But Allan and Betty Rogers lost their son. Carolyn Jones-Rogers lost the love of her life. And 16-year-old Nate Rogers lost his father — and best friend.
That’s the harsh reality left for his family after what they believe was a senseless act leading to an avoidable tragedy — an act that shattered lives and stole away their boy, husband and dad from so many who loved him.
Jim Rogers died Jan. 31, 2010, after being knocked off his bicycle from behind, while riding on the right shoulder of Colfax Highway, just beyond the Bear River bridge into Placer County.
According to California Highway Patrol reports, Rogers was struck by a Ford Explorer driven by 55-year-old Patricia Hernandez of Chicago Park.
Hernandez will face a misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charge, which carries a maximum penalty of one year in county jail. According to the Placer County District Attorney’s office, Hernandez appeared to have been distracted before striking Rogers.
During the initial investigation, officers were looking at the possibility Hernandez was using her cell phone at the time of the collision, Gold Run CHP Commander John Arrabit said last February.
“We believe that may have been the case,” Gold Run CHP Officer Chris Wurster said at the time, but investigators could not conclusively prove it.
A trial date has been set for the week of May 9.
While awaiting the outcome of the case, Carolyn Jones-Rogers and a group of supporters have been trying to raise awareness on the dangers of distracted driving and pushing for harsher penalties when it leads to the death or injury of cyclists.
Bicycle safety is certainly a cause for which Jim Rogers was an advocate, made clear by the comments he shared on KVMR radio’s “Bike Talk” program just two weeks before his death.
“Assume that every car does not see you,” Rogers told host Chris Kelly. “Even if you think that they see you, even if you think you have eye contact. Just pretend that they don’t see you. That’s how I stay alive out there. That’s a big old metal machine. They’re in their seatbelts and everything and you’re all exposed.”
Life without dad
“That’s the hardest thing,” said Carolyn Jones-Rogers. “Actually, there are a lot of ‘hardest’ things … but the hardest thing is anything related to Nate, my son, because he doesn’t get to have his dad anymore. They were close … extremely close.”
How did Nate Rogers deal with his dad’s death?
“By breaking stuff,” Nate said, acknowledging the anger he felt following the crash. “But I’ve realized how dumb some people are and I’ve realized how great my life is.
“What’s it been like since then? I’ve gotten better about taking care of myself.”
There’s no doubt he was mad his dad was no longer there to pick him up after school or to share long talks and bike rides. But knowing that the driver of the car that killed his father was possibly using her cell phone at the time only made him more angry.
“Right after it happened, I felt numb,” said Nate, who wears his father’s wedding ring on a chain around his neck. “But my friends at school, at Bitney College Prep, helped me a lot with my anger.”
Carolyn said her son has been able to grow stronger through the support of his Bitney College Prep friends and teachers.
“I just don’t know what I would do without those guys,” Jones-Rogers said. “Nate? He’s awesome. He’s my support … he gives me great joy.”
Karen Wallack-Eisen has known the Rogers family for 15 years, ever since Nate was a toddler at her child care facility. She sees both Carolyn and Nate standing strong as they forge ahead, working to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving.
Wallack-Eisen said their cause just might be cathartic for them.
“They are gaining strength from making there be a purpose to this,” Wallack-Eisen said. “I think Nate is having a harder time, being a teenager, but I think he has also come into his own … gaining the strength to be able to speak about this.”
An educator educates
Through their group of supporters, who formed BADD (Bicyclists Against Distracted Driving), Jones-Rogers and friends have advocated for tougher penalties for negligence behind the wheel.
Taking the stand at a California Assembly transportation committee hearing last April, Jones-Rogers testified on behalf of AB 1951, a bill that would allow an injury-causing traffic violation to be punished as a misdemeanor, which would allow jail time.
But after testifying, Jones-Rogers returned to her roots as a teacher in order to make a difference.
“Going down to Sacramento and trying to change things — it’s not for me,” said Jones-Rogers, who teaches “the best (third-grade) class in history” at Sierra Hills School. “This is how I can do good, just by telling people.
“My dream is (for) Nevada County … to be a place where people just respect each other. You’re going to have jerk drivers and jerk cyclists, but 99 percent of us want to do the right thing and can get behind this.”
Over the past year, Jones-Rogers and her BADD supporters have dispersed 5,000 stickers to be placed on cell phones as a reminder of the dangers of distracted driving.
The group handed out hundreds of the stickers at the Amgen Tour of California, the high school mountain bike state championships and the 50th Nevada City Classic Bike Race.
The stickers, in the shape of a stop sign, are geared to cell phone users to stop and think about using the phone while on the road. A new version of the stickers, in the shape of a peace sign, will soon be available.
“I just want people to think,” said Jones-Rogers. “And for the cyclists, there are three things: One, wear bright clothing — neon green or neon yellow is best; second, get a flasher (light) on the bike, night and day; and finally, give a courtesy wave.
“For the drivers? One thing: no distractions.”
Another opportunity to raise awareness is next month’s second annual Jim Rogers Memorial Ride, slated for 11 a.m. Feb. 12 at the Tour of Nevada City Bicycle Shop, 457 Sacramento St., the bike shop Rogers and his longtime friend Ron Miller founded in the late ’60s as teenagers.
More than 300 cyclists participated in the ride last year.
Following the ride, a Bicycle Benefit Dinner is planned for 6 p.m. at Odd Fellows Lodge, 212 Spring St. in Nevada City. Dinner reservations must be made by Feb. 4.
Along with Nate Rogers’ necklace carrying his dad’s wedding band, Carolyn Jones-Rogers and Jim’s 27-year-old daughter, Gina, who lives in Los Angeles, also have their mementos.
But it’s not as though they need any help in remembering who Jim Rogers was.
Sure, around town, most remember him from his days as competitive cyclist — traveling around the country, even earning the designation as an Olympic team alternate. Or, they’ll remember him as the founder of the bike shop, or perhaps as Allan Rogers’ business partner at their frame shop in Nevada City.
Carolyn remembers him as a man who would drop whatever he was doing — setting a book aside or putting down a wrench — to look someone in the eye and give them his complete attention.
“He was that kind of person,” she said. “We met at the bike races (in Nevada City) in 1990. We were married for 19 years.
“Selfishly, I want to feel like that again. We had such a good marriage. That I may never have that again, is hard. But some people don’t ever have that.”
For the most part, Carolyn says, she’s been doing well with her grief. But there are still times when she’s overcome with emotion, such as when she calls Jim’s parents and hears Jim’s voice still on the answering machine.
“Every time, I cry,” she said, “I forget his voice is on the answering machine. Or I might be looking through paperwork and see his handwriting.”
But she knows hearing Jim’s voice on the machine might give comfort to his parents, Allan and Betty Rogers, who declined comment for this story but did express their sincere gratitude for the way the community has shown them support since their son’s death.
“I think this is always the hardest on the parents,” Carolyn said. “That’s a child they created together and have known his whole life.”
Over the months, Carolyn has learned to let go of any anger over the accident. She said that she and the driver, Hernandez, have actually exchanged letters, although their attorneys have since asked them to stop the correspondence due to the trial ahead.
“I don’t hold anger,” Jones-Rogers said. “It does not make me feel good that she feels horrible. Nothing good comes out of her guilt. I’d actually love to meet her some day, hug her and cry together — though I don’t know whether that will happen. Hating her is not going to bring Jim back.”
And neither will the work in which she’s immersed herself as an advocate for bicycle safety. But it has helped her through the grieving process and it just might help save someone else from going through the hell her family has lived through the past year.
“He didn’t die in vain,” she said. “Maybe we already have saved some lives. And maybe with more time, we’ll help create a community where people care about each other and share the road.”
To contact City Editor Brian Hamilton, e-mail email@example.com or call (530) 477-4249.
Continue reading here: Remembering Jim Rogers – The Union of Grass Valley
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