By Dave Moller and Michelle Rindels
Friends, family and cycling enthusiasts are mourning the death of Chicago Park resident Jim Rogers, a father of two whom one fellow rider called “the cyclist” of Nevada County.
Well-known as one of the founders of what is now the Tour of Nevada City Bike Shop, 53-year-old Rogers died Sunday after being hit on Highway 174 as he pedaled up the steep, winding grade from the Bear River toward Colfax in Placer County.
“Jim was the best dad I’ve ever seen in my life,” said his wife, Carolyn Rogers. “He was the most loving, amazing, gentle man. He was almost too perfect.”
Rogers worked in furniture restoration and loved animals, world music, board game nights with his family and trips to Hawaii. When he and Carolyn first met in 1990 at the Nevada City Classic bike race, “it was love at first sight,” she said. “My jaw dropped.”
As a preteen, Rogers started fixing bicycles in his parents’ basement, working with his late friend Ron Miller to earn money for snacks. In 1980, he was an alternate for the Olympic bicycling team, according to his father, Nevada City business owner Allan Rogers.
Jim Rogers had competed in more Nevada City Classic bicycle races than anyone else, according to race organizer Duane Strawser. Rogers is one of the few locals who ever won the Father’s Day race, taking the prize in the under-18 junior competition.
“He set the bar for the race being such a local draw,” Strawser said.
Among cycling enthusiasts, Rogers is remembered as a man who kept tabs on slower riders and calmed his fellow cyclists if ever motorists harassed them, according to fellow rider Jim Delwich.
“He was the sweetest guy I ever knew,” added friend and fellow Sierra Express Racing Club team member Craig Lindberg.
Rogers was struck while riding his bicycle on the right shoulder at 12:10 p.m. Sunday on the narrow grade, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Chris Husse of the Gold Run area office.
He was knocked off the bicycle from behind by a Ford Explorer driven by Patricia Hernandez, 55, of Chicago Park, according to CHP Officer Chris Wurster. Rogers was flown by a CHP helicopter from the scene to Sutter Roseville Medical Center, where he died, Husse said.
He suffered major head trauma even though he was wearing a helmet, according to Gold Run Area Commander John Arrabit.
Rogers had called in to KVMR’s Biketalk during a recent show, talking about the dangers of Highway 174 and offering tips on how to avoid cars, host Chris Kelly said.
Who was at fault in the accident is being investigated, but neither alcohol nor drugs were involved with either party, Husse said. No citations or charges have been issued, pending the investigation, Wurster said.
The CHP Gold Run office is asking anyone with information about the crash or any witnesses to call (530) 389-2205, Arrabit said.
Motorists need to pay extra attention and slow down on narrow roadways to avoid the sudden appearance of bicyclists or pedestrians, Arrabit added.
Rogers is survived by his wife, Carolyn Rogers, who teaches third grade at Sierra Hills School; son Nate, 15, a student at Bitney College Prep School; daughter Gina, 26; and parents Allan and Betty Rogers, who own Rogers Picture Framing in Nevada City.
He also was secretary of the International Order of Odd Fellows’ Nevada City lodge.
A visual memorial to Jim Rogers can be seen at SierraExpress.org.
Memorial contributions may be made to the “Nate Rogers fund in memory of Jim Rogers,” hosted by Wells Fargo Bank, 757 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, CA 95945.