This is not what I wanted to write about tonight.
I had planned to discuss another exceptionally successful CicLAvia; hopefully I can get to that tomorrow.
But this time, we need to talk about, not just the tragic death of a local cyclist on SoCal streets, but the chilling possibility that someone may be intentionally running down bike riders in San Diego County.
According to multiple press reports, 47-year old Encino resident James Steven Swarzman was riding with two other cyclists in North San Diego County around 1 am Sunday. The riders were headed north on the 1300 block of Highway 101 in Leucadia — a stretch of road I rode hundreds of times when I lived down that way. A competitive cyclist, he was reportedly on a late night training ride to get ready for the upcoming season.
A witness on the scene reportedly described a Ford pickup drifting between the Number 1 and Number 2 lanes before striking Swarzman’s bike from behind. Despite a flight to a local trauma center and aggressive attempts to resuscitate him, Swarzman was declared dead just three hours later.
The driver fled the scene without stopping; the vehicle is described as a newer blue Ford F-150 pickup, and should have damage to the front end, including one or more broken headlights. Anyone with information is urged to call the Encinitas Sheriff’s station at 760-966-3500.
That should be the end of the story.
I only wish it was.
According San Diego TV station KGTV, S.D. Sheriff’s Investigators are looking into the horrifying possibility that the collision was intentional.
According to their report, a witness said that the driver didn’t slow down before hitting Swarzman. The description sounds eerily familiar to 33-year cyclist Heath Bernstein, who was seriously injured in a hit-and-run collision on the same highway last January.
He was also riding with two other cyclist, at 11 pm on Tuesday, January 18th, when he was struck from behind by a dark colored pickup truck in nearby Carlsbad. According to Bernstein, it was clearly a deliberate act, with the driver crossing over two lanes of traffic before hitting him in the bike lane.
KGTV notes that the description of the truck is virtually identical to the vehicle in Bernstein’s crash.
It’s bad enough if this turns out to be another needlessly tragic hit-and-run.
The idea that this could be murder — let alone the work of a wannabe vehicular serial killer — is almost beyond comprehension.
Update: A fellow rider remembers Jim Swarzman, and says he had been riding in Leucadia with his fiance and a friend as part of a 600k hosted by the San Diego Randonneurs; he also points us to an old, brief blog Swarzman had started.
Update: In the comments below, Joe Mizereck, founder of 3 Feet Please, has personally offered a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest of a suspect in this case. And Scott Wolfe, who identifies himself as a friend of Jim’s, asks for contact information for Jim’s parents; if you have that information, please call him directly (click here for number) rather than leaving in a public forum like this.
As long as we on the subject of hit-and-run, there’s more bad news from Torrance.
According to the Daily Breeze, a girl was critically injured when she was hit by a car driven by an 83-year old driver while riding her bike at the intersection of Emerald Street and Madrona Avenue around 3:40 last Thursday afternoon.
The driver fled the scene, but witnesses followed the car and called the police and followed the car, who pulled him over not far from the scene. The paper reports that the driver was not taken into custody due to his age and medical condition, however, authorities plan to file felony hit-and-run charges.
Neither the victim or the driver have been publicly identified.
Thanks to Jim Lyle for the heads-up on both these cases. I’ll try to get back to some good news tomorrow.