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Sunday, August 14, 2022

Local biking community to restore Depot Ave memorial in honor of fallen cyclists

<p>One of the six sculptures containing bicycle remains that line Depot Avenue as seen on Wednesday afternoon. The sculptures are in remembrance of a fatal 1996 collision that left two dead.</p>

One of the six sculptures containing bicycle remains that line Depot Avenue as seen on Wednesday afternoon. The sculptures are in remembrance of a fatal 1996 collision that left two dead.

Six chunks of rock rise from the ground on Southeast Depot Avenue near the Rail-Trail Bike Path, each embedded with the remains of six smashed bicycles involved in a fatal accident almost two decades ago.

A few slumped signs stick out of the ground and a banner with “Fallen Cyclists Memorial” written on it hangs from a fence in the background. But with the informational kiosk gone, the sculptures’ meaning is all but lost to those unaware of their history.

Bike Florida, a nonprofit founded to promote statewide bicycle tourism and safety, dedicated its 20th anniversary to restoring the Share The Road Memorial. The organization is working with the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency to enhance the sculptures, give them appropriate signage and install a water fountain for cyclists.

Ron Cunningham, executive director at Bike Florida, was riding his bike on the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail when he ran into Eric Amundson, one of the artists who created the sculptures.

“He was concerned that there was some detriment there, that the original kiosk that was there to tell people about what it was 

There was really no way for anyone to know what those sculptures were doing there.”

The sculptures honor six cyclists who were riding from Gainesville to St. Augustine when a distracted driver struck them in 1996. Two cyclists, Margaret Raynal and Doug Hill, did not survive. The other four, Lauri Triulzi, Jessica Green, Eric Finnan and Charles Hinson, were severely injured.

The cyclists were well-known throughout the Florida cycling community, and the incident evoked a powerful reaction from the public.

“It was a real process for the Gainesville cycling community to construct those and deal with their grieving and sadness and anger,” said Linda Crider, a Bike Florida founder and friend of Raynal.

The accident led to positive efforts in the biking community, Cunningham said, including the reinstatement of the Florida Bicycle Association, an advocate for cyclists’ rights, and a campaign for Share The Road specialty license plates.

Through raffles, silent auctions, a direct mail campaign, the annual Share The Road celebration and a $5,000 donation from its board of directors, Bike Florida was able to reach its $13,000 goal, Cunningham said.

The project will go hand-in-hand with the Gainesville CRA’s multimillion-dollar redevelopment project for the surrounding area known as Depot Park. Completion is projected for 2016, Cunningham said.

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“The story needs to be told because it’s personal, but it’s also far-reaching,” said Diane Gilreath, Gainesville CRA manager. 

The goal, she said, is to respark that story in the community.

[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 2/6/2015 under the headline “Local biking community to restore Depot Ave memorial"]

One of the six sculptures containing bicycle remains that line Depot Avenue as seen on Wednesday afternoon. The sculptures are in remembrance of a fatal 1996 collision that left two dead.

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