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Forestville teen recounts attempt to save bicyclist in fatal crash

The cyclist turned out to be Rob Reyes, 52, chef and co-owner of La Rosa in Santa Rosa, who died that day despite everyone’s best efforts.|

When 17-year-old Jasper Bayless saw a bicyclist hit a pole on the West County Regional Trail last month, he knew he had to try to help.

A memory of watching his mother, a nurse, performing CPR several weeks ago on a man who appeared to be having a heart attack in Santa Rosa’s Courthouse Square flashed through his mind.

After that, he said his mother, Katy Bayless, told him and his brother, Quinn, “OK boys, this is what you have to do,” and went over the procedure. He knew what to do.

Jasper, a competitive cyclist, had been riding home Aug. 23 to Forestville from Analy High School in Sebastopol where he is a senior when he came upon a group of cyclists. They were employees of La Rosa Tequileria & Grille in Santa Rosa out riding for fun, they told him.

As the cyclists turned off the Green Valley Road segment northbound onto the trail in the Graton area, someone in the group ahead smacked into one of the poles, called bollards, that were placed in the middle of the path to stop cars from driving on the trail.

“His bike hit the pole and stopped, and his body just kind of kept going, and his face smashed into the pole,” Jasper recalled.

His first instinct was to call 911. He knew exactly what to tell the dispatcher about their location, while others there did not, he said. A petite woman who turned out to be a physical therapist attempted chest compressions, but Jasper said she was having a hard time pressing effectively, so he took over, and continued for 5 minutes until paramedics arrived.

“He was not breathing and he had no pulse. It looked like he had a broken jaw. That was the first time I’ve ever done anything like that,” Jasper said.

The cyclist turned out to be Rob Reyes, 52, a popular chef and co-owner of La Rosa, who died that day despite everyone’s best efforts.

Jasper said after the paramedics left, he texted his parents and biked the rest of the way home.

Coping with the memory of what happened was hard for the first few days, he said.

“That night was rough,” he said. “I could see him for a while. The group was pretty distraught and I felt pretty bad for them.”

Jasper’s father, Jake Bayless, recalling his wife and her friend, Rebecca, trying to help the man at Courthouse Square, said “that was the first time our kids had seen someone getting CPR on a sidewalk. (The procedure) was clear and fresh in his mind — it had happened only a few weeks before. The hard part from the family’s perspective is that neither one of these men made it.”

As far as both Jasper and his dad are concerned, bollards in the middle of the bike paths should “disappear.” Jasper said at the beginning of each season, his high school mountain bike team coach Mike Warren “would always tell us to be cautious of the yellow bollards, and people on the team would once in a while hit the bollards. It’s a thing people have been aware of for a long time. Typically, it results in smaller injuries.”

He said having the bollards there is “ironic. It’s defeating the purpose of having a safe place to ride.”

His father, a local cycling advocate and president of the California Mountain Biking Coalition, said he has been sounding the alarm about the bollards for 10 years. Bayless commutes every day to Santa Rosa, where he works as a programmer and analyst for the city. The poles have been part of county trails’ landscape since they were built 20 years ago with the help of traffic safety engineers.

“The bike infrastructure 20 years ago was a little bit naive. They planned for the worst-case scenario,” Bayless said. “We need to learn from this and fix it because it killed somebody and it might kill somebody else.”

“There are far better alternatives and there are all kinds of examples in trail planning and engineered solutions to make them safe for everybody,” he added. “Green paint in each intersection, bollards off to the side where there are actual incursions. There are tons of ways to mitigate danger, but they are not free.”

Jake’s mother, Lynda Bayless, wrote to Sonoma County Regional Parks Director Bert Whitaker after the crash, calling it “an unspeakable tragedy,” and asking him “What do we do now? I am in my seventies, and sometimes ride my bicycle on this trail. I am afraid of the unyielding steel bollards that snarl the landscape … This trail is too narrow for vehicles,” she wrote and placing a bollard “creates an obstacle that is exceedingly dangerous.”

Whitaker replied Friday that “Regional Parks is expeditiously taking steps to develop, evaluate and hopefully adopt new safety standards and make modifications along trails that currently have bollards in the middle of the travel route. We have already started this work with a traffic safety engineer and are planning to share and discuss options for alternative designs at trail entry points as early as the next Sonoma County Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting on Sept. 21st.”

Bayless called the fear of cars driving on the trails “a totally imagined threat.”

Both he and Jasper prefer the part of their bicycle commute on Highway 116 that is controlled by Caltrans instead of the county.

“There are no bollards, they painted the intersections with green paint, and there are 11 driveways. This is by far the safest part of the trail,” he said.

“I ride my bike every day and I have never seen a car on the trail,” added Jasper.

You can reach Staff Writer Kathleen Coates at kathleen.coates@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5209.

Kathleen Coates

Windsor and Cloverdale, The Press Democrat 

As someone who grew up in a small town, I enjoy covering what's happening in Windsor and Cloverdale, which are growing in their own unique ways.  I delve into issues by getting to know people and finding out what’s going on in the community. I also pay attention to animal welfare and other issues that affect Sonoma County.

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