During the summer, our family lives blissfully free of most electronic gadgets and access to news, and day-to-day happenings. I say “blissfully” because it comes as a relief to be untethered, if for just a few moments, from the onslaught of “stuff” we hear on TV and read online.
So, most of the month of July went by as we worked our commercial setnet operation, sleeping to the schedules of the tides and the whims of the salmon. Every now and then we would get into town, head to the library, and reconnect to the “stuff” we had been missing.
That’s how I found out about the death of Jeff Dusenbury, a longtime Anchorage cyclist with whom I used to race and train. “Shocking” is not a strong enough term to describe what I felt upon reading the words that he had died, senselessly, while riding his bike. It was more of a slam to the gut. I had not ridden with Jeff since 2009, when a cycling accident ended my own competitive cycling career, but the training hours and race days are still fond memories. The PIP team gatherings, where families would come together to get to know each other better, still seemed fresh in my mind.
How could Jeff simply no longer be? How could this father, husband, friend, cyclist, just be gone? I knew Jeff only peripherally, when encountering him at Arctic Bicycle Club races or PIP training rides. But he always had a smile on his face, and a “let’s-do-it” attitude that seemed infectious to those around him. If I’m feeling this sad, how horrible must it be for those in his inner circle – his wife, his daughter, his closest friends?
Over the past month, I’ve gone from profound sadness over this senseless loss to an anger that simmers to boiling when I think of how avoidable his death could have been. Janice Tower, Coast’s cycling columnist, shares some of her thoughts on this as well, on pages 24-25. While Jeff’s death hit the competitive cycling community hard, there are also two other cycling-related deaths this year that are equally as heart-wrenching for those whose loved ones are lost. In May, 4-year-old Ashley Xiong was killed while riding her bike in a mobile home park, and back in January, longtime cycling commuter Eldridge Griffith was hit and killed by a car on Northern Lights Boulevard.
When will it stop? When will people pay attention? When will people – like the 17-year-old girl who decided it was OK to be drunk and driving and then run over Jeff – slow down and pay attention to what they are doing?
This month, as summer winds to its close, let’s slow down and think. Let’s not let another month take another person doing what they love outside. May the cyclists remain safe and may all of you autumn revelers enjoy satisfying hiking, PFD-reinforced boating and careful climbing. It’s why we live in this great outdoors state.