Dear Driver: A letter from Jason Lazarus.
When he’s not riding his bike, Jason Lazarus can be referred to in any number of ways. He owns a small business that helps people who are disabled. He’s a lawyer who is the owner of a small firm. Between the 2 ventures, he employs many people and helps the needs of hundreds and hundreds of clients. He’s a popular guy with a large group of friends. Most importantly, he’s a father to 3 great kids and the husband to a wonderful wife. All of these folks, in one way or another, depend on him to be there every day.
But on August 3. 2016, none of that mattered to the careless driver who nearly took Jason’s life. To that driver, Jason was just a cyclist. He wasn’t a human being, he was a thing. That “thing” was in the way of the driver of a pickup truck who couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to the road ahead of him and who plowed into Jason, causing him to suffer serious and life threatening injuries.
Now, everything in Jason’s life is disrupted. He is enduring excruciating pain from multiple fractures to his face and jaw. Despite his jaw being wired shut, he had to be placed on a ventilator tube due to swelling. Can you even imagine the pain of having a tube forced through your throat over the objections of a broken jaw?
Despite the battle that he is enduring, Jason isn’t angry and he isn’t looking for sympathy. Instead, he is trying to spread the word to all motorists to remember that people don’t stop being people just because they are riding a bike. He wants motorists to remember that their careless actions have consequences and to consider the human toll that follows their inattentive driving. When a driver hits a cyclist, that driver is not only hurting the person that they hit, but the entire sphere of family, friends, co-workers, employees, clients, customers and others that circle the injured person. The ramifications are enormous.
To honor Jason’s wishes, please share this story with your friends and family. Everyone who drives should be reminded that cyclists are human beings and that your responsibility as a driver includes looking out for and protecting the health of everyone else on the road. Take care around when you’re around people on bicycles because they’re not just “cyclists,” they’re human beings just like you.
Let’s learn from Jason’s story and heed his words.
“Those who know me well know how passionate I am about a sport I got involved with when I was 13 years old, cycling. That sport has given me the foundation to be successful later on in life and to keep fit as I have aged. In the recent past I began racing again and got more competitive. I love the cycling community and what it has done for me along with what I have been able to give back to the sport. One of the things that I love about the sport is that it is all about who can suffer the most and has strength of not only mind but body. Overcoming a limit you didn’t think you could is an amazing feeling. I know the people that love me and know me best sometimes just don’t get it and don’t like the risks. I know my non-cycling friends feel the same way.
For me, I never worried much and tried to be careful out on the roads. I always recognized the risks tho especially in light of what I do for a living. So on 8/2 I got up at 5 am to get ready to ride with my beloved B3 cycling group. It was like every other day I do this before work. When I first get out on the bike as the sun is rising I feel this sense that I can’t explain but I love it. I feel strong and fast. I turn out of Baldwin Park onto Lakemont Ave as I always do. I am lawfully riding north in the bike lane and have the right of way. As I get to the little plaza where Bagel King is something happened. I was hit by a pick-up truck out of nowhere. I have flashes of the impact in my brain and yelling “noooooooo”.
The next thing I remember is being in the ER at ORMC. I knew I was pretty banged up but had no idea. My face was pretty much broken from my eyes down thru the jaw – Google Lefort fracture. I also broke my right clavicle. That started my current odyssey which has been pretty intense and very scary. My jaw had to be wired shut as part of the extensive repairs I had done. I was put on a vent because of the swelling in the upper airway. The vent was done thru a tube in my severely broken jaw which was excruciating. Thank God I was kept sedated and had no recollection from pretty much Tuesday until last Saturday. Since last Saturday, I got a tracheostomy which allowed me to get off of the vent.
Still have a long rehab. My jaws will be wired shut for another 6 weeks. So many people have reached out and I thank you. My business partners flew into action and took care of the company and my duties so I didn’t have to worry. I love those guys like my brothers and am so thankful for them. My family has been at the hospital with me every day helping to advocate for my care. They are amazing and I love them all dearly. Thank you Etta, Larry and Susan Lazarus for the loving care. The staff at ORMC is amazing. Some are cyclists or have family members that are (some who even treated me). I’m not an easy patient so I know I have been challenging. But they are really great, even letting me walk the halls last night when I couldn’t sleep. Lastly, thank you so much to the cycling community, B3 group and my team, Compass Research Cycling team for all your care and support.
I know I will be back to it at some point and laughing with all my friends out on the road. For now, I had to do a lap on the step down unit over Longmont this morning. That too will change.
I wrote this to let people know what happened. I also want to raise awareness to the dangers we face as cyclist. I want to ask everyone I know to share this out. I am the type of guy you might get frustrated with when I am riding my bike on the roadway. But remember, if you don’t pay attention to us this is the aftermath. I am a CEO of a small company and owe it duties and responsibilities. I have a law small law practice serving those that are disabled. People depend on me every day. I am a son. I am a father to three awesome children. I am a friend to many. So this driver has taken away from me and all who love me months of my life.
Don’t get me wrong, I am so LUCKY. I could have had a permanent brain or spinal cord injury. So it could be worse. But think about those things before driving aggressively around those of us on the roads that have absolutely no protection when it comes to a collision with an automobile. I know most will read this and move on. So be it. I can’t let this die. I don’t want one of my friends to experience this or worse.
I have talked with David Guttenplan about what happened to him. Basically we suffered the same fate. So this is an issue I can’t drop or ignore. Neither should any of you. Trust me, this has been an experience I don’t wish on my very worst enemy.
One last thing, thanks to the guys on the B3 ride that found me after I was hit – Andy Mills; Ty David Turbyfill; Greg Platt; Jason Davis; Darrell Cunningham and Aaron Smith. Sorry if I missed anyone that also helped me but I did in my own defense have a concussion.
P.S. I did not write this for anyone to feel sorry for me or the situation. Thank you for the well wishes. But I ask you to share my post with friends so it raises awareness. That will mean the most to me. So maybe one less person suffers this kind of fate.”
Bruce Hagan’s cyclist law firm is fully committed to representing Georgia bicyclists. “All of our attorneys and most of the staff are full-time riders,” he says. Bruce has handled hundreds of bike crash cases and actively helps bicyclists understand Georgia’s bike laws.