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Des Moines Cyclist Killed By Speeding Hit & Run Driver

Des Moines Register: Des Moines Cyclist Killed On Road Near Cumming

A bicyclist killed by a speeding motorist Sunday will likely heat up the debate between cycling advocates and a group urging state lawmakers to ban bicyclists on Iowa county roads.

Mark Grgurich, 54, of Des Moines was killed instantly when a pickup truck hit him around 10:50 a.m. in the 2700 block of hilly County Road G14 east of Cumming, said Warren County Deputy Neil Gurwell. Grgurich was thrown nearly 130 feet, an indication that the truck was traveling at a very high rate of speed, Gurwell said.

The driver of the truck, a white Chevrolet with a black ladder rack in the back and a plastic logo on the side, has not been located. Witnesses said the male driver did not stop.

Dan Jones, a leading member of Citizens for Safety Coalition of Iowa, the group that has urged the ban, said Sunday’s crash is an example of why cyclists should not be allowed to travel on rural roads.

"It’s a shame, and I think all around it’s a really bad deal," said Jones, 32, of Des Moines. "But that’s exactly what we’re trying to prevent."

Earlier this month, the coalition called on the Iowa Legislature to support a ballot initiative aimed at banning bicyclists from using farm-to-market roads, which includes paved county roads and some of the more heavily traveled gravel roads. The group’s petition now has 804 signatures.

Tom Lawhead, sales manager at Bike World in Des Moines, said Grgurich was a regular customer and an advanced cyclist.

Lawhead, who is a member of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, suggested that instead of banning cyclists from county roads, law enforcement officials should focus on education and cracking down on traffic violations. He also said Iowa lawmakers should ban text messaging while driving.

"Drivers not paying attention while driving is the biggest issue," Lawhead said. "That scares me more than anything."

The pickup involved in Sunday’s accident will likely have some damage to the front and the passenger side, Gurwell said. Both the truck and Grgurich were traveling east. Gurwell said it is unknown what charges the driver faces.

Grgurich was a goldsmith and jewelry designer at Elements Ltd., a custom jewelry store in Des Moines. A 1985 graduate of Iowa State University, he had worked at the store since 2000.

Ed Hildreth, owner of Hildreth Construction, was working in his garage when he heard the crash, which he said sounded as if a tire had blown out or a shotgun had gone off.

"It’s terrible. I have two sons on a bike ride right now," he said. "You feel so helpless."

Gurwell and Hildreth both said it is common for cyclists to ride along that portion of G14, near the Great Western Bike Trail.

Jones said the fatality will almost certainly fuel the debate on whether cyclists should be banned from rural roads. "How many of these are going to happen before something is done?" he asked.

In April, the debate was rejuvenated after Cumming farmer John Lynch struck cyclist Doug Smith, 46, of Des Moines on a winding, hilly stretch of a paved Madison County road. Smith was hit by an anhydrous ammonia tank Lynch was pulling behind his pickup truck.

About 500 cyclists later rallied at the Iowa Statehouse in response to Smith’s accident, which left him hospitalized with serious injuries.

In 2007, Crawford County officials passed a resolution banning the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa after the county paid about $350,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the widow of a man who died on the ride in 2004.