Tevlin: Broken bones won't keep this biker from goal

  • Article by: JON TEVLIN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 17, 2012 - 10:44 PM

Kurt Stafki was eager to draw attention to an event promoting biking, but not like this.

Stafki, 26, is a participant in "30 Days of Biking," created in 2010 to encourage people to ride their bikes every day in the month of April. The creators, friends Patrick Stephenson and Zachariah Schaap, simply wanted people to get off their duffs and ride somewhere, anywhere, every day for a month. You could ride around the block, around the lakes or 20 miles to work, it didn't matter. Riders were encouraged to bike, then post their experiences on social media.

This year, Stafki was a designated social media poster. For two weeks, he wrote about his experiences on sites such as Twitter. Then, late last week, Stafki posted a tweet from an unlikely spot: Hennepin County Medical Center.

As usual, Stafki was riding his bike Thursday to his job at Gabriel deGrood Bendt in downtown Minneapolis, an easy 3-mile ride for the avid biker.

Stafki was trucking down Nicollet when he approached another bike rider, who was apparently doing what Stafki advocates: Riding his bike to work.

The rider, who was wearing a suit, was pedaling slowly, so Stafki started to pass him.

"He turned right in front of me without signaling or anything," said Stafki, who slammed on his brakes to avoid T-boning the bonehead. "I went over the handlebars and hit the pavement with my face and forearm."

The other guy didn't stop.

A bus driver saw Stafki splayed in the road, and called 911. He was rushed to HCMC, where he found out he had a broken jaw, arm, wrist and finger. He had a gash down his forehead. His jaw is wired shut, so he is on a liquid diet. During an interview, he was a little difficult to understand.

Surely, he would abandon his goal of biking every day in April?

Fat chance.

Stafki stayed overnight at the hospital, then went to his parents' home Friday to recuperate. Despite the pain, he was able to jump on a stationary bike -- which counts for the challenge -- and rode.

On Twitter, he explained: "You better believe I got in my daily pedaling for #30daysofbiking. If I can do it with multiple broken bones, you have no excuse."

Apparently left intact was Stafki's sense of humor. He joked about tapping a keg in his hospital room, and he wrote: "My jaw will be wired shut for a few weeks. Look for my new hit single 'Through the Wire Redux' hitting stores soon."

Stafki has biked on the stationary bike a little every day. He hopes to be back on the streets later this week.

"Some people call me crazy," he said.

Founder Stephenson, however, called Stafki's effort "awesome," and said the event has drawn 3,500 participants this year. He said 30 Days of Biking is an attempt to counter the sometimes militant faction of bikers who purposely break the laws to prove they belong on the streets. Stephenson believes those tactics are counterproductive.

Last year I wrote a column critical of the new bike lanes, and how they were rolled out without instructions for bikers or motorists. I was flooded with mail, mostly from the militants. I admit many of those traffic snarls I noticed at first have abated. There are still jerks, like the guy who cut off Stafki, but I'm glad that the people behind 30 Days of Biking are taking a positive approach to educating drivers.

"We want to be a friendly presence on the road," said Stephenson. "Some people call us 'bikey two-shoes' because we follow the law and wear helmets and behave. We want to remind people riding a bike can be fun. It can change lives, really."

When I first heard of Stafki's crash, I assumed a careless motorist was involved. Stafki has seen his share of those, but also says some bikers can be dumb. He has some advice for them.

"Always be aware of what's going on around you," he said. "You signal, not only for you, but for those around you."

His other message: Wear a helmet.

"I can't say for sure, but I think it saved my life," Stafki said.

On Tuesday, Stafki was getting better, eating dinner through a straw and thinking of one thing: getting back on his bike.

jtevlin@startribune.com • 612-673-1702

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