WAIKOLOA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - Members of the Hawaii Island cycling community say Sunday's fatal accident is devastating to them all -- and they say what's most troubling is they believe the tragedy could have been prevented with road improvements they've been advocating.
63-year-old Jeffrey Surnow was killed after he was hit by a on-duty police officer Sunday morning along Waikoloa Road. Hawaii County police officials say the area is treacherous for bike riders -- especially during sunrise. Local cyclists say what makes it dangerous isn't the time of day -- but the lack of a safe shoulder for anyone on a bike, who has a legal right to the road.
"When you get a car going 60 and a bicyclist traveling at 8-9 miles an hour -- there's nothing you can do. A car coming around that fast, your reaction time is just a split second. I honestly believe that the time of day, while factoring into this, pales in comparison that without shoulders on the road it directly puts cyclist into the path of traffic. They have no choice," said Matt Bisaro, who owns Mountain Road Cycles Hawaii in Waimea. Bisaro says the cycling community has been petitioning for a four-foot shoulder requirement on every county road to ensure the safety of anyone who is biking or jogging for years now.
Bisaro says Hawaii Island is growing into a vacation destination for folks who enjoy the outdoors and more needs to be done to ensure that both residents and visitors are protected.
"There's only going to be an increase in cycling on the Big Island. More and more people are going to come from all over the world -- I see them every day -- they come ride their bikes here. We just have to change and mature our road-building policy and our driving practices or more and more cyclists are going to end up in this situation," said Bisaro, who didn't know the victim personally but says he and other cyclists were deeply saddened by the news of his death.
Surnow of West Bloomfield Michigan was not a novice. According to an online database for cyclists, he logged a 60-mile ride in the Waimea area just a couple of days prior to his death.
As for the officer accused of hitting him -- 30-year-old Jody Buddemeyer was arrested on suspicion of negligent homicide, but has since been released pending further investigation.
Several cyclists have told Hawaii News Now $350,000 was allocated for improvements to Waikoloa Road that would include adding shoulders, but Hawaii County officials have yet to confirm that amount and the status of that initiative.
A representative with the Hawaii Island Mayor's Office released the following statement Monday night: "We are always working to keep our pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists safe and are constantly addressing our Hawaii Island roads and streets. The county is working with the community and all stakeholders to improve many areas around our island. Our thoughts and prayers with Mr. Surnow's family during this very difficult time."