Let’s start with the facts.
About two weeks ago — Thursday, October 26th at 6 am — 44-year old Francisco Donato of Pomona was riding his bike in the bike lane on the 13300 block of East End Avenue in Chino when he was seriously injured by an SUV driven by 18-year old Gerardo Mendez.
Mendez reportedly was attempting to bypass another vehicle by driving his massive 2001 Yukon in the bike lane when he hit Donato from behind; after all, that narrow strip of paint was put there just for that purpose, and no reasonable person could possibly have foreseen that there might actually be a bike in a bike lane.
And yes, that was sarcasm.
Donato was was airlifted to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton where he was listed in critical condition.
And that’s where the story ends, as far as the press is concerned.
Somehow, they missed the news that Donato died as a result of his injuries (#7) two days later. Or what, if any, charges were filed or under investigation in the case.
Apparently, their interest in the case ended once Donato didn’t die right away. Or maybe once they posted the press release from the Sheriff’s Department.
No follow-up. Not even, it would seem, a phone call to the medical center the following Monday to learn if the victim had lived or died.
No big deal. Just another cyclist suspended in a press netherworld between living and dead, like Schrodinger’s cat. And likely to remain there, if one of my regular sources hadn’t lifted the lid and looked inside to discover yet another dead cyclist.
It’s a problem I’ve struggled with for some time.
I often come across stories about cyclists who have been seriously injured, on nearly a daily basis, in fact; if I reported on every collision I heard about, it would be all I ever wrote about.
No follow-up stories relating how the critically injured rider miraculously recovered from his or her injuries. Or didn’t. Maybe I’m expecting too much, but it seems to me that if the story was worth reporting in the first place, it’s worth reporting whether the victim made it.
But that’s just me.
I’ve tried following up on various cases on my own, but have yet to get a response back from any police agency to any request for more information, with the singular exceptions of LAPD Sgt. David Krumer and Santa Monica PD Sgt. Thomas McLaughlin. I suspect as soon as they hear or see the word blog, my request goes into the Things We Don’t Give a Damn About pile.
Even some fatalities never make it into the press. I’m still waiting for any sort of confirmation about the apparent fatality that occurred in East L.A. last June, which is why it’s not included in my stats on cycling fatalities in L.A. County, along with another unconfirmed fatality in the Malibu area not long afterwards.
And the matter hasn’t been helped by the recent change in Google’s algorithms, which have made it much harder to find more obscure news stories from less populated areas. And makes me worry constantly that I may be missing something.
I don’t have the answer. I wish I did.
In fairness, the press is doing a much better job of reporting cycling injuries and death than just a few years ago, when a cyclist could have been hit by a car in the middle of a newsroom and reporters would have just stepped around the wreckage on their way to the water cooler.
These days, I seldom hear of a fatality without finding some mention in the press, somewhere. Key word being seldom, as indicated above.
But it’s those frequent stories of riders seriously injured that give me pause. And make me question whether they’re back on their bikes, or struggling to recover, or lying in the cold, hard ground, sadly forgotten by a cycling community that never got the news.
Clearly, I’m not the only one who wonders.
I received the following message from the same anonymous tipster who told me about Francisco Donato’s sadly unreported death.
On Sunday evening, I rode past the investigation of a car vs. bike on Bolsa Chica Street. Totalled bike, flares, kliegs. surveying equipment, the whole nine yards. An officer on scene confirmed that “one of our local transients” was transported to the hospital. The PD’s arrest log shows a DUI >.10% (no indication of injury or death) at the approximate time of the incident. There’s been no mention in the local press. Some worthless homeless guy? On a bike? The collision won’t matter any more than his death.