Cyclists participating in an annual California coastal bicycle tour this month will ride in memory of Santa Monica resident Scott Bleifer, an avid cyclist who was killed Saturday, September 10th, while riding on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in Malibu.
Bleifer, 41, and another cyclist, Stanislav Ionov, 46, of Calabasas, were riding northbound on PCH near Pepperdine University when they were forced to turn into a highway lane because of a construction zone with no shoulder, said Sgt. Philip Brooks of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Malibu/Lost Hills station.
While riding in the highway lane at about 10 a.m., Bleifer and Ionov were hit by a catering truck also headed northbound on PCH, Brooks said.
The two cyclists were airlifted to the UCLA Medical Center, where they subsequently died from their injuries, he said.
Bleifer and Ionov were the first cyclists to die on the local route of PCH in at least five years, Brooks said.
Amy Robertson, vice president of campaign development for the Arthritis Foundation Southern California Chapter, said Bleifer was a “year-round” cyclist who was also an ambassador for the sport.
“He loved to be on a bike,” said Robertson, a friend of Bleifer’s. “It (cycling) was his chosen sport.”
Bleifer, who was a “strong, safe cyclist,” was to participate in the Arthritis Foundation Fifth Annual Amgen California Coast Classic Bicycle Tour, his third ride with the tour, Robertson said.
The 500-mile coastal bicycle tour is scheduled to begin in San Francisco Saturday, September 24th, and end in Santa Monica Saturday, October 1st.
After the death of Bleifer, tour organizers decided to dedicate this year’s ride to Bleifer, who was an “ambassador for the Foundation the past couple of years,” Robertson said.
“It’s important to honor his memory because cycling and the foundation were so important to him,” Robertson said.
The California Coast Classic ride raises money for arthritis programs and research on a local and national level.
To date, this year’s tour has raised more than $960,000, Robertson said.
Bleifer had chosen the Arthritis Foundation as his charity and during his two California Coast Classic rides he had become “part of the family” that forms among participating cyclists, Robertson said.
“We’re terribly saddened by what happened,” Robertson said. “It’s devastating for us here and for everyone who knew him.”
The accident that claimed the lives of Bleifer and Ionov was “of no fault” to the cyclists, she said.
The driver of the catering truck was apparently not paying attention when he ran into the cyclists and did not use the brakes, Brooks alleged.
The driver was arrested and has been charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter, police said.
The Arthritis Foundation expects about 215 cyclists to participate in this year’s California Coast Classic tour, and many will be riding in memory of their friend Bleifer, Robertson said.
At the start of the ride friends of Bleifer will wear armbands to honor the fallen cyclist.
Bicycle tour organizers plan to have a moment of silence at the finish line in Santa Monica for Bleifer, and his friends and family have been invited to attend.
Ride organizers have also chosen not to assign Bleifer’s tour number to any other cyclist, Robertson said.
“He will be missed on this tour and it will not be the same without his presence,” Robertson said.
“He touched so many people’s lives.”
Bleifer’s family asks that any donations be made to the Arthritis Foundation memorial fund. Anyone wishing to donate online may do so under Scott Bleifer’s name at www.AFCoastride.kintera.org