If you were living in Kalamazoo seven years ago, then you probably know the story - Five Cyclists Killed when an inebriated driver drove into them in Cooper Township.

It was a tragedy that rocked Kalamazoo and the Cooper Township, and the story resonated across the country. It got so big, that even professional cyclist Lance Armstrong offered his condolences, AND came to Kalamazoo to help "finish the ride."

WKMI logo
Get our free mobile app

The 2016 Kalamazoo Bicycle Crash

On June 7th, a social group of cyclists called the "Chain Gang" were out on an evening ride together, one they had done dozens of times before, when tragedy struck.

A man from Battle Creek, Charles Pickett Jr., had already been reported by witnesses as driving erratically in Cooper Township. Thirty minutes after the initial call, the unthinkable happened - Pickett drove straight into the group of 9 riders, injuring four of them, and killing five.

He was arrested shortly after the incident, and in May of 2018, was found guilty of Second-Degree Murder while under the influence of methamphetamine.He is serving between 40 and 75 years in prison.

The five riders killed, Debra Ann Bradley, Melissa Ann Fevig Hughes, Fred Anton "Tony" Nelson, Lorenz John "Larry" Paulik, and Suzanne Joan Sippel, were memorialized with an installment at Markin Glen County Park in 2018.

Lance Armstrong's involvement

Within a week of the accident, Pro-Cyclist Lance Armstrong expressed his condolences on the "unimaginable tragedy" that happened.

Two weeks later, the surviving riders from the incident - Paul Gobble, Jennifer Johnson, Paul Runnels, and Sheila Jeske - who were capable of riding, and their families decided to finish the ride they had started, and Armstrong found out.

 

The day of the ride, he came out to the private event, and rode with them to "finish the ride." In speaking to the crowd, he said when he found out about it, it left him speechless, and it compelled him to come and honor these riders.

"I've ridden a bike for 30-plus years. It's what we do. We go out with our friends, our team, our teammates, our rivals even. And we've all had that moment where you get that brush (from a passing car), where it's just a little too close and it scares you. We all know that. But none of us knew this."

You can still visit the memorial to this day, and white "ghost bikes" have been set up at the scene of the accident, and along the trail they intended to ride to honor their memory.

How to Rent a Bicycle and Explore the Portage Creek Bicentennial Trail

It's easy to have fun on two wheels. The City of Portage has added bike rentals near Celery Flats to ride the PCBT.

Get Pedaling and Try Some of Michigan's Best Mountain Bike Trails

With well over 300 mountain bike trails in Michigan, here are some of the best and highest-ranked places to try. 

More From WKMI