Gracie Skultety looks over her bicycle the day after she was knocked off of it by a deer while going to school. (Photo by Michael Hallisey / Spotlight News)
DELMAR — Bicyclists know to watch for traffic and the occasional loose dog, but deer?
Gracie Skultety, an eighth-grader at Bethlehem Central Middle School, was riding her bicycle to school Wednesday, Oct. 11 when she was bowled over by a deer.
“Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something charging,” said Gracie, ”and that was that.”
Skultety rides her blue 21-speed Schwinn hybrid bicycle to school every day. It’s a fifteen-minute ride from her Marvin Avenue home. For Gracie, her journey began as uneventfully as her many previous rides, leading up to the moment she turned onto Kenwood Avenue from Delmar Place. The 13-year-old said she saw the deer for “0.2 seconds” before the crash.
“My bike went into the road and I just kind of rode the sidewalk and got road rash,” said Gracie, who recalled seeing one motorist swerve to avoid her bike. She remembers one driver rolling down a window to ask if she was okay. Another, advising her to go directly to the school nurse. “Then I picked my bike back up and the handlebars were twisted the wrong way two or three times. So, I don’t know exactly which direction my bike went — over my head, or what.”
Aside from a sore neck and a few scrapes on her wrist and leg, Gracie was no worse for the wear. A schoolmate helped slip her bicycle chain back into place and she proceeded to class.
Her mother, Laurel, calls her daughter ‘tough.’ After school, she tends to her 10-year-old horse, Charlotte.
“That’s why I think she’s tough,” said Laurel, whose daughter continues to ride her bicycle to and from school, “…she’s used to handling 2,000-pound animals.”
The sight of deer is not uncommon within Olde Delmar; they are often seen at dawn or dusk. Motorists know to watch for deer, and are reminded by signs along area roadways. Deer crossing signs are common along the lengths of town roads, such as New Scotland and Kenwood avenues.
But how often do bicyclists need to worry about such close encounters?
“It happens more often than I care to say,” said Steven LeBoyer, owner of the Savile Road bicycle store on Delaware Avenue in Elsmere.
LeBoyer, who is also a member of the Mohawk Hudson Cycle Club, knows the paths on which wildlife encounters are likely. Meads Lane, Delaware Avenue and the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail are common enough.
“There’s another called Deer Path, but I can’t remember where that is anymore,” said LeBoyer.
The avid bicyclist recalled one day when a herd of 20 deer galloped parallel to his ride down Delaware Avenue. As he rode, he worried what would happen if the deer jumped into traffic. What would happen to the deer? What would happen to him? A few years ago, he recalled, a deer-bicycle accident resulted in a five-bicycle pile-up.
Deer are generally more active around mating season, which runs from now until December, making them more susceptible to accidents. LeBoyer said when he sees a deer cross the road, he follows one rule of thumb.
“If there’s one, there’s usually one or two more.”
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.