He made a difference

This weekend, bike advocates and cycling instructors around the country are reeling from the unfathomable news that one of our own was killed.

Around noon yesterday, Bruce Rosar was struck and killed by a car while making a left turn. Within hours, cycling advocates around the country had received the news through various listserves. It was a gut-punch, leaving us all heartbroken, numb and nagged by questions, doubt and disbelief.


A number of our readers knew Bruce Rosar well. He was a long-time advocate for bicycle transportation and cyclists rights. He was a League of American Bicyclists cycling instructor who dedicated his time to teaching others to ride confidently and safely. Last year, he was elected to the Board of Directors of the League by those of us who live in Region 3.

He was instrumental in two of the primary websites I studied when I decided to enter the realm of cycling advocacy: Human Transport and Bicycling Life.

Bruce introduced me to the concepts of Shared Space. As is mentioned in the above-linked article, he was really passionate about it. He was an encyclopedia of links to articles, videos and concept papers on the principles and applications of Shared Space. He’s posted a few of them in the comments of CommuteOrlando posts. He often articulated the belief that the drivers of cars should not be given priority over other human beings in the public space we call roads.

He was one of several thoughtful, intelligent people who helped shape my philosophies on cyclist advocacy.

I had the privilege to meet Bruce at a small gathering of like-minded league members at the National Bike Summit this past Winter. I found him to be a kind and thoughtful man. Upon introduction, he complimented our website. I am very sad that I will not have another opportunity to meet or exchange ideas with him.

We may never know

It is likely we may never know what really happened on Saturday. It doesn’t make sense. The police are still looking for more witnesses. I am sure this crash will be investigated far more thoroughly than the average bike crash. It is likely the advocacy community will insist on it. But there’s a strong possibility we’ll still be left with more questions than answers.

There is a bizarre phenomenon where the human eye/brain simply do not register information. It is rare, but by virtue of exposure, it has shown up in crash reports where car drivers pull into the path of large trucks and swear they never saw them. Of course, it’s also well known that drivers of cars miss 2-wheel vehicles in their scans.

What we do know

Life is fragile. Humans are fallible. Our brains play tricks on us. It happens in cars, on motorcycles on bicycles. It happens to pilots. It happens just generally in life. By the grace of God, I have both survived many errors of my own, and not killed someone else.

As bicyclists, we do the best we can for ourselves. We learn the skills and best practices to achieve the highest level of safety. Bruce knew those, he taught them. It is quite possible the skills he taught have saved the lives of some of his students.

It’s a sobering reminder that no matter what we do and how many precautions we take, we will never be infallible. Nor will we be invulnerable to the fallibility of others. Perhaps just remembering that, with a painful dose of reality, will bring us another layer of awareness and safety.

As we wipe the tears from our eyes, let’s take a moment to remember to find meaning, wonder and adventure in life. To be loving. And to make a difference.

Peace be upon you, Bruce, and an eternal, gentle tailwind… sail on.

18 replies
  1. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    What a great loss to the cycling community, and Bruce’s friends and family.

    What disturbs me about the article Keri linked to about the incident is the following:
    “[Capt. Ann Stephens of the Apex Police Department] said the Apex police had recently started an education campaign, meeting with cycling groups, to make bicyclists aware of the rules of the road. Motorists had complained about large numbers of cyclists on the road, she said.

    “It’s just very unfortunate,” Stephens said. “We were afraid something like this was going to happen.”

    Gee, why would the police think that empowering and educating cyclists would lead to a tragic event like this? Maybe they should have conducted education campaigns with local motorists concerning the rights of cyclists?

  2. Keri
    Keri says:

    That quote really annoyed me, too. There was another article I read yesterday where the last 1/3 of the article went into the typical crap about cyclists running stop signs. The bias is so deep sometimes, you just want to throw your hands in the air.

  3. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    The quotes & comments of those that leave their brains at home when they leave the house no longer bother me any more than the honking of those geese in a previous C-O post. There’ll be time enough to judge the quality of the investigating polices as time passes.

    The guy was a class act. That’s good enough for me.

  4. Wayne Pein
    Wayne Pein says:

    Nice story. Bruce was a nice guy who worked to make the world better.

    The quotes are really bad because there’s is no relationship. Bruce was solo, wouldn’t purposefully break the law (especially resulting in getting hit), and the motorist didn’t assault him (that is what the Apex police should be worried about given the complaints about groups of recreational bicyclists).

    While the Apex police seem to want to do the right thing (so they say), the Town has gone out of its way to micromanage bicyclists beyond the State level by passing a “no more than two abreast law” which does not exist at the State level. Whether this micromanagement is legal is unclear.


  5. Rantwick
    Rantwick says:

    I first read about this on dfwptp. As most of you know, I’m not involved or acquainted with the proponents of bike advocacy and education in the southern US beyond my ongoing online relationships with some of you and your blogs.

    As such, I have no observations to make on this tagic news. I just wanted to express my regret that you have sustained such a heavy loss, and my hope that you just keep doing what you do, something your lost friend believed in so firmly.

  6. Lyle
    Lyle says:

    Nancy, I don’t think the police meant that they thought that educating cyclists would lead to tragedy. I think they just meant that they were afraid that large numbers of cyclists on the road, most of them operating lawlessly, would lead to bicycle/automobile conflicts which would in turn lead to a fatality. A fatality, like this one.

    Though I wish I’d read “cyclists have complained about large numbers of motorists on the road”, instead.

  7. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    So many thoughts coming to the surface…

    People like Bruce do what they do not because they are sticklers for rules, but because they want people to be safe and happy while cycling. Rules are especially necessary when massive, high-speed devices are deployed on our streets.

    I’ve been passed on the left a number of times while signaling a left turn; most often pulling into my own driveway. The news article doesn’t say if the motorist was overtaking or approaching from the front. Knowing the level of experience of someone like Bruce, I doubt he’d pull in front of an on-coming vehicle.

    When cyclists — especially well-known, competent ones — are killed by negligent motorists, I remind myself and others that all road users — motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists — are at risk from incompetent motorists. He wasn’t killed because he was bicycling; he was killed because some motorist was careless.

    I didn’t know Bruce. While I wish I could have called him a friend, part of me is content that I didn’t. I’ve already lost two cyclist friends to careless motorists; both exemplary riders who helped and taught others.

  8. Keri
    Keri says:

    A cyclist who was ahead of Bruce and returned to the scene left a comment on Fritz’s post at Cyclelicious

    It sheds some light on a possible scenario… due to conditions in the prior few minutes, he may have been concerned with overtaking cars, which decreased the acuity of his forward scan in that moment. On a road where overtaking drivers are aggressive, it’s natural to be concerned about them passing even as you are signaling a left turn (as Mighk points out, it happens).

    “Must pass the cyclist.”

    The mindless insistence on passing a cyclist without taking all factors into consideration is a product of disrespect for cyclists as equal and legitimate vehicle drivers. The insidious consequence is that it forces cyclists to be more aware of what’s behind them than other vehicle drivers, thus robbing us of vital forward attention when we most need it.

  9. Wayne Pein
    Wayne Pein says:

    Keri said it very well.

    We shouldn’t have to worry about being passed on the left into oncoming traffic while we attempt a left turn but we do. So we are forced to be attentive in all directions. But attention is a finite attribute and dispersing it can result in insufficient attention directed to where it is most needed.


  10. Eric
    Eric says:

    “I doubt he’d pull in front of an on-coming vehicle.”

    Maybe. He was only a couple of years older than I am.

    I am becoming acutely aware that my ability to judge the distance & speed of oncoming cars is deteriorating, so I am becoming more cautious than I was only 2-5 years ago.

    Of course I kick myself when I realize that I could have turned three times in the time I was waiting to make that left turn.

  11. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    We are all capable of making mistakes. In a real safety culture we would expect all road users — especially those operating massive, high-speed vehicles — to routinely scan for and expect such mistakes so as to at least have a shot at compensating for them.

    This is not to say either Bruce or the motorist was “at fault.” (Though technically/legally someone has to be in such a crash.) Just that the US “safety culture” is all about “looking out for number one.” We cyclists — especially trained vehicular cyclists — tend to be much better about looking for motorist errors, as we of course will usually suffer much harsher consequences.

  12. danc
    danc says:

    I spoke briefly with Bruce at the 2009 Bike Summit and have been impressed with persuasive writing particularly on “Shared Space”.

    Video interview with Steve Chilcote, friend and NC Bicycle Club Secretary:

    Peace be with him and his family.

  13. Keri
    Keri says:

    Thanks Dan. Steve’s description of him and his way of teaching is really nice.

    His presence in the vehicular cycling community was uniquely gentle.

  14. 2whls3spds
    2whls3spds says:

    Here is a Link to an updated story. The area where the accident occurred has very short sight distances and if the car were traveling at or even slightly above the speed limit I can see how the accident could have occurred.


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