By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — David Ryan planned to quit bicycle racing. He said the aggressive masses at the finish line were too unpredictable, and worried he might fall and hurt himself.
Two days later, a speeding motorist crashed into the bike he was riding on Riverview Road in Rexford, flung him into the air, and killed him.
“No rider I ever rode with was safer than him,” Ryan’s longtime friend, Walter Chicha, said. “He taught me a whole bunch about safe riding. He really convinced me that you have to follow the rules of the road and respect the cars.”
Ryan and Chicha often rode together, and even cycled through eastern Europe in 2003 with another friend, Bob Preville. The group trekked on two wheels through Austria and the Czech Republic. Chicha even met his wife during the voyage.
Now, Chicha and Preville work together each year to guide local cyclists on a ride to commemorate Ryan’s passing.
Dave Kraus, who also helps to organize the ride each year, never met its namesake. But he said the cyclist’s death affected him profoundly. Kraus said the route Ryan was riding when he was struck, locally known as the River Loop, was one of his favorites.
“I could ride that route in my sleep, I’ve done it so many times,” said Kraus. This wreck happened in the evening, on June 29, in the middle of the summer, and that’s exactly the time that I would be riding this loop.
“When I saw where it happened to him and how it happened, my first thought was, ‘Wow, that could’ve easily been me,’” Kraus said. “David Ryan’s death was a sea change for me in my riding habits, where I truly realized that anything can happen at any time.”
“The overwhelming message we want to have for this event is: if you’re a driver and you make one miscalculation, it could end up in a dented fender for you and a broken neck for us as cyclists,” Krause continued. “Just take your foot off the gas and wait five seconds until you get around the curve or over the hill and be sure you can pass us safely. That’s all. Is the life of somebody really worth five seconds on your way to the grocery store?”
TO ATTEND THE 10th ANNUAL DAVID T RYAN MEMORIAL BIKE RIDE:
Meet at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 29th at the east end of the Shop-Rite Plaza parking lot on Nott St. East. The group will ride to the bike trail, over the Rexford Bridge, and visit the site where David Ryan was killed. Families and those uncomfortable with road riding will be offered an alternate route. There is no registration fee, but helmets are mandatory. The ride is sponsored by the Mohawk Hudson Cycling Club.
Walter Chicha won’t be at the memorial ride. He’ll celebrate his memories of David Ryan differently.
“I’m just very happy that this is going on, I’m very unhappy that I won’t be there,” Chicha said. “On the 29th of June I’ll be sitting with my wife at the same place where I met her with Dave in 2003 in the Czech Republic.”
But he knows the ride will be a success in his absence, both as a memorial to Ryan and as a tool to raise community awareness.
“I hope it brings a lot of people,” Chicha said. David is definitely worth it.”