Rob Douglas: 'These people don't belong'

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Rob Douglas

Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Douglas here.

“These people don’t belong in Lyons. They certainly don’t belong in the foothills around Lyons.”

That is a direct quote from Lyons resident Patrick Ward, originally reported by the Lyons Recorder, as Ward addressed the Lyons Planning and Community Development Commission in March 2010.

Who was Ward complaining about? Bicyclists.

Why was Ward venting his bile? Because the planning commission was considering a Comprehensive Plan Update that would promote and enhance the use of bicycles in Lyons.

Where is Ward now? As of Thursday afternoon, he was sitting in the Boulder County Jail facing charges of vehicular homicide, driving under the influence of alcohol, prohibited use of a weapon (possession of a gun while driving under the influence of alcohol), and other related charges. The charges stem from the death this week of Michel Van Duym, a resident of Boulder who was killed while riding his bike in Lyons.

As reported by the Daily Camera, “Van Duym, 46, was riding his bike on Main Street in Lyons when he was struck and killed by an SUV on Saturday afternoon. Sheriff’s deputies identified Ward, 69, as the driver of the SUV.

“Following Ward’s arrest, the sheriff’s office said it appeared that Ward was driving the wrong way when the accident occurred, heading westbound in the eastbound lane on Main Street. His vehicle may also have been in the process of turning at the time.”

While the courts will determine whether Ward is guilty of the charged crimes, we may never know what was going through his mind when he struck Van Duym. Consequently, we may never know whether Ward’s documented prejudices against bicyclists played a role in the death of Van Duym.

Still, where there’s smoke there’s usually fire, and Ward’s 2010 statements before the planning commission, as reported by the Lyons Recorder in the next paragraph, reveal embers.

Ward “voiced his frustrations with the wording in the Comp Plan, which spoke to promoting and enhancing the use of bicycles in Lyons. Ward noted that if the riders were to be afforded the rights of an automobile driver, then they should be expected to obey the rules of the road. He cited numerous instances he had witnessed when ‘gangs’ of bicyclists disobeyed signage, lights, and impeded traffic flow, and he questioned why Boulder County Deputies failed to issue tickets to the offenders. Ward went so far as to say, ‘These people don’t belong in Lyons. They certainly don’t belong in the foothills around Lyons.’ He also questioned exactly who would have to foot the bill for all these proposed amenities for bicyclists. His guess was the taxpayers.”

Reasonable people reading Ward’s comments — comments that glow with hostility — naturally will wonder whether smoldering anger toward cyclists, fueled by alcohol, played a factor in Ward killing Van Duym.

While future columns will explore a range of issues when it comes to tensions between bicyclists and motor vehicle drivers here in Steamboat, for now it’s hard to shake the perverse reality that Ward thinks cyclists — cyclists no different from Van Duym — don’t belong in his hometown.

Who was Michel Van Duym? He was no different from many Coloradans.

Born in Helena, Mont., Van Duym was the associate director of business development for GHX, a health care technology company with an office in Louisville.

On his Facebook page, Van Duym listed his activities as skiing, snowshoeing, reading, running, hiking and biking. For each of those interests, Van Duym linked to the generic Facebook page associated with the activity.

But, to that list of favorite activities, Van Duym added one more — a page he created just for himself.

That custom page is titled: “Spending Time with My Beautiful Wife, Carrie.”

Van Duym was just like the majority of our neighbors, co-workers, fellow parishioners and family who work hard, play hard and share their love with that one special person who brings joy to their life.

So let’s be clear. Ward is wrong.

“These people” — as Ward labeled every cyclist three years before killing Michel Van Duym — do belong on the roads of Lyons, Steamboat and every other community across America.

It’s Ward who doesn’t belong.

To reach Rob Douglas, email rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

Comments

Scott Wedel 11 months ago

Well Mr Ward's was apparently drunk and driving the wrong way on a one way street. With the challenges that would be presented by oncoming traffic, that is hardly an easy way to target a bicyclist.

While the public can be annoyed by certain bicyclists whom run stop signs and ignore other traffic laws, the facts are that most bicycling fatalities are from vehicles making mistakes.

Also, the typical bicyclist is more like everyone else and owns a car and so on.

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rhys jones 11 months ago

The article says "westbound in the eastbound lane on Main Street." If accurate, that means it HAD to happen on a 2-way stretch of Main in Lyons, as any one-way eastbound lanes through downtown are called Broadway, not Main. Main is one-way west through that stretch.

That means the chump was NOT headed in the wrong direction on a one-way street, he risked no oncoming traffic, nor jumped any medians... that move could have been very deliberate.

Not that I'm willing to jump to any conclusions, and unlike some...

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Brian Kotowski 11 months ago

First time for everything: I think Rob's gone overboard on this one. Granted, Mr. Ward sounds like an epic dirtbag, but piling on with allegations of malice seems a tad silly. Even dirtbags, I suspect, would prefer not to have a body on their conscience.

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Robert Dippold 11 months ago

Brian, I got hit by someone trying to "teach me a lesson". My friends got hit by a different person that passed them and then came back for them a second time. The guy sent me to intensive care for weeks and one of my friends died in the other instance. Road rage takes different forms for people.

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rhys jones 11 months ago

It's been a while since I mentioned this event, which bears repeating about now. It was before we had the bike trail, and I was riding my bike east on Hwy 40, approaching Walton Creek Rd, as far to the right as practical, when a pickup truck with three yokels pounding barley pop passed me by... I heard a bottle break on the shoulder, just ahead of me, as the truck passed. Initially I thought they had just thrown it out, but upon immediate reflection -- and in consideration of our relative positions and trajectories -- I realized that that bottle had likely been thrown at my head. If it had found its mark, I probably wouldn't be littering this forum now. Ward won't get what he deserves.

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Harry Thompson 11 months ago

The bike riders and law enforcement of SS and Routt County need to go to a truly bike friendly town like Tucson Arizona. Or the beach towns in southern California. The way to keep bike riding safe is to follow the rules, in these bike friendly areas if a motorist breaks the law and puts a bike rider in danger they get a ticket. If a biker rider breaks the law and puts themselves and or others in danger they get a ticket. For some reason this crazy town thinks being bike friendly, is the total mayhem that is currently happening. It is time for law enforcement, motorists, bike riders and skate boarders in the valley to get a clue. Rob, I think that in writing this article you were just trying to be controversial, if not you need to get a clue.

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Brian Kotowski 11 months ago

Harry

I've been here a decade, and I've never seen or heard of a cyclist being cited. Doesn't mean it's never happened, of course, but my impression is that cyclists are given a much longer leash here than motorists.

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Harry Thompson 11 months ago

If law enforcement feels that it is beneath them to write tickets to either of these offending parties. Then we have a real problem and it will only be a matter of time before someone is killed or seriously hurt. What bothers me most is that children watch adults making these decisions without consequence and then engage in the same actions. However I child is a lot more likely to get hurt. If the city council has sent a directive to the police look the other way, then shame on them. If the police don't want to enforce these laws maybe it's time for some logical direction from council.

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Pat West 11 months ago

I have been cited for running a red light on Lincoln av., and saw a SSPD with a cyclist pulled over in the Space Station parking lot today. It looked like he was getting a ticket. But on average I see more auto drivers disobeying road laws than cyclists. Speeders, and running red lights, I see this every time I'm behind the wheel, this spring a almost saw an SUV driver on the phone total a Honda at Hilltop and US-40. SUV driver blew the light talking on the phone. Distracted or unlawful cyclists are not much a hazard on the road except to themselves, distracted drivers can kill.

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rhys jones 11 months ago

I've got to agree, cyclists get away with murder in this town, assuming the right-of-way, alarming and frustrating motorists, and there is no enforcement levied upon them. This from a biker. I won't recite specific incidents (though three abreast on a blind curve on River Road is just stupid).

Bad cycling is not the issue here. Since Ward was in the wrong lane, one would assume Van Duym was in the proper lane. I will go further and assume he was to the right as far as practical.

I just took a little cruise through Lyons... thank you Google Earth... pretty little town... and anywhere a westbound vehicle could hit a bicycle going east on Main, he would have to cross two lanes AND a turn lane. My GOD, how drunk WAS he?

Not that it matters. Drunk is no excuse.

I'll bet he settles for manslaughter, out in 6. Whaddya think, Bill?

PS Goodyear AZ is much more bike-friendly, in dedicated bike lanes and paths -- while the resort town of Kemah, Texas was downright scary -- I would rate Steamboat somewhere in-between -- and "Bike Town USA" is marketing blab, and everybody knows it.

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bill schurman 11 months ago

Message to bike riders at night: PLEASE have lights front and back or at the very least reflectors and/or reflecting clothing,

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