Tag Archive for Donald McCluskey

Morning Links: Turning private tragedy into help for others, and a 3-decade old AG opinion on sidewalk riding

Donny McCluskey in better days.

Donny McCluskey in better days.

Okay, so this one made me cry.

You see, one reason I write about fallen cyclists is the hope that somehow, some good will come out of such senseless loss. Whether in the form of improved safety measures at the site of the collision, or in some other way.

Patti McCluskey Andre made sure that happened.

It was just over three years ago that her brother, Donny McCluskey, stood waiting with his bike, for a Palm Springs red light to change. He was in the right place, exactly where he was supposed to be, obeying the law so many motorists seem to think we break with abandon.

Yet in the intersection in front of him, a drunk driver was hit by a motorist running that same red light. One of the vehicles went ballistic, spinning out of control and crashing into him; with his feet planted on the ground, there was nothing he could do to avoid the impact.

In seconds, he became collateral damage to the dangers on our streets, a victim of actions beyond his control.

The remorseful driver who ran the red light was ultimately convicted and placed on three years probation and community service. This at the request of the victim’s family, who saw no benefit in putting him behind bars.

In most cases, that would have been the end of it.

They would have walked away, mourning the loss of someone so dear to them, and trying to find some way to put it all behind them.

But Patti wanted Donny’s life to mean something.

So she started a fund in his name, which this month awarded its first two scholarships.

Here’s what she had to say:

Yesterday I had the honor of awarding the first 2 in memory of Donny McCluskey scholarships. Both recipients, Lisa Ponsford and Wendi Swanson are family nurse practitioners graduating in May with their DNPs. As FNPS working in our communities — they have the power to promote change at every level. Lisa works in the ER and Wendi in college health plus both are educators at WesternU. Both recipients are physically active and dedicated to changing population health with lifestyle interventions.

Both recipients were honored and touched to be chosen for this scholarship. All I can say is that I am honored to know them and wish they had known Donny, he would have been honored to have his name associated with these two!

Just how big a heart does it take to turn your own private tragedy into something so positive? Let alone something that will not only benefit those who receive them, but everyone whose lives they touch?

Patti has thanked me more than once for the work I do here. But I am in awe of her, and what she’s done to not only channel her own grief, but make our world a better place.

She’s currently raising funds for an additional scholarship for a graduate or doctoral student of Health Science at the same university. And promises to match every donation dollar for dollar.

I can’t think of a better cause.


In light of yesterday’s guest post about riding on crosswalks, I was forwarded this 1993 opinion from then California Attorney General Dan Lundgren, concluding that the rules of the road do indeed apply to bicyclists on the sidewalk, and that sidewalk cyclists can be required to ride with traffic.

We note that certain rules of the road concern the use of the roadway in particular rather than the highway in general (e.g., § 2165 [except in specified circumstances, a vehicle upon the highway is to be driven upon the right half of the roadway]). Although a sidewalk is a separate part of the highway from the roadway, we believe that, given the factors discussed above, the intent of the Legislature was for the operation of a bicycle on a sidewalk to be similar to vehicular travel wherever practicable. Therefore, to the extent that a vehicle must be driven on the right half of the roadway, a bicyclist riding on an adjacent sidewalk must travel in the same direction as the vehicular traffic. This interpretation of section 21200 provides pedestrians with some assurance as to the direction of bicycle riders on sidewalks at all times. Such statutory construction is consistent with the well-established principle that “[t]he courts must give statutes a reasonable construction which conforms to the apparent purpose and intention of the lawmakers.” (Clean Air Constituency v. California Air Resources Bd. (1974) 11 Cal.3d 801, 813.)

Of course, an opinion of the AG does not have the force law.

It’s up to the courts to interpret and rule on the meaning of laws guiding the use of bicycles on the sidewalk, as well as the crosswalks. And laws can be amended, and interpretations change, over three decades.

I don’t know of any California city where sidewalk riders are routinely expected to ride in the direction of traffic. However, many police departments — including the LAPD — believe bikes become vehicles once they enter the street, and so must travel in the direction of traffic when they enter a crosswalk, yesterday’s post not withstanding.

But it’s interesting to see such a different interpretation of the law from thirty years ago.


Somehow I missed this column from an auto-centric writer in my otherwise bike friendly home state, insisting that bike riders are law breaking junior partners who deserve only a small share of the road. And of course, the usual complaints about a “subset” of arrogant, self-righteous, self-centered and condescending riders.

A cyclist responds by shouting tongue-in-cheek taunts at other riders when he’s behind the wheel.


An article in a Boston College environmental law review makes the case for how strict liability could even the scales on our roads, improve safety and encourage more environmentally friendly forms of commuting.

Like bicycling, for instance.

Strict liability is based on the assumption that motorists, as the operators of the more dangerous vehicles, have a greater responsibility for avoiding collisions, and so are presumed to be at fault in a collision unless it can be shown otherwise.

Adopting it here is probably the biggest step we could take to reduce reckless behavior behind the wheel and stop the carnage on our streets.



Thieves made off with nine bikes in DTLA in a one week period this month; eight of the purloined bicycles had their locks cut.

Turns out there’s already bike share in Century City, while nearby Westwood’s new bike corral is being put to good use.

Fear of a more user-friendly future on our streets rears its ugly head, as the president of the Miracle Mile Residential Associations waves a red flag and LADOT’s senior planner appears to backpedal on the city’s draft mobility plan.

The first bike lane in the ‘Bu finally opens, but it’s just a tad shorter than earlier reports. Instead of seven miles long, it’s two miles, along with an improved seven-mile bike route.

Glendale police held a fundraiser for next week’s 300-mile Police Unity Tour to honor fallen officers.



Irvine police make their second bust in two days of thieves stealing copper wire from the lights along a bike path next to the 405 Freeway. But at least the crooks were on bikes, right?

No bias here, as the Press-Enterprise says a bike rider was badly hurt when he ran into a car; never mind that he was actually right-hooked. Note to the P-E: The victim was cut off, not passing on the right; thanks to sponsor Michael Rubinstein for the link.

No bias here, either. A Hollister newspaper reports a bike-riding child hit a car and fell over, but fails to mention if the car was even moving at the time. And in more Hollister news, if you’re a known gang member carrying a concealed weapon, ride to the right, damn it.

San Francisco police arrest the unlicensed hit-and-run driver who plowed into three bicyclists earlier this month; she’s scheduled to appear in court today.

In an exercise in sheer stupidity, a San Francisco man is arrested for stabbing another man to death in a dispute over a bicycle.

Police in Menlo Park are looking for a bike rider who whacked a driver in the head with his bike lock after throwing something at his car. Seriously, no matter how much you think someone might deserve it, don’t resort to violence. Ever. Period.



Bikes hardly ever catch on fire. Unless maybe you’re on a Pedego e-bike; the company just recalled their batteries due to a fire hazard.

A new study says bike shares are more successful when the stations are close together. Are you listening, Metro?

A website lists the three best American cities to tour by bike. No, Los Angeles isn’t one of them.

Here’s that full report on bike helmets from Consumer Reports.

A Portland website asks if bike locks of the future could end 120 years of thieving bastards. Their words, not mine, but I like the way they think.

An Oregon judge gives a repeat drunk driver yet another second chance, despite already spending time in prison for killing a cyclist in 2004. The driver, not the judge. This is how we keep drunks on the road until they kill someone. Or in this case, kill again.

Yuma AZ changes the city ordinance to require cyclists to ride with traffic, after two-thirds of bicycling collision victims in the town were riding salmon. Which makes you wonder what the hell the law was there before.

Mad City cyclists will get a new $3 million bike and ped bridge this September.

A off-duty Cleveland cop is punched in the arm by an 81-year old man for riding his bike on a multi-use bike path.

Residents of a New York neighborhood complain about scofflaw salmon cyclists, unlike all those law abiding drivers on Gotham streets. Evidently, New York moms don’t teach their kids to look both ways before crossing the street, either.

LA may be the mecca for food trucks, but Pittsburgh is about to get the Porkrind Bike, delivering 15-flavors of free-range chicharróns.

A three-time DUI loser is sentenced to over 10 years behind bars for the death of a Virginia bike rider, after a BAC two-and-a-half times the legal limit — then has eight years suspended. See above about why we can’t get drunks off the roads before they kill. Or kill again.



Writing for the Wall Street Journal, a sociologist explains that Europeans are more likely to be injured riding a bike, though we Americans are more likely to wear a helmet. And says he doesn’t, even though he thinks he probably should.

Quebec’s Transport Minister is leaning against a mandatory helmet law, saying it would be hard to enforce.

An amateur Brit bike racer spends the equivalent of nearly $40,000 competing in a single year. Many amateur racers would like to just have that much money, let alone spend it on racing.

That’s one way to get the streets fixed, as a UK graffiti artist draws attention to potholes by drawing a penis around them. Thanks to Topher Mathers for heads-up.

The Wall Street Journal offers five things to know about riding in Amsterdam.

At least we only have to worry about LA drivers, as a South African cyclist was apparently killed by a giraffe.



Slowtwitch offers advice on group riding for triathletes attempting to infiltrate the peloton. Advice on how to tell another rider his ass is showing through his spandex shorts.

And an off-duty Houston cop with crappy aim shot at a man stealing a bike from his porch twelve times — yes, 12 — because he “thought” the thief was armed. Apparently without hitting anyone, though police briefly followed a trail of dried paint or tomato juice.

Seriously, you can’t make this crap up.


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,


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.


Guest post: No justice, no closure for family of a fallen Palm Spring cyclist

This story breaks my heart. And it scares the crap out of me.

Last spring, Donny McCluskey was waiting at a red light when he became collateral damage in a violent vehicular collision.

He did everything right. He was exactly where he was supposed to be, and obeying the law in every way.

And yet he still died when a speeding driver ran a red light, and was broadsided by a drunk driver who was crossing on the green, sending the van tumbling into him.

The pickup driver who was otherwise obeying the law was arrested on the spot for DUI. Yet the driver who caused the collision and took the life of an innocent cyclist got a relative slap on the wrist, charged with a single count of misdemeanor vehicular homicide.

The victim’s family thought they’d see justice and get closure at his hearing. They were mistaken.

I’ll let his sister, Patti McCluskey-Andre tell the story.


Update on Donny McCluskey’s case with opening court date completed on February 13, 2013. It appeared to be held in Indio traffic court where most of the crimes were DUI, not showing up for DUI work (warrants) or driving without a license. After hearing these cases, there was Donny’s case: MISDEMEANOR vehicular manslaughter. No bail, no driving suspension, no reason to even show up in court for the driver (Armando Gomez of Cathedral City) who killed Donny-HE NEVER has to go to court because as the judge said several times: he was only charged with a misdemeanor (never mentioned manslaughter again) and he hired an attorney to represent him.

The judge explained the charges and the law as the DA had but the DA had no way of knowing he had hired a lawyer. As a family, we believed we would see the man and have some kind of closure. We agreed it was a terrible tragic accident caused by one man’s inattention and selfishness but not intentional. Yet, after court we realize the man who killed my brother, NEVER HAS TO GO TO COURT. Court was imagined as a form of cathartic movement for us to check off our grief list. We know there is no bringing Donny back, no matter what our actions are. We left the court in disbelief as to what kind of message are these charges delivering? Donny’s life was not worth more than paying a lawyer and going on with your life without much ado?

I could literally feel my 82 year old dad’s heart break as he sat next to me. I sensed him using sheer will to keep on breathing through the impersonalization and lack of importance attached to the death of his son. He also had to go home to tell Donny’s wife and mom what occurred. My heart breaks for everyone. My sister, my dad and I came to INDIO as we felt it was Donny’s day in court and since he was dead, his family would represent him.

Seems there are no laws protecting cyclists who die from gross vehicular operation unless the driver was texting, drunk or leaves the scene. Mr. Armando Gomez ran a light and accelerated an additional 30 mph when he realized it. Unfortunately, Mr. Gomez and his van were hit by a truck traveling through a green light resulting in his van flipping and skidding into my brother causing massive life ending injuries (Donny was following ALL the laws).

Mr. Gomez’s lawyer actually stated it was possibly the OTHER man’s fault. Now that is taking responsibility for your actions. I don’t know what the green light man did, but he was arrested at the scene for being under the influence. Maybe he could have stopped, if he was not under the influence but he was not the root cause of the accident. I am sure this driver will have more profound consequences.

Meanwhile, we grieve and acknowledge every month that goes by without our amazing husband, brother, son and uncle. Today is the 10 month anniversary. February 28th would have been his 50th birthday.

We need to change CA law. A car is a weapon and when not following laws that govern their use, even if you did not intend to kill someone and you do, then there needs to be consequences. It could be you or someone you love next time!

We need guidance on how to change these laws!
Patti McCluskey-Andre

The scary thing is this could happen to any of us. The actions of a careless driver can cause a chain reaction that can put us at risk; I’ve jumped the curb myself to avoid a car careening from a collision.

And if it does, the driver will probably get off. Or face the most meagre of charges, despite the damage he or she may cause.

Patti’s right.

The law has to change to ensure lawbreaking drivers who kill or maim innocent people face consequences equal to their actions.

Because their victims do.

Palm Springs cyclist dies in collateral damage collision; 2nd fatality today, 3rd this week

Some drivers will tell you they’ve never seen a cyclist stop for a red light.

Yesterday, proving them wrong cost a 49-year old Palm Springs man his life.

Donald McCluskey was stopped at the red light on southbound Da Vall Drive at Ramon Road in Rancho Mirage around 12:15 pm Wednesday when a 2010 Chrysler Town and County minivan traveling in the opposite direction ran the red light.

The van overturned after it was hit by a 1998 GMC Sierra pickup traveling west on Ramon, plowing into McCluskey, as well as the car stopped next to him. He was taken to Desert Regional Medical Center where he was pronounced dead at 1:40 pm.

Remarkably, Larry Wayne Goodman of Cathedral City, the driver who had the green light — not the one who ran the red light — was arrested at the scene for driving under the influence. No word on the identity of the Chrysler driver, who was hospitalized with moderate injuries, or why he blew through the light.

In other words, the two people who caused the collision were both breaking the law, while the person who died as a result of their actions apparently did everything right.

This is the 14th cycling fatality in Southern California since the first of the year, and the third in Riverside County. It is also the second bike death today, and the third in the last seven days.

My deepest sympathy to Donald McCluskey and his loved ones.

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