I’m very unhappy this morning to report the death of bicycle advocate, newspaperman and fellow bike blogger Roger Kramer of Belleville, Illinois.
The Belleville News-Democrat, where he worked for 20 years as a design editor and copy editor, reports that he died of natural causes at his home on Saturday. He was 51.
I knew Roger from his Roger Kramer Cycling blog, which was up-and-running long before I launched Biking Bis in 2005. He kept local readers abreast of upcoming rides in the southern Illinois area, as well as putting a local spin on many national bicycle advocacy issues.
Cyclists in southern Illinois also knew him as an active member of the Belleville Area Bicycling and Eating Society and co-founder of two popular bike rides — the Tour de Stooges and Tour de Donut.
The former reflected his love for the Three Stooges. The latter was described as one of Roger’s more “deviant” ideas by the Belleville News-Democrat. Participants would be timed over the length of the course, with 5 minutes subtracted for every doughnut consumed. He won the event one year.
Club members vowed to keep these bike rides alive.
Roger bicycled throughout the Midwest and Canada as a participant in week-long mass bike rides. Some of these rides — such as the Bicycle Across the Magnificent Miles of Illinois in the mid-1980s — date back to a time before anyone ever heard of Lance Armstrong.
I exchanged emails a few times with Roger but never got to meet him in person or ride a bike with him. I’ll bet the miles flew by with Roger, not because of the speed but because of the conversation.
Visitation is 4pm-7pm today (Tuesday November 6, 2012 ) at Targhetta & Wooldridge Funeral Home in Brighton. A prayer service will be held at 5 pm. Services are at 10am Wednesday, November 7, 2012.
The Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation (BikeMoFed) posted Roger’s description of the Tour de Donut ride that he won in 1995.
Here’s what Roger said about his philosophy of bicycling:
The short version of my philosophy of cycling is this: I will continue to ride my bicycle as long as it remains fun. When it isn’t fun anymore, then I will stop.
Of course, there’s a long version, and I’m going to share that with you.
Life on the road
When I started cycling seriously about 15 years ago, the only real option for we Midwesterners was road riding. Even though I now own a mountain bike, the vast majority of my rides are on a road bike.
I realize a lot of people don’t feel safe on the roads, and a lot of roads in metropolitan areas like St. Louis aren’t safe for cars, let alone bikes. The advent of the Katy Trail and other trails in the St. Louis metropolitan area have allowed people to take up cycling and avoid the roads.
But I believe those people are missing out on something special. I can honestly say that in my multiday trips and my routine daily rides in Illinois and North Carolina, I have had few problems with motorists. I am convinced the big reason for that is because I make every effort to obey bicycling laws.
In my neck of the woods, we have had a controversy regarding group rides in a rural Illinois county on the edge of the St. Louis metropolitan area. While I do believe some of the residents have overreacted to the problem, I am convinced we cyclists have contributed to the problem by not obeying traffic laws. Illinois law, for example, requires cyclists to ride no more than two abreast, unless there is traffic, then we are required under law to ride single file. Yet, many cyclists disobey the law, hold up traffic and put themselves in danger of being hit by another car.
As a leader of an organized ride in the St. Louis area, the Tour de Stooges, I make of a point of explaining key Illinois cycling laws. Not every ride leader in the St. Louis area does that, and I think they should. A little bit of education would do a whole lot to improve the relationship between cyclists and motorists.
Of course, we also need to do a better job of teaching motorists that we have a legal right to be on the road.
Give back to the sport
Cycling has given me many hours of fun, relaxation and enjoyment. Because of that, I’m obligated to give something back.
This is part of the reason why I have created this site. I want to educate people about the joys of long-distance cycling, and I want to help people make an educated decision about what rides are best for them.
This is also part of the reason why I lead the Tour de Stooges and lead an occasional weekly ride for the Belleville Area Bicycling and Eating Society.
I’m not calling on you to take on a ride the size of the Tour de Stooges or something major like RAGBRAI, but I hope you’ll do something. Joining your local bike club is a good first step. You may want to build on that by joining a national organization like the League of American Bicyclists and Hostelling International, both of which promote bicycling.
If you’re willing to go farther, you can volunteer to do registration or some other duty on your club’s big rides for the years. A lot of groups will let you ride for free or give you a T-shirt for your efforts. As you learn about how much is involved in running a big ride, perhaps you will find the calling to run a big ride. If you do, I wish you luck and commend you for your effort!