Worcester, Mass.
August 27, 1995

Mark Young mourned

By Lynne Tolman

   I didn't know Mark W. Young, but any time a motorist collides with a cyclist, I take it personally.

   Young died Aug. 13, three days after a pickup truck hit him as he biked on Route 70 in Boylston.

   The driver, Jeffrey S. Patch of Berlin, was charged with motor vehicle homicide while driving under the influence of alcohol. He has been convicted of driving under the influence at least three times since 1988, according to prosecutor Gerald A. Lemire.

   Young, 42, often took his Cannondale on the Thursday evening rides around Wachusett Reservoir with the Minuteman Road Club and Worcester Road Club. But this day he and Scott Reid of Shrewsbury were riding a different loop on their own, starting from Young's house in Northboro.

   Young was training for the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb on Sept. 10, a severe eight-mile race up a partially paved road with 4,727 feet of climbing at an average grade of 12 percent. The steepest part, right at the top, is 22 percent.

   Young had registered for the event last year, but it was called off because of bad weather. Reid, who hadn't planned on attempting the climb, has decided to do it in his friend's place, wearing Young's bib number. The idea is that Young, who never got to make it up Mount Washington on his bike, will be there in spirit.

   Peter Vincent of Leominster, who often rode with Young and had done the Mount Washington race in 1993, said he had less time for biking this year because of a new job, "but Mark was keeping me focused and motivated." Their training included doing "repeats" up Mount Wachusett, as many as six ascents a day.

   Young, who was an architect, had "a lot of ability and a lot of drive and determination, but he didn't race, because he liked to keep a balance," Vincent said.

   His only race was a two-person team time trial last year in Hollis, N.H., that he entered with Vincent. "Mostly due to Mark's effort, we won," Vincent said.

   On Aug. 1, Young tried the Tuesday night time trial run by Wachusett Cycle & Multisport in West Boylston. He rode the 10.2 miles in 24 minutes, 22 seconds, averaging 25.2 mph and placing fourth among the 27 men racing the clock that night, according to store owner Ric Buxton.

   Young also enjoyed more leisurely riding, Vincent said, and the two friends had gone biking, hiking and cross-country skiing together with their wives.

   Young was a familiar face at the Bicycle Barn in Westboro and Frank's Spoke'n Wheel in Framingham, sponsor of the Minuteman Road Club. "He had a nice bike but he didn't go overboard and try to buy speed. He rode it more for enjoyment and fitness than as an excuse to buy things for," Vincent said.

   The accident, which happened on a popular cycling route, left many riders shaken. Charles Schnare of Townsend, a biking friend of Young's, said his daily bike commute to Shrewsbury has become especially tough because he rides right past the spot of the crash.

   Vincent, who was supposed to ride with Young and Reid that day but didn't make it because of car trouble, said last week he hadn't biked since. "A lot of the fun of it is gone for me at the moment," he said.

   Bicyclists have enough to fear in traffic without the wild card of drunken drivers thrown in. But there's plenty of room for both motorists and cyclists who obey the rules. Just keep the drunks off the road, and the rest of us can share.

   Contributions in Young's memory may be made to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, PO Box 367, Holden, Mass. 01520.

Note:  Jeffrey S. Patch of 56 Barnes Road, Berlin, pleaded guilty Nov. 8, 1995, in Worcester Superior Court to motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation in the death of Mark W. Young. Patch was sentenced to two and a half years in the House of Correction, with two years to be served and the balance suspended for four years with probation. As conditions of probation, Patch was ordered to undergo a drug and alcohol evaluation and any related treatment recommended by the Probation Department, to attend weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and to perform 100 hours of community service. Judge Diane M. Kottmyer recommended that 91 days of Patch's jail sentence be served at an alcohol rehabilitation program.

   Mountain bikers have joined the opposition to a proposed policy change that would severely limit trail use in state forest by motorized dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles.

   The Department of Environmental Management wants to ban motorized off-road vehicles except for organized events authorized by special permit. Only two or three events per year would be allowed in each forest. DEM has cited soil erosion and other environmental threats.

   Technically, under current rules, everyday use of motorized off-road vehicles is allowed in 10 state forests (Brimfield is the only one in Central Massachusetts), but in practice, DEM tolerates dirt bikes in just about all the forests.

   Although the new policy would not apply to mountain bikers and horseback riders, those groups fear they could be restricted next. Directors of the New England Mountain Biking Association agreed Aug. 17 to oppose the policy, according to board member Bob Hicks of Wenham. Bay State Trail Riders (equestrians), the Southern New England Trails Conference and the Massachusetts Recreational Trails Advisory Board are also opposed.

   It's a bad precedent to exclude any group, Hicks said. Furthermore, "closing them out will not make them go away." Dirt bikers will become outlaws, and DEM will lose the chance to teach them responsible trail use and to enlist their help maintaining trails, he said. Outlaw riders won't slow down for other trail users because they won't want to be identified.

   The DEM board is scheduled to vote on the proposal Thursday. Comments may be directed to trails coordinator Peter Brandenburg (617-727-3180, ext. 655).

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