These are the emails I hate to receive, when someone contacts me asking if I’ve heard about a bike rider who was killed.
Because too often, it’s something that hasn’t crossed my radar yet. And too often, it turns out to be true.
That’s what happened last night when I got a message asking about reports that a rider was killed on Avenue 64 in Los Angeles, near the Pasadena city limits.
A little research turned up a story on the Highland Park–Mount Washington Patch site, describing an apparent solo fall in which a rider suffered sever head trauma; comments to the story reported the victim had died, and gave a name.
According to the site, Jose Cuellar was riding south on Avenue 64 at Burleigh whn he lost control of his bike and fell, suffering severe head trauma. He was reportedly unconscious for 15 minutes before paramedics arrived and took him to a nearby hospital.
Reports of how the incident occurred are a little confusing. The site says the first indication of a problem was the sound of screeching tires; witnesses then report seeing the rider struggling to control a speed wobble before falling.
However, bike tires don’t normally screech, no matter how fast the rider is going or how much strain they’re under, suggesting that there may have been a motor vehicle involved which could have caused Cuellar to lose control of his bicycle.
The site notes he wasn’t wearing a helmet, which is relevant for a change, as this is exactly the sort of fall bike helmets are designed to protect against.
A call to the L.A. County Coroner’s office confirmed that 43-year old Jose Cuellar died at Huntington Memorial Hospital on Monday, June 24th.
According to the person I spoke with, the investigation into his death was just beginning, so no other information was available.
Update: Just received word from Sgt. Lazlo Sander, the LAPD’s bike liaison for the Central Traffic Division, that following further investigation, Cuellar’s death has been reclassified as a single vehicle traffic collision rather than a solo fall; however, there is still no suspicion that any other person or vehicle may have been involved.
In more bad news, a popular Temecula high school teacher died of natural causes while riding Sunday.
According to the Press-Enterprise, 52-year old Darren Thomas, a history and social sciences teacher at Chaparral High School, collapsed while riding in the 40000 block of Calle Medusa, and was pronounced dead at a local hospital at 9:49 am.
There will be vigil in his honor at 7 pm this Thursday at Puma Stadium, and a memorial service is tentatively scheduled for 1 pm on Saturday, July 6th in the school gym.
My deepest sympathy and prayers for Jose Cuellar and Darren Thomas, and all their loved ones.
These are the 39th and 40th bicycling fatalities in Southern California this year, compared to just 28 this time last year.
It’s also the 19th bike-related death in Los Angeles County this year, compared with 24 bicycling fatalities countywide for each of the last two years. And the third in Riverside County, compared to 11 and 13 in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
It’s also the sixth bicycling death in the City of L.A. this year, compared to five in all of 2011 and four in 2012.
In other words, we’re already 50% above last year in the City of L.A.
And this year isn’t even half over yet.