Thousands of cyclist are arriving at the desert for the 21st annual Tour de Palm Springs, the event raises funds for local charities but the annual race is raising safety concerns after two visitor cyclists were hit by a car last year and left one of them dead.
Tim Esser is a founder of the charity event that began through his passion for cycling.
Esser said, “What started off as 300 bicycle riders, we know have between six and eight thousand, what started off with eight volunteers is now 1,500 volunteers to run this event.”
The “Tour de Palm Springs” grew well over the years, but a deadly accident in last year’s race has locals thinking about the cyclist’s safety.
Esser said, “All of the cities all the county and all of the state agencies get together and we all do what we can to do a very safe event.”
Unfortunately, all of the planning in the world could not predict a car crash that killed 49-year-old Mark Kristofferson and severely injured Alyson Akers of Huntington Beach.
The accident happened on a deserted stretch of Dillion Road near Indio Hills. The CHP said the driver, Ronnie Huerta Jr. of Desert Hot Springs was charged with vehicular manslaughter, highway patrol officers said Huerta was speeding upwards of 100 miles per hour and lost control of the car.
The Palm Springs Police Department Captain, Mike Kovaleff, said last year’s accident was avoidable, and he wants drivers to take extra time and give cyclists space.
Kovaleff said, “Last year’s tragedy could have been avoided by the driver but cyclists need to follow the rules of the road just as everybody else does.”
Kovaleff reminds cyclists to follow the rules of the road as well as drivers, in 2014 a woman was struck during the tour after cycling through a stop sign.
The bottom line from officials, the streets will be full of cyclists come Saturday morning with only helmets as their protection.
Esser said, “We have to drive defensively, when we get on a bicycle we know what we’re facing out there, you don’t have the protection that you have when you’re inside of a car.”
The Tour de Palm Springs begins February 9, at 6:30 AM in Downtown Palm Springs.