14-year old bike rider fatally shot, a painful email from the family of a fallen cyclist, and I beg shamelessly

Before we start, several people have asked me lately how they can support the new BikinginLA.

The easy answer is just keep reading, and keep coming back. And keep sending in those news tips, whether in the comments or through the email address on the About page.

But if anyone wants to contribute financially to help support me and my work here, you’ll now find a Donate page on the links at the top of this page. There will be more options for donations, sponsorships and advertising soon, but for the time being, you can contribute directly to my PayPal account.

Please don’t feel pressured or any obligation. Especially this time of year, there are so many demands on your wallet, and so many higher priorities.

But any contribution, in any amount, is greatly appreciate.

………

One more bike rider is dead. Yet another young woman will never grow up.

This time, it wasn’t the result of a careless or distracted driver, or even scofflaw cyclist. It was a different kind of violence on our streets that took the life of 14-year old Alicia Gomez, gunned down as she rode her bike in Compton.

Police have described her as a known gang member, and characterized the shooting that took her life at the corner of Elm and Alameda streets as gang-related.

That’s exactly where most of us stop paying attention. Another gang shooting, another homicide in Compton, where 213 people, innocent and otherwise, have been murdered in the city since 2007.

She may have died a gang member, but she also died as one of us.

And more importantly, she died a young woman barely in her teens, who will never be a day older. Another life lost to the violence we continue to tolerate on our streets.

Let’s pray that she’s the last one.

………

Every bicycling death is tragic. Every fatality leaves a heartrending hole in the lives of his or her loves ones, and in our world.

Yet some seem to be particularly haunting, a metaphorical ghost bike within our own hearts, remaining long after the news has faded.

For me, the needless death of Donnie McCluskey is one of those.

Maybe it’s because it could have happened to any one of us. He was nothing more than collateral damage in a wreck between a drunk driver and a red light running minivan operator; after the initial impact, the van spun out of control and smashed into McCluskey as he waited at the red light.

If he’d run the light, as so many accuse us all of doing, he might be alive today.

Or maybe it’s because of the online conversations I’ve had with his family from time to time, as they’ve shared the latest updates on his case, or just the pain of his loss in the year and a half since he was taken from them.

It makes me feel like I’ve lost a friend I never knew.

Over the weekend, I heard from his sister Pattie McCluskey-Andre once again, this time to report the final disposition of the case against the driver responsible for Donnie’s death.

With her permission, I’ll share it with you.

Dear Ted,

Re: Donny McCluskey, bicyclist, killed April 18, 2012 in Rancho Mirage while waiting for the light to green.

Final day in court was December 13, 2013.  The DA never lowered or altered the original charges (not sure how much our participation from the start helped). Much to our collective relief, the driver and the judge all seemed to understand the devastation caused by this accident.  My brother was honored with a judge who appreciated that this was a death that was indeed avoidable and gave Donny his day in court.

The driver had lost 80 pounds since the accident; he spoke of his nightmares and his thoughts of Donny every time he entered an intersection. The driver cried during the entire sentencing. His remorse was so complete that he stated that he wished daily that it had been him instead of Donny who was killed.

The judge suspended his driver’s license for a year, placed him on probation for 3 years. He was not given jail time secondary to our family’s request that he perform community service instead, which was also given to him.

Ultimately, there is no closure but the ability to go forward and pay it forward. Drivers need to be held accountable whenever they are negligent and dangerous causing the death of another human. I truly feel the driver in this accident placed a deeper punishment on himself then we would ever impose. My family offers forgiveness to this man so he can forgive himself.

RIP Dear Brother, we love you, we miss you everyday and we will continue to tell your story.

Again, thank you for being the voice of cyclists,

Patti

There’s a lot of pain and a surprising amount of compassion in that email. Let’s hope, now that the case is settled, the family can finally find peace.

And this holiday season, they can remember the joy they shared with him, instead of their loss.

………

News of this weekend’s upcoming Route 66 ride promoted Alan Thompson to send word that the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) has been working with the Adventure Cycling Association, Caltrans and local advocacy groups to develop a SoCal leg of the planned Bike Route 66. It will follow the path of the legendary highway, giving riders a route from Chicago to LA.

I wonder if my wife would let me ride that one.

………

LA County Sheriff’s deputies have now been involved in the deaths of three people in the last week.

………

Turns out a new Calgary cycle track not only boosts ridership, but improves the flow of motor vehicle traffic, as well.

………

Finally, an Aussie cyclist responds to a roadway dispute by reaching into the driver’s car and riding off with his keys. A Menlo Park rider brings home the family Christmas tree by bike. And there may be a reason the next cyclist you see is smiling and moaning uncontrollably; then again, it’s not exactly a new idea.

 

One comment

  1. patti mccluskey-andre says:

    Thank you Ted for sharing Donny’s story and fighting the cause. Happy holidays to you and yours.
    Patti

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