Local bicyclists gathered Thursday evening for a group ride in honor of a friend, brother, and fellow cyclist Mark Jilka, who was killed last week after being hit from behind by a Dodge pickup truck on K-177.
“We’re expecting about 80 riders or so. A good way to remember Mark who was just an avid cyclist.” said Phil Jilka, Mark’s older brother “He probably bicycled tens of thousands of miles and hundreds of times up that road where he was hit.”
According to police, the driver of the pickup could have been distracted by a cell phone. Aaron Apel owns Big Poppi Bicycle Company in Manhattan and said Jilka’s passing is a painful reminder of how delicate a person on a bicycle is.
“I hope that it offers the opportunity for some open dialogue between cyclists and drivers,” Apel said “Everybody should pay attention to what they’re doing on the road because every time a bicyclist and a car meet, the bicyclist is gonna lose.”
Dave Colburn, a local bicyclist, a friend of Mark’s and general manager of the Pathfinder in Manhattan had a stern message about using technology while driving.
“It’s just time that we quit doing it. It needs to have the same level of awareness that drunk driving has,” said Colburn “These are avoidable accidents. It’s just time to get off our cell phones and drive when it’s time to drive and talk later.”
Thursday’s memorial ride began at the Blue Earth Plaza and ended where Mark Jilka was hit, three miles south of Manhattan on K-177.
A Ghost Bike memorial marks the spot where Jilka lost his life. It’s surrounded by orange maker flags written with brief messages about a friend, brother and son taken too soon.