It’s not just a ride, it’s a movement. Be part of the solution.
Finish the Ride was started in the spirit of courage and determination to overcome tragedy despite insurmountable odds. It is a movement, which has been heard around the world, to stop the epidemic of hit and run crimes and make the streets safer for all road users.
Those who participate in Finish The Ride sometimes do so after their own personal tragedy or in the name of others. No matter who or what they participate for, every participant helps to prevent further loss of life due to traffic fatalities — one of the leading causes of death in the United States.
A beacon for change across L.A., Finish The Ride was born out of horrific tragedy. On Sunday, February 17th, 2013, avid bicyclist and native of Los Angeles, Damian Kevitt and his wife were riding their bicycles along the LA River Bike Path, heading to the LA Zoo to enjoy a lunch.
Only a few hundred feet from their destination, with his wife riding behind him, Damian was struck by a light colored mini-van. It would have been a minor crash but, instead of stopping, the driver sped up to flee the scene. Damian fell forward from the hood of his car and ended up pinned underneath the mini-van as the driver accelerated onto the 5 Freeway to get away.
Despite being dragged on the road and having his right leg crushed by the car, Damian hung onto consciousness, determined to get out alive. He banged on the underside of the car, yelling for the driver to stop… but to no avail. With the knowledge that he had seconds to live or die, Damian managed to free himself and ended up laying in traffic lanes on the freeway. He was badly injured but alive.
Along with scores of broken bones, extensive tissue damage and road burns, the doctors had to amputate his right leg and were doubtful they could salvage his left leg. Damian’s friends and family rallied to his side but, as anyone there will tell you, it was Damian’s courage, spiritual strength and determination to help others that carried him through the darkest days just following the crime.
As word of the hit and run crime spread to millions in Los Angeles and tens of millions around the world, support from friends, associates and total strangers near and far poured in. While the worst of the trauma was behind him, Damian still had to get through months of surgeries and physical therapy before he could walk again, much less possibly ride a bike.
It was at this time, laying in his hospital bed and unable to move, Damian vowed to not only “finish the ride” but to use this crime for the benefit of others and the city of Los Angeles.
“The only way I could ever bring closure to what happened to me is by taking the bad that occurred and turning it into something good — not just for one or two others but for my city of L.A.” — Damian
And FINISH THE RIDE was born.
4 months later, Damian walked out of the hospital on his prosthetic leg. While still recovering and undergoing intensive physical therapy, he not only got back on the bicycle but began thinking of how exactly he could use what happened to him for good.
Friends, family and strangers wanted to “finish the ride” with Damian. In January 2014, a synergistic partnership was formed with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC). Working with the dedicated and knowledgeable staff at LACBC, a FINISH THE RIDE cycling event was launched. In just a few short months, Damian would retrace his route from Hollywood to Griffith Park. He would finish the ride that almost killed him.
As part of the event, Damian took every opportunity to use his story to raise awareness of the epidemic of hit and run crimes. The cry to end hit and run crimes reverberated across the Southland through television, radio, newspapers and thousands of Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and other social media.
Early morning on April 27th, over 700 cyclists and hundreds of well-wishers gathered. The ride was kicked off by Congressman Adam Schiff, State Assemblyman Mike Gatto, City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, City Councilman Tom LaBonge, Jennifer Klausner (Executive Director of the LACBC) and, lastly, an impactful message from Damian. Spirits were high and the theme of the event was clear: traffic safety and the handling of hit and run crimes.
FINISH THE RIDE looked like a major Hollywood event with camera crews and reporters from 14 TV stations, radio stations and print media. They all helped to spread the word that people were demanding safe streets on which to live, work and play.
The ride was undoubtedly a huge success but the best part was the result: the hit-and-run crime rate in Los Angeles (arguably the highest in the country) dropped 16% in a year!
What started as an event became a movement. In January 2015, Damian and the dedicated team that accomplished the Finish The Ride event, formed a non-profit organization called Streets Are For Everyone (SAFE).
While continuing to produce the Finish The Ride event (now 3 of them a year), SAFE has taken on a multi-faceted attack on street safety issues — tackling problems that continue to take the lives of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists on a daily basis.
Their strategy includes:
Sensible legislation — aimed not only at discouraging people from committing hit and run crimes but preventing crashes (distracted driving, drunk and drugged driving, etc.) from happening in the first place.
Media and broad awareness campaigns — tackling not only hit and run crimes but issues such as distracted driving (texting), impaired driving (drugs and alcohol) and increasing awareness of pedestrians and bicyclists. This includes bus ads, billboards, news media, social media and PSA’s.
Direct education through schools — workshops, assemblies, booths at school events and practical drills with students in order to help directly educate young minds on the importance of driving, walking and cycling safely.
SAFE Support — the first of its kind, SAFE Support is a support group for those who have been affected by traffic collision, especially in those critical few days and weeks after the collision occurs. This new program is being developed over the next year.
Working with like-minded groups — there are many concerned individuals and groups out there. By reaching out and working with them, SAFE maximizes their efforts instead of duplicating them.
And above all …
Finish The Ride events — continuing with our roots as a fun event and rallying cry for safer streets, Finish The Ride has evolved into a Ride, Run, Walk N’ Roll. It is an event with something for everyone and includes all forms of active transportation.
While still a young organization, SAFE’s dedicated staff and volunteers have a combined experience of 75 years in the non-profit sector and have already accomplished significant victories.
— Over 100 million people reached through mass media and social media with the message that hit and run crimes are no longer acceptable.
— The first ever hit and run alert system implemented in Los Angeles.
— The first ever standing rewards program in L.A. to help catch hit and run criminals.
— Two state laws specifically addressing hit and run crimes
— Broad billboard campaigns addressing hit and run crimes
— Most importantly, per LAPD statistics, hit and run crimes have dropped by 16% in the last year.
In recognition of their work, SAFE and Finish The Ride have been honored with the Alex Baum Award by LA County Bicycle Coalition, the Deborah Murphy Award for Excellence in Advocacy by Streetsblog LA as well as commendations and recognitions from US congressmen, CA State Assemblymen and LA City Councilmen.
Damian was raised in Los Angeles, CA and prefers, whenever he can, to get around on his bicycle. Schooled in the sciences — studying Marine Biology at UCSB and Microbiology at U of A — he started taking courses on the workings of the mind so he could be a better scientist and ultimately decided to switch his field of interest to helping people directly with their problems in life. Damian became a professional counselor at his church where he has worked for well over 15 years helping both staff and parishioners.
His life took a sudden turn in February 2013 when he was bicycling with his wife in Griffith Park. He was suddenly hit by a car who crossed over the center line. The car fled the scene and Damian was dragged for nearly a quarter mile under the car, onto and down the 5 Freeway.
Conscious, Damian fought to get free and ended up in traffic lanes on the 5 Freeway. He was rushed to the hospital with over 20 broken bones, a partially severed right foot and road burns on over 60% of his body. Damian spent the next 4 months recovering in a hospital. After his recovery, he got back on his bicycle and started his quest to not only “finish the ride,” but to use what happened to him to help save lives of others by making the streets safer.
After accomplishing the first “Finish The Ride” event, Damian set out to accomplish another goal he set in the hospital: to run the LA Marathon. Still recovering from his injuries and missing one leg, Damian trained under a team of coaches, doctors and other support. In March 2015, followed by thousands around the world, Damian successfully finished the 30th Annual LA Marathon, his first marathon ever.
Currently, Damian leads SAFE’s programs to improve street safety. He continues to work at his church in connection with various community betterment organizations and activating church parishioners to get involved and help the surrounding community.
When not working at all hours to help others, Damian enjoys bicycling around LA, running, taking photographs and caring for his tropical fish.