A year after he died, Jessie Taylor’s legacy lives on as his family, friends, fellow bicyclists and workplace strive to make our roads safer for all.
Attached to a rack outside of Kona Brewing Co.’s pub and brewery is a ghost bike — a white-painted bike that honors him and serves as a somber reminder of what can happen. Taylor, a 52-year-old Kailua-Kona resident, was struck and killed July 12, 2012, by a pickup truck, driven by a 16-year-old Hawi girl who had apparently fallen asleep and drifted off the side of Akoni Pule Highway. Taylor was riding on the highway’s shoulder at the time.
Taylor, a U.S. Coast Guard veteran, worked three different times for Kona Brewing Co. for a total of 10 years in the kitchen, Growler Shack, and green room for concerts. He was known for his constant enthusiasm, excitement and positive energy. He always had a smile on his face, was full of aloha and never took anything for granted, said Kona Brewing Co. President Mattson Davis.
Taylor was also extremely passionate about cycling, whether it was for exercise, fun, competition, transportation or exploring. He could be seen daily riding his bike up and down Palani Road. He also worked for a short time with a bike tour company. Cycling gave him a healthy respect for elements more powerful than himself and further fueled his love of the island, Davis said.
His death shocked many in the community and Kona Brew Co. shut down its restaurant so everyone could mourn, Davis said. The ghost bike, later installed, has made a profound impact as such memorials help raise awareness about road safety. As a tribute, Kona Brewing Co. also made a special batch of beer called Pedalers Pilsner last November and donated $1 from every pint of it to Peoples Advocacy for Trails Hawaii, or PATH.
This grass-roots nonprofit public access advocacy organization’s mission is to safely connect people and places on Hawaii Island with pathways and bikeways.
PATH was founded in 1986 in response to a growing need for places to walk, bike and hike safely and legally on the island. According to PATH’s website, trails, pathways and bikeways have a unique ability to stitch our community together into a healthy, equitable and sustainable tapestry of life in Hawaii.
In April, PATH received $3,500 from the Kona Brewing Co. That money was used to bring Preston Tyree of The League of American Bicyclists from Austin, Texas, to Kailua-Kona to teach an intense three-day seminar in May. Money was also used to pay for 11 people to attend the 90-hour course. Nine passed and became League certified instructors, including one Oahu resident, said PATH Executive Director Tina Clothier.
The course was an opportunity to train bicycle advocates and those interested in bicycle education to promote and encourage safe practices for all users of the transportation system. They learned bike safety, traffic and handling skills, as well as how to introduce fundamentals to current and future users of roadways, Clothier said.
The eight new Big Island instructors are now teaching bike safety skills to children at the county Department of Parks and Recreation’s Summer Fun program and to adults during PATH’s two-hour city cycling program. The next adult cycling program is slated Aug. 24 at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
Instructors will also teach the popular Bike Ed classes to fourth-graders during this upcoming school year, Clothier said. PATH has a total of 10 instructors now, she added.Davis said Kona Brewing Co. plans to make the Pedalers Pilsner tribute to Taylor and fundraiser for PATH perpetual, done annually.
He hopes it makes an impact, one that resonates with local families and particularly the keiki.
He thinks the ghost bike and PATH programs help increase bike safety, whether its improving one’s ability to ride or heightening people’s awareness and diligence.
Clothier is grateful for Kona Brewing Co.’s donation and support, saying such contributions help PATH keep its programs going, along with its education and awareness efforts. PATH gets funding from the county and state Department of Transportation, but unencumbered donations allow for more opportunities to accomplish its mission.
At 6 p.m. Friday, Kona Brewing Co. will hold a special salute to Taylor.
PATH is also planning a memorial ride later this year or next. For more information, visit pathhawaii.org or konabrewingco.com.