Cycling safety gets new voice in Las Vegas as deaths climb in 2022; ride planned Saturday

Cycling safety gets new voice in Las Vegas as deaths climb in 2022; ride planned Saturday

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Centennial Subaru partners with cyclists to spread safety message

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The deadliest year for cyclists since Clark County began tracking bicycle fatalities might have finally attracted some needed attention.

Records show that 14 deaths last year were the highest in the past 23 years.

It’s been more than two years since five cyclists were killed as they rode on U.S. 95 between Boulder City and Searchlight. That tragic day — Dec. 10, 2020 — became a flashpoint for members of the cycling community. Memorials and safety campaigns that had sprung up through the years grew into a larger effort to publicize laws protecting riders — and safety in general.

And now, a major corporate partner is taking a role.

Centennial Subaru is contributing $10,000 to handle expenses for the “Ride to Remember” in October. It’s just a part of their financial support for cycling safety.

“They will now be covering all of our costs, which will allow us to put 100% of proceeds from R2R back into promoting cycling safety in Clark County,” said Tony Gebbia, who runs the “3 Feet for Pete” safety campaign that grew into the Ride to Remember. Gebbia’s organization is in memory of Pete Makowski, who died in 2013 when he was hit by a truck.

A “ghost bike” memorial is displayed at sunrise before October’s “Ride to Remember” event. (Greg Haas / 8NewsNow)

“It’s going to be a game changer for us and the other advocacy groups in town,” Gebbia said.

For general sales manager Leigh Morehouse, Centennial Subaru’s involvement was “a no brainer.”

“It didn’t require a second thought,” she said Wednesday. She’s a cyclist, and she knew Erin Michelle Ray, a 39-year-old who was among the cyclists killed on U.S. 95. Subaru’s community involvement efforts are built around topics that the staff cares about. It was a natural fit, Morehouse said.

Several other community rides also are part of Centennial Subaru’s involvement in spreading the safety message. The theme for those rides is “Think, Remember, Ride,” according to Dominick Gagliano, social media director at Ascent Auto West.

On Saturday, a free community ride — a “training ride” — will leave the dealership’s parking lot at 6350 Centennial Center Blvd. in the northwest valley. Riders will go north to the 215 Beltway bike path and follow it heading west until it turns south on the way to Charleston Boulevard. After a couple of tough hills on the route, riders will turn around at Charleston and head back.

“Despite a greater push for safety awareness since Pete’s death and the launch of events like the Ride to Remember and education campaigns targeting motorists and bicyclists, fatalities are on the rise,” Keely Brooks of the Southern Nevada Bicycle Coalition said this week.

“Over and over the primary factor for these deaths are speed and impairment,” Brooks said.

“The fact is, education only scratches the surface. We need to change the way we build our roadways and design them to be more bikeable and walkable. This is not just a bicycle fatality issue, this is a traffic fatality issue. The speeding epidemic is not going to go away until we narrow our roads and provide law enforcement with more tools to catch speeders, and increase the penalties when they are caught,” she said.

Is it safer — or more dangerous — since Pete Makowski died?

Gebbia said, “In many ways, riding should be safer now. There is ever-improving infrastructure in terms of bike paths, and people are more aware than ever about the rights of cyclists on our roadways. That said, there have never been more distractions for drivers, in terms of smart phones, complicated infotainment systems standard in all cars, and all the usual things that distract us when driving. All of these things make it more dangerous than it’s ever been.”

Morehouse put it succinctly: “Get off your phones, pay attention, share the road.”

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