Update: Teenage cyclist dies days after Arcadia collision

An Arcadia cyclist has died three days after he was injured in a collision.

According to the Pasadena Star-News, 16-year old Roger A. Lewis of Arcadia passed away Tuesday morning after he was taken off life, following a collision just before 10 pm Saturday at Santa Anita Blvd and Duarte Street.

Lewis was stopped at the red arrow in the southbound left turn lane of Santa Anita; shortly after the light at the intersection changed to green, he reportedly swerved to the right and was hit by a 2008 Chrysler Sebring coming up from behind in the next lane. He was thrown from the bike, suffering major head injuries.

No explanation is given for why the victim might have moved out of the left turn lane and into the path of the car. And yes, police suggest that there were witnesses in addition to the driver.

It would seem more likely that the driver drifted into the left turn lane where the rider was waiting. However, it’s also possible that Lewis may have changed his mind and decided to go straight without checking for traffic behind him, or that he might have been forced to swerve for some reason.

Unlike motor vehicles, the small size and weight of a bike and rider often make it difficult, if not impossible, to determine the exact point of impact in a bike-involved collision. As a result, determining exactly what happened and who was at fault usually rests on witness statements.

In this case, the question is whether there were in fact independent witnesses who saw Lewis swerve to the right, aside from the driver and/or passengers in the car.

Toxicology tests were pending on both the victim and the 26-year old driver, who was not identified. However, police note that drugs or alcohol did not appear to be a factor in the collision.

The paper also notes that Lewis was riding a fixed-gear bike; however, that would not seem to have played any role in the collision as it was described. They also note that he wasn’t wearing a helmet; whether that could have made a difference in this case would depend on the speed of the car that hit him.

This is the 66th cycling fatality in Southern California this year, which equals the six-year annual average for the region. It’s also the 22nd bicycling death in Los Angeles County, which is just two below last year’s total.

My prayers and sympathy for Roger Lewis and all his family and loved ones.

Update: Roger Lewis’ former classmates react to his death, via Arcadia Patch.

Meanwhile, Boyonabike! stopped by to remind us that the Arcadia City Council rejected plans to develop a new bike plan, with the Mayor of the city — who claims to be an avid cyclist — stating he doesn’t think bicycling can be a legitimate form of alternative transportation. This death can, and should, be laid directly at their feet.

The description in the press of how this collision unfolded continues to eat at me, as it just doesn’t seem to make sense that he would wait in the left turn lane until the light changes, then swerve to the right without warning. But I guess anything is possible.

10 comments

  1. Opus the Poet says:

    One thing not mentioned yet is he may have been chasing the bike to get the center of gravity between his wheels after a bobble at startup, which can be caused by any number of things, pavement irregularities, a sudden gust of wind, startle reaction to being passed to closely… Or the driver could be a huge male sexual organ who thinks he has to pass every bike to the left no matter where they are because bikes belong in the gutter…

  2. Erik Griswold says:

    I’d like to respectfully put a word in for the box or “Copenhagen” left. Does much to avoid these situations, even if it takes a bit longer. Please consider it!

  3. JD says:

    Back in the days before traffic signals and arrows the major intersections were commonly 4 way stop signs. Long lines of cars honking and waiting to turn left one or two at a time, and the saying of the day was “three rights = a left”. Very sad for the family and friends of the teenage victim. You are in our heartfelt prayers.

  4. boyonabike says:

    So terribly sad. My heart goes out to Roger’s family and friends. It should be noted that Arcadia’s city council last year voted against a citywide study that would have paved the way for a bike plan, saying it cost too much money. While this may not have saved Roger’s life, the fact is, Arcadia’s bike and pedestrian infrastructure is stuck in the 1950s and desperately needs improvement. Arcadia city leaders need to wake up before more people are killed or maimed.

  5. grrlyrida says:

    Hi Ted,

    Just saw a cyclist down west of Fairfax on Olympic at Hayworth. The front tire was pretty mangled and the man struggled to get up but fell down. He looked like a construction worker. A man was already on the phone calling 911. He said the cyclist was hit by a jeep cherokee and there was one in the left turn eastbound lane. I hope everything is alright with him.

  6. EM says:

    Our family knew this boy. Our prayers and hearts go out to the family. All three of my teenage boys ride fixies and it gives me great concern to think they are riding on the streets. I mountain bike, and rarely, if ever, ride on the street. Cars are just too dangerous for bicyclists. If, as the police report says, he was in the left turn lane, he was probably waiting for the light to change so he could turn left, since he lived one street down to the left. Someone else wrote above, he might have been balancing and did that little swerve a rider does from a full stop. Another possibility is that the left turn light is one that changes only when a car rolls over the “weight sensors”. When the light turned green for traffic to continue through the intersection, the left turn light might not have changed if only the bike was in it, because bikes do not trigger the weight sensors. He might have not seen the car and changed his mind to go straight, rather than turn. There is both an alleyway and another street that he could have turned left at more South of Duarte if he decided to proceed straight. Very unfortunate. I ask my boys to try and ride on the sidewalk whenever there are no pedestrians, but the Arcadia PD hand out tickets frequently for that to cyclists. All three of my sons have had very close calls with cars. Sometimes being run off the road, other times getting clipped by the car. I’m just not sure that bikes are safe on streets. Bike lanes would help, but not in this case. Very sad.

    • bikinginla says:

      I’m very sorry for your loss; I know too well how it feels to lose someone like that.

      It may seem counter-intuitive, but actually, your sons are safer riding on the street than on the sidewalk, where they have to contend with multiple driveways, dangerous street crossings, and drivers looking the opposite direction.

      The key is to always ride defensively, and position your bike where you will be seen by everyone on the road, and out of the way of doors and turning drivers.

      My suggestion would be to enroll them in a safe bicycling class; I can personally recommend courses from C.I.C.L.E. and Sustainable Streets. Either one will teach them the skills and knowledge they need to stay safe on city streets.

  7. EM says:

    It’s a good point, sidewalks can be just as dangerous, if not more so. The most dangerous streets in Arcadia are Huntington and Santa Anita. Arcadia is very spread out and many of the teens ride bikes to get around. Both Santa Anita and Huntington are 40 mph streets. Many drivers travel at speeds greater than 50 mph on each street. Both streets have one side that is non-residential and the sidewalks have very little interruption from driveways. It is difficult either way. Rider safety classes would be good, but we are talking teen boys here. None of the kids in Arcadia wear helmets on fixies. It isn’t “cool”. I wish the police would give tickets for that one consistently. So that nobody looked “geeky” because they wear one, but all have to. My son received a ticket for no helmet last month ($200). He has to pay it, hopefully he will learn the lesson from not wearing his helmet.

  8. EM says:

    You wrote: “The description in the press of how this collision unfolded continues to eat at me, as it just doesn’t seem to make sense that he would wait in the left turn lane until the light changes, then swerve to the right without warning. But I guess anything is possible.”

    What has been eating at me is the fact that this is a two-lane left turn area. – Two dedicated left turn waiting lanes. Why would a cyclist sit in the right lane (which would be where he would have to be to be struck by a passing car from the same direction) when the curbed median is in the left portion of the two-lane left turn area? My wife and I went by to see the memorial at the intersection where Roger was struck and fatally injured.

    Standing at the corner I pointed over to where the press wrote that Roger was waiting to turn left – telling my wife, “It happened there.” At that moment it struck me – why would a rider turning left, sit in the right lane of a two-lane left turn?

    Anyone that has ever ridden on the street knows it just makes sense to stay close to the curb so you can put your foot down on it, and not have to get off the saddle. That means if Roger was waiting at the left turn light, as the press reported, then he should have been leaning left with his left foot on the median’s curb. Or, he could have been doing the “fixie balance” they sometimes do. But, I seriously doubt he was waiting in the lane closest to passing traffic. Who sits out in the open like that?

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