On Thursday, June 26, 2013 this world lost a wonderful child. Tim Jenks was 13 years old when his life got cut tragically short during a triathlon training accident. A random accident; 30 seconds before or 30 seconds later, Tim would still be alive.
Thursday, Tim was riding in a group of 8 cyclists, both professional and youth, training for a triathlon and working on safe passing maneuvers. The road they were traveling on, 580th in Story County, which is a very common road that cyclists train on, and is a road that is very well known in the cycling community. While Tim was practicing the passing maneuver, he apparently touched a tire in front of him which caused him to go off balance. Those who were in the group thought that Tim may have overcorrected and veered in to the other lane. At the same time an SUV was passing the group from behind, in a no passing zone. The vehicle tried to swerve, but was unsuccessful and hit Tim. Tim was pronounced dead at the scene. His father and twin sister were among those who were riding in the group. Tim was wearing a bicycle helmet.
This story was all over the local news channels and papers, and everyone seems to be putting their 2 cents in about bicycle safety and this accident. Where most comments are supportive and positive, there are a few who are extremely negative and don’t understand the concept of triathlon and competitive cycling training.
Triathlon training, like any other sport, has its specific training regimen. For the swimming part of the triathlon, athletes train in both pools and lakes/open water. Where practicing in a pool can give the athlete a specific training, so can lake/open water. The mechanics behind each type of water swimming is different, hence the two different bodies of water. The same goes for the running portion of the triathlon. Where the track can be utilized for specific types of running training, so can road running, and cross country running courses. The cycling portion of triathlon training is a unique challenge. For a triathlon race, the swimming portion usually takes place in open water, such as a lake, and the running and cycling take place on the road. In order to become better at a sport, the athlete needs to train in or on the medium they are playing on or racing in/on. This is where road cycling/training comes into play. Triathletes, just like any other athlete, needs to train in and on the medium they race on. The cycling portion of a triathlon doesn’t take place on a bike path; it takes place on a road, so the athlete needs to train on the road. Cyclists also train in groups; they focus on the many aspects of safe riding and passing techniques that need to be trained so that the risk for injury can be decreased. Unfortunately, accidents happen. Athletes in training don’t go out for their workout saying, “I’m not coming home today…”
Athletes who have to train on the road, be it cycling or running, not only have to pay attention to what they are doing, but also pay attention to the drivers of motor vehicles. Today, there are so many distractions when driving that it’s a wonder that there aren’t more crashes. People forget how dangerous driving truly is. People forget that an automobile is a WEAPON and it CAN KILL. People forget that driving is a privilege, not a right. People get too impatient when driving, they ignore the traffic laws, they ignore the traffic signs…they ignore the solid, double yellow lines on the road. Granted, not all cyclists should be on the road. There are many bike paths that can be, and should be utilized by recreational cyclists. Those cyclists who choose to ride on the road also need to obey traffic laws; and most do. However, there are those out there who don’t, and a few bad apples shouldn’t have to spoil the bunch.
While there will always be a debate on whether or not cyclists belong on the road where cars drive, and as long as there is competitive cycling, bicycles will be on the road. The concept of SHARE THE ROAD really isn’t a difficult one, nor should it be. Perhaps if we are to all slow down, pay more attention, accept that cyclists will be in the road, accept the reality of it, and SHARE THE ROAD, maybe we can reduce the incidence of tragedy, and young, promising athletes like Tim Jenks would still be alive today.
You will be missed by many Tim Jenks.