stark459431053
Lorain35141568
Warren32476369
Mahoning30315672
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Lake26669434
Delaware23960162
Licking23547283
Trumbull22550552
Fairfield22179241
Greene22098311
Medina21763305
Clark19630349
Richland18342280
Portage17696247
Wood17244220
Allen15730269
Miami15355296
Muskingum14551174
Columbiana13756263
Wayne13585263
Tuscarawas12479298
Marion11797175
Scioto11388154
Pickaway11286141
Erie10676180
Ross10462196
Lawrence9663137
Hancock9546149
Ashtabula9479197
Belmont9133197
Geauga8829157
Jefferson8481191
Huron8229139
Union810756
Washington8031137
Sandusky7724145
Athens769572
Knox7606138
Darke7553151
Seneca7208144
Ashland6817125
Auglaize667896
Shelby6410111
Brown628582
Crawford6184130
Defiance6087102
Mercer608293
Fulton592996
Highland590099
Madison587576
Clinton576190
Logan574692
Guernsey572467
Preble5660121
Putnam5250108
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Morrow451256
Pike430762
Fayette422160
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Gallia411265
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Henry357871
Holmes3567122
Hocking352578
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Carroll297059
Paulding275945
Meigs259249
Monroe212953
Noble196546
Morgan190832
Harrison178242
Vinton162624
Unassigned05
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