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