Suzette Wanninkhof (from left)

Suzette Wanninkhof (from left)

Americans ride 8,000 miles to raise awareness about distracted driving

In memory of their partner, brother and friend, four Americans are cycling 8,000 miles to raise awareness about distracted driving.

In memory of their partner, brother and friend, four Americans are cycling 8,000 miles to raise awareness about distracted driving.

The four stopped in Williams Lake this week, where they were hosted by Mayor Walt Cobb and his wife Lynnette.

“They were a great group of kids with a very worthy cause,” Cobb said. “It takes a lot of nerve and perseverance to embark on a trek that long even in a car let alone on a bicycle and camping out all the way.”

Before their departure from the lakecity Thursday afternoon, Rachel Hartsell told the Tribune her deceased partner Patrick Wanninkhof, also a cross-country cyclist, was killed last year while completing a charity ride across the United States.

“Patrick was struck and killed by a woman who admitted to using her phone while driving,” Hartsell said.

While their trip is in memory of Patrick, it is also about raising awareness of the dangers of driving while using a cellphone.

In the United States, there are six times as many collisions with distracted driving as there are with drunk driving, Hartsell said.

Patrick’s sister Suzette Wanninkhof said after people find about the ride and tell the riders they are crazy, they then ask what they can do to help.

“We tell them to put down their phones,” Suzette said. “When you are starting your car, throw your phone in the back seat. If you need to look at it, pull over and stop.

It’s not worth looking at it when your eyes should be on the road.”

Rider and bike mechanic Megan Ryan completed a cross-the-U.S.-trip similar to the one Patrick was on when he was killed, but never met him.

All four riders come from the same cycling community and they know things can change so quickly on the road, Greg Powell added.

“It could have been any one of us or anybody else on the road instead of Patrick that got killed, so that’s something to keep in mind,” Powell said. “It could be a loved one you care about or yourself.”

While they are riding the four hope people seeing them along the way will be inspired to stay off of their cellphones.

Along the journey, the four have been hosted by friends and complete strangers, Hartsell said.

They ended up at the Cobbs’ home in Williams Lake because Quesnel city councillor Ed Coleman hosted them and called Walt to ask if they could stay with him.

“Walt is a great all around accommodating guy and we got to spend time with him and his wonderful wife Lynnette. We didn’t even know each other 24 hours ago,” Hartsell said.

Cobb said he wished them good luck and a safe journey.

From Williams Lake the riders hoped to make it half way to Clinton Thursday and reach Vancouver by next week.

“If people would like to follow along with our journey they can go to our website www.pro8000.com which stands for Patrick Rides On 8,000 miles.

“The ride serves a few purposes: to fundraise for his upcoming learn-to-bicycle nonprofit, to share stories of his life, and to grieve,” the web sited notes.”It’s exactly the adventure Patrick would have embarked on. So, join us. Whether on your bike for a few hours of riding, at your house to host us, or simply to spread the word, we would love for you too to Ride On.”