Tribute Ride For a Fallen Biker

About three weeks ago, a cyclist was killed while riding on the shoulder of a popular cycling road just west of Austin. A protest ride on his behalf several days later took cyclists from Austin City Hall to the State Capitol to call attention to car-bike crashes; in many cases, car drivers are not cited. Cyclists want more vigorous prosecution of motorists who hit cyclists.

Verter Ginestra

The deceased biker is Verter Ginestra. The group he rode with, CyclingTexas.org, scheduled a tribute ride for him last week, but because of several evenings of rainfall, had to postpone it. It was rescheduled for today.

The ride was to leave from Southwest Cycle Sports, a bike shop Verter patronized. The shop is a 17-mile ride from our part of town, so I figured a ride out there from our usual starting place, then joining the tribute ride, and peeling off to head home from the crash site, would be a good B ride. Our A ride leader thought it could work for him too, but added some miles for his riders.

Southwest Cycle Sports is on Bee Caves Road, a four-lane highway with generous shoulders that sees a lot of cycling traffic. Riders from CyclingTexas, Southwest Cycle Sport, Lake Travis Cycling, and my Circle C Ranch Cycling Club turned out for the ride, along with sundry other riders. I guess we totaled about 50. One of the CyclingTexas riders told me they were pleased with the turnout. Before the ride began, Verter’s wife, Jane, thanked everyone for riding, and said that, if things had been different, Verter would be out with us. A cyclist read a letter of condolence from Lance Armstrong. Group pictures were taken, then Jane told everyone, “Let’s ride!” and jumped behind the wheel of the sag truck. (Click pictures to enlarge.)

Verter’s wife Jane with the group just before the ride. We’re flashing the “V” for Verter sign. (Photo courtesy Dena Curry.)

A cyclist reads a letter of condolence from Lance Armstrong. (Photo courtesy Dena Curry.)

Getting everyone to ride out on cue is a little like herding cats. The ride quickly organized into a double file and headed briskly over the rollers on Bee Caves Road.

The ride was to be a slow roll to the crash site, about 10 miles from the bike shop, but the peloton shot down and up the rollers almost immediately, leaving some unprepared riders way off the back. The group slowed when the lead riders realized the problem. One reason Bee Caves is a popular cycling road is its rollers. The uphills are challenging. The downhills are fast. There’s usually a cross wind to make things interesting, as there was today, and car traffic on the road is usually heavy.

I suppose it’s impossible to put 50 cyclists together without problems. It’s just that all the problems seemed to be happening to the Circle C folks today. Donald broke a spoke. That limited him to maintaining only a 21 mph average for the rest of the ride. Steve got a flat. Mike and Laura, on their tandem, dropped a chain. But everybody got back together by the time the group turned off Bee Caves Road south onto Highway 360, then snaked through the Westlake neighborhood in a retracing of Verter’s last route. We turned north onto 360 and rode back to the intersection of Westbank Drive, where the crash happened. I was disappointed to learn that a ghost bike that had been set up there had already been vandalized and torn down. I’m told it will be replaced.

From there, the Circle C group headed south again to our home base, while the rest of the riders returned to the bike shop. My total mileage was 39 — the A group, which added some additional hilly roads — wound up with 45.

My friend John waits for a left turn arrow as the remainder of the tribute ride heads back to the bike shop. The brown SUV on the shoulder behind them is the sag vehicle, driven by Verter’s wife.

The ride was a reminder that we are all vulnerable while on our bikes. Verter was riding on a wide shoulder when a car left the road and hit him in an effort to pass traffic. It’s not enough to be doing everything right — you can still be caught unaware. The driver of the car that killed Verter — an 85-year-old man — still has not been charged as of this writing.

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