An Untimely Accident Fatally Injures a Colorado National Monument Bicyclist
Last Saturday afternoon, 65-year old Stanley Dodson, an avid cyclist and freshly-retired university professor, became the first person in the 98-year history of Colorado National Monument to be fatally injured while bicycling in the park. What a shame.
Professor Dodson, a zoology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, retired earlier this year after a distinguished career that encompassed nearly 40 years of research, teaching, mentoring, and public service. Dodson was not just a respected scholar who made important contributions to the fields of aquatic ecology, community and population ecology, species interactions and community structure, environmental contaminants, and limnology. By all accounts, he was also a genuinely nice guy who richly deserved decades of golden years.
Dr. Dodson’s colleagues at UW-M gave him a great sendoff to what everyone expected would be an active, outdoorsy retirement. There would be a lot of trips to Colorado. Dodson loved Colorado and would continue doing research there. He would continue bicycling there too, because riding a bike through scenic terrain was one of the things that he most liked to do.
Last Saturday found Dodson cycling alone in Colorado National Monument. Given the striking beauty of the place, I’ll warrant that he was having a great time. I can imagine he might have been thinking something like “It doesn’t get any better than this.”
Not long after noon, he was cycling downhill on Rim Rock Drive about a mile from the park’s east entrance when something went terribly wrong. Two cyclists headed uphill said that they had heard a loud thud soon after Dodson passed them headed downhill at about 25 mph. Dodson had fallen to the pavement after losing control of his bike.
Help was quickly at hand. An ambulance from Grand Junction arrived just five minutes after receiving the 911 call that the witnesses placed. A park ranger also responded immediately.
Dodson was transported to St. Mary's Medical Center in Grand Junction. Although the safety-conscious professor had been wearing a helmet, his fall caused massive trauma and he died the next day at the hospital.
The accident, which is still under investigation, serves as a stern reminder that biking on Colorado National Monument’s famously scenic Rim Rock Drive is more than routinely risky. Park Superintendent Joan Anzelmo told me she’s frankly amazed that there are so few serious bicycling accidents on that road, which has an unusual mix of recreational and commercial traffic (including tractor-trailer rigs) and includes a four-mile stretch that is steep, narrow, and rich with switchbacks. The 12,000 to 15,000 visitors who ride bikes in the park each year have a pretty darn good safety record, all things considered.
Traveler joins Superintendent Anzelmo and her staff in expressing sincere condolences to the family, friends, faculty colleagues, and former students of Professor Dodson.