A face behind the helmet – cyclists ride for awareness and more

by Stan Morris | NEA Report

JONESBORO, Ark. – Cyclists are just like you and I.

It was a central sentiment Friday evening at the first ever Bike Jonesboro Advocacy Ride and it was by design. Hopes were for a human face to be put on the cyclist behind the helmet, so drivers will be more empathetic to travelers on two-wheels.

However, the dialogue needs to be mutual, said Gearhead Outfitters owner and cyclist Ted Herget.

“It’s a mutual appreciation,” Herget said. “The cyclist has to respect the road but then again, the road does have to bend. It’s tough around these parts.”

For Amy McDonald, more than winding roads have been tough. She is the widow of Jason McDonald, the cyclist who was struck and killed by a driver in June on KAIT road. Friday night’s event was about raising awareness but it was also about raising money for the widow and her family.

Before his life was cut short, Jason had been battling major flooding issues at his home on Trinity Oaks Drive in Jonesboro. Twice in 2016, including two weeks before he was killed, the McDonald home flooded and required a total disaster clean-up. From March to May, Amy and Jason could be seen pulling entire rooms of carpet out. As bad as this nightmare was, a bike ride in the county would make the flooding issues pale in comparison.

In spite of these difficult times, Amy and family showed remarkable strength and persevered. Friday night, their perseverance was assisted in the form of a check for $4,300 from the “I’m A Cyclist” advocacy group. People from all walks of life joined into the effort Herget, also a member of the group, said.

“I’ve been at it for 20 years and to have this many people from all walks of life, that’s what’s cool,” Herget said. “Tonight, you’ve got physicians, engineers, students from China – it’s really cool. When you take the helmet off, it’s most likely someone you go to church with, someone that plays with your kids or someone you know. We’re just trying to put a face behind something we’re convicted in.”

Friday evening’s ride was part of that, with a ten-mile route through the city for cyclists who were escorted by police. Herget said the group hit 21 points of interest across the route before concluding the ride at Gearhead Cycle House on Main Street in Jonesboro.

Putting a human face on the issue makes it more personal, Herget said. Helmets, spandex and cyclist gear make it easy to dehumanize a rider and the group’s hope is to make drivers think of the cyclist they’re driving behind as their brother, sister, best-friend or even child.

“We need to respect everybody, whatever side of the aisle, religion, denomination – we’re community,” Herget said.

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