"He touched the lives of so many people and in time we will find a way to honor his legacy," Magnus White's parents said of their son (center). Courtesy of the White family

A celebration of life service for Magnus White will take place on Sunday, Aug. 6 at 9:30 a.m. on the lawn at Valmont Bike Park. A bike ride dedicated to White is scheduled for Aug. 27.

The Boulder community lost a young champion over the weekend. Magnus White, 17, was on his way to the UCI World Cycling Championships in Ireland next month to wear a Team USA jersey for one of his biggest races yet. On a training ride that brought him onto Highway 119, known as the Diagonal Highway, White was struck from behind by a 23-year-old in a car and was thrown into a fence. The driver was reportedly neither speeding nor intoxicated, but it remains unclear what led her to veer into the bike lane. 

White was by all accounts a passionate cyclist who had his toes in all variations of the sport, from muddy and gritty cyclo-cross to airy and flowy jumps. His dreams were centered on the bike, which is why he was planning to graduate high school a semester early to travel internationally for races in the spring. 

Magnus’ parents, Michael and Jill White, wrote a statement after receiving an outpouring of support that made them realize the reach of their son’s name around the world. 

“Magnus’ passion for cycling started at age 2 with his first Strider bike and started racing at the young age of 8. He was an incredibly self-motivated cyclist who was just reaching his potential,” they said in the statement provided to Boulder Reporting Lab. “Our pride for Magnus goes beyond his accomplishments as a cyclist and student. He held his character and determination to the highest standards, which he carried through everything he did in life. He touched the lives of so many people and in time we will find a way to honor his legacy.” 

The location of the crash, on Highway 119 near the 63rd Street intersection, is a dangerous stretch of road that requires cyclists to use the shoulder while cars blast past at 55 mph. This is the reason why the county has been designing a 12-foot-wide concrete bike path down the center of the highway from Boulder to Longmont.

Design rendering of the proposed CO 119 bikeway project. Courtesy of the Concept Design Validation Memo for the project

Highway 119 between Boulder and Longmont has the second-highest number of bike crashes on any road in unincorporated Boulder County, behind US 36 between Boulder and Lyons, according to county data

Colorado Department of Transportation spokesperson Jared Fiel said there were 56 bicycle crashes on Highway 119 between 28th Street in Boulder and Main Street in Longmont from 2007 to 2021. (A database maintained by Boulder County indicates this figure may be higher.) In October 2021, a 63-year-old cyclist crossing the highway was struck by a driver and killed near 83rd Street. 

If the proposed bikeway were in place, White may have been in a protected lane, although cyclists would still be allowed to ride on the shoulder. 

The crash is being investigated by the Colorado State Patrol, not the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, because it happened in unincorporated Boulder County.  

The bicycle advocacy group Cyclists 4 Community has been involved with the 119 bike path, among other big bike safety efforts.

“With the support of the community, we will continue the work to create separated bike lanes along all major arteries around Boulder County,” board member Rob Andrew said this week. The group has helped with funding for the 119 bikeway by providing letters of support for the many grant applications required to pull off such a project. Andrew said it will be “a role-model bikeway to be built to above-standard criteria and with multiple ‘separated grade’ crossings, which are underpasses at busy roads.”

In March 2023, the Boulder County Planning Commission recommended that the Board of County Commissioners approve the project, which has an estimated cost of $53 million for the bike path, of which $52.4 million has been raised. 

According to the CDOT website, while “it will take time to fund the full vision, the local agency stakeholders are working collaboratively to prioritize construction in a way that promotes a ‘touch once’ approach.” “Touch once” means batching construction activities together to reduce the number of times the corridor undergoes construction.

The project is expected to begin construction in early 2024, too late for White. 

‘My heart aches for everyone touched by his beautiful soul’

Friends, teammates and the larger bike community are mourning together on social media, sharing stories of White’s special talent. 

“Magnus and I first met at the age of 8. For the past 9 years we have shared precious laughters, conversations, and race battles. He was a goofy, outright fun kid to be around. We will forever shred for you mags. My heart aches for everyone touched by his beautiful soul,” wrote Kaya Musgrave, a fellow national champion. 

White rode with Boulder Junior Cycling (BJC) from the beginning and left his mark on the group. 

“Magnus embodied the spirit of BJC in every way. We’ll never forget his artistry on his bike, his curious mind, and his loyalty and love for his family and friends,” the BJC wrote

A bike ride dedicated to White is scheduled for Aug. 27. Donations will be given to his family. (The monthly group ride is typically tailored toward experienced cyclists.)

A friend of the family has set up a GoFundMe page for them, and a celebration of life service will take place on Sunday, Aug. 6 at 9:30 a.m. on the lawn at Valmont Bike Park.

Jenna Sampson is a freelance journalist in Boulder, Colorado. When not dabbling in boat building or rock climbing you can find her nursing an iced coffee in front of a good book. Email: jsampson@fastmail.com.

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