Danny Chew is a legend in the Pittsburgh cycling community. The two-time Race Across America winner, known locally for helping to create the Dirty Dozen bike race, has spent decades in pursuit of his goal of cycling one million miles total. That quest has been put on hold, perhaps permanently, after a crash in Ohio on September 4th left him paralyzed from the waist down.
The 54-year-old Chew was riding with his friend Cassie Schumacher when he suddenly experienced a dizzy spell, veered off the road, and crashed into a ditch, damaging the C7 and T1 vertebrae in his neck.
"I thought he was just veering away to go to the bathroom," Schumacher said. "The road was perfect. He did not blow a tire. The only non-normal thing that day was when he veered away from me."
Chew has embraced an incredibly austere lifestyle in his pursuit of the one-million mile mark, which he meticulously chronicles on his website, Dannychew.com. He still lives with his mother, recycles old bike chains, and only stops at free water fountains. He has no steady job, with the exception of organizing the Dirty Dozen race, which he started 33 years ago.
The race is held every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It is a brutal assault on Pittsburgh's 13 steepest hills. WQED Pittsburgh chronicled the Dirty Dozen in 2010:
Chew has basic healthcare, but medical expenses are expected to be steep. His nephew, Steven Perezluha, set up a charity to cover his medical bills at the crowd-funding site Youcaring.com Sunday night. As of noontime on Tuesday, the site had already raised over $29,000.
As for his million-mile goal, Chew isn't giving up yet. He still has more than 200,000 miles to go, but he remains upbeat: "I'll just have to finish my million miles on a hand cycle. So be it."