Remember the infamous incident in which a Longmont driver honked at two cyclists on an open road for several minutes ? Something similar happened again -- only this time, someone got hurt. Byron Nix was knocked off of his bike after a truck hit him and crushed his bike on Sunday. And the driver, who says the whole thing was an accident, happens to be President Herbert Hoover's grandson.
The cyclist says that after half a minute of honking behind him in Deer Creek Canyon, the vehicle hit his bike, crushed it and just narrowly missed pulling him under as well.
The occurence is just the latest in a series of high-profile bike-vehicle conflicts -- among them the tragic death of 23-year-old Gelseigh Karl-Cannon who was hit by a truck in Cherry Creek North. Cyclists and drivers seem to agree that there are growing tensions on the road between people on bikes and those behind the wheel -- the topic of our recent feature, "On a Roll," prompted by Denver's first bike fatality this year.
Andrew Hoover, the man who hit Nix (and the grandson of Herbert Hoover, America's 31st president), received news attention earlier this year when his Littleton home was destroyed in a fire. And while he and Nix generally similar stories of what happened, Nix maintains that Hoover was clearly harassing him and his fellow cyclists before the collision -- and then was shockingly unsympathetic after he nearly killed him. For his part, Hoover, who was cited for careless driving, laments that cyclists in general are taking up too much space on the road and that in this case, Nix was the person who deserved a citation.
Here's what happened, according to Nix. He was riding with a group of twelve cyclists on Sunday morning in Deer Creek Canyon when they started hearing loud honking behind them. They were on a somewhat narrow and twisty part of the road, where he says drivers have to take care when passing cyclists.
The cyclists were riding single file, though Nix was drifting to the back of the line -- a common practice for cyclists traveling in a group.
"It was at least thirty seconds of constantly hitting the horn," says Nix, 45, an avid cyclist who races competitively and has won numerous titles. "We obviously knew there was a car behind us."
Nix says his group of cyclists, all of them very experienced, is extremely careful to stay to the side of the road to let cars pass -- and they warn each other when cars are coming up the road.
The law says cars need to have three feet if they want to pass cyclists.
As Nix was drifting back to the end of the line, Hoover, in a Ford Ranger truck, started yelling at the last cyclist in the team, according to Nix.
"His bumper was inches away from me," he says.
"He was arguing and yelling...and then he hit the accelerator without looking forward," says Nix.
Given what happened next, it's miraculous that he wasn't seriously injured or killed, he says. The bumper of the truck got stuck to the tire on Nix's bike and the wheel caved underneath the force of the truck as the frame of the bike collapsed.
"Thankfully, right after, he hit the brake, so I didn't go under," says Nix, adding that it all happened very fast.
"He must've hit the brake there just before it swallowed me," he adds.
Nix was eventually taken to the hospital and went to a specialist the following day, was bruised and scraped up badly and also suffered hip cartilage injuries and neck whiplash. He still has more tests to be done and since has developed pains in his shoulder. But immediately after the crash, he remained on the ground.
"I was just laying there.... Thank God, the wheels didn't go over me," he says. His teammates, part of the Groove Subaru-Alpha Bicycle team, came over to help him.
He says Hoover then got out of the truck, then "grabbed the bike and threw it off to the side of the road, as if he was gonna take off."
He didn't even check to see if he was doing all right, says Nix, who was in a confused daze at that point.
"Anytime you fall down on your bike, it's always a shock...but this was just so surreal," he says. "I wasn't angry at that point. I was more in shock.... You never expect to get hit by a car and hope that you never will."
Continue for Andrew Hoover's side of the story and more photos from the scene of the accident. For his part, Hoover says the behavior of cyclists on this particular road and throughout the area has been an ongoing concern for residents. He also stresses that he never meant to hit Nix.
"We try to avoid them," says Hoover, a retired engineer and turns 71 today. "If you're anywhere close to being responsible on your bicycle, that would never happen."
Hoover says the tension between cyclists and drivers is common, but it's a rare that collisions actually occur.
"We face this situation regularly, and we honk for two reasons -- to let them know we are coming, and the other is to...indicate some displeasure with the way they are riding," says Hoover, who has been displaced to an apartment in Denver after his house burned down and was returning to the site of his burned-down home at the time of the crash.
"That is not unique to me. What is unique to me is that somehow the two of us collided," he says.
Hoover says he feels bad that this happened and did not mean to come off as unsympathetic in any way after the collision.
"I was sort of surprised and shocked and taken aback," he says. "I understood that the best thing to do was to be quiet."
Hoover's bumper was damaged in the collision because of the way it got caught on Nix's bike.
Hoover, who says he has never collided with a bike before, doesn't recall talking directly to the cyclists as he got closer to them, but notes that it all happened quickly. "I wish I knew exactly [what happened]. I wish we weren't having this conversation. It's a very sad thing."
He says that for a long time, neighbors have been worried about cyclists who seem to be reckless in their riding.
"This was bound to happen," he says, adding that he and his neighbors have asked for more bike lanes and generally feel the road in question isn't safe for cyclists. "I'm just terribly sorry that it was me.... It shocks and dismays me."
He continues, "From my point of view, it was a damn unfortunate accident," but adds, "As a practical matter, I was given a citation, and I believe that the bicyclist should've been given a citation."
Josh Lewis, a Colorado State Patrol spokesman, confirms only Hoover was cited in the accident. He says the incident was covered as a crash and that there has been no determination it was intentional on the part of the driver -- but if it was later determined as such, charges could be upgraded to assault.
At this point, there is no evidence to suggest that it was "pre-mediated," he says, adding, "The cyclist was obeying all laws."
Nix says that he and his cycling team are always very respectful and careful on the road and that, for the most part, cars and bikes do get along.
In Denver, crashes between bikes and cars are on the rise, and police reports say that the fault lies with the drivers slightly more often than the cyclists.
"All we are asking is that if you see bikes and they are not single file, tap twice on the horn...to let us know you are there and give us a chance to get to the side of the road," says Nix, who lives in Centennial and runs a business called Byron's Painting Company when he is not cycling. "I'm not gonna give up on riding, but I am gonna think twice when I hear a car."
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