Andrew Wright

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When Andrew Wright missed his bus Tuesday morning, the freshman jumped on a bicycle for the five-mile ride to Myers Park High, friends say.

About halfway into the trip, Wright tried to weave around rollout trash bins on a Sharon Lane sidewalk, but he lost control and his bike clipped a bin.

Wright was flung into the road just as a tractor-trailer came by. The impact killed Wright, a member of Myers Park High's theater group.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police say the 29-year-old man who was driving the US Foods tractor-trailer that hit Wright about 6:45 a.m. has not been charged.

Investigators say it appears to be an accident, and that a combination of things went wrong. They say Wright picked a day to ride when the Sharon Lane sidewalk was full of bins for trash and recyclables. And they say Wright was not wearing a helmet.

Wright's teachers said he loved reading and took an active role in the theater arts department's spring production of "Zombie Prom."

Fellow drama students described Wright as one of the cast's hardest workers.

"RIP, Drew Wright – you were such a sweet kid," student Anna Stone wrote on Twitter.

By early Tuesday afternoon, students already had put up a makeshift memorial at the site of the collision.

Wright's death was another in a series of tragedies this year at Myers Park High. In February, Charlie Butterworth, a 2009 graduate, was killed in a car wreck. A collision a few days left senior Thomas Cain with serious head injuries. Cain and Wright lived on the same Cotswold street. In addition, the parents of at least three students have died this year.

Wright is the first bicyclist killed in Charlotte since 2010, but his is the 15th traffic-related death this year of someone not in a car, van or truck. That compares to nine at this time last year. Most of those were pedestrians.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Sgt. David Sloan said that while the number of deaths among pedestrians, cyclists and motorcycle riders is up considerably over last year, there is no common threat among the fatalities. "It seems to be a lot of things," he said.

Jeff Viscount, director of the website WeeklyRides.com and a leader in the Charlotte cycling community, visited the scene of the collision.

He said the large number of trash and recyclable bins on the sidewalk made it difficult for any cyclist to navigate.

"Even an experienced rider would have to be a bicycle ninja to get through," he said.

He said the fact that Wright was riding without a helmet calls attention to the need for more education among children and adults.

"You can go to Freedom Park on a Saturday and Sunday, and see mom and dad riding with their kids – and nobody is wearing helmets," Viscount said. "That sends a message to young people."

He said the presence of the trash bins also shows the need to build more bicycle lanes in the roadways. "Kids who ride to school need safe paths," he said.

Viscount said Charlotte and surrounding cities have done a good job of building new bicycle lanes and making other improvements, but he added, "We still have a ways to go, as is obvious from what happened today."

Myers Park High Principal Tom Spivey said students were saddened by the loss of a young man who never seemed to cause trouble. He said they described Wright "as a gentle soul."

"He was always nice to everyone."
Published in Charlotte Observer on May 29, 2012
Andrew Wright
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