Update: President of LA Wheelmen dies in riding fall

All week, I’ve been hearing rumors of a serious accident on an LA Wheelmen ride over the weekend.

Today I got confirmation. And the news is worse than we thought.

According to the LAW Facebook page, group president Pam Leven was involved in a riding accident when she touched wheels with another rider on Sunday. Both she and the other rider went down hard; unfortunately, she suffered injuries including a broken hip and collarbone, as well severe head and facial trauma. The second rider was not seriously injured.

She was taken to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where she died at 3 pm today after being taken off life support without regaining consciousness.

And yes, she was wearing a helmet when she fell.

I haven’t been able to find any other details yet; I’ll share them if and when I do. Please let me know if you have any additional information.

Her death is going to touch many local riders very deeply, as the Wheelmen are a popular riding group in the city, and Pam was well known, and clearly, well loved. In addition, she was the treasurer for the Independent Writers of Southern California for over 20 years; I’m told members of the group are in shock over her loss.

This is the 83rd bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, in what has turned out to be a very bad year. Since she was taken to UCLA, I’m assuming this occurred in LA County, which would make her the 35th bike rider to die in the county this year, compared to 22 last year.

She is also the sixth SoCal rider to die as a result of solo falls or collisions with another rider this year.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Pam Leven and her husband Bob, and all their family and loved ones.

Thanks to Jim Lyle, Lynn Ingram, Jenna Radomile and Topomodesto for the heads-up.

Update: The initial draft was based primarily on Facebook comments, and contained a number of errors, which have been corrected above. Thanks to Monica Vogl for the corrections.

Update 2: I’ve received an unconfirmed report that the fall that took Pam Leven’s life occurred Sunday afternoon near the intersection of Sunset Blvd and Amalfi Drive in Pacific Palisades. 

That places it within the City of Los Angeles, which has now seen 15 bicycling deaths this year.

Update 3: In a comment below, cdp8 points us to the California Triple Crown blog, which offers an online memorial to Pam Leven. In it, he says she was on the Wheelmen’s Newcomer’s Ride when they turned off of Sunset, and she touched wheels with another experienced rider. 

From what I’ve been able to pick up, it sounds like no one was at fault here; it’s just the risk we all assume when we get on a bike and ride at that level. I could have lost my life a dozen times over in the years I’ve been riding if things had just gone a little differently.

It’s also clear that she was loved very deeply, both within and outside the cycling community, and she will be very missed.

34 comments

  1. AcrossLA says:

    Absolutely terrible. My deepest condolences.

    • Ann says:

      I was with Pam on her last ride. The rider that Pam’s bike came in contact with has had a long history of unsafe riding. In the past, unsafe riders have been asked to leave our
      club, and I hope that this continues. I will not ride with this rider. Pam will be greatly missed. I have lost a friend and a mentor. What a tragedy.

  2. Michael says:

    Received a team email this evening with same information. Also said she never regained consciousness after the crash. My condolences to family and friends.

  3. JD says:

    Our prayers go up for the family and friends of Ms. Leven.

  4. Thank you for this sad information. I know Pam from IWOSC, and yes, I feel shock and growing grief. She was such a cheery and highly competent presence. I’ll miss her.

    My heart goes out to her family and friends. Pam’s death is a great loss to us all.

  5. Just awful.

    Wheel touching is scary. It only takes a moment of inattention for it to occur, and suddenly you can’t maintain balance, which depends on your ability to constantly make subtle counter-steers to keep from falling. When your front wheel is next to a rear wheel, it prevents you from counter-steering in that direction, and that’s the side you fall on.

    I crashed due to a wheel touch last year. Went down fast and hard, but luckily did not hit my head, and am surprised I did not break my hip.

    My condolences to Pam’s family, friends and club members. I can only imagine what everyone is going through, especially during the holiday season.

  6. […] President of L.A. Wheelmen Dies in Bike Crash (Biking in L.A.) […]

  7. So sorry to hear about this. Condolences to her family.

  8. cdp8 says:

    Chuck Bramwell, on his California Triple Crown blog, reports:

    As the group was making a safe and routine left turn from Sunset Blvd., she got tangled up with another experienced cyclist that was next to her within the group. They both went down onto the pavement.

    http://caltriplecrown.blogspot.com/2013/12/pam-leven-you-will-be-missed.html

    My condolences to her family.

  9. Larry Pizzi says:

    I am so sorry to hear this. My deepest condolences.

  10. John says:

    I am truly sorry about this tragic loss. I rode the LAW triple century a long time ago and havn’t ridden in several years. This multitude of tragic cycling deaths is truly scary. I hope that this doesn’t hurt this truly excellent activity.

  11. RBC says:

    Truly sad, unfortunate, and tragic. Condolences to her family and friends.

    I am curious what the original poster meant by the words “it’s just the risk we all assume when we get on a bike and ride at that level.” What “level” are you referring to? Wasn’t this just an every day club ride? I am seeking clarity and understanding to an horrific event.

    • bikinginla says:

      When you ride fast, and in a group, you assume a greater risk than slower, solo rider — or at least a different kind of risk. Even an “every day club ride” generally travels at a faster pace than most single riders.

      The extent of her injuries implies some degree of speed; had she fallen at a slower speed, her injuries may have been more survivable. It also suggests that the impact with the ground occurred at a higher speed than a bike helmet, which is only designed for impacts up to 12.5 mph, could handle.

  12. bikinginla says:

    Bicycling never was safe. But neither is driving your car, taking a shower or getting out of bed in the morning.

    There are inherent risks in doing anything in life. Exercising due care can reduce most of them, but you can never eliminate them entirely, as this collision between two experienced riders shows. But don’t forget, for every tragedy like this, millions of bike rides end safely.

    Yes, bad things happen in life, but you can’t live your life in fear of what might happen. Get out and do the things you love.

    Personally, I’d rather risk a collision on the road than a heart attack on my couch. Just ride defensively and within your own abilities, and the odds will be overwhelmingly in your favor.

  13. Pat Kramer says:

    I knew Pam as a writer and felt a kinship with her. No matter how it happened, it is a great loss. So sad and so tragic to lose her so young~

    Pat

  14. Kurt Zasadil says:

    I knew Pam well. I remember when she was new to the Wheelmen and we discovered that we lived a mile apart and got into the habit of riding up to the corner together. She was a rare and unique person in all the best ways and I’m totally in shock after hearing about this. After I stopped riding with the Wheelmen, Pam and I kept up a habit for a few years of getting together for a morning coffee and chat. Now I’m sorry we got out of the habit. First Steve Bowen last year and now Pam. It’s been a rough year for the Wheelmen and for LA cyclists in general.

    Kurt Zasadil
    (Who doesn’t ride with them any longer but who in his heart is still a Wheelman.)

  15. […] to the report I read, “she suffered injuries including a broken hip and collarbone, as well severe head and […]

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