Cross-country trek to promote bike safety
Brandon McKeever, a member of the 2005 national U23 team, is about to live the dream, at least the dream of his friend, Garrett Wonders.
"It was one of his life goals, to ride a bike across the country," McKeever said.
Wonders, however, won't be among the five friends accompanying McKeever on his trek.
Wonders was hit and killed while on a solo training bike ride in Charleston in 2004. He was 25 years old.
"People need to be aware of bicycles on highways ... giving like three feet of space on the side of the road when you're passing a cyclist could save so many lives," McKeever said.
When the second of his cycling teammates, 34-year-old Adam Little, was hit by a car and killed earlier this year in Concord, McKeever couldn't wait any longer to take action.
"He has a wife and two kids," McKeever said. "It's awful."
The 23-year-old teamed up with fellow Boone bike enthusiasts to organize a cross-country ride, to promote awareness of bike safety issues and raise money for his friends' memorial funds.
As he treks, stopping in 13 cities from Charleston to San Francisco, the Boone resident will host cycling safety events in places like Chicago and Denver, all in memory of his friends.
If enough people understand the risks, perhaps tragedy can be prevented.
"So many people have been sideswiped ... these are just two people who are close to me, but I think bike lanes would make a huge difference," he said.
Even in a small town like Boone, he feels the danger when on two wheels, in particular on U.S. 321 and U.S. 421.
"You know, with this huge King Street widening project ... I feel like it would be easy to add just three feet there for a bike lane," he said.
He recommends using extreme caution when passing a cyclist.
"Just having cars pass you at 50, 55 miles per hour can be scary," he said. "People driving in a two-ton piece of machinery are a whole lot more than a 15 pound piece of metal ... people just aren't aware ... just a couple of seconds, how fast that can change someone's life."
He plans on using every precaution on his trek, wearing bright clothes, riding in the morning and always trekking out with a helmet.
While on the road, he's also promoting alternative sources of transportation, like cycling.
McKeever will be the only person cycling the entire 3,400 miles. His friends will be following close behind in a biodiesel-fueled bus. The bus will run completely on vegetable oil, and it, complete with bunkbeds, will serve as the team's home away from home on the road.
"And we're looking for donations of things like vegetable oil to run the bus," friend and copilot Josh McCauley said.
McKeever is excited, both about honoring the memory of his friend, and embarking on something even tragedy can't ruin: Cycling.
"When I'm on a bike, just being able to be outside ... it's just my own place to escape and free my mind," he said. "Since Garrett, I'm more aware of what's going on around me. I try to stay as far right to the road as possible and always look over my shoulder."
The bike and bus head out June 19. For more information, ways to donate, or to contact McKeever about a parking lot the bus could stay at overnight on its journey, visit http://www.thelittlewondersproject.com.