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"With well tuned bikes…and broken hearts"

The view from the podium.
The view from the podium.

The simple phrase elegantly captured the collective mood on a gray Sunday morning at Heisler Park in Laguna Beach. The words came from Rabbi Richard Steinberg's invocation and prayer to those who'd come to pay their respects and honor the memories of cyclists John Colvin and Debra Deem. Deem was struck and killed last August, and Colvin was run down from behind by a hit-and-run driver just over a month ago.

Flowers strewn along PCH in memory and honor of John Colvin and Debra Deem.

The memorial service had started out as a small gathering of family, friends and riding partners. But the word about the service spread. Prompted by emails and social media postings, several hundred riders from the Orange County cycling community also participated. The service transformed from intimate to a well-mannered and well-attended expression of the growing resolution to make Laguna Beach safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Bill Sellin from the Orange County Bicycle Coalition greeted those who'd assembled and set the agenda: brief remembrances and comments, an invocation, and a ride past the points where both riders fell.

We gather to invoke the names of John Colvin & Debra Deem, struck downdoing what we all love, on a road we all love, by motorists who - like many - did not attend to the danger their vehicle pose to human lives.

Several speakers followed Sellin's introduction, including Les Miklosky with Complete Streets Laguna Beach, Joan Colvin (John Colvin's spouse), training partner and friend Tim Chamberlain, and Mary Colvin (John's mother). Rabbi Steinberg then addressed the audience, offering spiritual context and prayer.

Sellin and David Huntsman, a cyclist and activist from Newport Beach, described the route and housekeeping for the ensuing ride: it was to be measured, unhurried, and not a "Ride of Silence." Participating cyclists were encouraged to be acutely aware of sharing the road while asserting their right to take the lane when necessary.

Huntsman pointed out twenty-five musette bags on the low wall bordering the stage. He noted they were packed with flower petals, and he asked for volunteers, especially those comfortable with carrying a satchel while cycling, to help spread the petals along the road. The bags were quickly claimed. These riders were asked to lead the procession, spacing themselves at 15 second intervals at the start.

The route followed PCH from Cliff Drive at, passing Emerald Bay where Colvin was run down. Riders undulated past El Morro and Crystal Cove, winding up and down towards the right turn pocket at Newport Coast Drive where Deem was struck.

They turned up, ascending to the light at Pelican Hill: this was the official end of the memorial ride. From there riders dispersed, individually and in groups, some retracing the path back to Heisler Park and points south, others climbing Newport Coast or Pelican Hill, and a contingent angling up PCH towards Newport Beach and beyond.

The flowers stayed, strewn along the street, flashes of color on the gray tarmac.


Note: The events have sparked a groundswell of sentiment among riders, walkers and Laguna Beach residents that something has to be done. There was a public demonstration on July 16 outside City Hall. This coming Thursday, the Laguna Beach traffic in circulation committee is meeting to vote on completing a north south bike route through Laguna Beach, and one that does not include PCH.

6:30 pm Thursday, July 24 at the community center 380 3rd St., Laguna Beach

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