A weekend event in downtown Flagstaff that was supposed to highlight bike safety and awareness turned into a memorial after a tow truck driver from California ran a red light and struck a group of cyclists Friday evening. One woman was killed, and several others were injured.
Hours after the collision, community members gathered at Flagstaff City Hall to show support for the victims and grieve the loss of 29-year-old Joanna Wheaton. She was killed when Normand Cloutier, 58, plowed into a group of bicyclists who had just set out on a ride. Councilmember Adam Shimoni addressed the crowd, calling for safer biking infrastructure.
"The one thing I'm going to say is that we risk our lives every day on those roads. The situation for us to commute and leave our cars at home is dangerous," Shimoni said Saturday.
"Being adjacent to a truck or a car by a strip of paint is not safe," he added.
Wheaton was a Flagstaff resident and graduate of Northern Arizona University. She served as a community representative on the city’s Housing Commission and organized Flag Stats, a data-driven initiative that documents local issues, including evictions.
Shimoni says a citywide transportation plan will soon be released for public review; part of the proposal will include separate bike lanes. Several GoFundMe campaigns have been set up to assist the victims and their families, while many Flagstaff businesses are donating a percentage of sales to the effort.