Sand Dollar Cards honor bicyclist killed in crash
On July 1, 2018, Nancy Condit was hit and killed by a speeding driver while riding her bike in south Denver. The hit-and-run took place at the intersection of South Downing Street and East Cornell Avenue, after the driver had sped through a red light one block south.
A Colorado native, avid-bicyclist and artist, Nancy ran the Sand Dollar Gallery in Denver’s South Pearl neighborhood until her death, leaving behind a great deal of artwork. As her niece, Traci Carpenter, was sorting through some of Nancy’s belongings after her death, she decided to honor Nancy’s art and spread the word about her work while raising awareness about bicycle safety, so she created Sand Dollar Cards.
Nancy’s artwork showed her passion for the natural world and her hobbies. Nancy’s pieces are featured on the front of each card. They depict bicycles, birds, trees and much more. On the back, they have a short message about Nancy:
Nancy Condit, a Colorado artist and cyclist was killed by a speeding motorist July 1, 2018. In the spirit of sharing Nancy’s love for art, nature, and cycling, we hope these cards serve as a reminder that life is precious.
For every card purchased, 15% of sales will be donated to Bicycle Colorado, a nonprofit who strives to make Colorado the safest and most bicycle-friendly state in the nation.
We recently sat down with Carpenter to learn more about Nancy, talk about bike safety and what she hopes will come out of this moving way of honoring a lost loved one. Please see the full conversation below.
Bicycle Colorado: Tell us about Nancy Condit.
Traci Carpenter: Nancy was absolutely a true naturalist. She was so playful and loved nature, and she saw art in absolutely everything she did. Nancy went to art school at UNC in Greeley. She started with ceramics, which was her main focus for a very long time.
She and my grandfather opened the Sand Dollar Gallery in 1974. She sold ceramics and my grandfather sold watercolors. But pottery and ceramics is hard on your body, so later on she started dabbling in watercolor as well. She developed her own style over the years, and she sold watercolor up until she was killed.
Spending time with her, you’d be walking down the street and she’d find a rock and say “Oh my god, I need this!” and not long after you’d see it at the Sand Dollar as part of some installation. She was so creative, and everything from nature inspired her.
BC: Can you share what happened to your aunt?
TC: She was an avid cyclist. She loved biking and would bike on the High Line Canal often on the weekends.
It was a Sunday and she was hit crossing the street around 1 p.m. She’d ridden out to Trader Joe’s on the High Line, that was kind of her ride. She was riding back, crossing over Cornell and the woman who hit her was driving on Downing. The driver says she was chasing someone who threw something at her car. She sped through a red light and she was going 45 miles per hour on Downing. She hit and killed Nancy, and then took off.
The woman who hit her, she has six charges against her and a long list of offenses. She’s not somebody that just wasn’t paying attention, this is somebody who should not be behind the wheel driving on our roads.
BC: It’s such a tragic story, but you wanted to make others aware of what happened to Nancy. You decided to honor her with Sand Dollar Cards. How’d you make that decision?
TC: Nancy was still running the Sand Dollar Gallery when she died, and my family decided to hold an art sale at the Sand Dollar Gallery. We sold all of the art and bought a bench at the Botanical Gardens in her memory, and then we closed and sold the gallery. My whole childhood was spent in the gallery with art everywhere, so walking through with nothing on the walls was heartbreaking to me. I didn’t want it just to end.
I had her laptop and was just kind of poking around and looking at her pictures and she had a lot of digital copies on her laptop of her watercolors. After talking to people at her memorial and seeing how fast her art was bought and how much it meant to people, I just wanted to keep it alive and keep it going.
For me, it was a way to turn a positive spin on losing Nancy. When somebody passes you always try and think, “What can I take from this, what can I learn? How do I turn this into something meaningful?” And that’s why I decided to donate part of the proceeds to Bicycle Colorado. I hope it’s a way we can keep this from happening and keep other bike riders safe.
I want to continue her art, but also do something meaningful with losing Nancy.
I also have three kids and we bike all around the neighborhood, and it doesn’t always feel safe. We live in South Denver. More and more families are living there. There are more kids and drivers aren’t really ready for that. Nancy’s crash was the main motivating factor, but there have also been two other crashes around our neighborhoods where families lost kids, and that’s scary.
BC: So you were aware of bicycle safety issues before Nancy’s crash.
TC: Absolutely. We hear stories all the time, it was very much on our radar. How do we bike on our streets and keep our kids safe?
Nancy was a responsible rider. She knew what she was doing and did more than she needed to. She had her yellow vest on, she had her helmet on. She was aware of making herself visible and following the laws and the rules, and we are when we’re with our kids, too.
But it’s more than that. Bikers can be visible, but it’s drivers, too. We need to figure out how to share our roads together. It doesn’t seem like Denver is there. I don’t know if drivers are ready for this many cyclists to be on the road, not to mention kids, but they need to be.
BC: So Nancy’s death has made it more real for you, you’re more aware of it in your day to day life.
TC: My driving has completely changed. A big piece of this is awareness while driving and taking responsibility. When I’m driving it’s my responsibility to make sure everybody in my car is safe, but also that everybody outside of our car is safe. My level of awareness has completely changed. Having all three kids in the car is chaotic enough! My phone is put away, I’m not looking at it, we pull over to change the music. This crash has completely changed my perspective of driving.
But also just allowing my kids to go out for a bike ride, or riding with my three-year-old on my handlebars—for me to get back on my bike and bike around our neighborhood, I’m always thinking about the crash. Going on family bike rides will never, ever be the same. We’re very careful and we make sure our kids are as well.
BC: What do you hope comes out of Sand Dollar Cards?
TC: With the cards, there are two angles. The first is bicycle safety. I’m hoping the cards can end up in bike shops and boutiques around town. I want to catch people’s eyes so they can read the story about how these cards were born. The more people know about this, hopefully they’ll stop and think the next time they get in their car. I want to raise awareness for drivers and bikers that people are losing their lives way too early. It’s important. And I want to bring awareness to Bicycle Colorado at the same time, because I think what you do is amazing.
The other side of it is to continue Nancy’s art. Hopefully I can share it with more people who didn’t know her.
As far as the trial goes, I’d like to see the woman who killed Nancy off the road at the very least. She terrifies me, the fact that she’s on the streets driving terrifies me, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what she’s doing right now. She doesn’t have or show any remorse about it, either. It seems like she doesn’t even know what she did is wrong. If she showed some of that I think I’d feel differently. In the end, I’d like to see her off the streets.
BC: Why Bicycle Colorado?
TC: After the crash and as I was starting the process of putting these cards together, two people I know told me to look into Bicycle Colorado. One was a cyclist friend of ours who is familiar with Bicycle Colorado, and the other was helping me with my website and he told me to look you up.
Bicycle Colorado kept coming up, and I was immediately drawn to what you do, especially because you have a wide range of ways you look at this. You’re taking it from every possible angle that you can to make sure bikers are aware, drivers are aware, from policy to education to classes. I like the depth that you have, and that you’ve been around so long.
BC: Anything else you’d like to say about Nancy and the Sand Dollar Cards?
TC: I always knew she loved nature, but never really knew the extent of it until I started going through her artwork with a fine comb after the crash. She had hundreds of watercolors, and choosing the ones to use on these cards was really hard. She loved animals, she did a lot of birds, a lot of snow, trees, flowers. She was always doing wildflower hikes and looking at flowers at the Botanical Gardens. Being outside is what inspired all of her art.
If you go through the different watercolors that’s immediately clear. She was amazing with colors, amazing with contrast. The way she painted was very spontaneous. If you watched her paint, she would take a blank canvas and just start throwing colors on and it would go from there and evolve.
It’s pretty amazing for me to be able to see them on a daily basis as a reminder of Nancy and her art. I enjoy remembering her and everything she left behind for us, and hope others will as well.