Cyclists will gather to remember one of own, killed in a DUI crash in Riverbank

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Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities increased in California in 2016, according to an Office of Traffic Safety report.
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Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities increased in California in 2016, according to an Office of Traffic Safety report.

Scores of riders from the Stanislaus County Bicycle Club and other groups will join family and friends Saturday to remember a Modesto cyclist who was killed in a DUI crash early this month.

Jack Douglas Higgs, 70, known as Doug, was struck by a motorist late the morning of April 4 while riding along Claus Road near California Street in Riverbank.

A celebration of life will be held Saturday at an Oakdale residence to share recollections of a man family and friends as a dedicated and tough cyclist. So in love with biking was Higgs that he really shouldn’t even have been out that Thursday morning, his daughter, Jessica Joens, said. He’d undergone heart surgery for a cardiac ablation about a month and a half earlier and was supposed to be taking it easy, “but there wasn’t anything my mom or I could do” to keep him from getting back in the saddle.

Stanislaus County Bicycling Club member Karen Shoup said Higgs was “one tough rider” who over the decades averaged 12,000 miles a year. That included multiple Death Rides out of Markleeville, a 129-mile course called the Tour of the California Alps. It goes over five passes — Ebbetts, Carson, Monitor and two more — for “15,000-plus feet of lung-busting climbing,” the event site says.

Higgs also participated in the “really aggressive” Davis Double Century, a 200-mile ride through Yolo, Napa, and Lake counties, SCBE President RJ Corwin said. Higgs was known as a very steady cyclist who kept a good pace, pointed out obstacles to riders behind him and was very alert to traffic, Corwin said.

Though Higgs suffered injuries when struck by vehicles before, Corwin said he fully understands why that didn’t curb his enthusiasm for cycling. There’s a rush that comes with the sport, he said. “Once you start, the endorphins kick in and it’s a great experience, like runners and people who ski get. Yes, there’s danger out there, but there’s danger in doing anything,” Corwin said.

“I was hit by a car one time, and it’s an experience you don’t want. But did it slow me down? No. Once I could get on the bike again, I was right back out there. He was the same way.”

An increasing number of Californians are using bicycles as a mode of transportation. The California Highway Patrol's Facebook page @chp encourages all road users, including motorists and bicyclists, to respect each other.

Besides riding to keep fit, Joens said, her father loved the scenic beauty that came with bicycling. His favorite, and frequent, ride was from Modesto out to the Knights Ferry area, which he said really cleared his mind, she said. He generally enjoyed being out of doors, and activities like fishing, Joens said. Photography was another hobby, and Higgs and his wife, Lynn, often went birding.

Anyone taking a midmorning ride in eastern Stanislaus County had a good chance of seeing Higgs, who rode up to six days a week, Shoup wrote in a memorial on the club site. “These encounters allowed us to ride together if only for a few short miles and keep updated or simply share a friendly wave as we passed in opposite directions.”

Higgs was a respiratory therapist whose career included 20 years at Doctors Medical Center, most of that time in the neonatal intensive care unit, his daughter said. In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by his son, Sean.

The gathering in Higgs’ honor will be from 9 to noon Saturday at 10510 Gibbs Drive, Oakdale. It will include an informal celebration of life at 11 a.m.

Mark Scoggin will lead a ride from the parking lot behind Oakdale Bicycle Shop, 445 E. F St., at 8:30 a.m.

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