I have been trying to get more information about the death of my friend, Stan Oldak, killed early Sunday morning during a cycling race by a hit and run driver on I-90 in Columbus, Texas. Bob Riggs, leader of the Houston Randonneurs, who hosted the ride wrote to the Jeff Terosky, president of the New York Cycling Club this account:
Late Saturday night, near Columbus, Texas, he was struck from behind by a truck and killed. A fellow rider, who is a former ICU nurse, heard the accident. She was about 50 yards ahead and returned to help, but it was too late.
The driver of the truck left the scene. The case is being investigated by the Texas Department of Public Safety (state police). They have been in touch with his family.”
The Houston Randonneur website concludes its directions about preparing for the ride with this sad (in retrospect) comment:
I hope to see a lot of smiling faces out there!
Jim Bronson, also on the ride, tells me that his dad served Stan lunch in Cistern, TX. on Saturday afternoon and they had an extensive conversation. I’m waiting for Jim’s dad to reply to my e mail to him.
I would love to get any pictures of Stan on that last ride and any other stories about the event related to him.
The local Columbus newspaper carried a short article about the accident. I spoke with the publisher today and asked if she’d run a follow up story with more personal information about Stan and she said that “because he wasn’t local” they couldn’t unless there was anything new to report about the accident. I politely told her I didn’t mean to be churlish but Stan was a real person with people who loved him and that he deserved to have his story told. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to Columbus, but how many bicyclists are killed there by hit and run drivers? Isn’t that a story worth covering?
Bob Riggs wrote me this morning to say that several riders are organizing a memorial ride for Stan through Columbus:
Reba G. and a friend are organizing a Ride of Silence next Wednesday in Columbus, the town near where the accident took place. They are in the process of contacting the town mayor and local media to get as much publicity as possibly. A number of people are planning to drive out from Houston to participate.
I hope someone reading this may be able to attend the ride there or commemorate Stan on a local Ride of Silence. Something like 7,000 cyclists are killed in similar accidents each year. It’s too many.
I have contacted the assignment editors at the Houston Chronicle and the New York Times because I would like them to honor Stan’s life and also appeal for help in getting the driver to come forward and accept his responsibility for what happened. This post from the League of American Bicyclists about Stan’s death captures my feelings precisely:
We don’t know all the details of the crash – except that, yet again, the driver couldn’t be bothered to stop. I don’t know what the actual numbers are, but it seems to me that each year more and more fatal and severe bicyclist and pedestrian crashes involve hit and run drivers. Given the pretty pathetic punishments handed out to many of those that do stop and face the consequences, this is even more disappointing.
What do we do? We express our sincere condolences. We hope the driver has the courage to turn themselves into the authorities. Maybe we join a Ride of Silence (May 16) and honor Stan and the other 700 cyclists we can be pretty sure will be killed this year on our nation’s roads.
Somehow it doesn’t seem like that’s enough.
We’ll carry on with our education programming and our exhortations to build better roads to accommodate cyclists. And we know that somehow we need to do more to instill in people in this country that cyclists are people too, with real talents, value, skills, family, and friends. Our lives should not be cheapened or diminished because we happen to wear Lycra on occasion and ride a bike. We must drive home the idea that driving a car is a responsibility, not a right, and that the privilege given people to drive can and must be taken seriously or be taken away. For real.
Stan’s family encourage anyone wishing to honor him by making a donation to either:
New York Cycle Club (NYCC) Youth Program
P.O. Box 4541
Grand Central Station
New York, NY 10163
(Please add a memo that it is in Stan’s Memory)
The Juilliard School
60 Lincoln Center Plaza
New York, NY 10023-6588
(Please add a memo that the donation is in memory of Stan Oldak)