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Cyclist hit by car on Christmas Eve passes away, highlighting push for updated bike policy

Posted at 12:51 PM, Dec 31, 2019
and last updated 2020-01-03 11:35:52-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A cyclist who was hit by a car just before midnight on Christmas Eve died Monday, his friends told 41 Action News.

Police said a silver Buick was headed north on Southwest Trafficway and had a green light at Valentine Road.

Sanders rode from the east to the west through the intersection, police said.

Kansas City, Missouri, police said the driver tried to avoid the crash, but still struck the bicycle.

Sanders was in the intensive care unit at a local hospital with critical injuries until his death Monday.

His death is highlighting the continued push from the cycling community for a better bike policy in the city.

"The city put together a new bike plan in 2019 and it has sat on the shelf for over a year. In that time, 35 vulnerable road users have been hit, 13 of which have died," said Shawn Tolivar, a fellow cyclist.

The cycling community, pedestrian and biking advocates, and many others say enough is enough.

"I have been upset with lack of progress in the master bike plan in the city and watching friends die and other people in the city continue to die while no action is being taken," Tolivar said.

Tolivar had about 500 signatures on his online petition calling for the mayor and the city council to immediately act on a new bike policy as of Tuesday afternoon.

"That intersection is on two plans that are sitting in city hall right now," said Liz Harris with BikeWalkKC.

BikeWalkKC has pushed for more crosswalks, bike lanes, and longer cross times.

Since the city recently elected Mayor Quinton Lucas and a new council, the master bike plan remains on hold, and has not been seriously discussed in any council meeting.

Discussing priorities caused the hold-up. Some said the city didn't consider all voices when creating the new master bike plan, some said fighting crime should take precedence, and others said the city doesn't have the money.

Harris said they're all important priorities, but people dying in the streets, no matter how they're dying, deserves the city's attention.

"Transportation is connected to everything else," Harris said. "If you feel like your neighborhood is unsafe to walk or bike in, it's likely full of crime as well. If you can't afford to drive your car to work everyday then your housing is not affordable."

Lucas said pedestrian and bike safety is a priority for his office.

"It’s a travesty that this New Year’s Eve his family is grieving. We have the whole community of cyclists that are scared sometimes to come out here," Lucas said.

But Tolivar said they will continue to get on the streets and ride.

"We remember the fallen and we realize that everyday it could be us, and that’s why we’re out advocating for safer streets," Tolivar said.

Former policy director for BikeWalkKC and current city councilman Eric Bunch said Friday he plans to introduce a resolution calling for a Vision Zero Action Plan. Many cities have a Vision Zero Action Plan, which works to reduce the number of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities to zero.

Bunch said his resolution will call on the city manager to collect crash data and use it to draft a plan.

According to the GoFundMe page set up for funeral expenses and the financial support of his family, Sanders discovered his passion for cycling over the last decade, and “married his bikes, and has been keeping the rubber side down every day.”

Sanders frequented Midwest Cyclery and even sported the store’s logo in tattoo form on his leg.

The store’s owner, Christina Decker, said Sanders was “unbelievably happy, always smiling,” and had “a heart of gold.”

A memorial ride is planned on New Year's Day, starting at The Scout in Penn Valley Park, to Westport, and back to The Scout for a candlelight vigil. Anyone who doesn't wish to ride is asked to meet the group at The Scout at 5 p.m.

Lulu's Thai Noodle Shop is also hosting an event in remembrance of Sanders, who worked at the Westwood, Kansas, location.

"We are saddened by the loss of such a kind, gentle and positive soul," a Lulu's spokesperson said.

A flyer for the event reads "One of our own was struck while riding his bike. We all love Pablo, so on the 7th and 8th of January the proceeds from every Pad Thai with tofu, veggies or chicken will be donated to our dear friend."