There’s a reason Peter Flur has tiny video cameras attached to the front and rear of his bicycle, and that reason generally centers around being able to have visual evidence if a motorist endangers his life or the lives of fellow cyclists.
“It’s not protection from something bad happening, by any stretch,” says the 53-year-old Charlotte resident, “but it is a way for us to show people ... what happened if it does.”
But on Wednesday morning in Matthews — while Flur and four friends were finishing up a 45-mile ride from the Brace Family YMCA down through Union County and back — his cameras captured something rather more unusual: a type of violent collision that happens with relative frequency but is rarely captured on video.
As the group crested Forest Lawn Drive in the northbound lane near the intersection with Antioch Church Road, a large deer scampered out of the woods from the right and crossed in front of the lead cyclist, Missie Mansfield; a split-second later, the animal was struck by a dark-colored Audi sedan traveling in the opposite direction.
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In the harrowing piece of footage submitted to the Observer by Flur, Mansfield can be heard screaming just before the deer is sent hurtling through the air back across the double-yellow line as the cyclist in front of Flur — Melonie Norris — can be seen ducking and quickly steadying her bike as it wobbles.
“I look up and see this thing flying at us,” Flur says. “For a few seconds, I didn’t even know what it was. ... It happened so fast, at that very instant, we just didn’t know.”
The group, which had been focused on supporting Norris during her last significant training ride for next weekend’s Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, pulled off to the side of the road for several minutes to process what had happened before saddling up again.
Flur says the deer did not survive; although he can’t be sure, he believes the driver of the Audi continued on without stopping.
“As we were heading back into the Y,” Flur says, “Missy looked back at me and was like, ‘Oh my God, you have that on video.’”
The cameras run about $460 and shoot continuously throughout a ride once the cyclist has activated them. But because the front camera is mounted underneath Flur’s handlebars, “I never know exactly what it’s gonna get. You know, if I’m pointed right, it won’t get the oncoming traffic. So I had no idea what I was going to see when I got home. As I drove home, all I kept thinking about was the scene in the movie ‘Twister,’ where Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton are in the truck and the cow flies over them. That’s exactly what it looked like in my mind’s eye.”
Once he was able to import it onto his computer, he couldn’t believe how clear it was.
“Then I tried to figure out who wanted to see it and who didn’t,” Flur says, acknowledging that the images could be disturbing to some.
After the riders agreed it was OK for Flur to share the video beyond the group, he posted it on YouTube. As of this morning, it’s been viewed more than 10,000 times.
“Really, from my perspective, it was just: These are the crazy things that we see when we’re on our bikes,” Flur says when asked why he decided to make the footage public. “It’s still shocking to me to think that we actually saw that and caught it on video.”
“We all realize how incredibly lucky we are that no humans got hurt,” Flur adds. “I didn’t know until I saw the video how close it came to us or that it had horns. That could have been so bad.”