At the Bicycle Commuter Festival, I got my picture taken with Damian Kevitt. Despite my son being a little scared of the carbon fiber "super leg 1000" and Kevitt's annoying insistence on spelling his first name incorrectly, I was a little star struck to pose for Richard "Bicycle Fixation" Risenberg with Kevitt, the new face of resilience after what could have been a debilitating crash.
On February 17, 2013 Kevitt was maimed in a hit and run crash while bicycling to have lunch with his wife. The details of Kevitt's crash, which includes being dragged until the car hopped on the I-5, made him an instant celebrity for the worst reason. Despite the good will, media coverage, and a $25,000 reward his attacker has not been identified. But that hasn't stopped Kevitt, who is back on his bicycle, training for a marathon, and working on a movement.
Yesterday, he led a group of friends on a bike ride through his crash area. Colin Bogart, the Streetsblog 2011 Advocate of the Year and a staff member at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, snapped the picture on the right of Kevitt posing at his attacker's escape route.
"...Today gave me a moment to reflect back on the unbelievable year that's just past," Kevitt wrote to me last night.
"While the past year has given me more gruesome and miraculous stories than most people experience in a lifetime, the real highlight has been my bonding with the bicycling community, through Finish the Ride, in a collective and growing voice that is demanding that something be done about the skyrocketing epidemic of hit and run accidents in the Southern California area."
For Kevitt, every hit and run crash that happens is one too many. While he can function and easily cracks a smile during a joke (we have a running gag over the different spellings of our first name), what makes Kevitt's story so interesting isn't just the hard work that made his recovery possible but that he's channeling whatever emotions his experience created into something great.
Over the past few months, Kevitt has been working closely with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, California State Assemblyman Mike Gatto, and Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge to organize Finish the Ride, which has grown into a movement to help make the streets of L.A. safe and fun for all bicyclists. Gatto authored law last year that increased the statute of limitations to bring hit and run drivers to justice and introduced legislation mandating license seizure for anyone causing a hit and run. LaBonge offered the $25,000 reward mentioned above.
"With more and more drummers like myself stepping on board to pound for change, the beat becomes an earthquake that will break loose the slow cogs of government, resulting in tangible improvements and before long you'll start seeing statistics that up till this day have only gotten worse, start to improve" Kevitt continues.
"Till that day comes, I'll only look at the latest news report of another bicyclist down or another horrific story of a hit and run death in regret, not just because of the unnecessary loss of life but because I haven't yet made enough of a difference to have prevented at least one other person from having gone through what I had to go through."
Finish the Ride will take place at 8:00am on Sunday, April 27, 2014. Cyclists may register for one of three routes that vary in distance from six to twenty-three miles. Early registration is encouraged as registration fees will increase on March 1, 2014. For more information, or to register, visit FinishTheRide.com.