Safety for cyclists needs to be major city goal

Last week, like so many in Albuquerque, saw the loss of another cyclist. Once again people are sorry, and we will see the appearance of another ghost bike to remind people those cyclists do share the road with cars. But what that will not tell you is who that person was, so I will take the chance to introduce and at the same time, honor the memory of my friend Ron Brinkley.

I hired Ron many years ago while I was executive director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. His job was simple: to deliver our newsletters across the state and to help with special events. Ron was a man devoted to conservation, not just in words, but in his actions. He would not own a car because of concerns about climate change. He loved and cared deeply about wilderness and lived the words of Thoreau, Murie and Muir.

But Ron was also someone who understood the world of ranching, the fight over our public lands and cared about people and made sure his word was true to all who knew him. He also worked at the airport and, as his boss there told me, “I always knew one thing about Ron, his word was gold, he was a great worker that we could always depend on.”

Ron was hit last week, and the driver dragged him for a block before fleeing the scene. The man who would not own a car, was, in the end, killed by one. When I found out about Ron I went to the ICU at University Hospital. What I saw was a man crushed by a runaway driver, his head, arms, legs and body destroyed by an unimaginable impact. I spoke to him and let him know how much his life meant to all of us.

His airport boss came into ICU, tears streaming from his face, and pledged to put up a reward to find the person responsible. He put up $5,500 to back his words with love, for an employee who was taken far too soon from this earth. His actions worked, and the person believed responsible was arrested.

Every day in our city people drive distracted, under the influence, or sometimes filled with rage. They hit a cyclist or come very close, some even interfere for the “fun” of it. While the city has moved to make some safety changes, it is far too little and people are dying simply trying to get to work or go home to families. Drivers who hit cyclists should not be set free, nor should the city stop investing to ensure the safety of all who ride.

Cycling leaves our earth a better place and provides a real means of transportation for students, children and working families alike. Ron Brinkley was not just another victim; he was a person who was loved and respected. He was one of the really good people, a person of real heart and commitment who called Albuquerque home.

We must not allow his death to be in vain.

Knowing Ron, he would simply want people to share the road and most of all respect all living things and this beautiful earth they call home.

If you come up Yale in the months ahead, just before Gibson you will find a new white ghost bike that will be the memorial to my friend Ron Brinkley. Remember the man that was and the symbol of good that a bike represents.

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