obituary on dane 101

Word came today that Sheldon Brown died on Sunday of a heart attack. I wasn’t a devoted follower of Brown’s, but many of my friends were, and I certainly was aware of his contribution to bicycling.

Brown’s death is a reminder of so many bicycle heroes who have gone before him and died too young. The first name that came to mind this morning was Ken Kifer. Kifer’s webpage, like Brown’s, was (and is) an invaluable resource for the bicycling world. Kifer was killed by a drunk driver in 2003.

In March of 2002 I was working as a bicycle/pedestrian planner in South Bend, Indiana. I had not yet even conceived of one day working in the nonprofit world. Over the Association of Pedestrian/Bicycle Professionals list-serv, I heard that Susie Stephens had been killed by a bus. I knew that she was an important person in the bicycle advocacy field. She had been active in The Bicycle Alliance of Washington and the Thunderhead Alliance, among other related groups. Just about five months later I was a bicycle advocacy leader myself, listening to stories about her and crying around a campfire in Minnesota with ten of her best friends.

Closer to home in 2004, Appleton lost advocate Kevin Kendall. And, on June 30, 2005, Jessica “Jess” Bullen was killed by tLinkhe careless actions of a driver with a hideous record. Jess’s death, though I didn’t know her, hit me in a way that no other ever had. We moved in the same circles and had the same friends. What happened to her could have just as easily have happened to me. It was extremely upsetting. Jess’s family set up a memorial fund with proceeds going to bicycle advocacy. The folks at Quann Garden honored Jess too. My coworkers and I mobilized a Ghost Bikes campaign around the anniversary of her death. The promo sign still stands in my front yard as a daily reminder.

I know that thinking about death is kind of a downer, but it bothers me sometimes how easily the world shakes off the loss of another human being. Especially when the human being lost was so extraordinary in life and made such a huge impact on so many lives. I think it is good to remember our fallen friends from time to time, even if it is painful.

Tailwinds, Sheldon…many of us are thinking of you and will not forget you.

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