Archive for Injuries and Fatalities

Update: DA refuses to file charges in Milt Olin case

The investigation is finally complete.

As predicted as soon as the LA County Sheriff’s Department inexplicably insisted on investigating itself in the death of cyclist and former Napster Exec Milt Olin, no charges will be filed against the deputy who killed him.

And as long predicated by myself and others, the immediate cause of the collision was the deputy’s use of the patrol car’s onboard computer while traveling on a winding road at 48 mph.

It was clear that the Sheriff’s Department was attempting to downplay their investigation — if not coverup the results — when they announced late on the Friday before Memorial Day that it had been turned over to the DA’s office for evaluation over a week before.

Then, nothing.

Not a word from the District Attorney for over three months, until news broke late this afternoon that the deputy responsible, Andrew Wood, would not face charges.

DA refusal letter (pdf)

Surprisingly, it actually appears the Sheriff’s Department recommended a charge of vehicular manslaughter; not surprisingly, the DA declined to file, saying they did not feel they could prove the deputy was negligent, which would be required for a conviction.

As we have discussed before, the case hinged on CVC 23123.5, which prohibits using electronic communication devices while driving — but exempts police officers and other emergency service workers in the performance of their duties.

According to the DA, that exemption applied in this case, as Wood was typing a response to a query from another officer when he drifted into the bike lane and rear-ended Olin’s bike without ever braking.

As often happens in such cases, Wood initially claimed Olin swerved in front of him in the traffic lane, and he only went into the bike lane in an attempt to avoid him. That is, until physical evidence and witness testimony proved him wrong, at which point his story changed to say he never saw Olin prior to the collision.

Yet somehow, the mere fact that Wood was driving at nearly 50 mph — in a bike lane — with no idea what was on the road directly in front of him is not sufficient evidence of negligence as far as the DA’s office is concerned.

Simply put, there are only two options.

Either the deputy was at fault for driving distracted — even though he could legally use the computer, he is still required to drive in a safe and legal manner.

Or the Sheriff’s Department itself is negligent for a policy allowing its officers to use the onboard computer in a manner that places everyone else at risk, as they will undoubtedly be found responsible for in the civil suit filed by members of the Olin family.

Either way, thanks to the complicity of the DA’s office, no one will ever be held accountable for the death of an innocent man, whose only crime was going for a bike ride on a sunny afternoon.

And a dangerous, if not deadly, policy will never be changed.

Thanks to Brenda Gazzar for breaking the story. 

Update: The afore mentioned Brenda Gazzar offers a detailed look at the case and the DA’s decision not to file charges in the LA Daily News, including this:

Eric Bruins, planning and policy director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, said he was disappointed to see a clearly distracted law enforcement officer escape charges on what he called a technicality.

“Just because the law allows someone to do something while driving doesn’t mean they are allowed to do something unsafely while driving,” Bruins said. “Hitting someone from behind is very clear evidence that whatever was going on in that car was not safe and should have been considered negligent.”

It’s definitely worth a read to get the full story.

Meanwhile, LAist quotes several angry tweets from very pissed-off cyclists. Including yours truly.

 

 

Update: Experienced cyclist dies in Eagle Rock solo fall; 9th LA bicycling fatality this year

Sometimes, all it takes is a crack in the street to take a rider down.

That appears to be what happened last week in Eagle Rock, as a bike rider died in a solo fall on Colorado Blvd.

Details are still very sketchy. However, reports are that Edgardo Gabat, reported to be 55 or 56 years old, was riding on Colorado Blvd east of Figueroa last Thursday when his wheel got caught in a crack or seam in the pavement and he fell hard. He was taken to Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, where he died some time later.

No other details are available at this time. And no word on whether he was wearing a helmet; this appears to be the sort of slow speed fall that bike helmets are designed for, as opposed to the often high speed impacts of traffic collisions.

A ghost bike ceremony will be held at the scene at 9 pm this evening.

This is the 63rd bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 24th in LA County. It’s also the 9th bike death in the City of Los Angeles, which compares to 11 in the city this time last year.

Update: According to Carlos Morales of the Eastside Bike Club and Stan’s Bike Shop in Monrovia, Gabat was a very experienced cyclist who always wore a helmet. He was also a popular member of Adobo Velo, Southern California’s largest Filipino-American cycling club. 

He also notes that the area around this intersection is notorious for poor pavement conditions, resulting in several traffic incidents involving cyclists. In fact, Morales is aware of at least one lawsuit that has been filed against the city by a bike rider who injured there. 

Update 2: In a comment below, Joseph Pagulo says that he was riding with Gabat, and that his fall came in the middle of a descent, so it did not occur at a slow speed.  

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Edgardo Gabat and all his loved ones.

Morning Links: Details come out in death of randonneur Matthew O’Neill; new Chinese bike doesn’t need you

Finally, more details on the death of SoCal randonneur Matthew O’Neill outside of Santa Maria earlier this month.

According to the Santa Barbara Independent, O’Neill was riding far to the right on a straight, if narrow, stretch of roadway and was “lit up like a Christmas tree” when he was hit by a truck driven by the unnamed 16-year old son of former Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado.

A spokesman for the CHP says the investigation will take some time, and that all factors — including speed and distracted driving — are being considered. However, they do not believe drugs or alcohol use played a role.

There’s also some question whether the boy was legally allowed to drive the truck and horse trailer, as California law prohibits drivers under 18 from operating a vehicle with a passenger under the age of 20 unless accompanied by an adult over 25 years old. The only passenger in the truck was his 18-year old brother; he was also a passenger when his mother was involved in another fatal collision on the same stretch of roadway two years earlier.

Reading between the lines, it sounds like an inexperienced driver attempted to squeeze past the victim’s recumbent bike without changing lanes, and sideswiped him with the truck or trailer.

Whether that’s enough for the CHP to recommend charges against a member of a politically powerful family remains to be seen.

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Good read from Streetsblog’s Sahra Sulaiman on how bikes can help reclaim public space for marginalized communities.

There is no earthly reason that men of color should feel that the act of walking or riding a bicycle down the street is akin to extending an embossed invitation to police to stop, question, and frisk them, hand them bogus tickets (for not having bike lights in the day time, for example), or worse.

Amen, sister.

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Matthew Gomez writes to report the city of Arcadia just installed new bike lanes on 1st between Colorado and St. Joseph. It’s only three blocks, but it’s a start.

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Local

LA cyclist Zachary Rynew looks at the anatomy of a bike wreck, which, like most, clearly didn’t need to happen; he reports the injured riders still aren’t back on their bikes.

A occasionally bike riding columnist for the Pasadena Star-News just doesn’t get the animosity some drivers and San Marino residents have for cyclists.

KCET looks at plans for an Emerald Necklace greenbelt around LA County.

 

State

Despite increasing ridership rates, bike versus pedestrian injuries have declined in New York and California.

More than 1,000 riders of every description — including the city’s bike riding mayor — turn out to ride in support of San Diego cyclist Juan Carlos Vinolo, paralyzed by an alleged drunken wrong way driver on Fiesta Island last week.

San Diego’s Bike the Bay rolls this weekend, giving cyclists a once-a-year opportunity to ride the iconic Coronado Bay Bridge.

Our neighbor to the south unveils a website for San Diego’s new Bicycle Advisory Committee.

San Bernardino authorities are looking for a hit-and-run driver who fled on foot after striking another car, then spinning into a cyclist, leaving the critically injured rider in a medically induced coma.

Not surprisingly, San Jose merchants object to the removal of parking spaces in order to install bike lanes. Just like virtually every other merchants in virtually every other city — even though it’s been repeatedly shown bike lanes are good for business.

 

National

Lance still believes he won seven Tours de France; then again, he was there.

Six things to like about Seattle’s new two-way separated bike lanes.

Marijuana-related traffic fatalities are up 100% in pot-friendly Colorado.

Somehow, a South Dakota driver didn’t break any laws in killing a bike rider — despite being cited for failure to use due caution and failure to yield. But other than that…

A new, narrow bike lane may have contributed to a fatal New Hampshire dooring.

New York won’t consider bike lanes or other infrastructure on Park Avenue, despite the recent deaths of three bicyclists.

Caught on video: New York police search for a hit-and-run driver who made a U-turn to intentionally run over a pedestrian.

 

International

Chilean students design a bike that doesn’t need a lock. Because it is one.

If legendary rock drummer Ginger Baker hadn’t been hit by a car while riding his bike when he was 16, he might have become a professional cyclist, instead; he credits long-distance riding with the stamina needed to play the drums.

Despite calling for them now, London cyclists fought separated bike lanes 80 years ago.

In yet another anti-bike terrorist attack, a young British girl is nearly decapitated when someone strings a bike brake cable across a popular pathway.

If cyclists are breaking the law, there’s a problem with the street.

Caught on video: A Dublin tour guide is a Facebook hero after tackling a bike thief.

French pro Thomas Voeckler suffers his fourth broken collarbone in a collision with a car.

The author of an anti-bike Aussie Facebook page now calls for détente between cyclists and motorists.

 

Finally…

There’s got to be a story here, as a Burlingame cyclist gets into an argument with a man whose dog peed on his bike helmet; hopefully, he wasn’t wearing it at the time.

And forget driverless cars; a Chinese firm is developing an autonomous, self-riding bike. But then, what would be the point?

 

San Diego cyclist died following Aug 6th collision with another cyclist; 2nd bike-on-bike fatality in 10 days

Unfortunately, the news media doesn’t always get it right.

A few weeks ago, TV stations in San Diego reported that two bike riders had collided on a bike trail at Lake Miramar, sending a 73-year old rider to the hospital. However, San Diego’s NBC-7 reported that the victim’s condition had improved, and he had been released later that same day.

But as the song says, it ain’t necessarily so.

Sadly, it turns out that the victim, Gus Pabalan, died at 4:30 the next day, 24 hours after the bike-on-bike collision that took his life.

The much-loved rider was injured around 4:30 pm on Wednesday, August 6th, when he collided head-on with another cyclist. According to the news reports, he suffered major head trauma, while the other rider was uninjured.

No word on whether he was wearing a helmet; however, all the photos of Pabalan on the website of his local bike club, Mira Mesa Cycling Club, show him with one. Photos of the scene show a 10 mph speed limit, which a commenter says is often ignored.

A well-attended memorial ride was held for Pabalan last Sunday.

No word on why the riders ended up on a head-on trajectory, or whose fault it might have been. However, this should be yet another reminder to always ride safely around other cyclists and pedestrians; it only takes a momentary mistake to change someone’s life forever.

Or end it.

This is the 62nd bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the sixth in San Diego County. And he is the second cyclist to lose his life as a result of bike-on-bike collision in the county in less than 10 days.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Gus Pabalan and all his friends and love ones.

Thanks to Smorg for the heads-up.

 

San Diego cyclist dies three months after collision with another rider

Very sad news from San Diego County.

According to an obituary from the San Diego Union-Tribune, 57-year old Santee resident Paul Fleck died earlier this month as a result of injuries suffered in a bicycling accident.

The incident occurred May 10th; his death came almost exactly three months later, on August 9th.

An email forwarded to me from the OFFBAC riding group fills in some of the details.

Apparently, Fleck was riding downhill in the bike lane on Highway 52, though it doesn’t specify where on the highway, traveling at about 30 mph. Another rider was struggling uphill with his head down when he swerved to avoid something and drifted into Fleck’s lane, where they evidently collided head-on.

He had been hospitalized ever since, and appeared to be making progress until he succumbed to cranial bleeding.

No word on the condition of the other cyclist.

This is the 61st bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the fifth in San Diego County. It’s also the two SoCal road death resulting from a collision with another rider since the first of the year.

Please, ride carefully out there.

Update: I’m told the area where this collision occurred is actually a two-way separated pathway that was built when 52 was widened a few years back, removing the shoulders where cyclists used to ride.

Correction: I originally wrote that there had three bike on bike fatalities this year. However, this is actually the second death this year; the count was off due to an entry error in database. My apologies for the mistake. 

Correction 2: Actually, three cyclists have been killed in collisions with other riders; I was just unaware of the third until now.

My deepest prayers and sympathy for Paul Fleck and all his loved ones.

Thanks to Phillip Young of the San Diego Wheelmen for the heads-up. 

10-year old bike rider killed in Hesperia

Just heartbreaking.

According to the Hesperia Star, a young bike rider was killed yesterday when he rode out in front of a car at an intersection.

Ten-year old Hesperia resident Arnold Covarrubias was riding east on the north sidewalk along on Main Street at Third Avenue at 8:45 pm when he attempted to cross Main without warning, and was hit by a Kia SUV. He was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead at 9:35 pm.

Investigators say Covarrubias may have been distracted by a stray dog when he rode out into the intersection against the light and was hit by the SUV, which was headed west on Main with the green light.

A satellite view shows a major intersection with two to three lanes of traffic in every direction.

The driver remained at the scene and cooperated with police; speed or alcohol use did not appear to be factors in the collision. As always, however, the key is whether there were other witnesses besides the driver, who has an inherent interest is seeing his actions in the best possible light.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Deputy Simon DeMuri from the Hesperia Station at 760/947-1500.

This is the 60th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the eighth in San Bernardino County. Remarkably, that’s exactly the same rate as this time last year in both the county, and the greater SoCal region.

It’s also the fifth bicycling death in Hesperia, population 92,000, in the last three years.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Arnold Covarrubias and his family. 

Morning Links: Popular LA cyclist seriously injured, update on the San Diego crash that injured 8 riders

Lots of news today, so grab some coffee, limber up your clicking finger and settle in for a good read.

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Popular LA cyclist Jo Celso is hospitalized in San Diego after suffering serious injuries while riding at the San Diego Velodrome Tuesday night. Donations to defray medical expenses can be made through PayPal.

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The driver in the San Diego crash that sent eight cyclists to the hospital was allegedly under the influence of alcohol and drugs, possibly including meth; she has a history of petty crime dating back to 2006.

One of the victims reportedly couldn’t feel his legs following the crash, while the Times says one of the injured — most likely the same rider — suffered a major vertebral fracture; sounds like prayers or good wishes are in order.

And BikeSD calls for charges against the driver.

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A Santa Maria TV station confirms the rumors that the passenger in the truck that killed Chula Vista randonneur Matthew O’Neill was the 18-year old son of former Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado. Nicolas Maldonado was also a passenger in another fatal collision involving his mother two years ago.

According to the same rumors, the 16-year old driver who killed O’Neill is also a member of the Maldonado family.

Meanwhile, Stacy Kline offers a moving remembrance of her friend and riding companion.

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More on our fellow cyclist Robin Williams, his big heart and his love of bikes.

First up, noted bike rider Conan O’Brien relates how Williams tried to cheer him up following O’Brien’s dismissal from the Tonight Show by giving him an outrageously silly bicycle.

Then there’s the story told by Bay Area comic Johnny Steele, who said Williams bought him a custom-made bike and became his regular riding partner after Steele told him he didn’t ride because he couldn’t afford it. And all because Williams liked his joke about 65-year old men on $6,500 bicycles.

Meanwhile, a bike shop owning friend of the comedian says Williams told him cycling saved his life after kicking cocaine.

And the Wall Street Journal relates how he once met famed Italian bike builder Dario Pegoretti, and how Williams said he loved riding because it’s a close as you can get to flying.

I think we can all relate to that one. I’ve said the same thing myself more than once.

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Local

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition is hosting a fundraising Firefly Ball the day before Halloween, honoring Andy Leeka of Good Samaritan Hospital, Long Beach’s Suja Lowenthal, and legendary BAC founder and bike advocate Alex Baum; tickets start at $250.

Meanwhile, the LACBC is holding a workshop on fundraising for bicycle advocates next Thursday.

Attend a live recording of the Bike Talk podcast at the Levi’s pop-up store this Friday with hosts Nick Richert, Melissa Balmer and Maria Sipin.

The Daily News takes a look at LADOT’s new Bicycle Friendly Business program.

Streetsblog’s Damien Newton offers advice for walking or biking back to school.

 

State

California lists 147 projects that could get funding under the state’s new Active Transportation Program, including several in Southern California.

Calbike offers their monthly update.

New bike lanes are approved near Corona del Mar High School.

A 23-year old Big Bear rider competes in his first year as a professional cyclist.

 

National

Even the feds want you to take a bike tour.

Once again, a foreign tourist riding across the US is killed by a drunk driver, this time an Australian woman who was killed in Indiana just 500 miles from her destination.

Caught on video: Angry motorists confront a Vermont cyclist, saying they should have run him over. And to make matters worse, it was the rider got ticketed — for riding in the traffic lane.

Once again, the NYPD cracks down on the victims of traffic violence, rather than the cause.

 

International

Toronto cyclists win a fight for protected bike lanes.

London cop hops on a stolen bike to chase down a wanted bike thief.

Poetic justice, as a drunken Brit bike thief breaks his ankle when the bike he’s trying to make off with falls on him.

 

Finally…

Kids, don’t do this at home. A Kansas driver pulls into a parking lot to confront a bike rider, who promptly pulls out a gun and shoots him in the face; the rider was taken into custody nearby.

 

Riverside hit-and-run victim dies after being taken off life support

A heartbreaking week just keeps getting worse.

According to KABC-7, Riverside hit-and-run victim D’Andre Sutherland was taken off life support on Tuesday.

The 27-year old father of two was riding near the intersection of Magnolia Ave and Beechwood Place around 2 am Sunday when he was hit by an SUV driving north on Magnolia. The driver fled the scene, leaving Sutherland lying in the street with what police described as significant injuries.

He was taken to Riverside Community Hospital, where he remained on life support for the next two days.

None of the stories describe how the collision happened; however, KTLA-5 reports he was riding in the number two lane. Since Beechwood is just a single lane in each direction, that means he had to have been riding on Magnolia, which suggests that he may have been the victim of a rear-end collision.

A ghost bike was installed in Sutherland’s honor on Wednesday. As Mark Friis, Executive Director of the Inland Empire Biking Alliance observed, there have been too damn many of them required in the Inland area this year.

Police are looking for a silver or beige SUV, similar to a Ford Flex, with major damage to the windshield and front end. 

Anyone with information is urge to call Detective Felix Soria at 951/826-8720 or email FSoria@riversideca.gov. 

This is the 59th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 11th in Riverside County, which compares with 12 for all of last year. Sutherland is also the 11th bicycling bike rider to lose his life in a hit-and-run since the first of the year.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for D’Andre Sutherland and all his family.

Bike rider killed in Vista train collision; popular randonneur killed Saturday in Santa Maria

Sometimes, all it takes is a single tragic error in judgement.

That was the case last night, as a bike rider lost his life apparently trying to beat a train in North San Diego County.

According to multiple sources, a 48-year old man, who has not been publicly identified, was hit by a Sprinter light-rail train in an unincorporated area of Vista. The collision occurred at a railroad crossing at the intersection of Woodland Drive and South Santa Fe Avenue at 8:07 pm Monday.

According to witnesses, the warning gates had been down for more than 40 seconds, with the lights and bells activated, when the victim rode around the gates and onto the track. He was struck by oncoming the train, which had been sounding its horn as it approached the intersection.

The victim was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

No explanation was given for why he attempted to cross the tracks despite multiple visual and audible warnings.

He was the third person killed by a train in the county in the last five days.

This is the 58th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the fourth in San Diego County. He is also the third bike rider to be killed by a train in the seven-county SoCal region since the first of the year.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for the victim and his loved ones. 

Thanks to Rick Risemberg for the heads-up. 

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I don’t normally report on bicycling fatalities that occur outside the SoCal region.

However, I’ve gotten multiple reports of a cyclist killed on Foxen Canyon Road in the Santa Maria area over the weekend.

According to the Santa Maria Times, the victim was a 33-year old Chula Vista resident, who was hit by a 16-year old driver in a truck pulling a horse trailer.

Now word is coming in that victim was Matthew O’Neil, a popular randonneur well known in SoCal riding circles. I’m told that a group of riders participating in the ultra-distance event came upon the scene shortly after the collision, and recognized the victim by his unique Bacchetta recumbent bike.

Meanwhile, rumors are swirling that the driver is the son of a woman involved in another fatal wreck on the same road in 2012.

Hopefully, we’ll have more information later.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Matthew O’Neil and all his family and friends. 

Thanks to Mike T for the link

 

Update: 40-something cyclist killed in DTLA; second rider to die on Alameda Street in the last six months

More bad news, this time from Downtown Los Angeles.

According to a press release from the LAPD, the victim, identified only as a man in his early 40s, was hit and killed by a flatbed tractor trailer on Alameda just south of 20th Street at 1:10 pm Monday.

The police report says the cyclist was riding with traffic on southbound Alameda Street when he was sideswiped by the driver; he fell into the roadway, where he was run over by the truck’s rear wheels.

The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. His identity is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

The driver remained at the scene and was cooperating with investigators; he was not suspected of being under the influence. Several vehicles initially stopped at the scene, but the drivers did not remain to talk to police.

According to Carlos Morales of the Eastside Bike Club, witnesses said the victim, who was riding a cruiser bike, was hugging the curb when the driver attempted to squeeze past in the same lane.

And clearly, failed.

Anyone with information is urged to call LAPD Central Traffic Division Detectives at 213/833-3713 or Detective Felix Padilla at 213/486-0753. You can also call the Central Traffic Division Watch Commander at 213/486-8344.

This is the 57th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 23rd in Los Angeles County. It’s also the eighth bike death in the City of Los Angeles since the first of the year, and the second cycling fatality on Alameda Street since February of this year.

Update: The Long Beach Post has identified the victim as 42-year old Long Beach resident Jarone Bartee; thanks to Danny Gamboa for the link. 

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Jarone Bartee and his family. 

Thanks to Carlos Morales of the Eastside Bike Club for the heads-up.

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