Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sad, Shocked,and Angry: RIP Phil Smith

Some of you know I've been on the WeLL for a long time. The Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link was one of the first online communities and is still one of the most significant. Started by futurist Stewart Brand in 1985, it quickly became an online conclave of writers, thinkers, technology geeks, and, yes, Dead heads. Over the years, the community has remained a spirited, tight, loyal place that many from the outside find hard to penetrate. It's still a daily part of hundreds of lives and I have friends across the country -- many I've met face-to-face -- that make me feel part of their families, activities, hobbies and trials. On the WeLL, we discuss issues, argue politics, and offer thoughtful (and sometimes silly) discourse on every topic under the sun. It's an amazing place for research and to access some of the top doers and thinkers in almost every hobby or interest. I've been honored to host the Sailing conference with my sailing mentor and SF Bay sailor Paul Kamen for many years.

Over the years, the WeLL has become famous for a number of Internet concepts: You Own Your Own Words which means no one has the right to repost or use anything you may have written on the WeLL; on the WeLL, no one is anonymous, you have to give an actual name to login; and in one of the WeLL's shining moments, the parenting conference was nationally recognized as magazine editor Phil Catalfo chronicled his son, Gabe's battle with leukemia. If I didn't know these people before, I shared their heartbreak, and knew them afterwards.

Yesterday, in the worst of tragedy, fellow WeLL member Philip Butler Smith was killed on a 45-day cross country bicycle trip from Seattle to Washington DC. It was day four of the trip. Phil was a sailor, a cyclist, and father extraordinaire and had filled us all in on the trip. (He was planning to blog from the road.) The trip was part of Adventure Cycling's 30th Anniversary taking 30 or so cyclists across the US. Phil was struck by a car on an open and wide stretch of road outside Davenport, Washington. He was on the 5-foot wide shoulder riding a recumbent bicycle when a woman (apparently unimpaired) struck him. He died at the scene.

I'm angry because yet another responsible, experienced cyclist has been killed in the most useless of situations. Bike trips are a great way to spend a long vacation -- I have friends who have biked through Ireland, Italy, France, and all sections of Indiana, the Midwest, and the West. Organized trips are generally considered pretty safe. We don't know much about what happened, but in an apparently wide open stretch of road, it's a mystery to me how the front end of this woman's car could have come in contact with Phil and his bicycle. It's tragic and unbelievable and makes me unspeakably pissed off. Yes, open road cycling can be dangerous (as can any sport) but an organized group of cyclists should be able to share a wide, safe, open road with cars and still not take their lives in their own hands. There's so much we don't know -- how far was he separated from the group, whether they had a car escort with them, how well was his bike marked, or whether it was a factor that he was on a recumbent bike. However, at the end of the day, none of these are a cause of this senseless tragedy. It makes me pissed off to even be driving a car. I'm furious, sad, shocked, and angry.

Please, when you see cyclists, pay attention. When you see cyclists, slow down. Have some respect, and be smart. Give them some room, and prevent your own tragedy. RIP Philip Butler Smith.

More from Washington news.


At Wed Jun 28, 05:57:00 AM, Blogger Doug said...

Oh, that's horrible. I haven't checked into the WeLL yet so I learned it here first. Damn.

At Wed Jun 28, 08:40:00 PM, Blogger IndyFoodie said...

That is just infuriating! I just don’t understand what is WRONG with people and their cars! I hate cars, I wish we could ride our bikes everywhere and had mass transit! I know I should shut up and move to France! I think Indiana is especially bad about giving cyclist room….not to mention our total lack of bike lanes! GRRRRR


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