50 weeks ago I went to UAMC- Diamonds Children center to see Brendan Lyons after he was in a collision on his bike while riding his bike on East Sunrise. A few days later I orchestrated the media and a meeting in Brendan’s hospital room with Senator Steve Farley and Representative Ethan Orr to discuss laws for cyclist safety. As a result, we introduced 4 bills in the state legislature last year. Unfortunately, not even one made it out of committee. Brendan and I have spent hundreds of hours in the past year trying to find ways to make cycling safer. Yesterday, El Tour de Tucson announced that Brendan and his girlfriend, Lorena Evans, who was also in the collision, are the honoree for the 2014 El Tour De Tucson. Wednesday night, at 9:30 Brendan called me and told me that he had met with Office Art Gutierrez, who was struck from behind this week and at UAMC. After burning the midnight oil, Thursday morning, life came full circle and I found myself at UAMC with the media, Rep Orr, Senator Farley, Brendan and Lorena. This time in the hospital room we also had Pima County Sherriff Deputy Art Gutierrez, his daughter, Cynthia, girlfriend, Delia, as well as some of the Sherriff Department brass.
Brendan asked the Deputy if he would like his story shared. Like so many people who serve our country, Art was willing to put his personal suffering aside if it might help save someone else.
His daughter Cynthia and son Alex are also cyclist. They recently rode in El Tour De Mesa as a family and finished in about 3 and a half hours. Cynthia was the first member of the family to get into cycling 7 years ago. Art got on the bike because of her 5 years ago. She recalled with a smile that in the first El Tour she rode with her Dad that it took them 8 hours. In 2013 they had shaved over an hour and a half off that time. Alex got on the bike last year and this year they were expecting to be even faster. Delia also caught the bike fever and recently bought a bicycle.
The details of the accident are only too familiar. A driver came up behind the Deputy and struck his Bike from Behind. Statistically, this type of collision is the most common to result in a death. All things considered, it looks as if Deputy Gutierrez got off with only “minor” injuries ( If spending days in the hospital and not knowing when you will be released are minor) He has no recollection of the actual collision and woke up in the hospital.
The following is from the interviews Deputy Gutierrez:
Deputy Gutierrez, much like Brendan after his accident talked a lot about how safety is every ones responsibility. Both the cyclist and the motorist.
He said it was “surprising” waking up at UAMC, he had no clue what had happened.
He is “hurting, sore, his body hurts, feeling down, but feels fortunate that he is here. Fortunate to be alive. To know he will recover. Thankful for his family and his co-workers. “
He has no broken bones, but possibly had a small stroke that has led to a lack of feeling on the right side of his body. He has road rash all over his body.
When asked if he was going to get back on his bike he replied “as soon as I can, It is something I really enjoy, I want to go back”.
Asked about the accident and who was at fault and how the Sherriff Department would investigate he said that the Dept. will do a full investigation but that he has no recollection of what happened. A full investigation will be conducted to determine who was at fault. He stated again that sometimes it is the cyclist, but that the investigation will determine the fault.
The driver did stick around after the collision.
The collision was on Tanque Verde between Houghton and Tanque Verde Loop. He was on his way to ride up Mt. Lemmon to mile 4 or 5. He had only gone about 3 miles on his ride.
When asked about stricter laws for motorist he said “there is a lot of impatience with todays drivers and not just with cyclist but with pedestrians … and with social media, people distracted constantly talking on the phone, texting, doing whatever they do… I see it every day as a patrol officer, I see it every day, but I also see the bikes making the same mistakes being dangerous and the pedestrians J walking and can’t wait,… we need to be more patient. What the drivers need to understand is they are in a 4000 pound piece of moving machinery, if you hit a person they lose.”
He would like to see something done for the texting and the cell phone use for drivers. Personally he finds it annoying and sees it all the time. “Driving is a privilege, not a right.”
One thing that was very clear during the interview was how level headed and patient he is. He understands that the solution is patients and understanding with efforts from everyone who uses the roads. Perhaps if everyone can have a mindset like that, we could truly create an environment that is safer for everyone. I’m so thankful that Deputy Art Gutierrez will make a full recovery and hope his spirit and ideas will spread throughout the Pima County Sherriff Dept.