Crash survivor, victim's friend share heartbreaking El Tour stories

Published: Nov. 20, 2015 at 10:20 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 4:22 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - With 9,000 cyclists about to hit the road for El Tour de Tucson, most local drivers know to watch out for bikes on Saturday.

Yet cycling and walking around Tucson is becoming more dangerous on a daily basis.

Traffic collision deaths are up in every category compared to this time last year, which is why authorities and cyclist safety advocates want everyone to keep a few things in mind before the ride.

First and foremost, please keep your eyes on the road at all times, authorities said. Not on your smart phone, your radio or your kids in the backseat.

Law enforcement separates traffic from the ride itself, but with the large number of cyclists participating Saturday, officials can't stress safety enough.

No one knows this more than Aimee Watson and Brendan Lyons.

Watson was with her friend John Henderson two years ago when he was struck and killed by a motorist during El Tour de Tucson.

Lyons, a firefighter by trade and executive director for "LOOK! Save a Life," nearly died himself when he was hit from behind by a distracted driver while training for El Tour de Tucson back in 2013.

"People are in a rush, they don't want to wait, but waiting two minutes for someone's life," Watson said, tears in her eyes. "It could be your friend or a family member or a relative…please just try and be patient."

"The average distraction behind the wheel for any motorist is three to five seconds when you're traveling speeds of 45 to 55 mph," Lyons said, pointing at the mangled road bike he was riding when he was hit. "That is the equivalent of traveling the length of a football field or one and half times a football field, blindfolded."

When John Henderson was killed two years ago, he and Watson were just 10 miles from completing El Tour de Tucson.

Needless to say, Watson didn't finish the ride that day either.

Last year, she finished the 104-mile ride in her friend's memory.

Saturday she's doing it again, this time with her husband.

He is not an avid cyclist, but chose to take part in El Tour de Tucson to support his wife and their late friend, John Henderson.

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