Renowned bicyclist killed on highway
March 29, 2006
A Park City man, described as a giant in the local bicycle scene, died on Saturday when a pickup truck struck him as he rode on the side of a state highway in Utah County.
William Corliss was 49 years old and killed on impact, the Utah County Sheriff’s Office said. Corliss was with six other bicyclists at about 10 a.m. on the southbound shoulder of S.R. 68, described by the Sheriff’s Office as "very narrow."
The authorities said there was lots of traffic on that stretch of the road and, because of the amount of gravel on the shoulder, the bicyclists in front of Corliss slowed down. Corliss tried to brake, ran into the back tire of the bicycle in front of him and fell into the traffic, the Sheriff’s Office said.
The driver of the pickup truck, who was traveling southbound, struck Corliss as he passed. The Sheriff’s Office said witnesses told the authorities "there was no way that the truck driver could have avoided the collision."
Corliss was wearing a helmet but the Sheriff’s Office said the impact was enough to cause "severe head injuries."
Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Yvette Rice said Tuesday that the investigation was continuing but it did not appear that charges would be filed against the driver. She did not release information about the driver.
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His widow, Deb Kirby, said cycling was his "absolute first passion." Corliss developed bicycle products such as heart-rate monitors and other electronic gadgets for athletes.
"He was one of the fortunate people who actually made a career out of his passion," Kirby said. "He’s one of those people you look at and say he never compromised anything."
She described his as giddy about his job in the bicycle industry.
"I get to do this and somebody pays me," was how he talked about his career, Kirby said.
An obituary said Corliss graduated from the University of Michigan and he was most recently the director of electronics development for helmet maker Bell Sports.
The Park City bicycling community was in shock early in the week, saying that the influence Corliss had on the sport was immense.
Todd Hageman, from the Park City Cycling Academy, raced with Corliss, calling the fallen cyclist one of his mentors. He said Corliss was especially successful working with youth cyclists.
"He was very nurturing to the kids. He was just a wealth of knowledge," Hageman said. "The kids would just absorb everything he said."
He was knowledgeable about different aspects of the sport, Hageman said, calling Corliss an "ambassador."
"He just knew the ins and outs of the cycling industry," he said.
Boris Lyubner, the organizer of the Endurance 100 bicycle race, was part of the group of bicyclists with Corliss when he was killed, saying that they planned to ride 90 miles and that they were familiar with the route. They were headed from Lehi to Utah Lake.
Lyubner said he was six riders ahead and did not hear the accident. The driver passed Lyubner and stopped, yelling that he had struck the bicyclist, Lyubner said.
"I was in shock. I was crying. I fell to my knees," he said.
In a narrative that Lyubner later distributed through e-mail, he said the road was narrow, there was a strong crosswind and construction debris was on the shoulder. He claimed in the e-mail that the truck was driving too close to the riders.
"In a tenth of a second, the world lost a great person, dad, racer and mentor," Lyubner said in the e-mail.
A visitation is scheduled on Wednesday from 4-8 p.m. at the Olpin-Hoopes Funeral Home, 288 North Main St. in Heber. The funeral is scheduled on Thursday at 11 a.m. at the Park City Community Church, 4501 S.R. 224.
Following the funeral, friends of Corliss plan to ride bicycles from the church to Main Street.
Corliss is survived by Kirby, a son, his parents, two brothers, a brother-in-law and nieces and nephews.
The Bill Corliss Bicycle Advocacy Fund has been set up at Frontier Bank. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the fund.