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Bicycle accident

Joe Billesbach, a cyclist and Beatrice City Council member, was struck Thursday night as he crossed Antelope Valley Parkway on the N Street bike lane. 

A fixture of Lincoln’s cycling scene was hospitalized late Thursday after getting thrown into the windshield of a suspected drunk driver.

Joe Billesbach lives in Beatrice, where he’s on the city council, but he routinely rides his bikes through, and around, Lincoln.

“A lot of people know who he is,” said Rob Evans, a friend and riding partner. “In addition to being a cyclist in the community, he’s more involved — he’s got several rides and events that he organizes or helps with.”

He hosts the open-to-all Pub Pedalers group rides on Wednesdays in Lincoln and races in the 150-mile Gravel Worlds that circle the city. He also helped stage the Solstice 100 and Homestead 100.

Thursday, Billesbach was riding in the Tour de Brew, a weekly group event that takes cyclists from Moran’s Liquor Works to Cycle Works, and then downtown for dinner before ending at Empyrean Brewing Company.

The ride, which attracts about 200 riders each week, doubles as a fundraiser, collecting about $40,000 for local charities in the past four years.

By 10 p.m., Billesbach and others were headed back to their cars at Moran’s, near 33rd and A streets. A group of about 15 were biking east on the N Street Cycle Track when they stopped for a red light at Antelope Valley Parkway, said Jamie Granquist, who was riding behind Billesbach.

The light for cyclists turned green, she said, and Billesbach was the first through the intersection.

“This guy just ran through the red light and hit him full on, basically T-boning Joe,” she said. “Joe went up on the hood and broke the guy’s windshield.”

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The driver didn't stop. Another cyclist chased the car to try to record its license plate but couldn’t catch up.

Police eventually arrested 25-year-old Shane Heinen on suspicion of drunk driving, leaving the scene of an injury accident, driving under suspension and reckless driving, Capt. Jeri Roeder said Friday.

The impact broke four of Billesbach’s ribs and a bone in his leg, and left him with cuts and bruises, said Granquist, who went with him to the hospital.

“He had quite a bit of gnarly meat-looking stuff on his elbow,” she said. “His arm was just ground up.”

He was scheduled to be released Friday afternoon, she said.

By then, though, his friends were already rallying. They filled his Facebook page with well wishes. And in just six hours, a GoFundMe page had raised nearly $3,000 to help with his medical bills and other expenses.

“He’s your average Joe; that’s what he calls himself,” Granquist said. “He’s just a really solidly nice human being, he’s so inclusive.”

His bike, a single-speed All City Nature Boy, was hit hard too — its handlebars and seat torqued to the left by the impact. Evans saw photos of it and doubts it will be rideable. That would make it the second bike Billesbach has lost lately; last November, his $2,500 Salsa Warbird was stolen from his car during a Beatrice City Council meeting.

“It’s not been a good bike year for him,” Evans said.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7254 or psalter@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSPeterSalter.

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