Road Blog: Utah Ghost Bike

Roadside memorial for Tyler Droeger, killed in September 2021 when a driver drifted off this stretch of U.S. 89 in central Utah.

Along U.S. 89 just north of Hatch, Utah.

Tyler Droeger was riding a 4,000-mile circuit of the West on a fund-raising mission in late September 2021 when he was hit from behind by someone who drifted across a rumble strip and the highway shoulder where the cyclist was riding. There are several news accounts of the incident. For instance: “Cyclist Who Was on a Mission to Help Navajo Nation Struck and Killed by Car in Utah.” Unfortunately, none of the stories I find identify the driver who struck Droeger or say whether there were any legal consequences for killing him. Neither can I find any sign in cases filed by the district attorney for Garfield County, where Droeger was killed, that the driver was charged.

The “ghost bike” memorial was apparently installed by Droeger’s family and is accompanied by an official-looking sign that says simply, “Start Seeing Bikes.”

Roadside memorial for Tyler Droeger, killed in September 2021 when a driver drifted off this stretch of U.S. 89 in central Utah.

More on Tyler Droeger: The GoFundMe page he set up for his fund-raising ride and the Instagram account where he detailed some of his trip.

His last GoFund Me update ended this way: “When I started this I thought I wanted to raise awareness in others to the vast levels of inequality that we have in this country, but I’m now realizing that I wasn’t even aware of the inequality we have here in our homeland. Be good to the strangers you meet. no matter their situation it could just as easily have been you In those shoes.’

On My Left

“On your left!” It’s something you call out when you’re overtaking another cyclist on the road. It’s a courtesy, a heads-up. It can be an abrupt or friendly moment. It offers an instant of connection to that other cyclist you’re passing or being passed by.

On long, long rides, if you happen to be the cyclist on the right, the one overtaken, the words might stir you from a reverie or snap you out of your focus on the fog line on the road’s right edge. Or if you’re riding at night out in the country, that voice in the dark might remind you that there’s more in the world than oncoming cars or the little pool of light that your headlamp casts on the pavement ahead.

Then the encounter ends. The passing cyclist moves ahead. They disappear around that next bend in the road; at night, their tail light grows dim and vanishes. Maybe you’ll see them at the next stop along the way, or as they stop to check a map at a crossroads. The ride goes on.

What’s all this about?

Well, the night before last, a good friend and memorable cycling companion passed away. It was not a surprise. He had been fighting cancer — a particularly nasty, debilitating form of the disease for someone who was as strong on the bike as he had been.

I’m not mentioning his name because I don’t think his family has made the news public yet. But I’m thinking about him, and them, on this rainy, gloomy Christmas Eve — which come to think of it is not too different from many of the days we spent riding together.

Anyway. He’s overtaken me — on my left — and the rest of the pack, and has headed up the road beyond that next curve.

Good riding, buddy, wherever the road takes you next.

The Suffering, and the Pleasure

It’s sad I’m cribbing from my own cycling blog a post I wrote more than a decade ago. But reflecing on some old cycling memories — and maybe I’ll write more about those in a day or two or three — this is a passage that means a lot tonight. It’s a short passage from the novel “The Rider,” by Tim Krabbé:

“In 1919, Brussells-Amiens was won by a rider who rode the last forty kilometers with a flat front tire. Talk about suffering! He arrived at 11.30 at night, with a ninety-minute leave on the only other two riders who finished the race. That day had been like night, trees whipped back and forth, farmers were blown back into their barns, there were hailstones, bomb craters from the war, crossroads where the gendarmes had run away and riders had to climb onto one another’s shoulders to wipe clean the muddied road signs.

“After the finish, all the suffering turns to memories of pleasure, and the greater the suffering, the greater the pleasure. That is Nature’s payback to riders for the homage they pay her by suffering. Velvet pillows, safari parks, sunglasses: people have become woolly mice. They still have bodies that can walk for five days and four nights through a desert of snow, without food, but they accept praise for having taken a one-hour bicycle ride. ‘Good for you.’ Instead of expressing gratitude for the rain by getting wet, people walk around with umbrellas. Nature is an old lady with few suitors these days, and those who wish to make use of her charms she rewards passionately.”

Road Blog: Chicago Sidewalk Bikes


I note a change in the local street culture while strolling in my sister’s Chicago neighborhood (West Rogers Park, which for auslanders means “far North Side”): lots more people riding bikes on the sidewalk around here. Impressions are undependable as data points, but I’d say that I might encounter an adult riding down the sidewalk maybe once a day on prior visits here (if that). On this visit, I’ve encountered multiple cyclists, sometimes flurries of them, every time I’ve been out walking. These don’t appear to be really serious, gung ho cyclists–we saw a group of them whipping down Western Avenue, in the street with full lights, etc., at dusk last night. No, these look like folks, like the guy above, who are out on short errands and have figured out that rolling is faster than walking and perhaps less complicated than driving. Sort of a good news (great to see more people on two wheels), bad news (bikes and sidewalks don’t mix well, and it’s illegal for anyone over 12 years old to ride on the sidewalk in Chicago) story. The illegal riding is complicated by the lack of etiquette and riding smarts on the park of most sidewalk cyclists: They rarely make a sound when they’re coming up behind you (Kate nearly got clipped by a teenager just on Sheridan Road just up from Loyola Park.

In any case, the issue is not a new one here. When my folks lived at Sheridan and Ardmore, there was an ongoing issue (and still ongoing) with cyclists emerging from the north end of the lake shore bike path and deciding to continue their journey on the sidewalk rather than on a parallel bike route a short block to the west. (Bike lanes of course pose their own set of challenges, including drivers who whip their doors open into the two-wheeled traffic zone.) The city has installed threatening signs and painted the message on the sidewalks there–by city ordinance, you’ll get fined and have your bike temporarily disabled (what do they do? take one of your wheels?). Last time I walked there, sidewalk cycling was still common.

The city government’s Chicago Bicycle Program has a decent instructional video on the issue: Bike on the Street, Not on the Sidewalk, which actually features some staged but still audacious examples of folks dealing with automobile traffic on the streets.


Tour de France Geek-Out: Some Time Trial Stats

Eye-catching stat from today’s time trial: Tony Martin, the Stage 20 winner in a time of 55:33, won on the same course June 8, Stage 3 of the Dauphine Libere, in 55:27. For the civilian cyclist and for anyone who looks at the Tour racers as I do and assumes that the race takes a brutal toll on bodies, endurance, and psyches, it’s sort of a starling statistic. The guy dominated then, and he dominated today at the tail end of a race in which he’s been driven very hard to help his team’s sprinter (HTC Highroad, Mark Cavendish) and has had to go over all the big mountains with the rest of the pack.

I figured there were more interesting comparisons to be made between the Dauphine and Tour performances. Here’s another: Cadel Evans, who rode a very strong second today in 55:40, finished seventh on June 8 in 56:47. So there’s a guy who’s been driving very hard for three weeks–has been on the spot to cover all his rivals’ mountain moves and with his team’s help (BMC) has reliably kept himself out of trouble near the front of the pack–who made a major improvement in his performance in the space of six weeks. Thomas Voeckler, fresh off several harrowing days defending his overall race lead, improved by almost a minute.

One question it raises–no, not about doping–is what are the factors besides fatigue that might explain such an improvement. I’m not taking that on right now. Instead, here’s a side-by-side comparison of some of the other Dauphine/Tour performances on the Grenoble course used in both races (I haven’t done them–yet–all because my painstaking one-at-a-time method takes a little too long; I’m about to break out a spreadsheet to do the whole list).

LATER: I did the list. A total of 77 racers rode in both the Dauphine and Tour time trials on the Grenoble course. Twenty-three recorded faster times (even if they had “slow” times on both occasions; for instance, Tyler Farrar finished his Tour stage 1 second faster than his Dauphine stage, but both times he was near the bottom of the standings) and 54 recorded slower times. The most interesting cases to me are those like Cadel Evans, who finished in the top ten the first time around and still recorded a marked improvement, and those like Geraint Thomas and Rigoberto Uran who had good or at least respectable Dauphine times who were nowhere near the top in the Tour. And of course, Tony Martin, who dominated both runs.

Racer Dauphine time Tour time Change
Juergen Roelandts 61:34 58:30 -3:04
Ivan Santaromita 63:44 61:19 -2:25
Ivan Basso 61:43 59:30 -2:23
Pierre Rolland 60:20 58:23 -1:57
Samuel Sanchez 58:54 57:10 -1:44
Carlos Barredo 60:12 58:31 -1:41
Haimar Zubeldia 61:21 59:43 -1:38
Samuel Dumoulin 64:09 62:52 -1:17
Jean-Christophe Peraud 58:20 57:06 -1:14
Cadel Evans 56:47 55:40 -1:07
Maarten Tjallingii 60:47 59:40 -1:07
Vincent Jerome 62:46 61:41 -1:05
Thomas Voeckler 58:45 57:47 -:58
Yannick Talarbardon 62:27 61:35 -:52
Jelle Vanendert 61:06 60:17 -:49
Manuel Quinziato 62:48 62:03 -:45
Grega Bole 62:26 61:44 -:42
Paolo Longo Borghini 62:29 62:18 -:11
Lieuwe Westra 58:28 58:12 -:16
Chris Sorenson 59:39 59:31 -:08
Christian Knees 59:59 59:56 -:03
Kristjan Koren 58:10 58:09 -:01
Tyler Farrar 63:18 63:17 -:01
Sandy Casar 58:31 58:36 +:05
Tony Martin 55:27 55:33 +:06
Michael Schär 60:42 60:49 +:07
Rein Taaramae 57:23 57:36 +:13
Julian Dean 62:40 62:55 +:15
Amael Moinard 62:07 62:23 +:16
Danny Pate 58:39 59:03 +:24
Mikhail Ignatyev 59:52 60:19 +:27
Sébastien Minard 60:31 60:59 +:28
Tomas Vaitkus 60:47 61:20 +:33
Adriano Malori 57:31 58:11 +:40
Vladimir Karpets 58:29 59:09 +:40
Markel Irizar 59:08 59:51 +:43
Fabrice Jeandesboz 61:09 61:54 +:45
Nicky Sorenson 58:37 59:24 +:47
Jerome Coppel 57:35 58:24 +:49
Jonathan Hivert 61:48 62:37 +:49
Jeremy Roy 58:05 58:56 +:51
Yury Trofimov 60:06 61:03 +:57
Arnold Jeannesson 59:16 60:15 +:59
Sébastien Hinault 61:00 62:01 +1:01
Rob Ruijgh 59:15 60:16 +1:01
Grischa Niermann 59:55 61:00 +1:05
Christophe Riblon 57:04 58:12 +1:08
Maxime Bouet 58:22 59:32 +1:10
Gorka Verdugo 58:35 59:46 +1:11
Juan Antonio Flecha 58:42 59:53 +1:11
Robert Gesink 58:16 59:34 +1:18
Xabier Zandio 59:06 60:27 +1:21
Simon Gerrans 60:06 61:36 +1:30
Edvald Boasson Hagen 56:10 57:43 +1:33
Steve Morabito 60:26 62:01 +1:35
Tristan Valentin 61:39 63:14 +1:35
Perrig Quemeneur 59:38 61:16 +1:38
Ramunas Navardauska 58:42 60:21 +1:39
Maciej Paterski 59:43 61:25 +1:42
Luis-Leon Sanchez 59:05 60:49 +1:44
Pablo Urtasun Perez 62:00 63:52 +1:52
Sergio Paulinho 59:12 61:15 +2:03
Edgar Silin 59:45 61:56 +2:11
Rémy Di Gregorio 59:20 61:40 +2:20
Andriy Grivko 59:58 62:24 +2:26
Rui Alberto Fario da Costa 57:27 60:02 +2:35
Imano Erviti 58:49 61:51 +3:02
Nicolas Roche 58:58 62:02 +3:04
Dmitriy Fofonov 60:51 64:19 +3:18
Andrey Amador 59:18 62:42 +3:24
David Moncoutie 58:29 61:58 +3:29
Joost Posthuma 58:36 62:09 +3:33
Geraint Thomas 57:03 60:48 +3:45
Maxim Iglinskiy 61:29 65:17 +3:52
Mickaël Buffaz 60:43 64:50 +4:07
Leonardo Duque 61:14 65:21 +4:07
Rigoberto Uran 58:08 62:24 +4:16
Biel Kadri 58:10 63:03 +4:53
Brian Vandborg 58:20 64:00 +5:40

Day Trip


I took yesterday off. So did Kate. We did a mini-road trip to Mendocino County with The Dog. Though it’s late May, and we like to think we ought to be well into the dry season, it rained on the way north and then sporadically all day. Beautiful, though. And we were home by dark.

Above: That’s looking “southbound” (actual direction may be east) on Highway 128, along what I think of as the “true summit” area just north of the Sonoma-Mendocino county line. Heading north, you climb a grade of about two miles or so and are briefly rewarded with the impression that you’ve reached the top as you head down a little descent. Then the road pitches up sharply again before you cross a higher crest and start downhill toward Mountain House Road, which connects to Hopland. This Interesting aspect for me of driving roads in this area is that I’ve ridden them in all sorts of conditions, dry, wet, in the middle of the night. The constant: I’m usually pretty tired, because this stretch of Highway is located deep into some long brevet routes I’ve done–better than 100 miles into most, more than 200 miles into a couple of them.

Below: mini-slideshow of scenes from the highway.

Midnight Rain

Up late tonight–not unusual–reading up on what’s supposed to happen with the first stage of the Tour of California in the morning. The race is starting at Lake Tahoe to give it some true alpine flavor. You know, like that big race they have in France every summer (and also, the big races in Italy, Spain, and elsewhere, not to leave anyone out). No one could have guessed when the route was chosen last year that a winter-ish storm would roll into the state this weekend. But it did. I’m listening to rain down here at sea level and looking at weather reports of snow up along Interstate 80 clear over Donner Summit to Lake Tahoe. So now, the race organizers say they’ll wait until 9 a.m. to decide whether the race will proceed on a mountainous circuit around the lake or be abbreviated to avoid sending 168 racers sliding around a potentially snowy, icy course. We’ll see.

Tour de France: 39 Seconds

Unremarked by the Versus boys–Phil and Paul–in their wrap-up of today’s Tour de France time trial is the significance of the margin between first-place Alberto Contador and second-place Andy Schleck. The gap is 39 seconds, and that happens to be the precise amount of time that Contador gained on Schleck on the final climb and descent on the Tour’s 15th stage. Yes, that’s the one where Schleck attacked, dropped his chain, and Contador attacked as Schleck first slowed then was forced to dismount to fix his mechanical issue. At the time of that small mishap, Schleck was 31 seconds ahead of Contador in the overall standings; at the finish of the stage, he was 8 seconds down. Controversy attended Contador’s move, since many feel it was unsporting to attack a race leader suffering a problem with his bike. That a fair number of cycling fans appear to subscribe to this unwritten rule of Tour sportsmanship and disapproved of Contador’s tactic became obvious when Contador was awarded the yellow jersey at the end of the stage: many in the crowd booed, a reaction I don’t remember hearing before, even with some of the rats who have worn yellow.

In the end, that slipped chain and the 39 seconds that Contador gained determined the winner in this year’s Tour. Pending the results of all the Tour doping tests, of course.

Berkeley Cycling: A Dangerous Place, Part II

[Previous post: ‘Going to a Dangerous Place‘]

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post called Going to a Dangerous Place” about a series of stories about the death of a cyclist, Kim Flint, on South Park Drive in the Berkeley Hills. In particular, I took issue with the description of Flint as “obsessed” with a socially networked training-log site called Strava, whether his concern for attaining speed records for various road segments drove him to ride dangerously on the hazardous South Park descent, and whether his death could really be blamed on the service that Strava provides. A few days ago, a Berkeley cyclist I’ve met named Patrick Gordis offered to set me straight on some of the issues I raised. What follows are his comments on some of the issues raised by this incident. Patrick posted these as a long comment on the blog, but he gave me the OK to repost it as a separate entry (and the picture below comes from him, too; I’ll post a better version later). Here’s his post:

Dan: Thank you for your thoughtful analysis of this tragic accident. I would like to add a few more details to clarify the record. First of all, I don’t know if you came across the account of his accident as reported in the Daily Cal? Note in particular the following quotes of his partner of 19 years:

Violet Hefner, Flint’s partner of 19 years, said she is “99 percent certain he was trying to regain his lost record,” the day he was killed. Hefner said they had originally started cycling together, but she thought it was too dangerous. “He knew that I was very, very afraid of him riding on city streets,” she said. “I begged him not to.” Hefner added that once Flint joined Strava, his interest in his speed and his ride statistics became more intense. “Things really escalated once he got involved with Strava,” she said. “It became an obsession with him.” Flint holds a best time of an average of 33.9 miles per hour on the “Centennial Drive Descent” in Berkeley as well as the record for the “Skyline Boulevard Descent” in Oakland with an average of 30.4 miles per hour. Hefner said Flint had been focusing more and more on getting “king of the mountain” – the highest speed for a certain stretch of road – for downhill segments over the last two months. Hefner added that though the website fueled Flint’s urge to push himself, she didn’t blame the competitive nature of Strava for his death.

south_park_15mph_curve.jpg The Daily Cal story also seems to imply that Kim may have entered the sharp corner towards the upper section on South Park Drive where he sidewiped a passing car at close to 45 mph. Based on my own experience on that turn, I would say anything over 30 mph at the apex of the turn would be a difficult, if not impossible line to sustain without use of the entire road (even then, anything near 45 mph seems too fast for a turn of that kind – even for “Il Falco”). (Click picture for larger image.)

Furthermore, I had some private email exchanges with Kim the weekend before his death in which we discussed various Strava segments of a 95-mile ride we had taken together with one other cyclist. In particular, he analyzed for me why, in his view, he did not get the KOMs on the Palomares north side descent or the Joaquin Miller descent from Skyline to Mountain. From these email exchanges, from conversations I had with him about Strava on our rides and from observing him descending, it’s clear to me that he was very focused on obtaining Strava downhill records and attempting to reclaim any that he lost. For example, he carefully analyzed how he could enter the beginning of a Strava downhill segment with the maximum possible speed (based on different possible approaches). He concluded his analysis of our last segment down Joaquin Miller Road by noting, “Now I’ll need to plan a ride just with winning this one in mind. It’s not right to see a descent in the East Bay without SteveS or me at the top!”

Like you, I respect and admired Kim’s strong competitive spirit which (as you note) is often, on one level or another, a strong animating force in many serious or avid cyclists of various stripes. However, based on my own extensive riding and competitive bike racing experience, I don’t concur with your equation of Strava with pretty much any competitive group ride experience.

You wrote, “That having been said, the focus on Strava is misguided. The virtual competition encouraged by the site is simply another version of what happens whenever groups of fast, fit, competitive cyclists get together. They’ll often ride aggressively–on the climbs, on the flats, in sprints, and yes, on descents, too. Why? Bottom line, it’s challenging and fun.”

On group rides, a relatively less experienced cyclist like Kim would likely try to follow the wheel of a faster, more experienced rider down a technical or superfast descent. This is a valuable learning experience by which one learns how to descend fast and safely by trying to follow the best lines through turns, learning how to set up for the next turn and how fast to approach sharp curves which more seasoned riders have successfully cornered at high speed many times. On a group ride, you can learn to go faster in a controlled manner, profiting from the years long experience of other riders. When you are racing a Strava opponent, it is more analogous to some type of virtual or online/videogame opponent – a faceless entity you probably do not know at all.

When Kim analyzed for me in our email exchange his unsuccessful attempt to gain the Palomares descent KOM (Kim wrote that he was the fastest on the steep upper portion, but lost time on the flatter section lower down), he did not know that he was comparing his performance to a multiple national track and crit champion who is as close to a local cycling legend as we have in this area. In a nutshell, at least for me, that is the central danger to downhill racing on Strava. Aside from the obvious risks to innocent bystanders, Strava can set up a direct competition between someone like Kim who had been avidly cycling for about two years, mostly riding on his own or with one other rider, and pit him against someone who may have been a national champion or a professional cyclist.