I find myself wiping tears from my eyes after reading the many tributes to Durango’s Ben Sonntag – a man I didn’t even know.
This loss of such a beloved icon of our community at the height of his life by a motorist on a quiet county road hits home as a tragedy and makes it hard to reconcile our reputation as a cycling mecca with the escalating dangers associated with riding a bicycle on our roads.
Over 10 years ago, a group of us including Trails 2000 and Healthy Lifestyles La Plata worked together to seek designation of Durango as a Bicycle Friendly Community. You can see the signs as you enter the city limits proclaiming Durango as a “Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Community.”
But what does that mean?
I submit: not much.
In the intervening years, it is apparent the animosity between cars and bikes continues, driver distraction via cellphones is at epidemic scariness levels and infrastructure changes to improve safety for cyclists is forgotten in road and bridge budgeting.
I therefore urge the Durango City Council and the La Plata County commissioners to quit making excuses, quit blaming each other and instead do something to improve road safety in our city and county.
Consider this: Finally construct a shoulder on 32nd Street between Holly and Florida. This half-mile death zone must be one of the most dangerous stretches of road in the area. Dedicate it to Ben Sonntag. Prevent our next heartbreaking headline.