GREENFIELD — A single mother of two told friends and neighbors she felt unsafe cycling to work along U.S. 40, where cars seemed unaware of the narrow shoulder bikers use when riding in the area.
Theresa Corey Burris, 36, was killed Monday afternoon when she was struck by a semitrailer on U.S. 40 as she rode her bike to work in a stretch of roadway.
Burris’ family members said she had taken to riding her bike to get around while sorting out some issues with her car insurance company. She made a 12-mile round-trip to and from work each day along U.S. 40, sometimes returning with stories about close calls and near accidents, friends said.
But she needed to work to help support her two children, 14-year-old Aaron and 9-year-old Ben, said Ray Burris, Theresa’s ex-husband.
“She was a hardworking woman who loved her kids,” Ray Burris said. “She only wanted to take care of her kids. She didn’t deserve this.”
Theresa Burris lived in the 5200 block of U.S. 40 East in Greenfield and biked 6 miles down the road to work at Long John Silver’s.
She had earned two bachelor’s degrees from online institutions, and she hoped to work in a medical field, helping people enroll in drug-rehab programs, Ray Burris said. She accepted a job at the fast-food restaurant about a month ago while looking for social-service work in the Greenfield area.
Theresa Burris was the friendly face that greeted those making their way through the drive-thru for dinner, said Hailey Gonya, an evening-shift manager for the restaurant.
Though Burris hadn’t worked for the restaurant long, it was clear to Gonya that Burris was a sweet woman who did everything with her children’s interests at heart. Burris often shared stories about her kids with her coworkers, Gonya said.
Harry Hutton has lived next door to Theresa Burris for the last six months, and the pair had become fast friends.
Burris would come over and sit on Hutton’s front porch and chat about any number of things.
When he could, Hutton would give Burris rides to and from work, especially when she worked night shifts at the restaurant. He didn’t like the thought of her biking in the dark along a busy roadway.
Monday evening, after hearing of his friend’s death, he felt wracked with guilt because he wasn’t able to get home from work in time to help, he said.
“I always felt scared for her,” Hutton said. “If I’d gotten home in time, this wouldn’t have happened.”
The driver of the semitrailer, Reed Thompson, 55, of Whiteland, told police he didn’t see Burris and was unaware he had hit anyone. Detectives do not believe alcohol, drugs or speeding contributed to the accident.
The truck was carrying an oversized load — a concrete slab — that stretched into the shoulder where Burris was riding. The piece of concrete struck the Greenfield woman in the head, police said. She was transported to Indianapolis University Health Methodist Hospital, where she was pronounced dead about 5:30 p.m. Monday.
As news of Burris’ death spread late Monday, members of state bicycling advocacy groups urged drivers to be vigilant of people riding bike along any roadway.
Though Theresa Burris was riding in the shoulder, she didn’t have to; bicyclists have as much right to the road as cars and trucks do, said Nancy Tibbett, the executive director of Bicycle Indiana.
Bicycle Indiana advocates for sensible bicycle regulations and works to educate drivers about sharing the road with riders. The group approached local officials last year about designating bike routes — including a stretch of U.S. 40 on Greenfield’s east side — in an effort to promote safer travel for cyclists.
Tibbett said she often wonders if having the signs carrying the group’s “share the road” slogan posted along busy highways would remind drivers to be on the lookout for bicyclists; having bike lanes along highways would do even more to prevent such accidents, she said, because lanes alert drivers to the possibility that there are bike-riders in the area.