There are times when the challenge of riding a bicycle does not compare to the challenge of getting back on a bicycle after a bone shattering crash. In this specific collision, Greg Johnson suffered 21 broken bones- including a broken pelvis, three broken vertebrae and a femur that needed to be restored into one bone from forty separate pieces. Greg was wearing a MIPS helmet when he was car-crushed and that may have saved his life.
Greg Johnson, 64, is no ordinary cyclist. The above picture is from the parking lot just below the top of Mount Evans. Greg participated in the Bob Cook Memorial Hill Climb that starts in Idaho Springs and climbs 7000 feet in 26 plus miles to the parking lot just below the summit of 14,000+ foot Mount Evans. Greg rode this distance and elevation in about 2:30- 2:45. If you are checking, that is just about 11 miles an hour on a bicycle for that distance and time- gaining about a mile and a half of elevation in the process. Greg did not accomplish this without a lot of miles and hours on the bike and a tremendous amount of determination.
He grew up in Lakewood and Wheatridge- mounting his first 12 speed as a ten year old. Later he graduated from CU in Aerospace Engineering. Working for the FAA in his field, he and his family moved around, living in California, Georgia and Minnesota before ending up in his home state of Colorado- where he could cycle consistently- about 15 years ago. About three or four times a week for ten years he would bicycle commute to DIA- on carbide-studded bicycle snow tires if necessary. He rode about thirty miles each way, only backing off if the thermometer dipped below minus ten degrees Fahrenheit. Before the crash, Greg had already had a hip replacement and had cycled up Golden Gate Canyon to test it out.
Fortunately for Greg, Bob Shaver was close to the incident that morning and rendered Greg some wise compassion. Bob protected Greg from car traffic and made sure that the concussed cyclist was not moved before the medical help arrived. Greg was so seriously injured that he might have died if he had been moved improperly.
Greg is now ahead of normal on his recovery, but he still has a long way to go. The first estimate from the doctors was the he would never cycle again. More recent estimates are that he has 20 months before he will be able to consider getting back on the bike. The rods in his spine stretch across seven vertebrae. The unbelievable observation that I had during our conversation was that Greg never complained one time. His body is badly broken but his attitude is very solid and positive.
The challenge to cyclists in this case going forward is stiffer than that of any race. If you are riding down Lookout Mountain, DO NOT PASS DESCENDING CARS- NO MATTER HOW FAST OR SLOW THEY MAY BE DRIVING, as some arrogant descending cyclists did this morning. You may not be the recipient of a reactionary driver’s rage, but another cyclist may eventually be that recipient. Take Greg’s unfortunate example and use it to consider the difference in the navigating weight and power between that of a person on bicycle and that of a person behind the wheel of a car. Do not contribute to ANYONE being injured…….or being, in the worst case, dead right, as Greg almost certainly was. We rely on car drivers being good decision makers. Contribute to their calmness and wise decision making by being extra calm and making even better conservative traffic decisions yourself. PERIOD.