ST. GEORGE — A sizable crowd of civic officials and members of the community gathered along Telegraph Street in Washington City on a chilly, drizzly Friday afternoon for a memorial honoring two cyclists killed earlier this month by an impaired driver.
“I wish there was no need for an event such as this today,” said Washington City Mayor Kress Staheli as the stood near the white-painted bicycles, also known as “ghost bikes” that represented California brothers Matthew, 48, and Adam Bullard, 49.
The brothers had been riding their bikes on Telegraph Street as part of the Spring Tour of St. George race on April 9 when 47-year-old driver Julie Ann Budge struck the cyclists on the side of the road. They had been riding in the bike lane alongside the roadway. According to police documents, Budge was driving impaired at the time of the incident.
The brothers were taken to St. George Regional Hospital for care where they were pronounced dead.
Prior to being taken to the hospital, sons of the two men, who were also involved in the race, rode up on the scene and witnessed the immediate aftermath of the incident.
“I wish Adam and Matthew were home with their families talking about the great time they had in Washington County,” Staheli continued. “I wish we weren’t gathered here today to mourn the preventable loss of two lives – but here we are. Here we are with white bikes honoring two lives that did not need to be taken.”
Staheli was one of a handful of local officials who spoke at the memorial service for the Bullard brothers. Following him were St. George Mayor Michele Randall, Washington City Police Lt. Kory Klotz and St. George City Councilwoman Danielle Larkin, who spoke on behalf of the Southern Utah Bicycle Alliance.
Everyone has a story of someone they know who has been impacted due to someone being an irresponsible driver, Larkin said. She had her own story she shared with the those gathered.
“In my own life as a young child, my father’s life was taken in the line of duty because of the actions of someone who chose to drive irresponsibly,” she said. “My life and the life of my family was forever altered that day. The life of the Bullard family will forever be altered because of this one irresponsible act.”
While direct members of the Bullard family were not present due to funeral preparations taking place in California for the brothers, it was streamed online by Washington City so the family could view it.
Staheli shared that Washington City Police Chief Jason Williams and the officer who oversaw the scene of the accident were in California on the invitation of the Bullard family to attend the brothers’ funerals.
During her own remarks, Randall shared that she received a call from a Bullard family member who expressed how grateful the family is for the support the community had shown them.
“If this tragedy had to happen, she said it happened in the best place possible,” Randall said. “Because they (the Bullard family) have been so surrounded with love and support from our community, she said that had if happened in California where they lived, it would have just been another fatality and nobody would have cared.”
Randall went on to say she hopes the two white bikes will serve as a reminder to people to avoid impaired and distracted driving.
“One incident like this is one too many,” Staheli said following the memorial. “Washington City has no tolerance for impaired or distracted driving.”
Each person who spoke at the event warned against impaired and distracted driving and urged motorists to share the road responsibly.
“Our community, our visitors and those just passing through deserve to feel safe and protected as they traverse through out city,” the officer said. “There is no excuse for impaired or distracted driving. Let this event serve as a reminder of how fragile life is and how quickly it can change.”
Washington City, St. George and surrounding communities have embraced active transportation over the last decade and have provided infrastructure – such as bike lanes and trails – that supports and encourages cycling, waking and so on. While the additional infrastructure and an increase in bicycle use have come with growth, so has the number of cars with which they share the road.
“Compared to where it was five or 10 years ago, we have so many more people that are here driving as well as people who are recreating and being on the roadway – more people means more likelihood of it (another crash) occurring,” Klotz said.
“If people can just be mindful – take that extra few seconds and wait for the car to pass and go to make your turn. Just being in a hurry, it may save you five or 10 minutes max, but you compare it to something like this that happens, and it just becomes a tragedy that you’ll spend the rest of your life dealing with. It’s not worth it.”
Eventually a more permanent memorial to the Bullard brothers will be built by Washington City, Staheli said. For now, the white ghost bikes are to serve as a reminder for people not to make poor choices while on the road as they can result in fatal consequences.
A GoFundMe account has been set up for the Bullard family and has raised over $100,000 as of Friday evening.
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