Finish the Ride: Turning Tragedy into Triumph

Finish the Ride group photo“Turning tragedy into triumph” may sound a bit corny. It’s the stuff of self-help: the philosophy that synthesizes spirituality and psychology ostensibly to motivate. But self-help is not about action; inaction fuels the prolific generation of books, seminars and slogans. That’s what makes Damian Kevitt’s Finish the Ride campaign actually uplifting. It’s not just talk; he’s turned his debilitating hit-and-run crash into a movement to highlight the problem.

We’d heard of the Finish the Ride campaign [flyer] well before we met the man. The story is indeed memorable: an everyday rider out on a local ride with his wife is struck, dragged onto the freeway, and subsequently left to die by a fleeting motorist. One year later he’s been fitted with a prosthetic leg; he’s completed physical therapy; and has organized is ready to climb back into the saddle to – what else – “finish the ride.”

There was no way that I was going to have that accident and not get back on my bicycle. – Damian Kevitt

We may have heard about the campaign, but we were unprepared to meet the man himself. On March 4th a few of us were waiting with bicycle helmets in hand to depart for City Hall. That day, Beverly Hills City Council would meet to consider adding bicycle lanes to Santa Monica Boulevard. He strode up to our table with a big smile and a stack of flyers. “I’m Damian Kevitt, with Finish the Ride.” We thought for a moment: where did we hear that name? Just as the bell rang we looked down to his calf and saw one very high-tech prosthesis. “Of course! Welcome to Beverly Hills!”

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Damian Kevitt in rehab: getting back to basics!

In our book, you are royalty if you not only survive a near-fatal hit-and-run, but then go on to work tirelessly to put an end the epidemic. Indeed there seems no end to the road-borne carnage in Southern California (as Ted Rogers documents daily on BikingInLA).

Looking back, we should have at least bought him a cup of coffee! Because here’s a guy who came to our town on his mission to improve rider safety. In the next few hours, by contrast, Beverly Hills councilmembers would brush aside rider safety and opt not to include bicycle lanes on tomorrow’s Santa Monica corridor (despite overwhelming public support). Safe transit is simply not on the Beverly Hills City Council’s agenda.

The irony that sticks with us is that Damian’s one-man campaign would turn the tragedy of hit-and-run into triumph for all riders while our cowardly councimembers dismiss our safety from the comfort of plush chairs. When they hit the boulevard, of course, they are protected by big sedans. Why worry?

Beverly Hills City Council may have given us little to cheer, but we can celebrate Damian and the Challenged Athletes Foundation by joining his Sunday morning Griffith Park ride on April 27th. Co-sponsored by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, the event features three rides (6, 12 and 23-miles) for all skill levels. Download the flyer and come prepared to celebrate!

You can also do your part by making a donation or volunteering or even sponsoring the event. And of course spread the word! And keep up with Damian via Twitter or Facebook. We’ll see you there!Damian Kevitt triumphs!