Fallen Modesto cyclist 'always rode with a smile on his face'

Biking club member, 73, is fondly remembered

March 23, 2010 

William Foltz was an easygoing man who made sure newcomers to the Stanislaus County Bicycling Club felt welcome, his cycling friends recalled Tuesday.

The 73-year-old cyclist died Monday after he was struck by a pickup on southbound Claus Road near Scenic Drive. According to police, he was in the right lane and put his hand out to signal before attempting to cross the left lane, but the lane was not clear and he was hit from behind.

The driver of the pickup was not cited, but police are still investigating the accident.

Tuesday afternoon, members of the bicycling club rode from the McHenry Village Shopping Center to the accident scene, where they intended to say some words about their friend.

Club members called him an all-around nice guy and a well-educated gentleman. He was a regular on the club's weekend rides, whether to Knights Ferry or Del Puerto Canyon.

"He wasn't a fast cyclist," said David Rockwell of Modesto. "He rode at the back of the pack but always rode with a smile on his face."

Paul Robinson said Foltz made it easy for him to join the club after giving up the sport for 43 years. "He made a rough day into a real good day," Robinson recalled.

A dozen group members gathered outside Funsport Bikes in McHenry Village and expected to be joined by others as they rode to the crash site.

Club members said Foltz had a mirror on his bike and often discussed safety with less-experienced cyclists.

The cyclists said they didn't know the details of Monday's incident but said it points out the hazards to bicyclists on the streets of Modesto.

Tim Johnson of Modesto said many motorists don't seem to be aware they share the road with bicyclists. Often, cyclists aren't given any space.

Riders need to wear helmets and bright-colored clothing, but "you can only be so safe," Johnson said. "It is the motorist who has to be conscious of you, too."

Some cyclists said Modesto should look into "3-foot" laws enacted in other cities, which require that drivers yield at least 3 feet to bicyclists on the road.

According to his wife, Ann, the crash occurred as Foltz was returning to their home in the afternoon, just a block from the intersection of Claus Road and Scenic Drive.

Foltz, an Ohio native, worked in transportation and logistics for Foster Farms Poultry in Livingston before retiring about five years ago. The couple came to California in 1980 when he took a job with the former Tri-Valley Growers' corporate office in San Francisco.

After retiring from Foster Farms, Foltz worked for the California Association of Food Banks, securing fresh produce to feed the hungry, his wife said.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or 578-2321.

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