San Diego-area bike rider killed when minivan driver drifts into bike lane

Bad news from San Diego’s North County, as a 46-year old man was killed while riding in Carlsbad Wednesday evening.

According to the San Diego County Coroner’s office, Eric Steven Glasnapp was riding in a marked bike lane on College Blvd roughly one mile north of Palomar Airport Road at 6:32 pm when a minivan drifted into the lane and hit him from behind.

Despite the efforts of paramedics, he was pronounced dead at the scene just nine minutes later.

No drug or alcohol use was suspected.

And yes, Glasnapp was wearing a helmet; it clearly wasn’t enough to make a difference. A street view shows a virtual freeway with a 50 mph speed limit; a collision at that speed is not likely to be survivable, with or without a helmet.

Sadly, he leaves a wife behind.

This is the 38th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the seventh in San Diego County; it’s also at least the fourth cycling death in Carlsbad since 2010. That compares to 56 in SoCal this time last year, and four in the county.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Eric Steven Glasnapp and all his loved ones.

23 comments

  1. PatrickGSR94 says:

    ughhh I hate this, the supposed safety of bike lanes claim the life of yet another victim. The motorist was obviously inattentive and should be prosecuted for vehicular manslaughter as such. If not it will be a travesty.

    But still, bike lanes such as these on high speed roads lure cyclists into a false sense of safety. One must be hyper-vigilant to be aware of surroundings at ALL times. If there had been no bike lane and the cyclist was controlling the right-hand lane, this likely wouldn’t have happened.

    • bikinginla says:

      I agree that unprotected bike lanes don’t belong on high speed roads. But to say that an inattentive driver would have somehow managed to avoid a cyclist riding directly in front of him is highly questionable.

      If the driver was paying so little attention that s/he didn’t even know where the car was going, it’s he or she may not have seen anything directly in front of the car, either.

      Personally, I’d rather be out of the way of a driver who’s not paying attention than directly in front.

      • PatrickGSR94 says:

        He was trying to be out of the way, and look how that worked out. Personally, I find “being in the way” gives me a far better chance of being seen from a much farther distance.

        • Mark says:

          Agreed. In the bike lane, the cyclist will not expect this to happen and the reaction time will be much slower. But in the bike lane, there is nowhere to escape. Can’t go left because the motorist might re-correct. Can’t go right because the road ends. If the cyclist is in the lane, they will be more alert and notice if a motorist is not slowing down or moving left to pass. Plus, they will have more room to ditch to the right. Need a mirror for this though.

          • bikinginla says:

            Seriously? It would have to be a pretty careless cyclist to zone out just because he’s in a bike lane. I ride with the same alertness whether I’m taking the lane, in a bike lane or on a separated path; I assume you do, too. Any good rider is aware of his or her circumstances at all times.

            And unless that curb is exceptionally high, it’s always possible to ditch to the right. I’ve bunny hopped curbs more than once, and when that wasn’t possible, deliberately hit the curb to fall onto the sidewalk to get away from careless drivers.

            I think it’s safe to assume that this happened so fast that he just didn’t have time to react.

            • Mark says:

              There are sections the PCH where there are cars parked on the right or just no sidewalk at all, there is no curb to hop. You are trapped. There are many places like this. There must be a lot of careless cyclist out there because this happens all the time. Though when reading the newspaper story, they’re often labeled as experienced and safe. Again, you won’t expect it to happen and that will slow down your reaction time. Ever yell at a motorist to get their attention instead of just move out of the way? Did you always get their attention? Then, there is the proof.

            • Mark says:

              Even distracted drivers have to look up. And when they do, they usually look straight forward ahead. The faster they are driving, the more straight ahead they look. That’s why a cyclist is more visible in the center of the lane. Good day.

            • bikinginla says:

              A five second distraction at 55 mph — which is the average time a driver takes his/her eyes off the road while texting — is enough time to travel the length of a football field. I would not want to count on a driver looking up just in time to avoid smashing me to bits.

              But that’s me. You can ride however you feel safest, and I will do the same.

              As for all those things that can keep a rider from bailing to the right, none of them appear to have been a factor in this case, where the bike lane is directly next to the curb.

            • Mark says:

              It’s not about what you feel, it’s about what is safer.

              How can they smash you to pieces when you’re ready to ditch to the right like you said, you are always on alert.

              But the main argument for full lane usage is the greater visibility provided by riding in the center of the lane. Cycling Savvy, a nation-wide bike safety class, stated that they have yet to find one fatality when a cyclist properly took the lane by riding in the center. They survey all attendees asking if anyone is aware of a bike accident while the cyclist was taking the lane. Also, many of their instructors are members of bike coalitions within their respective cities and every bike fatality that occurs is reviewed by them. Therefore, they have detailed information about bike accidents from police reports, information from lawyers and their clients.

              I think you have a pretty big audience here. Your opinion may directly affect many others. Fatalities from motorist drift is very common these days, as I’m sure you’re very aware. Consider taking both bike safety courses from the LAB and Cycling Savvy if you haven’t already done so.

            • bikinginla says:

              Looks like we need to have a discussion about the difference between empirical and anecdotal evidence.

              Every study I have seen shows that well-designed bike lanes improve safety, by as much as 50%. If bike lanes were as dangerous as some claim, there would be at least some studies showing that they increase the risk to riders, but the opposite is true.

              Meanwhile, I have yet to see a single empirical study showing that riding in the center of the lane improves safety. That is not to say it doesn’t; simply that the evidence supporting it is anecdotal.

              As for no cyclist properly riding in the center of the lane ever getting killed, I find that highly questionable. It’s not unusual to see news reports about cyclists being run down from behind while riding in the traffic lane, although where exactly they were positioned in the lane is usually difficult to say after the fact.

              In fact, my records show at least four Southern California bicycling deaths in just the last 13 months in which experienced cyclists were killed while riding within the traffic lane. At least one of those was positioned directly in the center of the lane, to the left of another rider.

              As you suggest, I have an obligation to give my readers the facts, which I do to the best of my ability. That means relying on the best available research, which at this point, does not support the belief that riding in the center of the traffic lane is safer than riding in a bike lane.

              If that should ever change, I will not hesitate to report that.

            • Tom says:

              Maybe there are not that many collisions for cyclists taking the lane in 55 mph zones because there are not that many cyclists who would even attempt that.

              One would need to normalize the collision rates by the number of participants, FTR vs center of lane.

            • Mark says:

              I agree, evidence does show that streets with bike lanes are safer. When, I said that it is safer to ride in the center of the lane to prevent getting drifted into, I jumped ahead a bit. If there is a bike lane, then one should intermittently move from the bike lane into the center of the traffic lane to grab motorist’s attention. Move back to the bike lane when they slow down or move left to pass, moving back before they approach of course. When to move back? When you feel you can do it safely. When to go into the lane? More than 7 seconds away. So of course, when there is a lot of traffic, one does not do this, nor is there a need because when there is traffic, motorists pay attention.

              Can you tell me which fatalities were caused when the cyclist(s) were in the center of the lane?

              I’ve seen police reports of bike fatalities in which the cyclist was in the lane. Whether they are 1 ft in the lane or 5 ft, the police report it as “in the lane”. Yet, riding in the right tire track is not the same as in the center, and can still invite a dangerous close pass.

              From the LAB and Cycling Savvy, about 40% of bike fatalities occur when the motorist approaches from behind and then most are sideswiped.

              I don’t know of any study that shows that riding in the center of the lane is safer. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. All I can offer is my own testimony. I rode about 2000 miles before I started riding in the center of the lane when the situation called for it. I got several close passes before I learned of “taking the lane” from the bike safety classes. Looking back, there were probably many unsafe spots I put myself in because I wasn’t positioned correctly. Since “taking the lane”, no close passes for 3500 miles, none. Nothing exciting happens when I ride. Every car passes me safely and well ahead of time, as I look in my mirror. Some times they honk though. All the safety instructors say and teach that riding in the lane when necessary is safer. And from my experience of riding, I agree. That’s why I am sharing this info.

            • bikinginla says:

              We may be in some agreement then.

              While I support bike lanes, with the caveat that they must be well designed and maintained, I am a firm believer in taking the lane whenever necessary or appropriate.

              Given the lack of good bike infrastructure over the last 30+ years I’ve been riding, much of the 150,000 miles I’ve put in on my bike has been spent in the center of the lane.

              However, my experience, and those of many other riders I know, has been different from yours. I have repeatedly been subjected to close passes, as well as angry drivers who insist on tailgating and blaring on their horns. In fact, I was intentionally rear-ended by a road-raging driver who was angry that I was legally, and otherwise safely, in her way.

              As for the victims I referred to, four SoCal riders were apparently hit from behind while riding in the traffic lane. In three of those cases, it’s unclear exactly where the victims were in the lane:

              Shaun Eagleson
              D’Andre Sutherland
              John Greg Colvin

              However, the fourth victim, William Francis Easley, was definitely riding in the center of the lane; he was riding to the left of another rider, forced into the lane by an accumulation of sand on the right side of the roadway. His road position has been confirmed by bike advocates who have visited the scene.

              There have been others; however, I excluded any case where the victim may have been drinking or riding without lights after dark, or may have contributed to the collision in some way,

              There are also undoubtedly others before that. However, I only added road position and type of collision — side impact, rear-end, head-on — as a searchable function of my database at the end of 2013; finding those would involve a time consuming manual search.

              Hopefully, I’ll have a several days in the near future to go back through and update the database to make all the records more searchable.

            • Mark says:

              Your experience of close passes in the center of the lane is a bit worrisome to me, a relatively new full lane user compared to you. The club riders I ride with are comprised of LCI & CSI, many who have ridden many miles for 30 yrs, all stating that taking the center of the lane when necessary is safer than not. Plus, most safety websites and videos produce all say the same thing. As for your experiences of repeated close passes, I don’t know what to say.

              You ride mostly in the center of the lane. Would you say it was safer than riding on the edge?

              As for John Greg Colvin, since I lived in the area and had an interest in the accident (I write a bike safety post for a small FB group of friends), I visited the accident scene twice. On the 2nd visit, the police investigators were there, mapping the accident scene. I asked where was the cyclist hit, they said about 2 feet within the shoulder, before the intersection. I have pictures of them mapping the scene. Newspaper reports otherwise, that he was in the right lane. I think its common for newspapers to report inaccuracies of bike fatality details, as I have seen this in another accident I was writing about. Cause of the accident (Colvin) was motorist drift caused by the blinding sun, in my conclusion. I was driving the route at the same time of day the accident happened, and boy, I really had a difficult time seeing with that sun in my eyes.

              As for William Francis Easley, I subscribe to the Inland Empire Biking Alliance (IEBA) FB page, where you got your story from. The answer is actually in your story/post. Mr. Easley was hit 7.5 ft “in the lane” as quoted. I thought it was 7.5 ft from the sand, but it is not. It is 7.5 ft from the curb, as I asked and clarified this with the IEBA on their FB page as they were discussing the accident with the police. But the post is no longer up. (I think because the post caused friction between the police department and the public.) The right lane is 19 ft wide, as your story states. So, the 19 ft lane includes the parking area and right traffic lane. This makes more sense than 7.5 ft from the sand, because the sand will disappear over time and then there will be no real measurement. Agreed? Then, it may be hard to believe that a cyclist would ride in the sand? From my experience, cyclist are so afraid to ride in the lane that they will avoid it at all costs. I rarely see anyone riding in the lane when I ride. Then, you are correct, Mr. Easley was to the left as they were riding two abreast. At 7.5 ft in the lane, he was riding near where the left side of a parked car would be, so not in the center of the path of the car. He would be on the right edge of where the car lane is. I agree with you in the story when you said that there was probably a car parked on the side of the street before the impact point. I asked the IEBA, but they could not confirm or deny that a parked car was there. I don’t think the police report would document this as they do not know what to look for, IMO. I believe a parked car was there which prevented the motorist from seeing the 2 riders as they were blocked from his view. Standard text book rule is not to ride in between parked cars as taught in the bike safety classes.

              As for D’Andre Sutherland, the KTLA story does say he was in the number two lane. But where in the lane it does not say. But I doubt that he would be riding in the center of the lane at 2 am. For him to “take the lane” he would have to take a bike class to learn of this (not always). If he took a bike class, that would mean he was safety conscious. If he was safety conscious, why is he riding at 2 am in the morning? Yes, I know this is a stretch. But from my experience, most bicyclists are not concerned about taking a safety class. They think that biking is something they have done since a child and don’t need it. So, I think he was most likely riding in the bike lane at 2 am. Just my opinion. Newspaper reportings are not reliable as discussed earlier. You have to get the police report. I’ve tried to get police report before but as you may know, they don’t give it to you unless you are directly involved, or on a bike coalition. The Shaun Eagleson accident is similar to this one. No disrespect to the lives lost. Just speaking in terms of accident related issues. But if I find concrete evidence, I will post. But I agree, there is no real concrete evidence reported as where in the lane.

              Looking forward to your new database search options.

            • bikinginla says:

              Just a few quick comments, since I think we’d both agree this thread is getting a tad too long. And thank you for a respectful conversation; I appreciate that.

              Based on my own personal experience, the question of whether riding in the center of the lane is safer than riding near the edge depends entirely on the situation. On a substandard lane, especially one with parking, the center of the lane is undoubtedly preferable. On the other hand, if I find myself on a rural highway with a decent shoulder, I’ll ride there instead.

              I appreciate the information about Colvin. As you point out, the press often gets it wrong or leaves out important details.

              However, as for Easley, I believe you are mistaken. Based on observations from people who went to the scene just hours after the collision, the sand berm was there at the time he was killed; as you suggest, he would have chosen to ride around it, not through it. Both he and his riding partner were in the traffic lane to the left of the sand, with Easley on the left position. Evidence at the scene clearly indicated that he was in the traffic lane at the time.

              The police — incorrectly — found Easley at fault for the collision because he was riding in the center of the traffic lane, where he was struck from behind by a driver who should have been able to clearly see him, and change lanes to avoid him. His partner, who had the inside position, was not struck.

            • Mark says:

              Maybe I was unclear. I meant to imply they both rode through the sand, or at least one of them did. As the police report documents, Mr. Easley was hit 7.5 ft from the curb, which would place him at the driver side of a parked car. In the center of the traffic lane would be ~15 ft from the curb as the right lane is ~19 ft.

          • bikinginla says:

            You made yourself clear. I tried to make myself clear in saying I believe you are incorrect.

            The police ruled that Easley was at fault because he was riding in the middle of the traffic lane; that would be impossible if he was 7.5 feet from the curb, which would place him in the parking lane, rather than 7.5 feet into the traffic lane.

            People who were at the scene within hours of the collision agreed that he was in the traffic lane, based on evidence from the scene, as well as the sand blocking the parking lane. Observers reported the sand had drifted to a depth of several inches, and would have been impossible to ride through.

            I have not scene the police report, so it is possible that it says 7.5 feet from the curb; police reports contain incorrect information all the time, which is why riders should challenge them if they are ever in a wreck.

            There should be little doubt that he was riding in the traffic lane, as it is the only position that fits with the available evidence. However, you have every right to disagree.

            Now, can we please let this thread die?

  2. JD says:

    Our prayers go up for the family and friends of Mr. Glasnapp.

  3. Tom says:

    Why is it never reported if the driver was texting or not. Easy enough to check.

    Shouldn’t these articles say…

    No drug or alcohol or texting use was suspected.

    instead of just….

    No drug or alcohol use was suspected.

    Seems like texting is just swept under the rug?

    • bikinginla says:

      Problem is, police need a warrant to examine the driver’s phone and/or the records from the provider. So unless there’s a witness who saw them texting, or the driver admits to it, which is unlikely, it could be months before the police get around to examining the phone, if ever.

      Traffic investigators should be equipped with devices that allow them to download the usage data for a drivers’ phone at the scene of the collision. And drivers should be required to hand it over.

      I suspect a lot of drivers get away with texting or using a handheld phone in some other way just because they’re better at hiding the evidence.

  4. Lucy says:

    Is this our Eric, R.N., c/o 2012? Any Eric is our Eric. My deepest sympathy for your (our) loss regardless. An enormous void will be left on this Earth without him. I’m here if you need me.

  5. It happened too often. My sympathies to his loved ones.

  6. Desirae says:

    This is terrible! Eric was in my nursing cohort at National University. He was a very bright and intelligent man, an engineer before he became a nurse. This is so tragic!

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