Definition of Irony: Distracted Driving Collision during Milt Olin Ride

I really didn’t want to write anything today.

All I wanted to do was to enjoy the ride and honor Milt Olin. His tragedy has moved the cycling community and is bringing an awareness that is starting to see results.

I chose to take my cyclocross bike today, half to deal with the rainy conditions and half not having to pound it. I just wanted to do the ride and enjoy the blessings of the Santa Monica Mountains.

Despite the looming rain(the scariest obstacle for SoCal cyclists), there was a good showing on hand to brave the elements. I met my friend John there, who was going to train today for mountain bike season, but had known Milt and felt he had to be there. Weather be damned.

Riders ready to head up Piuma
Riders ready to head to Piuma

The event started with a word from Yield to Life’s Randi and David Zabriske and then from Milt’s wife Louise. When it was announced that the long ride was shortened in half, you didn’t hear any complaints, although climbing Piuma is worth a few casual gripes.

Everyone was off, but not at a high pace. Getting buzzed by passing traffic on Mulholland is something that rankles you on this type of ride, but we all kept our nerves. Ironically, the same thing happened at the first Milt Olin ride in September. We regrouped at the bottom of seven minute hill and then Las Virgenes before making the signature climb.

Piuma was eerily quiet today with a celestial mist hovering. Rain wasn’t much of a factor, all you had in front of you was the long pounding climb. After almost overshooting the Schueren climb(thanks brakes), it was down Stunt Rd back to Pedalers Fork.

About halfway down the descent, John got a flat on his front tire. We couldn’t find anything wrong, so we put on a new tire and were off… for about 500 feet. Nuts another flat.

We took the tire off completely and found the culprit, a microscopic tear on the inner wall of his tire. Luckily, a fellow named Brian from West LA stopped to give us another tube and escorted us the rest of the way.

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The remaining portion of the ride was slightly wet, but nothing out of the ordinary until we got within sight of Pedalers Fork. We were stopped in front of traffic at the light on Calabasas Rd. and the eastbound 101 offramp and started rolling when the light changed.

All I heard was a crunch behind me. I didn’t know what happened, but my reaction was to flee thinking a driver was gunning the light and I was next. When I looked behind me, the driver had stopped, but I expected to find my friend mangled.

Fortunately, he was standing, but was pained. I’ve been there before, when the adrenaline masks the extent of injuries for hours, but you can tell by the motion that he wasn’t whole. Hours later, he thinks he cracked some ribs among other things.

The driver exited the car with her friends and was remorseful but not ranking high on the mea culpa scale. Of course, there was no explanation why she rear ended John out of a dead stop. Her show of indifference overpowered her level of concern, making me think this wasn’t the first time this teenager had been involved in a collision.

I can’t come up with any other rationale than this being a case of distracted driving. We were occupying the space just as any car would. It’s disturbing when your life can is jeopardized by careless actions.

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The capper to it all was the uninvolved woman who made her self involved as to question our right to be on the road.

Think about that divide for a second.

Automobiles are the biggest killers in our country, but this level of ignorance is allowed on the roads and it’s not uncommon. These machines have all the power, yet cyclists are the ones expected to take the burden.

Here’s the video I had of the collision:

After exchanging numbers, we were one of the last to make it to the finish area. We told a couple people and word spread to Louise Olin who came over to talk to us.

Having listened to her story is just as painful as anything I’ve heard working with Finish the Ride. I can’t imagine living it, let alone being able to share these intimate details with others. Everyone should applaud her for channeling this energy into something positive.

Please go to the Milt Olin Foundation and Yield to Life to support their causes. Winning this battle against distracted driving isn’t going to be won in a single moment. It is going to take a community to overcome.