José Ángel Aceitón’s passion was cycling and a traffic accident that left him quadriplegic at the age of 17 was not going to stand in his way. Determined to follow his dream, he resisted resentment and self-pity and signed up instead for adaptive cycling.
After years of perseverance and dedication to the sport, as well as unwavering support from his family, Aceitón claimed the Spanish Champion title two years ago when he scooped two gold medals and one bronze at an adaptive cycling event in Estepona, Malaga, competing against 150 disabled athletes.
But in a cruel twist of fate, Aceitón died on March 28, aged 34, in a head-on collision with a truck in the suburbs of his home town of Hornachos, Extremadura – exactly 17 years after his first accident.
The collision, which is still under investigation, happened on a straight stretch of road with apparently good visibility. According to the Mérida Civil Guard’s main witness, “the young man veered onto the other lane, hitting the cab of the oncoming truck.” Despite the prompt response from emergency services, efforts to save Aceitón’s life failed, making his death one more to add to the more than 400
cyclist deaths in the last decade in Spain, according to Spain’s DGT traffic authority.
Ironically, just four days before he died, Aceitón wrote on his Facebook page about the arrest of a driver thanks to a video made by a cyclist. “Many more have to be nailed,” he said.
More than 400 cyclists have died on the roads in the last decade in Spain
Aceitón was a familiar figure on the cycling circuit and messages of condolence continue to flood in on social media from individuals and associations such as the Extremadura Cycling Federation, which paid tribute to Aceitón’s indomitable spirit. “So sad and concerned,” they wrote. “RIP Champion.”
Extremadura’s Department of Sport also tweeted their condolences and took the opportunity to remind all drivers of the “need to respect cyclists.”
In May 2017, thousands of cyclists demonstrated across Spain, demanding stricter penalties to prevent accidents. “We need fair legislation because at the end of the day an accident feels pretty cheap,” said a spokesperson from the Madrid Triathlon Federation. The governing Popular Party’s 2015 reform of the penal code means that fatal accidents on account of slight negligence are not considered a criminal offense.
English version by Heather Galloway.