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Bicycle Infrastructure

Spencer Fast, Nearly Killed While Riding his Bike, in his Own Words

The remains of Spencer Fast’s bike. Photo: Jim Elias, MCBC

On Monday, Streetsblog reported on the sentencing of Aaron Paff, a motorist who plowed into four cyclists on October 7 of last year during a charity bike ride sponsored by the Marin County Bicycle Coalition (MCBC). The incident highlighted the need for better legislation and enforcement--Paff was driving even though he'd already been charged with a prior hit-and-run. Assemblymember David Chiu of San Francisco, wrote to Streetsblog and said he will be studying past legislation and looking at ways to get dangerous drivers off streets faster.

The importance of this can not be overstated. Even when victims of road violence survive, they often sustain life-altering injuries. And there's no better person to describe the consequences of our lax licensing system than Spencer Fast, the cyclist most critically injured by Paff.

Here is a long excerpt from Fast’s statement to the court:

October 7, 2017 was supposed to be a great day. My wife Katie and I set out on a beautiful fall morning with many good friends to ride in a charity bike ride called the Jensie Gran Fondo. I was about 60 miles in to the 70 mile ride when I was hit by a Dodge Ram Pickup truck traveling around 70 miles an hour causing my bike to explode, launch me 30 feet into a barbed wire fence and then a ditch, and send me in a helicopter to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

By all accounts I am lucky to be alive. The driver of the car struck three cyclists with his passenger side mirror before hitting me with the full force of the truck at a speed close to 70 MPH. And then he left. My own wife Katie saw me shortly after I was hit and, after frantically scanning the horrific scene with bodies littered on the pavement and one badly injured deep in a ditch being tended to, continued riding on — since the person she saw there bore no resemblance to her husband of 20 years. Think about that. A friend of mine, upon seeing the gruesome scene, went home and wept to his wife that he had seen a fellow cyclist killed today.

My road to recovery took me by helicopter to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for five days where a large team of doctors and nurses worked on me while many of their lives were turned upside down as their homes burned and their families were displaced.

I suffered damage to my right eye, a broken nose, back, ribs, and deep scars on my body, including the one you see on my forehead which will be a daily reminder of that day for the rest of my life, not just for me but for literally anyone who looks at me. Perhaps most impactful is the traumatic brain injury I am living with.

I have been traveling on this road to recovery every day since October 7th, having endured three extensive and painful surgeries in ten days, and logging 108 medical appointments and counting from 12 different doctors. This last number, 108, is dwarfed by the number of people that have supported me, Katie, my daughters Sara and Sophie, and our puppy Franklin, in ways big and small. We thank God for our family, dear friends, and the greater Mill Valley friendship and cycling community for getting us to the point we are at today.

Yet despite the love of a huge community around us, I frequently feel alone. I appear well healed to the outside world, since I physically I am close to my old self and I have returned to athletic training. However, the invisible damage is there every day: my brain is damaged and different, my personality is altered to those who know me best, and if I cover my left eye the world is blurry. I say this not in to gain sympathy or pity, which I do not want or need. I’m simply stating the facts about the real and human impact this all has had on my life and the lives of those around me.

There is only one person who knows if this act was done on purpose, and I don’t spend any time thinking about because it doesn’t have any effect on my recovery.

I do appreciate very much that after a series of poor decisions made on October 7th, which could have had far more dire consequences, that a sound decision was made to plead guilty to the charges and to accept the maximum prison sentence stipulated by California law. This allows us all to avoid reliving the experience through a lengthy trial.

Spencer's entire statement is available on the MCBC website.

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