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Hi, My Name is Jason

Jason Lazarus injuredMy name is Jason Lazarus and I have been both a competitive and avid cyclist for 33 years.

I am a lawyer and the CEO of a company I founded with several partners. In addition, I am the father of three children. My oldest, Sarah, is a junior at UF studying nursing. My middle, Kyle, is a freshman at FSU studying business. My youngest, Camille, is a freshman in high school.

I am a son. I am a friend to many. In addition to cycling, I am a fitness freak and enjoy doing exercise classes at the local Y and yoga. In the winter, I try to snow ski 2-3 times out west. I love to travel to new places. I also really enjoy helping other people which is what I do day in and day out at work. In my professional capacity, I see a lot of catastrophic injuries from accidents.

I never dreamed I would suffer that type of injury myself. But I did in August of this year while cycling in Winter Park.

Jason the lawyerI started cycling at age 13 to rehab from a speed skating injury. I was immediately hooked and began racing shortly thereafter. I raced as a junior all over the U.S. and spent a summer racing in Europe with a group of American cyclists. I qualified for the U.S. National Championships in 1996 and finished in the top 50 after flatting. When I graduated from high school in 1987, I stopped racing competitively and pursued by undergraduate education. I kept cycling for fitness though. I then went on to law school but all the while kept cycling recreationally.

Jason at Chain Of Lakes FinishIn 2014, after a 27 year layoff, I began racing again in masters. In my very first race as a master, I won the combined masters cat 4/5 and cat 5 road race. I was hooked again. I started structured training and continued to compete moving up to a category 3 racer this past year. During the off-season this past summer I was doing a lot of non-structured training in the form of group rides. My favorite ride was the Tuesday/Thursday B3 rides. In August, I was in the best shape of my life. The unthinkable for me was about to happen and flip my world upside down.

I love cycling because of the feeling of freedom of being on the bike and the opportunity to push past physical barriers that you may have thought impossible to surpass. I also enjoy the friendly competition on group rides and the comradery of the cycling community. One of my favorite times on the bike is when I go out early morning during the week before dawn and ride as the sun comes up. It is a great feeling to see the road rush by underneath your wheels and only hear the wind go by your ears. So in early August of 2016, I would typically ride solo for a little while before meeting up with the B3 group. That leads me to August 2nd of 2016.

The B3 ride is Tuesday and Thursday mornings at Bikes, Beans and Bourdeaux, on Corrine Drive in Winter Park.  They meet at 6:10, ride to Eagle Circle and back, and have breakfast afterwards.

The B3 ride is Tuesday and Thursday mornings at Bikes, Beans and Bourdeaux, on Corrine Drive in Winter Park. They meet at 6:10, ride to Eagle Circle and back, and have breakfast afterwards.

On 8/2/16 I got up at 5 am to get ready to ride with my friends on the B3 group ride. 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. That morning, I felt strong and fast since I was in the best shape of my life. I turned out of Baldwin Park in Orlando onto Lakemont Avenue in Winter Park as I always did. I was lawfully riding north in the bike lane on Lakemont and had the right of way.

As I got to a 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 driver had made a left turn into the parking lot right in front of me as I was traveling at about 19 mph.

According to the eye witness to the accident, I hit the right front quarter panel and door sending me straight up into the air. He said that when he got to me I was unconscious and my air way was clogged. Thankfully he was a combat medic in the U.S. military and was able to clear my airway.

Jason's blood stainSoon after the impact, the B3 group who had been behind me came upon the accident scene. Thankfully several members of the group are medical professionals who helped until the ambulance arrived. The ambulance took me to ORMC which is a level one trauma center. My first memories after the accident were waking up in the emergency room. When I woke up, I knew that I was pretty banged up but had no idea how bad it really was or what I was in for. When I was hit, my face impacted the car. I suffered a myriad of injuries including:

  • Le Fort III Skull Fracture – basically breaking all of the bones in your face
  • Broken nose
  • Broken jaw in several places
  • Fractured eye orbits
  • Zygomatic arch fracture
  • Fractures of the bone where my top front teeth attached and traumatic loss of 5 front top teeth
  • Displaced fracture of right collarbone
  • Deep laceration to my lower lip, chin and gums
  • Concussion

On the evening of the accident, I underwent surgery to fix the injuries to my face. As a result, I have plates and screws in my chin from the jaw fracture. My jaw was wired shut during the operation. I was put on a ventilator due to swelling in my upper airway and a feeding tube was inserted into my mouth. The next day, I underwent surgery for my broken collarbone which required plates and screws. Thankfully during all of this I was kept sedated. They kept me sedated from Tuesday of my injury until Saturday of that week.

When I was taken off sedation, I was in excruciating pain from the vent which was going into my mouth and putting pressure on my severely broken jaw. A few days later I had a tracheostomy which I requested and which eased the pain in my jaw.

I spent a total of 20 days in the hospital. 9 of the 20 days were in the ICU.

I can’t even begin to explain the pain and fear I felt post-accident. My jaw was wired shut so I couldn’t talk and I had tubes down my throat to help me breath as well as provide nutrition. It took about a week or so before the staff at ORMC got me out of bed.

As soon as I was mobile, I began to walk multiple times a day in hopes of keeping some semblance of fitness. At first it was tough to walk even one lap of the ICU but very quickly I began to feel much better. Once I was finally released from the hospital, I continued to walk outside for about a week but then began to cycle again on a stationary trainer. Getting back on the bike was difficult since my jaw remained wired shut which made breathing abnormal. Also, my nutrition was limited since I was on a liquid diet.

After 8 weeks, my jaw wires were removed and I got back to cycling on the road. The first morning I went out to meet the B3 group was nerve wracking. I met the group at the scene of my accident in hopes that flooding (psychological therapy) would help. It was a bit surreal being out in the dark waiting in that parking lot right by where I had been hit. Once the group arrived and I started to ride with them, it all felt right again. That isn’t to say I am not worried and don’t think about being hit every day. I do. I have flashbacks. Nightmares. Pain. I am going to require years of dental work to fix the damage that was done my jaw and mouth.

jason-ross-unknownSo the impact has been great. For one, I scared the hell out of my family. They thought they might lose me as I looked pretty bad when I was in the ER. I hate that they had to feel that pain and see me that way. I speak for a living so having my jaw wired shut was very problematic. Also, due to the traumatic loss of teeth my speech isn’t back to normal yet. I can only chew food on one side of my mouth. My diet is limited and it has impacted my ability to travel for work. I constantly am going to different doctors which has caused me to lose time in the office. I will require future cosmetic surgery and dental surgery. I have incurred a lot of expenses that were not covered by insurance as a result of the accident. My medical bills to date are approaching half a million dollars. The driver that hit me only had a $10,000 liability policy. Thankfully I had a lot of UM coverage which was “stacked”.

One piece of advice for cyclist, make sure your UM policies are stacked as that will give you the most coverage if something like this happens to you. Also, you can typically buy extra UM coverage with an umbrella policy (something I wish I had known prior to my accident).

Climbing the iconic Mont Ventoux on the Tour de France course

Climbing the iconic Mont Ventoux on the Tour de France course

All of that being said, I am so lucky. I could have had a permanent brain or spinal cord injury. I see that day in and day out with what I do for a living. So it could always be worse. But, for those who drive the roads in Florida, think about those things before driving aggressively around cyclists on the roads. 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 hope that my story continues to raise awareness for vulnerable pedestrians that are on central Florida roads. I plan to help to lobby for the laws to be changed. The driver who hit me didn’t receive even a ticket. Had he violated a car’s right of way, at least he would have been ticketed. Florida law needs to protect pedestrians who are incredibly vulnerable. Drivers don’t realize that even a minor impact can cause both great bodily harm as well as property damage. A car, when it passes close, is like a freight train passing you by. Drivers are encased in metal with little fear beyond a collision with another car. Cyclist and other pedestrians have no protection at all when a collision occurs. The end result when a car versus pedestrian accident happens isn’t pretty as evidenced by my story. The law has to do more to protect us. Being a lawyer and having experienced what I have, I hope to have some good come out of all of this. If I save even one person from the horrors I have experienced, it will be well worth it.

alps-backdropThankfully I am back to riding and enjoying the friendships of so many that I have cycled with over the years. Every time I go out, I think about the 3 weeks I spent in the hospital wishing I was with my friends out on the roads. I am happy I was able, with counseling, to get back out on the roads. I can’t imagine someone’s careless actions taking away the sport I have loved for so long. Being fit and the cycling culture is a way of life that I can’t even comprehend losing. I have been to, seen so many great places and met amazing people because of cycling. The vast network of people I have come across due to the sport is truly awesome.

Lastly, I want to thank everyone that spent time with me in the hospital and have helped me (including those the day of the accident). My cycling teammates were awesome with support. The friends I ride with were great and encourgaing. I also want to thank David Guttenplan who suffered nearly the same injuries as I did six months before me. He was wonderful and supportive throughout and helped me know what to expect as I progressed with recovery. I also have to thank Ty Turbyfill who is an amazing dental implant surgeon and doctor who also happens to be an avid cyclist. He has helped with my treatment plan and advocated for me when I was in the hospital. My debt to him can’t even be measured. A great example of a friendship that the bond of cycling forges.

tour-de-france-climbThis could happen to any one of us on any given ride. Be safe. Be alert. Use lights. I hope no one reading this ever experiences the pain of what I have been thru.

Please use these hashtags when sharing on social media.
#trafficlivesmatter #cyclinglivesmatter #iamtraffic

Hi, My Name is David

bed-injuries-selfieHi, my name is David Guttenplan and I am a 30 year old Professional Cyclist, Elite Cycling Team Owner, and Cycling Coach. I drive a VW Jetta. I have a masters in Civil Engineering from the University of Florida. Besides racing I love to Snowboard, Fish, do water sports, and travel! My girlfriend and I have 2 cats one of which thinks he is a dog.

People who are important to you/who you are important to
kits-kissMy girlfriend, parents, extended family, my girlfriends family, the cycling team I run, my coaching clients, my huge extended cycling family and friends whom when I was hit shared 3000 times and raised $23,000 via a crowdfunding page. I feel blessed and thankful for that every single day.

Why do you ride
It keeps me smiling, happy, healthy, its my job, my passion, it helps me focus, think, and live a happy complete life!

What do you love about cycling
dock-teammateIt is a huge network of friends on bikes. I get to meet people I may never have otherwise in all walks of life where all are equal and all are united by the passion and joy one gets when they are free to pedal outside, exercise, and enjoy all that the world has to offer. All of this at a slightly slower pace than in a car, but still fast enough to see lots of amazing sites and places around the world! There is no better way.

What are some possible repercussions of being hit by a car that could affect your life, or for those unlucky enough to have dealt with it
laptop-training-maskI was in an induced coma for a week, undergoing days of surgery after ripping my nose 95% off, puncturing a lung, breaking my orbital bones around my eye, my jaw being wired shut for 7 weeks, my scapula, my ribs, a tracheotomy in my throat to breath and eat, my tear duct was destroyed causing me to have to have a tube installed and later removed surgically and by a miracle able to recover and get back to racing. However, my face is still not back to its best with more plastic surgery to go, but I’m a walking, breathing, miracle and happy to be alive. It has been a long process. I lost an entire season at the peak of my bike racing career that I may never get back. I’m just now getting back to racing and its still possible I may never be able to race at the level I once was. I’m hoping, training and pushing to get myself there again, but the psychological wounds are massive. Every day, I’m terrified to go on the roads and worried I’ll be hit again, but I push through knowing I’m using my journey as inspiration that you can bounce back from hard times to do what you love, follow your dreams, and live your passion. Never mind my career and 15 years of pushing the limit to get to the peak level of fitness that I was at this year prior to the accident, at the start of the season sacrificing everything to get here, the real repercussion is for those that love me now having to worry even more and having had to worry and stop everything in their lives to take care of me which I will forever be grateful.

Knowing the risk why do you continue riding
It’s what I love. It’s what completes me. It keeps me healthy and happy. It’s my social life. I have met so many friends. I can’t even comprehend not riding. I’d rather risk than risk not to be able to ride again. However, it is tough because I want to be a father and I don’t want my children to have to worry about me either. My dear friend Danny Chew, a multi time Race Across America winner was just paralyzed from a crazy accident and it makes me think: I can’t imagine if I wouldn’t be able to ride ever again and even worse I can’t imagine if because of the risk I wasn’t able to walk again either, so please drive carefully and respect my life.

Some thing you want motorists to know.
david-sling-girlfriend I’m a real person, not just a cone you need to get around. Imagine riding a bike at 20-35mph inside of the yellow line less than 3 feet from an oncoming subway, except imagine that subway is a car being driven by a distracted driver who doesn’t even realize he’s passing you. Maybe didn’t even realize he passed you. Just standing inside of 3 feet from a passing train is downright terrifying. Give me space when you pass and for the love of god slow down, especially if you have a trailer that sticks out further to the right that I have no way of knowing is there! This is why I hate riding all the way to the right of the road. It makes it easy for someone to pass me with oncoming traffic because they think its okay and then they may get a little spooked by the oncoming car, who was also potentially distracted and then swerve into me. I’d rather they wait until its clear and then pass me. Yes, it is going to slow down traffic a little and I do feel really, really, really bad about that. This is why I always try to get out of the way and wave as many motorists around me when its safe for them to pass. However, I know if my mom or son were out on the road, I’d be happy to wait a few extra seconds to insure that I don’t murder them by “accident”. Every single time you get behind a wheel you are placing your fingers on an automatic machine gun that can kill multiple cyclists or pedestrians in an instant. That’s what happened in Athens, GA, week where 3 cyclists were hit and Ashley, a bright, 25 year old, UGA masters student was killed and my old team director and bike shop owner was hospitalized. Be careful driving your machine gun. Distracted driving kills really good people, I promise you don’t want that on your conscience. Please, let me get home safely.

#HiMyNameIS #Clearwater #Florida #Floridadepartmentoftransportation #floridamotorvehicles #statute316 #floridabicyclelaw #cyclinglivesmatter #trafficlivesmatter

Hello, My Name is Rocco

rocco-and-wifeMy name is Rocco Monaco and I’m a local rider here in the Orlando area. On May 29 of this year I was struck from behind by a vehicle moving at an estimated rate of over 40 mph on a Sunday morning around 8am on a 4 lane road. On that particular morning I made a last minute decision to do a solo ride instead of the usual Sunday morning group ride I normally do.

As I rode east bound on SR 434 just past Hayes road in Winter Springs, I was abruptly struck from behind sending me up in the air and slamming to the ground. It happens so fast I had zero time to respond. In fact, I never even heard the vehicle approaching. As I lay on the ground wondering what just happened to me I desperately tried to gather myself.

I noticed a car mirror lying the road then saw a vehicle braking about 100 feet in front of me. I was dazed, confused but then realized I had been struck by this vehicle. As the driver approached me, I believe the first words that come out of his mouth were swerved in front of me. There was no traffic, no obstacles or debris in the road that would have caused me to swerve out on the road, yet I found myself having to defend myself while I was slowly going into shock.

Fortunately, there was a business (Budget Tree) across the street and the employees came out to help. I asked them to make sure the driver did not leave the scene of the accident and to please contact the Police. The Winter Springs Police department and emergency response were there within minutes. I did the usual body check looking for broken collarbones and other injuries.

rocco-and-wife-in-kitWe who cycle tend to have a good pain threshold and my first inclination was to get back on the bike and head back home. But as I used a street sign to get back up to me feet, I immediately realized my bike was damage and my body hurt all over. Fortunately for me, I never hit my head but sustained injuries to by ankle, knee, back and of course my rear end.

The Police officers and emergency responds team were extremely helpful and I’m grateful for their assistance. The gentlemen from budget tree were really lifesavers that morning and I can’t thank them enough. The Driver did apologize to me. I can’t be too mad; he was on his way to church.

After they got me stabilized, I called my wife Carol and explained to her what had happened and ask her to come and pick me up not totally realizing how bad I was really hurt. As I waited for her, the adrenaline was wearing off and the real pain was setting in. As she arrived we got the bike I the car and she pretty much had to put in the passenger seat as well as take me out when we got back to or home. She literally put me in the shower, sat me in a chair and helped clean the road grime and blood off of me.

At that time, we realized I there was significant bruising on both sides of my rear end and back. We went to the hospital and spent the next five hours being treated and X-rayed. As the weeks went by additional injuries began to present themselves and 4 months later, I’m still dealing with the injuries. The injuries sustained were a torn ligament and fracture to my left ankle, torn meniscus to my left knee, herniated discs in my lower lumber region and acute sciatica. There was also severe bruising, cuts and a large hematoma to my right side. I have had x rays. MRI’s, visits to the podiatrist, orthopedic specialists, Neurosurgeon. I’ve have been to the pain clinic for epidurals in my back and have had chiropractic adjustments twice a week since June not to mention the numerous visits to my attorney. I still require surgery on my knee and possibly my back.

group-rideI have lived in pain and discomfort 24-7 since the accident. I can’t even remember when I’ve had a full night’s sleep. Running around town for all these medical appointments is like having a full time job some days. This has affected every aspect of mine and my wife’s life. The simple act of sitting, standing walking, getting dressed, is a daily painful experience. The sciatic nerve pain is constant and is so acute at times it brings me to my knees. I can sit for about 30 minutes at my desk before have to get up to stretch. Driving my car for work or sitting on a flight becomes a major issue due to the sciatic nerve and bruising.

And yes, there’s still internal bruising even after four months. Anyone who knows me would tell you I don’t take medications but Pain Killers, muscle relaxers and Ibuprofen have become part of my pain management.

It’s very possible there may be long term issues that I may have to deal with. I never would have imagined I’d still be dealing with the injuries months later. I often think about the driver who struck me. He received a moving violation and got to drive away that morning. I got to look at my $9,500 bike that was no longer any good while I nursed a bunch of injuries.

We have huge problem in Florida and I’m sure other areas of the country as well. Orlando is growing and the riding areas are slowly being squeezed out. For us roadies, we stick to the road for the most part. The trails are a great addition and have their place but there is always the danger of families with children and pets. We try and respect their safety. Vehicle drivers complain and tell us to ride on the sidewalk. That’s a recipe for disaster. There is no easy solution but it’s important the masses understand that there are laws that protect the riders and whether you agree or not, it is the law! And certainly the riders aren’t always angels out there but like me, these are individuals have families and careers. They’re not a bunch of renegades on a mission to take over the roads. We have been struck by vehicles, run off the road, yelled at, spit at, have had water bottle thrown at us. The list goes on.

We’re just trying to make from point A to point B and get home in one piece. A 16 lbs. bike VS a 3000-pound vehicle. Not much contest there.

Eventually I’ll be back on the bike and hammering down the road again, but will forever have the thought of what may be coming up behind me and just a little fear every time I get on the bike.

rocco-and-wife-mountainsWhy would I get back out there and take a chance again? It’s simple: I absolutely love the sport. It’s in my blood and I’ve been doing it for years. I can’t imagine what life would be without it. I enjoy the camaraderie and have made great friends who are like a second family. Riding is a great way to see the world and is wonderful exercise for the mind and body. It never gets old and I’d like to think I have several years of pedaling left in me. I certainly hope there can be a mutual respect and understanding between the drivers and riders, while Orlando and the rest of Central Florida works on improving the infrastructure for cyclists. The sport is always growing and more riders will take to the roads.

As someone who’s become a victim of a car related accident, I would ask vehicle drivers to proceed with extra caution and please understand that like you, we have families we’re trying to get home to and jobs to go back to. If you take what I’m saying lightly, you might try getting on a bike and going out into traffic. You may actually get a rude awakening of what we go through on pretty much regular basis.

state trooper

Hello, my name is Mark


state trooperI’m a transportation safety & crash investigator for the USDOT. I was a State Trooper for 10 years and I know what State Statute 316 has to say about cyclists sharing the road.

I have two sons, 10 & 15 who are cycling enthusiasts.

When I’m not on the bike I’m doing what single dads do best: laundry and homework. Non-bike weekends mean kayaking, camping, or going to the beach. My goals for the next year are to buy my own home and get in better shape.

familyI love riding because is it’s a great way to see a town, get good exercise, and once you buy a bike, the rest is free.

I know the risks of cycling, and my 15yr old has first-hand experience with the business end of an inattentive driver’s sedan. Fortunately he was uninjured. The closest I’ve come is getting buzzed by a BMW in Fort Lauderdale. No argument from me at the next light, however, I’d rather not get shot.

trailI do my best to stay out of a motorist’s way for two reasons:

  1. Sharing the road also means ME giving cars room to get by and
  2. no one will want to read Statute 316 at my funeral.

Some people ask, “Why don’t I just ride sidewalks instead?” Several reasons:

  • Traffic doesn’t have to stop at a sidewalk crossing, so I’m more likely to get hit.
  • People and pets use sidewalks. Kind of hard to pass them and walkers don’t like that.
  • Sidewalks are rough as hell and usually slippery with mud, mold, leaves and sticks.
  • Most unknown fact about sidewalks: In many cities it’s illegal (Orlando for instance.)
  • Orlando allows bikes on some sidewalks, but it must be marked.
  • Also, sidewalks that do allow cyclists have speed limits.
  • Orlando allows 12mph. Orange County allows 15mph on trails and “multi-use” sidewalks.

kid-carFlorida statute 316.2065 says I have the right to ride on the road. With that being said, I will not hide behind a law that you may disagree with because it won’t prevent me from getting run over. I will do my part to stay out of your way because I will not win.

In the end, motorists and cyclists alike should:

  • Read the statute.
  • Be vigilant.
  • Respect one another.

… and when you witness “an infraction”, cool your jets. No one follows the law to a tee: rolling through stop signs, failing to use turn signals, speeding, etc. Don’t flip your stuff when a bicycle rolls through an intersection and I won’t yell at you when you forget to signal.

Mark is a member of our USA Cycling club. We thank him for his lesson in “mutual respect.”

Mark Audette, State Trooper and Cyclist

Mark Audette, former State Trooper and Cyclist