An 86-year-old man who was well known in the Lamorinda area for bicycling hundreds of miles every week and advocating for bike safety on the roads was hit by a car and killed on Tuesday less than a mile from his home.
Joe Shami, who lived in Lafayette, died from injuries sustained in the collision at Olympic Boulevard and Pleasant Hill Road, as KRON4 reports, just after 6:45 a.m. on Tuesday. He was known for bicycling up Mount Diablo and back at least once a week, beginning at least 10 years ago, and as the Mercury News reports, he was known in the cycling community as "The Legend of Mount Diablo."
When Shami was 83 in 2018 the East Bay Times covered the story of his 500th consecutive week of biking up the mountain at least once a week.
"He was just amazed at how everybody thought he was such a legend and hero, because he was just doing what he loved," says close friend Linda Kwong to the Mercury News. "He didn’t have any idea how much he inspired people."
Kwong, who leads the Mount Diablo Cyclists group, says that Shami was always surprised by how many people knew his name and said "hi" on his rides. "He just didn’t get that his riding created hope and inspiration for everyone around him. But he just didn’t understand. And I’d say to him: ‘That’s why you’re a legend!’ He was just a great, great friend and person."
Kwong told KRON4 that she "never thought that someone would hit him with a car and kill him like that," and that she was devastated and still processing the news.
Shami had always lived an active life, running 10 marathons before he took up cycling. And that 500-week streak ended up lasting 615 weeks, but ended when he blew out a tire.
He was injured after being hit by a car on his bike at least once before, and he was a vocal advocate for sharing the road, as KRON4 reports. Local cyclists say he helped to get bicycle turnouts installed on Mount Diablo in recent years, which greatly reduced collisions.
As Shami himself told the East Bay Times three years ago of his bicycling passion, "It’s a spiritual experience. You’re with nature and when you go early, it’s quiet and peaceful. The mountain is awesome. You really don’t know what to expect each time. The seasons change. It goes from green and verdant to completely dry. It’s always different — every week."
Photo: Linda Kwong/Mount Diablo Cyclists