Rancho Cucamonga man dies in first SoCal biking fatality of the new year

You knew it wasn’t going to last.

Just nine days into 2011, the first fatal bicycling collision of the new year took the life of a 44-year old cyclist northeast of Glendora in San Bernardino County.

According to Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Kevin B. Unck of Rancho Cucamonga was riding south on Glendora Mountain Road just north of Sierra Madre Avenue when he rounded a blind curve at approx. 30 mph; unable to negotiate the turn, he drifted onto the other side of the road and collided with a Land Cruiser driven by Martin Habern of Glendora.

Those of us who’ve ridden road bikes through mountain canyons have probably all been in that same situation; you misjudge a corner or take a curve faster than you should, trusting that you’ll get away with it. And most of the time you do.

It could have me many times over the years.

There were countless times when I drifted over the center line rounding a corner; fortunately, there was no one else coming the other way when I did. Or the few times there were, I was able, somehow, to avoid them.

I knew each time that I was risking my life. But as it turned out, I was lucky.

Kevin Unck wasn’t.

Not this time.

My prayers go out to him and his family and loved ones.

Update: This morning I received an email from Kevin Unck’s sister Autumn, who corrected some of the information contained in the initial news report:

Kevin was riding with his cycling team and was 4th in position, the guy in front of him slipped on mud and gravel that was on the road. He fortunately pulled out of his near fall, however, my brother wasn’t so lucky. He hit the mud and gravel, lost control, took a spill and slid across the lines, he was then run over by the vehicle.

I write this to you again, not complaining, but simply hoping that a reminder might be made to even the most experienced and talented riders; as you said, you never know and road conditions are a HUGE obstacle in the cycling world.

Kevin passed away doing what he absolutely loved, cycling.

Again, we’ve all been there. As Autumn makes clear, it only takes a little mud or gravel to take down even the most experienced rider, and sometimes, there’s little or nothing you can do to avoid it on blind curves. The only way to avoid it is to scout your route in advance, or slow down when you can’t clearly see the road ahead of you.

And even that isn’t always enough.

I’ve often written that most collisions aren’t accidents, because in most cases, one or more of the people involved were careless, distracted or broke the law; the rare exception is when road design or conditions are a contributing factor.

Sometimes, an accident is just that.

Update 2: Michael at The Claremont Cyclist offers his condolences, and directs readers to the Facebook page for Coates Cyclery in Pomona to leave thoughts and memories of Kevin, who evidently was a top racer on the masters circuit.

………

The Orange County Register has a moving piece about Jurgen Ankenbrand, the cyclist killed during the heavy storms just days before Christmas.

An ultra distance runner, Ankenbrand had survived another serious collision in 2006, when he was critically injured after being hit from behind while riding his bike just days after his 65th birthday.

He was killed December 22nd, just weeks before his 70th birthday, when he was struck by a Toyota 4-Runner that somehow turned left into him, knocking him into the path of an oncoming vehicle; the driver of the 4-Runner fled the scene.

Witnesses are urged to contact the Huntington Beach police at 714-536-5666.

No one deserves to be run down like that. Especially not someone who fought so hard to make it back.

……..

We are all in shock over the attempted assassination of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

As one who’s earliest memories include the assassinations of the Kennedy’s and Dr. King in the 60s, I’d long hoped that our country had grown beyond such mindless violence. And feared in equal measure that we hadn’t, and possibly never will.

I am heartbroken to see those fears realized.

Aaron Lawrence sends a reminder of something I had forgotten in my outrage and grief, that Giffords is one of us — a devoted cyclist who enjoyed riding to work at the Capitol. And one who didn’t hesitate to yell at drivers who cut her off.

I hope you’ll join me in sharing a prayer or best wishes, or whatever you’re comfortable with, that she may make a full and speedy recovery.

My thoughts and prayers as well to all those injured in this horrific event, that they may recover completely. And that all those killed may rest in peace, and that their families may find some solace in this nationwide outpouring of grief.

And please, let this be a reminder to all of us that words have power, and that the hatred and vitriol in our political discourse have gone far too far.

We are all Americans.

It’s damn well time we started acting like it.

8 comments

  1. TQ says:

    Also on Sunday morning, a cyclist in Huntington Beach was injured when two cars that had collided on PCH came flying down the embankment onto the bike path and one struck him. According to the lifeguard I spoke to, his injuries are very serious but not expected to be fatal.

    • bikinginla says:

      Thanks, TQ. Amazing that riders aren’t even safe on separated bike paths.

      A pedestrian was killed in West L.A. yesterday in a very similar collision, when two cars collided and one struck a man who was standing on the corner.

  2. I hate to admit this, but it is actually a close encounter / drifting across the center line issue that taught me how to corner better. It was one of those odd occurences where I was sure I wasn’t able to make the corner any tighter – I saw the other car coming. Then at the last minute I suddenly moved the right way and brought the bike around. It was a trial by fire way to learn that I could actually turn my bike a hell of a lot tighter at speed than I had expected.

    Funny how the muscles can kick in without a conscious thought of your own when the grill of a car is approaching you at 80+ MPH relative speed.

    • bikinginla says:

      I know what you mean. I hit some gravel while making an easy left turn awhile back, and started to go down in front of an oncoming car. And learned that it’s possible to regain control and carve a turn even when your elbow is nearly scraping the pavement.

      Not that I ever want to try it again.

      • I’ve had those close calls too.

        We have a cyclist-hit-while-crossing-centerline collisions in the Santa Cruz Mountains every couple of years. I think are most recent fatality from this was Bob Hebeler in 2006.

  3. [...] what apparently is their very first striped bike lane.  The result?  More folks riding bikes. The unfortunate death of a descending cyclist marks.  Be careful out there friends. British boxer Gary Mason was unfortunately also killed in a [...]

  4. [...] Area Sees First Bike Death of 2011 on 1/9 (Biking In L.A.) [...]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2 × five =

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

%d bloggers like this: