Gilbert cyclist Wesley Carnes, 49, logged hundreds of miles along Valley roads. But his final ride came Oct. 20, when police say a motorist under the influence of cocaine or methamphetamine clipped Carnes’ bicycle near Lindsay and Baseline roads in Gilbert.
Carnes, a member of the Red Mountain Brumbys Cycling Club for more than 15 years, was pronounced dead later that night at a Valley hospital.
Triathlon coaches Jane and George Esahak-Gage of Ahwatukee Foothills were more fortunate.
They escaped with their lives when a vehicle collided with them Nov. 11 near Interstate 10 and Chandler Boulevard in Phoenix. George Esahak-Gage suffered multiple fractures and remains hospitalized.
Avid bicyclists must share the Valley’s roads with motorists to train for competitive events or just to seek the enjoyment of riding. But the number of motorists colliding with cyclists in recent months has alarmed many in the cycling community.
“The cycling community is just very concerned about the awareness factor of motorists with respect to cyclists on the street,” said Sterling Baer, who leads the Red Mountain club. “I know at least a half a dozen that have been hit in the last few months. ... Some people are quite fearful of riding on the roads.”
To raise awareness about traffic safety for motorists and cyclists, Baer’s group has organized the East Valley Ride of Silence on Dec. 9.
“This was the best way we could think of to honor Wesley Carnes,” Baer said. “We have been moved by the number of people and organizations from across the state who have offered their support or simply asked to join the ride to memorialize Wes and their own friends and family members who have lost their lives cycling in the Valley.”
Radar Matt, co-chairman of the education division of the Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists, an advocacy group with about 200 members, said the number of cyclist deaths last year was about half of this year’s number.
Ann Wilson, a triathlon coach in Scottsdale with 18 years’ riding experience, knows firsthand the dangers of pedaling along the Valley’s streets.
Wilson, 40, was struck by a motorist who turned left onto North 67th Street as she was riding west on Lafayette Boulevard in Scottsdale, putting the brakes on four months of training for the 2005 Ironman Arizona.
Wilson’s nose was broken, her shoulder was dislocated and she had to have several facial stitches.
“I had never been in an accident of any kind,” said Wilson, who has recovered after undergoing nose surgery and physical therapy. “Never assume that anyone in a car sees you. I thought the driver was going to stop, but I was wrong. Always make eye contact with the driver of a car close to you — even if it means sitting up on your seat and waving to them.”
Wilson said cyclists and motorists need to share a respect for each other.
“Motorists need to treat a cyclist as a vehicle,” Wilson said. “They are entitled to the road. Some people aren’t aware of that. On the cyclist’s side, it’s important for us to observe the same.”
Mesa police spokesman Chuck Trapani agreed. He said cyclists should wear helmets at all times, even though Arizona law does not require them. And he said motorists should slow down for cyclists.
“It seems like in this day and age everybody is in a hurry,” Trapani said. “One of the major factors in our collisions in Mesa is speed. Slow down, take your time and be aware of your surroundings.”
Accomplished Scottsdale cyclist Jack Carney provides another somber reminder of the various warnings.
He died in a collision with a vehicle in October 2005 while pedaling west on Shea Boulevard near Hayden Road in Scottsdale shortly after 6 a.m.
The teenage driver of the car received an $1,800 fine and six points against his driver’s license. In Arizona, it is not criminal to kill anyone with a vehicle unless there are other circumstances, such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Carney’s widow, Rita Walter of Scottsdale, said she would support stronger laws against motorists who injure or kill cyclists.
Baer also would like more bike lanes and a change to state law that only allows $1,000 in punitive damages by a negligent motorist.
“Essentially, you can’t even replace most of our bicycles for a thousand dollars,” Baer said, “let alone cover health costs or the value of the loss of life.”
Sharing the road
Recent bicycle-motorist collisions in the Valley:
Wednesday: Cyclist David Basel Warner, 49, died at Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn hospital after he collided with a motorist in north Scottsdale about 7:50 p.m.
Wednesday: A 17-year-old boy collided with a U.S. Postal Service truck when the boy tried to cross Hunt Highway in Pinal County. The boy was flown to Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn hospital, where he underwent surgery for massive head trauma and was listed in critical condition.
Nov. 11: Triathletes Jane and George Esahak-Gage of Ahwatukee Foothills were involved in a bicyclecar collision. George Esahak-Gage remains in stable condition.
Oct. 20: Avid cyclist Wesley Carnes of Gilbert was killed in a collision with a vehicle.
Sept. 16: Playwright Terry Earp, 58, was seriously injured after colliding with an SUV driven by a man who ran a red light at Union Hills Drive and Central Avenue in Phoenix.