No charges in Sarah Leaf death, guilty plea in North San Diego, vehicle identified in Gardena hit-and-run

Evidently, they just don’t get it.

Newport Beach police have cleared the truck driver in the death of cyclist Sarah Leaf, concluding that she lost control of her bike and fell under the turning truck on her own, without the truck ever hitting her.

Yet they apparently failed to consider the possibility that it was a massive truck passing too close and/or turning across her path that caused her to lose control.

So let’s get this straight once and for all. Skilled, experienced cyclists don’t just fall over. And a vehicle doesn’t have to actually hit a rider in order to cause her death.

Something made her to lose control. Until the police can offer some reasonable explanation of what that was, we should not accept the results of this investigation.

And until police everywhere figure that out, no bike rider will ever be safe on our streets.

Update: A commenter who claims to have known a friend of Leaf disputes the contention that she was an experienced rider. By his account, she was a novice rider on a borrowed bike, who had been urged by a friend not to ride that day. And according to him, the reason she fell because she was unfamiliar with clipless pedals. However, as he did not actually witness the collision, that should be taken with a grain of salt; hopefully, we’ll learn more on Monday when the Chief of the Newport Beach Police Department meets with the city’s Citizens Bicycle Safety Committee.

………

Jin Hyuk Byun, the 19-year old driver charged with killing 18-year old North San Diego bike commuter Angel Bojorquez in a late night hit-and-run, has pleaded guilty to a single felony count of hit-and-run causing death.

Byun faces up to four years up to four years in prison — or as little as probation. Hopefully, the court deliver a sentence that shows Bojorquez’ life had value.

Unlike courts in, say, San Bernardino.

………

Gardena police have finally narrowed down the type of vehicle used in the hit-and-run death of Torrance cyclist Benjamin Torres on October 10th.

Be on the lookout for a maroon or purple 1995 to 2001 Ford Explorer or a 1997 to 2001 Mercury Mountaineer with light to moderate damage to the right headlight area. Call Investigator Matthew Hassoldt at 310/217-6189 if you have any information.

And on a related note, his step-daughters are asking cyclists to join them in honoring Torres and calling for bike safety on November 10th.

………

The LACBC is launching a safety education and bike light giveaway program dubbed Operation Firefly. The Times looks at the Bicycle Kitchen’s women’s-only Bicycle Bitchen night. Richard Risemberg writes that bike lanes benefit the entire community, including local merchants. Your access to mountain bike trails could depend on playing nice. South Pasadena may consider extending the Arroyo Seco bike path next week. The Culver City Bicycle Coalition is hosting a fundraising ride on Sunday, November 11th, while C.I.C.L.E. is hosting a Made in LA ride on Saturday, November 17.

How not to sell a bike on Craigslist. Video of the amazing turnout at last weekend’s memorial ride in Newport Beach. A new female-centric bike shop opens in Orange County. If you’re looking for a good ride and good beer, you could do worse than a ride to North San Diego County’s Stone Brewing Company. Lucky San Diego cyclists get to choose between two bike supporters for mayor, which is exactly what the LACBC’s Civic Engagement Committee is working towards here in L.A. A nurse has her bike stolen when she stops to help an injured cyclist at San Diego Critical Mass — then a local businessman buys her a new one. A coach with the Sacramento Kings hits a bike-riding child while test driving a new Jaguar, then returns it to the dealership instead of staying to help. Palo Alto police arrest two bike thieves after recognizing them from security footage. Who’s the genius who put a Share the Road sign in the middle of a bike lane? A 92-year old Sonoma driver denies running down two boys in a crosswalk, claiming they were the ones who damaged his car — and that one of them was a girl.

Seven reasons why bikes are for everyone. What does it take to build a world-class bicycling network, and will the US ever embrace bicycling like Denmark has? Why you might need more than one bike. Someday soon, you may never get another flat. Private bike share program Spinlister changes its name to Liquid, in an apparent attempt to conceal what the hell it is from anyone who might be interested. HuffPo looks at the hubris of Lance Armstrong, while the company that gave him $12 million in bonuses wants it’s money back, and an English town prepares to burn him in effigy; thanks to George Wolfberg for the latter link. Drunk Spokane driver gets two-and-a-half years for killing a cyclist. My hometown employs a smartphone app to crowd source cycling data. Oklahoma City gets its first sharrows. A Texas cyclist is under arrest for threatening two pedestrians with a gun. Doorings are down in Chicago, the question is why. Kill a Windy City cyclist in a right hook, and get a ticket for an improper right turn; no, really. The real riders on the storm — New York filmmaker Casey Neistat captures a four-hour ride through hurricane drenched streets. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, bikes provide the best way in, out or around Manhattan, as the city bans vehicles with less than three occupants from Manhattan. The anti-bike New York Post blames bike lanes for bus-bike collisions; yeah, it couldn’t be impatient bus drivers, overly aggressive riders or just plain carelessness. The world’s first car-only roadway is now a bike path, even though motorists used to fear the same vehicle segregation that many now call for. A Pennsylvania man gets six months probation for killing a cyclist while driving under the influence — six-effing-months probation, which is exactly the same sentence he would have gotten for a first-time DUI even if he didn’t hit anyone; nice to know the death of a human being doesn’t matter one damn bit in Western PA.

The popularity of tweed rides has helped increase the sales of more than just bikes. Helmet-cam video results in charges against a Canadian driver who dangerously Jerry Browned a cyclist — even though he could have safely passed a few seconds later. What to do after a crash. The victim is dead, but at least his bike has been returned. Teenage Brit triathlete is seriously injured in an apparent hit-and-run as she’s found on the side of the road after a car passes her, still clipped into her pedals. A new UK website tracks the best deals on bike gear. An Aussie writer asks whether you consider yourself a cyclist; ever notice that no one ever asks if people consider themselves drivers, which everyone becomes the moment they slide behind the wheel?

Finally, South Park takes on l’affaire Lance. A Polish cyclist is charged with speeding in a 30 mph zone — while riding completely naked except for the pants wrapped around his head.

And if you think some drivers are blind, you may be right.

16 comments

  1. Jeffrey says:

    You will never convince me Ms. Leaf just “fell off her bike”.

  2. The report says that Leaf and the truck driver were making right hand turns. Why was the truck driver making a right-hand turn right next to her? That’s very dangerous! Makes me wonder if it was a right-hook and she was trying to avoid it by turning into it. I understand that it was unfortunate, it does not sound intentional, but it also does not sound like he was completely without fault. If he was so close to her that he hit her, then he wasn’t giving her 3 feet of space, oh wait….

  3. Opus the Poet says:

    Your link to the hit-and-run death makes me angry again. Hit-and-run should be as serious a crime as any crime you can avoid prosecution for if you run and get caught later.

    • bikinginla says:

      I’ve long felt that hit-and-run should result in a penalty at least equal to the charge for DUI, as well as automatic revocation of driver’s license and seizure of the vehicle.

      But I’m coming around to the belief that any hit-and-run resulting in death should result in at least a voluntary homicide charge, since the victim might have survived if the driver had stopped to render aid or call for help. And the decision to flee is a voluntary choice to avoid prosecution and leave the victim to die.

  4. tony says:

    Who’s to say Ms. Leaf was an experienced cyclist. In fact, she was a novice. She borrowed the bike she used from a friend who implored her to NOT ride because of her skill level and instead join her at a spin class that morning. She fell over because she was comlpetely unfamiliar with clipless pedals. Maybe the author should do a bit more investigating before (s)he posts.

    • bikinginla says:

      Evidently, you seem to have information no one else does. No one, in all the correspondence I’ve received or the news reports I’ve read, has suggested that Sarah Leaf was riding a borrowed bike, or didn’t know what she was doing on one.

      In fact, her friends have commented about the pride she took in her new bike, and news reports indicate that she had just finished riding on PCH with a friend when she was killed.

      And those certainly look like clipless pedals on what we can only assume is her bike. I could understand how they might cause an inexperienced rider to fall clipping in or out at an intersection. But maybe you can explain how they would cause a rider in motion, rounding a corner, to fall?

      Unless you were at the scene and witnessed the event — or have inside knowledge of the police investigation, which seems unlikely — I can’t imagine how you or anyone else would know what caused her fall.

      If you have any evidence to back up what you’re saying, perhaps you could share it with us.

  5. tony says:

    Although she had a new bike and took pride in it. She was not riding it. She was riding the borrowed bike of a local swim coach, Jackie, who asked her to forgo the ride. How do I know this? Not from “all the correspondence I’ve received or the news reports I’ve read”, but from talking to her.

    And pardon me but as I passed the site immediately after the accident, I don’t recollect seeing a crowd around. I doubt you were there.

    Stick to reading about OC from LA.

    • bikinginla says:

      Sorry, Tony. I just do the best I can with the information I have. Unlike you, apparently, I didn’t know the victim. I was just led to believe she was an experienced rider; perhaps that was wrong.

      And no, I wasn’t there. Then again, neither were you, at least not when it happened, which would seem to make your claim that she fell over because of her cleats as much of a guess as any other theory at this point. And it does not address why the truck was right next to her in the middle of an apparently simultaneous right turn.

      If you really did know her, you have my sympathy for your loss. From all I’ve heard, she seems to have been an amazing person.

      If I’ve made any mistakes, I apologize. I’ll be more than happy to correct them — although I’ll wait to hear what the Chief of the NBPD has to say about it at the Citizens Bicycle Safety Committee meeting on Monday.

      And you don’t have to be such a horse’s ass about it. A little courtesy and respect goes a long way towards establishing credibility.

  6. tony says:

    Apologies. I simply resent an opener that questions police in my town who have spent a great deal of time and resources in an intensive investigation. They do get it. Chief Johnson is doing a complete job in improving bicycle safety. 21% reduction in accidents this year. No fatalities leading up to September. Increased police presence and enforcement for both cyclist and motorists. Yes, they get it and they are doing a fine job. What has occurred is tragic, but I would also appreciate the reciprocal respect for the efforts that have been made are being made and will continue to be pursued in Newport Beach. Thanks and again my apologies.

    • bikinginla says:

      Thank you for that. No disrespect was intended towards the NBPD or Chief Johnson; I am aware of the efforts they have made working with the Bicycle Safety Committee.

      What I am suggesting by saying they don’t get it is that the information released so far places the full blame on the victim, without addressing the question of why she fell, and why the truck was beside Sarah in the middle of the corner in apparent violation of the law.

      As others have pointed out, it would appear that the truck overtook her and turned in front of her in an apparent right hook collision, and she fell under the vehicle as a result. However, that is merely a guess based on a knowledge of bicycling collisions and the minimal description of the collision.

      It is a common problem affecting virtually every police department in the country, as no department I am aware of offers more than cursory training in the unique forensics of bicycle collisions. As a result, victims are too often blamed for their own deaths, when they may actually be the result of errors, if not chargeable violations, of the drivers.

      I don’t know if that is what happened in this case. What I do know is that serious questions remain in this case, and until they are addressed, we can and should keep pushing for answers.

      • tony says:

        I appreciate your response and I believe we should have a full understanding of this accident so as not to put the full blame where it does not belong. Ms. Leaf is no longer with us. And the person who drove the truck must live with being party to the accident. It is horrible both ways.

        Keep up the good work.

  7. tony says:

    And for the record, I don’t know Ms. Leaf. I have never met her nor spoken to her.

    • bikinginla says:

      Sorry for the misunderstanding. Evidently, when you said you learned it “from talking to her,” you were referring to the swim coach, not Sarah herself.

  8. Lindsay says:

    Hi Tony and Biking in LA. Sarah had been riding for 5 years about 3 times a week. So that would make her an experienced rider. We had done the CDM to Seal Beach ride a countless amount of times together in those past 5 years. We rode it exactly 3 weeks before her accident. If you do not know Sarah please don’t make assumptions about her. Please be respectful to her friends and family. We will never be able to fill the place she holds in our hearts.

  9. Al says:

    Maybe she hit her pedal on the curb, or maybe she was trying to avoid a rock, or maybe she was looking at her Garmin …. We’ll never know if it was her fault or not. But experienced cyclists make mistakes too. I’ve been riding for a number of years and went down on turn I’ve taken a hundred times. Cars are always near us; you just hope they’re not there the day you make your mistake. I always try to be careful, but I’ve been lucky too!

  10. Hello, Ted.

    I am glad you wife is doing well.

    I noticed the link to airless tires and thought you might like to know that Flat Free Tires are available from @cme FlatFree Bicycle Wheelsets in Orange, CA.

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1065313751/cme-flatfree-bicycle-wheelsets?utm_source=Copy+of+Introducing+%40cme+FlatFree+Wheel+Systems&utm_campaign=%40cme+november&utm_medium=email

    W Boehmke Jr.

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