Udaya DeSilva doesn’t remember exactly how he wound up in the hospital. He lost at least 45 minutes on the evening of Oct. 14 when he was struck by a pick-up while riding his bike.

The Oklahoma State University professor of animal molecular genetics was wrapping up a 10-mile ride and was only a mile from home.

He remembers starting to go up the hill on Lakeview Road as it crosses Boomer Lake. The next thing he knew, he was waking up in Stillwater Medical Center’s emergency department.

He says considering the situation, that’s probably for the best.

Now 17 days later, he’s about to go home. But he’s still got a long road to travel before he’s back to normal.

DeSilva is going home in a back brace and using a walker after suffering a compression fracture in his back, a dislocated hip, a separated shoulder, a fracture in his right hand, a Grade 3 concussion and superficial injuries all the way down his right side. He says he lost about four units of blood.

He’s facing months of recovery and physical therapy.

But in spite of the extent of his injuries, DeSilva feels fortunate. The picture would probably have been different if he hadn’t been wearing his helmet.

“All of this is going to take time, but it’s 100% fixable,” he said. “If I was not wearing a helmet, I would be dead.”

He bases that conclusion on the amount of damage the back of his helmet sustained.

DeSilva expects to make a full recovery and to eventually be back on his bike. It’s something he grew up doing in Sri Lanka and has continued to do through his 30 years in the U.S.

He spends a lot of time on a bike, using it to commute to work work most days.

There were a few times he says it seemed like drivers got a little too close, but he doesn’t usually feel unsafe on the road. He had one experience where a driver screamed at him.

DeSilva says that Stillwater has become much more bike-friendly in the past 10 years. But there is obviously room for improvement.

Multiple witnesses said the driver who struck him failed to provide at least three feet of clearance around his bike as state law requires.

Although the accident report notes that as a contributing factor, it doesn’t indicate that the driver received a citation. An inquiry to the Stillwater Police Department about it hadn’t received a response by press time.

DeSilva is a believer in having the proper safety equipment, now more than ever.

“You take precautions, you do whatever you can, but things like this happen,” he said. “One thing I want people to know is: Wear a helmet.”

Oklahome Bike Laws

Under Oklahoma Title 47, motorists are required to allow at least three feet of space between their vehicle and a bicycle they are passing or overtaking.

The penalty for violating that law, if it results in a collision causing serious physical injury, is a fine of up to $500.

If the collision causes the death of another person, the fine rises to $1,000, in addition to other penalties prescribed by law.

Bicycles are considered vehicles under Oklahoma law. They have the right to travel on the roadway, even if they can’t travel as fast as other traffic.

They are only allowed to ride two abreast and should ride single file on roads divided into lanes.

If a usable bike path is provided, local ordinances can require bicyclist to ride on that path instead of the road.

Bicycles traveling slower than the normal speed of traffic must ride as close as possible to the right-hand curb unless they are passing, turning left or avoiding objects and hazards.

Front and rear lights and reflectors are required while on streets or highways with a speed limit over 25 miles per hour.

 By the Numbers: 

The NHTSA overview report for 2018 shows that fatalities for occupants of every type of motorized vehicle except large trucks decreased from 2017 to 2018. Fatalities for nonoccupant pedestrians and cyclists increased during that same period.

A reported 857 cyclists died in 2018, a 6.3% increase and the highest number since 1990.

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