DETROIT—UPDATE for story originally posted on Oct. 3, 2013
Detroit Police have released new information on the death of Detroit cyclist Hal Williams. Friends and family initially told Mode Shift that Williams, a corker with the weekly Slow Roll bike ride (SEE BELOW), was killed in a bicycle-motor vehicle collision after spending the evening of Saturday, Sept. 28 downtown with friends.
At first, DPD could not verify those accounts, saying they had no information about his death. Now after further correspondence with Mode Shift, the department says Williams, 59, was the victim of a hit-and-run collision. The fatal crash took place by Joy Road and the I-96 Service Drive on the morning of Sunday, Sept. 29. Williams was transported to a local hospital by EMS personnel at approximately 3:30 a.m., but was pronounced dead on arrival.
Detroit Police did not respond to requests for comment on why the details of his death were originally unavailable.
On Oct. 11, friends of Williams installed a ghost bike memorial for him near Motor City Casino. Due to limited information, they believed the site, at Grand River and Temple, was in the vicinity of where crash had taken place.
Ghost bikes have been put up at crash sites since the early 2000s to honor fallen cyclists and raise awareness about the need for safe driving and riding habits.
Another senseless vehicle crash has taken the life of a Detroit bicyclist, this time a beloved member of the city’s cycling community.
Hal Williams, a regular rider and volunteer with Detroit’s weekly Slow Roll ride, was killed on Saturday, Sept. 29, after being hit by an automobile, according to multiple sources including an online post from a family member. News of Williams' death came just days after an eight-year-old boy on a bicycle was killed by a hit-and-run driver.
Mode Shift has no specific details about the most recent incident, except that it occurred in Detroit.
Williams niece Sabrina Sears described her uncle on the online site Give Forward.
“He was a veteran, a member of the 82nd Airborne division and possibly the sweetest, most caring man anyone could know,” she said.
For over a year, Williams had been volunteering as a corker with Detroit’s Slow Roll ride. Corkers stand in front of vehicle traffic during a bicycle procession to prevent accidents and work to encourage safe habits on the ride.
“He was one of the backbones. I knew if I asked him to do anything, he’d do it,” Mike Torres captain of Slow Roll’s corkers told Mode Shift. “Just in the biking community itself, he was loved by all. Everybody got along with him. He was just a super nice guy.”
He first met Williams about 14 months ago at his first Slow Roll. Torres helped him fix a flat on the old beat-up beach cruiser he was riding and gently chided him that he should have brought some tools with him.
“The next time I saw him on Slow Roll he had a new bike," he said. "He bought himself a Schwinn and had a bagful of tools and patch kits and tubes and was ready to do it -- and from there on out he would always stop and help somebody who had a flat.”
Torres said Williams was in his mid sixties, rode with a bicycle club called the Born Riders when he wasn’t hanging with the Slow Roll crew and also belonged to the Outcast Motorcycle Club.
William’s friend Robbie Samples, a Pontiac resident who works and bikes in Detroit, told Mode Shift she was out with him the night of his last ride.
“We had just had a good time Saturday night we and were listening to the blues and some rap music. We had rode around. He had helped us fix my sister's chain and fix my brakes,” she said. "He had been telling me how he rides his bike and he lost all this weight. He was telling me he’s glad that his kids were adults and now it's time for him to enjoy himself. We had a good time and I was just truly devastated to find out [what happened] the next day.”
This past Monday, Slow Roll corkers wore black memorial T-shirts to commemorate William’s life. Torres has also organized a memorial ride to the Outcast clubhouse.
As for the crash, he’s puzzled how anyone driving couldn’t have seen Williams, since he always rode safe and turned on his lights at night.
“I think humanity’s losing a little bit everyday, because I don’t want to blame it on the drivers. I don’t want to blame it on bikes,” he said. “Being someplace is more important than anything else, because there’s people who run over pedestrians, 8-year-old kids bicyclists; it doesn’t matter. The numbing of the society is just amazing at this point.”
Williams' family is raising money to help pay for his funeral expenses. To donate money, visit Give Forward’s website.