An Untimely Accident Fatally Injures a Colorado National Monument Bicyclist

Colorado National Monument's spectacular Rim Rock Drive. NPS photo.

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.

Comments

The crash occurred on simply the greatest stretch of pavement found anywhere in Colorado. I've cycled the East Hill on Rim Rock Drive at Colorado National Monument dozens and dozens of times, and while the descent can be intense because of the slope, the scenery and the traffic, it's quite seriously the greatest bike ride in the state, Mt. Evans perhaps notwithstanding. I once punctured and destroyed a tire doing about 30 mph on that descent, but fortunately, I was able to remain in control of the bike. Joan Anzelmo has rightfully cracked-down on careless cycling and driving in the monument, which I hope is enough to prevent more serious accidents there.

I'm glad that the punctured tire didn't do you in, SaltSage. I would imagine that you are truly entitled to say: "There, but for the grace of God,........"

Stanley Dodson also co-authored one of the 5 textbooks used in undergraduate courses in ecology. It's a literate, different textbook: more a set of 8 essays by thoughtful ecologists explaining fields of ecology than an attempt at comprehensive coverage.

My condolences to his family, his students, and his colleagues. I only met him once at a scientific meeting, but it would have been fun to interact with him about crustaceans in rock pools in the desert and Colorado Plateau.

I want to go out like that: doing what I love in a place I love. I just don't want to do it until I'm 98 or so.

This is really sad news. I was Stan Dodson's graduate student from 96 to 99. My most sincere condolences to his wife, daughter and other fellow students.

Stan was not only an excellent scholar at a prestigious university known for research scholarship, he was also an exceptionally kind and gentle human being. He was deeply in love with his wife and a great father to his daughter throughout the years. As a university colleague and a friend of his and his family many years ago, I wish to express my sincere condolences to his wife and daughter. Stan was a scholar, a lover of nature and music, and a spiritual man. Although his death was untimely, it seemed to occur in circumstances and in the beauty that he loved. May his soul rest in divine peace.

Claudia, we're happy that Traveler can serve as a vehicle for conveying the sentiments you've expressed here. By telling people what a warm and caring person Stan was you've helped to put a personal face on this tragic incident. I never had the pleasure of meeting Stan myself, and more's the pity.

"I once punctured and destroyed a tire doing about 30 mph on that descent, but fortunately, I was able to remain in control of the bike." Saltsagge

I had a front tire blow out while descending a steep hill during a Cycle Organ ride a couple of years ago. I feathered the rear break and concentrated on keeping the bike upright letting the bike slow gradually. Fortunately, it was on a long straight away. I have cracked two helmets in accidents and cannot say enough about the importance of a good brain bucket.