A 47-year old San Diego cyclist was killed about 10:40 pm Sunday night after falling in front of an oncoming pickup.
According to San Diego’s KFMB 760, Jaime Ruiz was riding against traffic on the 1200 block of Hollister Blvd when he hit a parked car and fell into the traffic lane, where he was struck by a Toyota Tacoma driven by an unidentified off-duty Border Patrol agent. The driver was not cited; Ruiz was reportedly riding without lights or helmet.
While I often rail against press reports that insist on noting the lack or presence of a helmet in fatal collisions, this is a case where it might actually be worth mentioning — though not without more details.
Depending on the speed of the truck and how the actual impact occurred, this could be exactly the sort of slow-speed impact bike helmets are intended to protect against. Or it could be that the impact occurred at a higher speed or to other parts of the body, making the lack of a helmet irrelevant. Without more information, we’ll never know.
This is also a case in which the rider is clearly at fault.
While riding against traffic may seem logical in order to provide a better view of oncoming traffic, drivers don’t expect to see cyclists riding towards them in the same lane. It also shortens the reaction time required to avoid a collision, as well as increasing the severity of a collision by increasing the speed differential.
This is often a problem among immigrant cyclists, who are sometimes taught to ride facing traffic, rather than with it. While it may seem to make some sense on rural roads where motor vehicle traffic can be rare, it is extremely dangerous on busier streets.
It’s tempting to suspect that Ruiz could have been intoxicated — after all, most riders manage to avoid large stationary objects. However, it’s also possible that, without a light, he may not have seen the parked car until it was too late to avoid it if the street was dark enough, or could have been forced into it by a driver passing too close.
This is the 9th traffic-related cycling fatality in San Diego this year, and the 32nd in the larger Southern California area. Of those, the rider has been at primary fault in 12 of the collisions, the driver at fault in 18; the other two were undetermined.