Maybe it was the cold that kept less committed cyclists of the streets.
Whatever the reason, Southern California had suffered just one cycling fatality since the first of the year, compared to four this time last year.
Unfortunately, that unusual combination of good luck and — hopefully — safer streets came to an end last night, as a 50-year old bicyclist was killed while riding in Long Beach.
According to the Press-Telegram, the Long Beach resident, who has not been publicly identified, was riding west on Atherton Street at 7:17 pm when she allegedly ran the red light and was struck by a green 2002 Honda Odyssey headed south on Bellflower Blvd. The 19-year old driver stopped at the scene and attempted to render aid; unfortunately, the victim died of her injuries at a local hospital four hours after she was struck.
The Long Beach Post reports the driver was released at the scene, and no charges are pending.
What none of the stories answer is whether anyone other than the driver witnessed the collision. Reports that the rider ran a red light should be taken with a grain of salt unless it can be confirmed by independent witnesses. It’s a common problem in investigating bicycle collisions that police often only get one side of the story when the victim is unable to speak for him or herself.
A satellite view reveals a wide, complicated intersection that required the rider to cross 10 lanes of traffic get to the other side. It’s entirely possible that she started out with a green light, which may have turned red before she could get all the way across.
It seems unlikely that anyone would try to blow through the light at such a wide intersection, especially at such a relatively early hour when traffic could have been expected. But it’s always possible that she may have thought she could make it and didn’t see the car that killed her until it was too late.
Anyone with information is urged to call Detective Brian Watt of the Long Beach Police Department’s Accident Investigation unit at 562-570-7355.
This is the second cycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the first in L.A. County; there were 24 bike-related fatalities in the county last year, and 74 in the SoCal region. There were no bicycling deaths in Long Beach last year, following five in the bike-friendly city in 2011.
My deepest sympathy and prayers for the victim and her loved ones.
Update: The Press-Telegram has identified the victim as 50-year old Susan E. Curtis of Long Beach.
According to the paper, Curtis’ bike was her primary form of transportation, which she used to get to her two part-time jobs, as well as working as a pet sitter and dog walker. She leaves behind a dog and six cats, along with an assortment of other pets, which are now in need of a new home.
Belmont Shore – Naples Patch reports that her friends don’t consider her someone who would run a red light under any circumstances.
Meanwhile, Opus the Poet, who writes the Witch on a Bicycle blog, crunches the numbers to suggest that Curtis if entered the entered the intersection near the end of the green light, she could have easily failed to make it across the wide 10-lane intersection before the light turned green on Bellflower Blvd. And leaving her stranded and vulnerable in the path of oncoming traffic.
I’m not say that’s what happened, but it’s possible.
And it makes more sense than the idea that a 50-year old safety-conscious woman would intentionally run a red light on such a wide, busy intersection.