Bicyclist Greg Johnson is headed home Thursday to continue a long recovery, while the driver of the car that hit him remains free. It could take years until he’s able to do the things he likes to do.
“When I asked the surgeon that was doing all the work on my leg, would I be able to ride a bike he said, ‘First you need to worry about learning how to walk.'”
Johnson has 21 broken bones, including an upper leg bone that shattered into about forty pieces. He now has rods in his back and pelvis. His fitness before the crash is a big help, but the climb is all uphill.
“I’m going to walk differently and I’ll have a different gait.” Still, he’d like to ride again. “That’s one of the things that this will have taken from me is that part of my life which is a very major part of my life.”
He was hit early in the morning of June 18, along 32nd Avenue west of Interstate 70 near Maple Grove Park in Golden. The road is narrower there than it is a few yards ahead. A car approaching from behind hit him and he went tumbling over it. He didn’t wake up until later in the emergency room.
“The pain was incredible,” he said as medical staff had to move him from place to place for things like x-rays. “When I first realized how bad things were was my first night in the ICU when I woke up just lead board still. Just couldn’t move anything.”
The driver took off. The Colorado State Patrol later found what they believe is the car and arrested an 18 year old with a prior driving arrest that records show, he never showed up for in court.
Matthew Mundt, 18, was booked into the Denver jail on a warrant for failure to appear in court on that alcohol related charge, but he was later released again. Mundt has yet to be charged with the crash that injured Johnson.
“There’s no way to explain to the individual that hit me, the pain,” said Johnson. He says he’s always been a careful rider and gets as far to the side of the road as he can. The idea of hit and run, does not make sense to him.
“You make a mistake you hit someone you stop. You do what you have to do.” Johnson would like to address the driver in court someday, but now he is simply focused on other things. “I don’t have the energy to have feelings otherwise in that area, I need to put all my energy in my rehab.”
He figures he’s fortunate in one way. His helmet had a big gouge in it, but his head is fine. He credits his “MIPS” bicycle helmet. The multi directional impact protection system helmet can slide, reducing rotational forces on angled impacts that cause a lot of brain injury.
Johnson has biked long distances for years. Sometimes riding his bike across the city from Jefferson County all the way to work at DIA. He’s put in a lot of miles in the mountains.
That day he was headed up to Golden Gate Canyon. He has seen bad behavior in drivers many times and sometimes bikers too.
“I try not to be you know the arrogant guy in spandex out there.” He hopes to now advocate for safety more.
“I’ve noticed more aggression toward cyclists,” he says about times on the road since the start of the pandemic.
He’d like people to know what happened to him is the product of someone in a two ton car hitting a guy on a 16 pound bike.
“Even if I do get back to a bike it’s not going to be the way it ever was before. And so that part of my life has changed.”