This year’s Flagstaff Bike Month has come to a much more bitter than sweet end.
On Friday, May 28th, a tow-truck driver ran the red light west-bound on Butler at Beaver and hit six cyclists who were participating in the FLG Bike Party ride, a fun gathering of some cycling friends. One rider, Joanna Wheaton, was killed, and the five others suffered injuries. Four are still hospitalized.
We are enraged, saddened, and distraught. As is certainly the case with the thousands of other riders in Flagstaff, this has been a painful reminder to us of the disproportionate dangers that cyclists face when traveling on roadways.
We ask that you donate whatever you can afford to one of the GoFundMe accounts that have been set up to assist the folks who have been injured and Joanna Wheaton’s family. Money should be the least of these folks’ worries at this point.
As lifelong advocates for cycling, we are aware that events such as these are far too frequent occurrences. We are hopeful that perhaps a small positive outcome from this tragedy is that cyclist safety will be brought more front and center to the greater community and our elected officials and decision makers. We have been previously dumbfounded by elected officials, some of whom still hold office, who have taken opportunities to publicly share their “cyclist ran a stop sign” anecdotes, or lament that efforts to get folks out of their cars might overwhelm the FUTS trails, rather than treat cycling, and other multimodal means, with the respect and value that they deserve. Maybe these people will be more inclined to enable the actions to properly provide safe and high-value transportation alternatives. It is time for high-visibility cycle tracks, more robust FUTS trails, separated bicycle lanes, bicycle triggered traffic signals, traffic calming measures, complete snow and ice removal, distracted driving enforcement and more, rather than blithe acceptance of the daily congestion and dangers presented by a heavily motor vehicle biased transportation system.
Most importantly, we need to keep riding. Every cyclist on the streets is an advocate. The riders who were hit are advocates. Your presence, riding as safely and respectfully as possible, makes a statement. You are traffic, and you have a place, you belong, and your safety and needs as a rider should be respected.
More than ever, keep riding Flagstaff.
The Flagstaff Biking Organization Board