El Tour de Tucson bicycle ride gears up for Nov. 20: Route map, safety tips, and $3.5 million brain injury lawsuit settlement – UPDATE with more info

Bicycles in the annual El Tour de Tucson will be streaming through the streets Nov. 20 – hopefully this year without any life-threatening brain injuries or a $3.5 million lawsuit.

Gary Stuebe, of Surprise, was the recipient of both the 2008 brain injury and the recent lawsuit settlement, according to Fox11AZ.

Crash damage to car in 2008 El Tour/Tucson Citizen file photo

The latter came from suing Pima County and the El Tour organizers. The former came from a 91-year-old driver who turned in front of a stream of about 60 bicyclists on West Ina Road during El Tour two years ago, causing 10 of them to smash into his vehicle and tumble from their cycles, notes a past Tucson Citizen article.

Stuebe, 41 at the time, was the most seriously injured of the pack. He was taken to a Phoenix hospital’s neurological institute in critical condition and spent three months in a coma.

Kind of puts a damper on the ride.

The 91-year-old driver was later identified as William Arthur Wilson, one of the guys who worked on the country’s first atomic bomb that was eventually dropped on Hiroshima during World War II.

Wilson’s scientific mind must have been a bit rusty on that particular day, as he reportedly got out of his vehicle, looked at the damage to his car and the cyclists sprawled on the street – then hopped back into his vehicle and drove away.

Awarding the $3.5 million settlement must have been a fairly easy decision.

Stuebe, who amassed at least $1.5 million in medical bills for multiple brain surgeries following the crash, was declared by the court to be mentally incompetent due to his brain injuries, a report on Tucson Bike Lawyer says. His wife acts as his legal guardian.

Atomic-bomb-maker Wilson got a much less severe sentence. He didn’t get any jail time for the crime of leaving the scene of an accident. He was instead sentenced in 2009 to three years probation and loss of his driving privileges. Wilson also must stay in a Georgia assisted living center, far from the heart of Tucson and the El Tour route.

Bicyclists – and motorists – preparing for this year’s ride may want to keep the Stuebe story in mind and note a few other points brought to us by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.

El Tour de Tucson 2007 winner Carlos Hernandez of Hermosillo, Mexico/Tucson Citizen file photo

About 9,000 cyclists are expected to show up for this year’s 28th annual event, which begins at 7 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m. Nov. 20 at West Church and East Pennington streets.

Expect delays.

The route makes a counterclockwise loop around Pima County, with intersections being shut down by uniformed law enforcement throughout the day as bicyclists pass through.

Expect delays.

Use caution at all intersections that day, the sheriff’s department says, while we say perhaps give your vehicle a rest altogether.

Go for a walk instead. Perhaps it would be a good idea to ban driving on El Tour day, or at least the El Tour route, altogether.

With no motorists on the road, the bicyclists are apt to be safer and less likely to be injured or go through what Stuebe had to suffer.

[tnipoll]

El Tour de Tucson route map 2010:

El Tour de Tucson route map 2010/Pima County Sheriff's Department CLICK ON MAP for larger image

UPDATE:

Gary Stuebe’s lawyer, Stephen Leshner, sent an e-mail noting he has a more comprehensive write-up on the crash and subsequent lawsuit at http://www.aztrialblog.com/tp-101022105841.shtml

Leshner says Stuebe was in a coma for 40 days, not three months, as reported from other sources.

Other interesting info includes:
Settlement with driver was made out of court for undisclosed amount, based on driver’s part in the crash.
The $3.5 million from county and organizers “is to be paid entirely from insurance benefits purchased by the El Tour organizers and Pima County; no taxpayer funds were involved.”
Stuebe’s wife, Angela, happens to be a neurosurgical nurse at the Barrow Neurological Institute, where Stuebe was treated.

The update on Stuebe’s condition is also promising:

“Gary is now living at home with Angela and his children. He is looking forward to returning to work. He has been able to return to the gym and start working out in the hope of regaining the top physical condition he was in at the time of the collision. While Gary has many challenges ahead because of his injuries, due to the settlements, Gary’s financial future is secure. Gary and Angela are truly remarkable people, and faced this tragedy with grace and determination. I’m proud to have been their lawyer, and I will always be their friend.”

What do you think?

Should Mr. Atomic bomb have gotten a harsher sentence?

Should driving be banned altogether for El Tour?

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About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at ryngargulinski.com.
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22 Responses to El Tour de Tucson bicycle ride gears up for Nov. 20: Route map, safety tips, and $3.5 million brain injury lawsuit settlement – UPDATE with more info

  1. Carolyn Classen says:

    Thanks Ryn for writing about El Tour on Nov. 20, as I was going to.  I usually volunteer at the El Tour Bike, Fitness & Health Expo a few days before the ride at TCC.  That was a very unfortunate bicycle/car accident, especially for the injured bicyclists and Gary Stuebe.  For more info about the 28th El Tour de Tucson:  http://www.perimeterbicycling.com.

  2. I don’t think closing all traffic on the route would work, but it should be better monitored. Police escort ahead and behind the cyclists maybe? Frankly the ridiculously long period on the driving licenses here are part of the problem. I think everyone should have to take the test again every 5-10 years to make sure they haven’t developed bad habits or have gotten to the point where they shouldn’t be behind the wheel.

    • Rynski says:

      hey jennifer,
      do like your idea of increased monitoring – very good idea – keep everyone in check. also agree the driver license expiration round these parts is ridiculously long. not only do people’s health, habits and even appearance often change drastically in such a lengthy amount of time, but they could forget the simple rules of the road.
      i see an example of not knowing the rules every time i approach a four way stop sign. it confuses the heck out of most motorists – hahahha. review is def. necessary.
      thanks for comment.

  3. andrew farley says:

    What? The route isn’t going over Gates Pass? For the last year every tuesday morning Gates Pass has been flooded with colorful wingless wasps in jester suits shaking their two-wheeled butts in my windshield and now all the training to go over the mountain isn’t in the circus route?

    • Rynski says:

      hahahhahha! what a poetic description you weave – hahahahhaha. maybe they have enough of gates pass fun and games after all those tuesdays with ya. hahahhaha.

  4. Alan in Kent WA says:

    I know several people participating.  I prefered to ride the back alleys of Tucson as they are more interesting.  Plus, I didn’t have to worry about getting there faster that the other.  One time an elderly person turned right in front of me (can’t remember the intersection) which as I was carrying several gallons of paint, led to a new interior color for my Pinto Runabout! 

    • Rynski says:

      hiya alan in kent, wa –
      i find back alleys of any place the most interesting haunts! hahhahaha.
      eek! on the interior paint job for your pinto runabout. do hope no one was hurt – and it was at least a color you could live with.
       

  5. dollarshort says:

    I think this is a great event!
    However, almost every day I observe drivers almost taking out bicycles and I have no rational answer to why or the great issue of how to get people to refocus back on driving and sharing the road.

    • Rynski says:

      hey dollarshort,
      i’m with you on both counts – it IS a great event and yes, i’ve also seen drivers and bicyclists constantly butting horns, so to speak. don’t think there’s a rational answer for much of tucson’s driving habits – hahahah.

  6. Jolene says:

    Hi there!  I am a cyclist and this will be my 15th ETT. As sad as I feel for Mr. Stube – the reality is had this happened to him and he not been in El Tour at the time – he would not have been able to sue everyone.  I believe you need to take responsibility for yourself if you ride – you can’t put your nose to the wheel and expect veryone to look out for you.  I disagree with his lawsuit.  It was the driver’s fault and Mr. Stube’s fault for not being more aware of his surroundings.  I know it sounds harsh – but because of lawsuits like this and blaming everyone to put money in his pocket – the rest of us will pay indirectly.  I don’t think a ban of drivers is the answer – but definately simply shutting down roads to block traffic would help more.  That and stopping all these money hungry lawsuits.

    • Rynski says:

      hey jolene,
      thanks for input – and good luck on your 15th el tour! great to get feedback from a rider, although i’m still siding with the lawsuit in this one.
      i do agree, however, with the general stupidity of MANY lawsuit – like one not too long ago from a manager of mcdonald’s in brazil who sued the restaurant chain for making him fat.
      happy – and safe – riding!

  7. Mia Larocque says:

    Closing off roadways during the El Tour de Tucson restricts some individuals from getting to work, at least on Speedway, east of Freeman.  I am certain there are other areas along the “Tour” that would also be affected in this manner.  Although this competition is a great economic event for Tucson, it shouldn’t interfere with the livelihood of others.  By leaving one lane open and traffic controlled by pilot vehicles, people should be able to reach their destinations.

  8. Mia Larocque says:

    I drive daily on Old Spanish Trail and watch the cyclist in horror.  I have been a motorcycle rider for over 20 yrs.  The first thing I was taught was “a car NEVER sees you”.  You should expect the vehicle to do the unexpected and be prepared.  If the roadway doesn’t accomodate riding safely two-abreast, don’t do it.  Yet everyday I have been forced to make the decision to cross the double yellow line, thereby breaking the law, to avoid a cyclist and put myself at risk of a headon collision.  One of these days the cyclist will get hit.  The bike lane was created for traffic to share the road with bicycles.  It was not intended for cyclist to interfere with the flow of traffic.  Furthermore, I have been subject to rude gestures and foul language from the cyclist at intersections for my failure to more over for them.  I pay taxes for this roadway.  I am licensed to drive and carry insurance.  These cyclist have none of these requirements.  Maybe it’s time this changed.

  9. Jim Transue says:

    I too have been riding a motorcycle for quite a few years. Since 1966 to be exact. I agree that bicycle riders have a certain right to their part of the road. But, I have yet to talk to anyone that has issues with every one of them.
    They ride like the road belongs to them and drivers need to be very aware of them. They show little or no courtesy to licensed drivers who have paid their dues and taken  various education and safety classes for insurance and licencing reasons.
    The riders on bicycles are just two wheeled menaces.  Riding two and three abreast. Even one TV commercial shows them riding  incorrectly, into a curve and using the majority of the road as they race downhill.
    Everyone I know agrees with Mia that they need to abide by the rules of the road and if they don’t, they need to be ticketed. They certainly need to take a safety course and be licensed and insured. I hear of the two wheeled menaces getting hit all the time and every one that is interviewed says they were very safe and courteous riders. I have yet to see the people like that.
    As I approach them I honk, in both my car and on my motorcycle for fear they will pull out into my lane as I pass. I get gestures and rude comments for trying to be safe.

    • Rynski says:

      thanks for input, jim – i’ll bet the cyclists just LOVE your honking – hahahha – but i’ll also agree that’s better than someone getting hit.
      i’ve seen both courteous and discourteous bicyclists, just as i’ve seen courteous and discourteous drivers. sad fact is, i’ve seen way more on the discourteous side of both.
      p.s. and i did see a tucson police car actually CHASE a bicyclists down grant one day – not sure what the cyclist may have done to get a cop after him, but he was riding on the sidewalk trying to get away…

  10. S Kelley says:

    If the route is closed, I will be totally cut off  since I live outside the defined area.  I wouldn’t be able to get to shopping anywhere or access any freeways. Does this make sense? I already try not to drive on the day because of the great inconvenience. I guess this would not matter much to all the people who live within the perimeter.

  11. fraser007 says:

    I saw on the news this morning that the crews were out to “repair the road” where the bike race will be held. HOW about fixing it for the taxpayers who use it every day??

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