I’m unsure where to start, so I guess I’ll dive right in.
A week ago, Bike and Build cyclists Anne Davis and Laura Stark were hit by a car while biking. Anne was killed and Laura is in critical condition.
This is my third summer on a cross-country tour, and this is the third time I’ve heard of other cyclists on charity rides getting hit and killed by cars while I was on the road. In 2014, Jamie Roberts was killed while riding with 4K for Cancer. Last year, Patrick Wanninkhof was killed while riding with Bike and Build. Before then, Bike and Build suffered losses in 2010 and 2011, as Paige Hicks and Christina Genco were hit and killed while riding.
I apologize if there are other losses that I haven’t heard of and am not listing. I really hope that’s all there is, and all there ever will be. Digesting these stories hasn’t gotten easier. I can’t help but feel afraid I might be next.
Cycling across the entire country, and cycling in general, are inherently dangerous, but that doesn’t make these accidents okay. And it certainly doesn’t mean they’re not preventable. I’m afraid some drivers see cyclists as intruders on the road instead of as people with lives, with families, with futures. No hobbyist should have to be afraid of getting killed by someone else while doing what they love, yet it’s the sad reality cyclists face.
Of course not every driver is aggressive, and I’m regularly passed by people who slow down and give the legal amount of space while overtaking me. But those who do drive aggressively toward cyclists keep me up at night, and they fail to realize that when they’re buzzing someone, honking, yelling, and most terrifyingly, running them off the road, that they’re putting another human’s life in danger. I try to empathize with people who do this, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why someone would turn someone else’s life into a game of inches instead of taking an extra five seconds out of their day to pass safely.
There’s nothing I, or anyone, can say that makes the passings of Anne, Patrick, Jamie, and the hundreds of other cyclists who are killed each year, easier. This isn’t an attempt to eulogize people I never knew. It’s just a plea to, if you’re a driver, please consider that cyclists are people. They’re fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters. Just take the extra time to pass safely, and please, please don’t text/talk/drink and drive.
I hate vague statements like “X is more than a Y” but for me, cycling has been more than a hobby. It’s given me a job, friendships, and countless hours of joy in the saddle, and I don’t plan to ever stop riding. It’s just hard to want to when I hear about what happened last week. I’m not the only one who’s afraid.
I can’t imagine the sadness everyone impacted by these fatalities is feeling. On behalf of Bike the US for MS and the 2016 TransAm team, I extend every sympathy to the Davis family, Stark family, and the entire Bike and Build community. We’re thinking of ya’ll.
I’m in Cedar City, Utah, a mere 12 days away from San Francisco. After last week, I just want to use my final dozen days as a Bike the US for MS route leader to get this amazing team through the Nevada desert safely to the bay. I’ll post some pictures and anecdotes from Utah when I’m feeling more up to it.
RIP Anne, and best wishes to Laura.