This is not what I wanted to write about tonight. And not the news I wanted to come home to today.
I wanted to write about yet another amazing CicLAvia, marred only by the decision to use just half of the Venice Blvd roadway, resulting in massive bike back-ups from the once-again grossly underestimated crowd.
Anyone who thinks less than 200,000 bike riders turned out to enjoy the day probably wasn’t there; personally, I’d put the number at over 250,000.
And I wanted to tell you about a friend I met along the way, and finally unveil the identity of one of this site’s leading contributors.
But all that will have to wait.
Because we have to add yet another name to the growing Southern California body count. Or we would, except once again, the name has been withheld pending notification of the next of kin.
According to the reports, two cyclists were riding north in the bike lane on El Camino Real north of La Costa Ave in Carlsbad around 7:40 this morning when one of the riders was rear-ended by an apparently driverless and apparently invisible vehicle, since there’s no description of the driver or the car.
There’s also no description of where the riders were positioned on the road, or any conditions that may have contributed to the collision, despite a number of apparent witnesses. Although that doesn’t stop some of the commenters from drawing their own conclusions.
The victim suffered a head injury, and was pronounced dead at the scene.
A commenter on the local Patch website describes him as a La Costa Valley resident, who leaves behind a wife and three young children.
This is the 18th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the second in San Diego since the first of the year.
My deepest sympathy and prayers for the victim and his loved ones.
Update: The victim has been identified as 45-year old Eric Ringdahl of Carlsbad; thanks to Phillip Young for the heads-up. Comments below describe the vehicle as a red or maroon sedan, possibly a Corolla. The driver remained at the scene — and how sad is it that something like that even has to be noted? A comment from Stone says the weather was clear and traffic light at the time of the collision, suggesting the victim should have been clearly visible.
Update 2: I’ve just been forwarded an email from the Traffic Division Commander with the Carlsbad police, which confirms what many have been saying, that the driver fell asleep at the wheel coming home from working the night shift. However, he indicates that the driver was a man, rather than a woman, as virtually everyone had assumed, myself included.
According to the Commander, there was no indication of impairment and no intent to cause harm or break the law, which eliminates the possibility of serious criminal charges such as assault or homicide. However, he says the collision will result in a lengthy investigation by the Carlsbad Police and the San Diego Medical Examiner’s office, and that the results of that investigation will be forwarded to the county DA for review and possible prosecution.
And that’s one of the major problems with the California Vehicle Code.
There is, to the best of my knowledge, no specific legal requirement for motorists to remain alert behind the wheel — let alone awake. Unlike many other states, there is no blanket prohibition against careless driving. We assume that all drivers are required to be alert and aware of road conditions at all times, to operate their vehicles carefully and safely. And most of all, to not kill anyone.
But that’s not necessarily the case.
Thanks to Chris Menjou for the information.
Update 3: The San Diego Union-Tribune confirms that the male driver told police he had fallen asleep while driving home form work and drifted into the bike lane, where he struck Ringdahl. And despite finger pointing in the comments here and elsewhere, the police say he was wearing a helmet and “riding properly in the bike lane” when he was killed.
The paper says it should take somewhere around a month to complete the Medical Examiner’s investigation, at which time the driver could be charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, if they find the crash was caused by the driver’s carelessness or inattention.
Thanks to Philip Young for the heads-up.