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What Comes Next? Part 5—Doug Shapiro: Bike Safety Advocate

From Issue 95 • Words by John Wilcockson

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Doug Shapiro was one of America’s highest profile racers in the 1980s. Twice an Olympian, he won the country’s premier stage race, the Coors Classic, before turning pro with Dutch team Kwantum Hallen. Riding as a domestique for Joop Zoetemelk at the 1985 Tour de France, Shapiro became the third American to finish the race. After two more years in Europe with the pioneering 7-Eleven team, he raced domestically with Coors Light. Shapiro received the Congressional Gold Medal of Athletic Achievement in 1980 and he has been inducted into the U.S. Cycling Hall of Fame (1997) and Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (1999).

PELOTON

Unlike many pro cyclists who are at a loose end on retirement, Shapiro already knew his calling. When he was in his teens on the national junior squad, after a training ride in Pennsylvania, one of his teammates, Michael Walter, didn’t return to the hotel. After learning from the police that Walter had been hit by a drunk driver, the cyclists went to the hospital, where they were told his injuries were so bad he’d be a quadriplegic. “It had an impact on all of us,” Shapiro said, “and that was really the changing moment in my life…. That’s what really drove me to starting my business.”

That business is a consulting firm, Shapiro & Associates, which he founded in 1989 to provide expert witness services in bicycle accident litigation. Shapiro, a native New Yorker, was then living in San Francisco. Using his oratory skills, he says he was fortunate to get in at the ground floor of Silicon Valley’s internet age in the mid-1990s. While continuing his bike safety work, Shapiro has been a sales executive for a half-dozen software firms, including Oracle, BMC, Siebel and, currently, VOZIQ, a cloud-based analytics company.

In his advocacy work, Shapiro pursues bicycle safety cases all over the country, writing reports for legal teams and providing court testimony on behalf of clients. He said, “My business serves as a bellwether of sorts for the rate of cycling-related deaths….” Sadly, over the past year, he has seen a sharp increase in the number of incidents, which he ascribed to “distracted drivers…and little to no financial penalties or jail time” for killing an innocent cyclist.

“I carry a tremendous amount of weight on the outcome of these cases,” Shapiro said. “It takes weeks to prepare for a trial and days to recover.” That’s a regime familiar to this ex-bike racer, once known as The Bullet, who now lives on a ranch near Mendocino, where he keeps a rifle to protect his young family from “extremely large mountain lions and bears the size of an old Volkswagen.”

NEXT: Malcolm Elliott on the Comeback Trail