The Greatest Threat to Cycling

damaged bikes from crash with car

Mark Bugnaski/Kalamazoo Gazette

Mark Bugnaski/Kalamazoo Gazette

Besides reporting and sharing the news about a driver murdering 5 cyclists and injuring 4 others, what can we do? Feel the grief, overwhelming sadness, and look over a shoulder a few more times in traffic than usual? I’ve been trying to come up with the words ever since the story broke from Kalamazoo.Then, read this post from Phil Miller. He agreed to let me share it with you and it captures the larger issue we face. Cycling as transportation is key to the leisure and hobby activities we usually associate with it. Our races and rides depend on safe roads.

The Greatest Threat to Cycling

It isn’t a gravel grinder, and it isn’t a Grand Fondo. It isn’t doping, or masters, or doping masters. It’s not UCI, nor USAC, nor NACS nor OBRA or even Oprah. It’s most definitely not equal payouts for women pros, or big payoffs to sports administrators. It’s not high entries, or the rising cost of insurance.

It’s not even Lance.

Our sport ceases to exist when we can no longer ride our bikes. When we risk our health, our lives and that of our loved ones for simply exercising our right to ride a bicycle on a public road – when the fear of yet another unaccountable drunken or angry moron prevents us from even pumping up a tire – then we are finished.

I’ve been trying to process the horror of what happened to a group ride in Kalamazoo, Michigan last night. Five lives lost, more irreversibly altered and damaged, not to mention the damage to those left behind. One is a cousin of an officiating colleague, and while I can say that I could never comprehend the devastation he feels, well, that simply isn’t true. I’ve had way too much practice over the years.

Get used to this, friends. If we don’t stand together in our balkanized little community, this will happen again. And again. And again. It doesn’t matter less that this occurs on a country road in the Midwest, or in downtown Seattle or in Redlands or Redmond or Riverside or any of the other places I’ve ridden over the past 50 years.

USAC CEO Derek Bouchard-Hall recently announced that USAC was going to get involved in bicycle advocacy. There is nothing I can think of that matters more in my life as a cyclist, and as a transportation professional working on bicycle and pedestrian mobility and safety. We – and I mean ALL of us – need to stand together without consideration of our other disagreements and make our voice heard in every state, county and municipality. If USAC is serious about this (and I believe Derek completely that this is a priority), then we must stand shoulder to shoulder to be heard.

Otherwise, our sport will not just be irrelevant – it won’t exist.

While Phil and I discussed the topic in chat, we agreed the sport needs to come together on SOMETHING — survival seems a reasonable place to start. I was going to post this week that we’d reached peak roadie toxicity, when Velonews is encouraging us to rat each other out as dopers. Well, talking about doping is a luxury that’ll go away, if the sport goes away. A sidebar to “gravel” and the enthusiasm for “adventure” is that roadies, like me, are exhausted by the stress of riding in traffic. Worrying about a drunk or distracted driver takes a toll on our psyche; especially, when we learn the police had been getting reports on this truck for about 30 minutes prior to the crash — they were actively looking when it drove into a group on their daily ride.

For now we grieve with friends and families, and then hopefully look to USAC for leadership against this too common threat we face.