by Ron Cunningham, Executive Director of Bike Florida
Following a year-long campaign, Bike Florida, a non-profit 501c3 corporation, announced that it has raised just over $13,000 to restore and enhance six sculptures erected on Gainesville’s Depot Avenue in memory of a group of cyclists who were struck down by a distracted driver on the day after Christmas in 1996 as they were riding from Gainesville to St. Augustine.
Two of those cyclists, Margaret Raynal and Doug Hill, were killed. The other four Lauri Triulzi, Jessica Green, Eric Finnan and Charles Hinson were severely injured.
The sculptures, erected by friends and supporters of the cyclists in 1997, consist of six “rammed earth” structures embedded with bicycle parts salvaged from the accident scene in Clay County. The original information kiosk explaining the story of the sculptures has been removed and some restoration work is needed. In addition to new signage, funding will go toward landscaping, amenities such as a bench and water cooler, and an educational “call to action” exhibit intended to promote the Share The Road message.
“While the sculptures remain in relatively good condition, the two that represent the killed cyclists, need to be elevated 2 feet to restore their full dimensions. Their concrete foundations will facilitate the excavation and lifting procedure. This will preserve the integrity of the rammed earth for years to come as well as reveal the 40 percent of the sculptures buried by the new grade of the depot.” said Eric Amundson, the artist who created the sculptures.
The sculpture restoration will be incorporated into the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency’s plans for the adjoining Depot Park—a 32-acre community park planned to open in 2016. All improvements will be undertaken in collaboration with the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency, which has been a strong partner in Bike Florida’s restoration campaign.
“The cyclist memorials were built to heal our community and seek positive action from a tragic event. We hope the sculptures will resonate with all who visit Depot Park and positively influence people’s actions even beyond the park’s boundaries,” said Diane Gilreath, project manager for the Gainesville CRA.
“At the beginning of 2014 Bike Florida decided to dedicate its 20th anniversary year to the sculpture restoration project,” said Ron Cunningham, Executive Director of Bike Florida. “Our intention was not only to make sure that what happened to these cyclists would not be forgotten, but also to continue to spread the word about the need for motorists and cyclists alike to respect each others’ rights and to ‘Share The Road’ safely.”
As tragic and senseless as this accident was, public reaction to it mobilized the cycling community and ultimately resulted in some positive and long-ranging benefits for Florida cycling.
“Creating the rammed earthen memorials gave a physical ‘release’ to many who knew and loved Margaret and Doug,” said Linda Crider, a founder of Bike Florida who helped create the sculptures. “Out of the grieving process came passion toward many things that these cyclists stood for, including the resurrection of the Florida Bicycle Association as a strong voice for cyclists rights, the passing of legislation creating the “Share the Road” license plate as a fundraiser for bicycle/motorist safety education, and the state of Florida pilot project for Safe Ways to School.”
Consequently, said Cunningham, “These six sculptures are, in a very real sense, a Share The Road Memorial for all of Florida.”
Over the course of 2014, Bike Florida raised $12,711 in donations through silent auctions, raffles, a direct mail campaign and the sale of Share The Road Celebration of Cycling tee-shirts and other merchandise. In addition, at its Dec. 7 meeting, Bike Florida’s Board of Directors voted to donate $5,000 to the project. This donation not only covered all of the administrative, overhead and promotional costs incurred by Bike Florida in conducting the fundraising campaign, but boosted the total amount available for restoration to $13,276.
“Our Board of Directors decided that Bike Florida would absorb all costs associated with raising these funds,” Cunningham said. “Every dollar donated by individuals, bicycle clubs and other organizations will go directly to the restoration project.”
With the conclusion of the fundraising campaign, Bike Florida, Crider, Amundson and other stakeholders will work with the Gainesville CRA on the specifics of the sculptures’ restoration and enhancement project.
“We want the Share The Road Memorial to complement and be compatible with Gainesville’s comprehensive plan for development of the Depot Avenue Park,” Cunningham said. “The result should be a memorial that all cyclists and all of Gainesville can be proud of.”