Bike tour recognizes fallen bikers
By Ron Cunningham, GLOB Correspondent
EDITOR's NOTE: Ron Cunningham is a Gainesville cyclist, journalist, and the Executive Director of Bike Florida. The Cycler Chronicler is excited about Bike Florida's upcoming 20th Anniversary Bike Tour.
Ultimately it was a tragedy that brought advocates together in common cause to fight for the right of Sunshine State cyclists to "Share The Road." Now we are asking you to help us preserve the legacy those whose deaths and suffering helped spur a Share The Road movement that has endured for nearly two decades.
On Dec. 26, 1996, six cyclists were riding from Gainesville to St. Augustine. The driver of a small pickup truck ran into their pace line, killing two of the cyclists and seriously injuring the other four. Dead were Margaret Raynal and Doug Hill, well known in Florida's cycling community as safe cycling advocates. Injured were Lauri Triulzi, Jessica Green, Eric Finnan and Charles Hinson. The negligent driver was not charged with anything more serious than a traffic infraction. But outrage over the "accident," and the failure of authorities to hold the driver accountable, mobilized safe cycling advocates throughout the state.
Two enduring developments arose from that terrible tragedy: First, the dormant Florida Bicycle Association came back into existence to once again be a forceful advocate for the rights of Florida cyclists. Second, a successful initiative won Legislative authorization of the Share The Road license tags. Since then, tag sales have raised millions of dollars to help support bicycle safety and education programs in Florida.
In the wake of that tragedy, friends of the killed and injured cyclists came together in Gainesville to create a monument in their honor. Six "rammed earth" sculptures - containing the smashed and ruined parts of the bicycles they rode - were positioned alongside the rail-trail on Gainesville's Depot Avenue, and an informational kiosk was erected to preserve the memory of those fallen cyclists.
Today, however, those sculptures are suffering from neglect and have been all but obscured from view by newly planted landscaping. The rail-trail has been rerouted. The kiosk has been dismantled, leaving passers-by with no clue as to what the sculptures represent.
This year Bike Florida is celebrating its 20th anniversary. As part of our anniversary year Bike Florida has committed to restoring the sculptures, rebuilding the kiosk and otherwise ensuring that the legacy of those fallen cyclists will be preserved.
Please join Bike Florida on Thursday evening, March 27, at the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park in St. Augustine for our 20th anniversary party. We will celebrate 20 successful years of Florida bicycle touring and we will formally kick off our fundraising campaign to preserve the legacy of the fallen cyclists. It will be an evening of great food and good music. An evening of good fellowship and a time for remembrance. An occasion for Florida cyclists to once again come together in common cause.
We hope to see you on March 27 in St. Augustine. There will be much to celebrate, and much to remember, on this special evening under the stars. If you plan to attend, please follow this link for more information. A minimum donation of $30 will cover the cost of admission, dinner and a contribution to the restoration effort. If you cannot attend, please consider sending a donation to help us preserve the legacy of these fallen cyclists. Hoping to see you there.