If you ride a bicycle, especially at night, we encourage you to get some reflective tape and give your helmet "The Pat Treatment."
The term was coined in Valley cycling circles for Patrick Ytsma of Bethlehem, whose attention to bike safety was renowned in part because he managed to pack more reflective tape on his helmet than previously imagined possible. He even put tape on his glasses.
Ytsma, 53, died Thursday from injuries sustained in a crash. He was riding his bicycle south on the Fahy Bridge in Bethlehem on Sunday when a car struck him from behind. Even though he wore a helmet, the head trauma he sustained hitting the pavement killed him.
This column usually shares ways to save money. And over the summer we featured Patrick's tip for commuting 11 miles round trip on a bicycle, which we estimated could save more than $12,500 over 10 years.
In Patrick's memory, we wanted to dedicate this space to something far more important that he embodied every time he pedaled: Safety.
When we met Patrick in the summer near Stabler Arena in Bethlehem, he was on his bicycle. There wasn't a car in sight, so we thought he was clowning around when he came to a full stop at a stop sign and used hand signals when making turns.
We later realized the maneuvers were no joke to Patrick, an ambassador for bike safety.
"He engaged in safety for his own protection, and he was public and vocal about it because he wanted other people to be safe as well," said Geoff Rogers of Emmaus, a member of the Lehigh Wheelmen riding group and friend of Patrick. "He mostly led by example. I never saw him chastise another rider."
His riding habits provide good lessons for cyclists and drivers, two groups that are often at odds. Cyclists are more inclined to remember the drivers who raced past them, brushing dangerously close with horns blaring, forgetting the patient drivers who slow down and wait until they can safely pass. Drivers are quick to complain about the cyclist wearing all black at night weaving through traffic on the wrong side of the road. But they forget the times they made a left turn in front of an oncoming cyclist, showing someone on a 20-pound bike less consideration than they would someone in a 2,000-pound car.
Patrick showed respect to motorists with hand signals and by using reflective tape and lights to make himself visible. When he shared his commuting tip, he encouraged us to tell people about the bike safety courses offered by the Coalition for Appropriate Transportation, a group with which he was also involved.
"We're trying to make Bethlehem bicycle heaven," said Steve Schmitt, director of the coalition. "And the best way to do that is to get more cyclists to ride like Pat Ytsma."
Friends and cyclists are thinking of ways to honor Patrick's life. Giving your helmet the Pat treatment, using hand signals and obeying the rules of the road are things we all could do to show our respect to him and each other.
An educational fund is being established for Ytsma's two children. Contributions may be made to his wife, Judith Parr, and sent to Bachman, Kulik & Reinsmith Funeral Home, 1629 Hamilton St., Allentown 18102.