UPDATE: Bicycle community reacts to hit-and-run accident

The lengths that retired Sonoma State University professor Steve Norwick went to be safe while bicycling has made the hit-and-run accident that occurred Friday morning in Penngrove — leaving him in critical condition at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital — all the more frightening for a community full of bicycle enthusiasts.

According to his former students, Norwick is an avid bicyclist who rode his bike to work every single day, rain or shine.

"He was one of the most careful cyclists I've ever known," said Gary Helfrich, executive director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition and longtime friend of Norwick's. "He would be covered in reflective gear, lights, the whole nine yards, and it was kind of funny to see him rolling into school with all that gear."

It's just horrifying that someone like that would be hit on a straight, wide road with large shoulders and excellent sight-distance, added Helfrich.

Helfrich said that Norwick would want people to continue riding bikes, despite what has happened to him.

"Steve would want people out here riding," he said. "He would be really hurt if people stopped because of this freak accident."

For Helfrich, the situation has highlighted a much bigger concern in the bicyclist community — distracted drivers. He said that even though this type of collision is rare, his coalition has seen an increase in the amount of distracted drivers on the road in recent years.

"People are doing everything but driving these days," said Helfrich. "That puts everyone in our area at risk."

Helfrich added that while he doesn't know the reasons why Cowart swerved and hit Norwick, he and the coalition will be following the case closely.

The collision that left Norwick severely injured occurred Friday morning at approximately 8:30 a.m. The California Highway Patrol said that Norwick, 68, and a companion were riding their bikes south on Petaluma Hill Road. As they approached East Railroad Avenue, a Dodge Ram pickup driven by Rohnert Park resident Robert Cowart, also 68, struck Norwick from behind.

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