More than 1,000 cyclists across the world hopped online Saturday morning for a virtual ride honoring five Las Vegas bicyclists killed in a crash last week.
The 60-mile virtual ride lasted nearly three hours and was sponsored by former Las Vegas police officer Michael Anderson and the Las Vegas Cyclist Memorial, which is trying to raise $1 million for the families of Aksoy Ahmet, 48, Michael Murray, 57, Gerrard Nieva, 41, Erin Ray, 39, and Tom Trauger, 57.
The victims were among 20 bicyclists riding a 130-mile loop Dec. 10 when a box truck crashed into the group. Five were pronounced dead at the scene and four others were injured.
The driver, Jordan Barson, was arrested on DUI charges after investigators found methamphetamine in his bloodwork.
Anderson said he was surprised by the number of people who turned out for Saturday morning’s virtual ride, as he expected half that number. “I thought maybe I’d be proud at 500. To have a thousand is amazing.”
During the ride, many of his fellow riders started challenges, including one who donated a quarter for every rider who finished. The group raised more than $15,000 in under three hours.
”I remember another cyclist saying, ‘I really don’t know the cyclists, but I’m just here to support,’ and someone else said, ‘If you ride a bike like you do, then you know them,’ and that just really hit me,” Anderson said Saturday night.
He invited his European counterparts to join in the ride, and more than 400 of them participated, with many saying they had heard of the tragedy and wanted to help.
“I love it. I’m trying to get the word out,” he said.
The GoFundMe Anderson started the day after the crash surpassed its $100,000 goal Saturday and will be included in the $1 million goal.
Anderson said he’s working to personally message every person who donated. Between the GoFundMe and the Las Vegas Cyclist Memorial fund’s several corporate and local sponsors, nearly a quarter-million dollars has been raised.
Local advertising agency Lamar Advertising has donated 68 digital billboards to promote the memorial fund, which is organized in an effort by Breakaway Cycling, Ghost Bikes Las Vegas, Save Red Rock and the Southern Nevada Bicycling Coalition.
“This tragedy has touched so many people in our community,” Christopher Prickett, Lamar Advertising vice president, said in a statement about the donation. “Our priority is to support the families whose lives were impacted by this event.”
The billboards are featured in high-traffic areas, including outside Allegiant Stadium and along Interstate 15 and U.S. Highway 95.
“We are so grateful for the generosity of people in Las Vegas and cycling,” Heather Fisher, Save Red Rock president, said in the statement. “While we grieve this unthinkable loss and work to support the families of our friends, we realize that how Nevada responds to this tragedy will have significant impact. Our residents deserve peace of mind while cycling.”