In Southern California, eight biking deaths in three weeks may be tragic, but it isn’t news

Early last Saturday morning, Daniel Marin died at the bumper of an alleged drunk driver.

The 17-year old Sylmar cyclist was riding near San Fernando High School at the corner of Chamberlain Street and Laurel Canyon Blvd when he was struck and killed by a car driven by Shawn Fields.

Reports don’t indicate how the collision occurred. Police only say that they found him lying unresponsive in the street when they arrived at 2:11 am, with Fields sitting nearby in the driver’s seat of his car.

Fields was charged with Gross Vehicular Manslaughter while Driving Under the Influence (DUI), and released on $100,000; his next court date is scheduled for Wednesday, October 27th at the San Fernando Courthouse.

Some people call it murder, and I can’t — and won’t — argue that point. Anyone who gets behind the wheel after drinking is fully responsible for whatever follows, and should be held fully accountable.

I only wish that was the end of the story.

Because by my count, Danny Marin was just one of eight Southern California cyclists killed in the last three weeks alone.

Think about that.

That’s over 1% of all the bicycle related deaths in the entire U.S. for all of 2008. Or looking at it another way, that extends to a rate of 137 deaths over a full year — nearly 20% of the 718 cyclists killed nationwide in 2008.

Yet not one word from the local media.

Clearly, there’s no one cause, since those deaths run the gamut from a retired firefighter killed in a collision with a pedestrian, to hit-and-run and drunk driving cases, and collisions where the rider may have been responsible.

But just as clearly, there are too damn many riders dying on our streets.

It’s time to take notice. It’s time to get mad. And it’s long past time to do something about it.

So be careful this weekend. And ride as if your life depends on it.

Because it does.


On a related subject, Dj Wheels reports that a restitution hearing was held last month for Robert Sam Sanchez, convicted in the hit-and-run death of Rod Armas:

On Sept. 20, a restitution hearing was held to determine the amount of monetary damages suffered by the Armas family.  Rod Armas’ wife, Karen Michelle Armas testified regarding the ambulance and hospital bills for the night of the incident, funeral service expenses, loss of earnings for Rod Armas, a former L.A. County Probations Officer, her loss of earnings as a registered trauma nurse, counseling expenses and future medical expenses for Christian and psychological therapy for her and Rod’s three children.

Judge Lawrence Mira set restitution at $1,587,248 plus 10% interest as of 6/28/09.  He also reserved jurisdiction to modify restitution as to attorney fees, treatment for Christian’s knee and therapy for the family.

There were some issues that defense counsel brought up regarding the accuracy of all the figures, including the cost of the bicycles damaged for which Mrs. Armas’ could not provide the estimate from the shop at this hearing, and any off set Sanchez could receive as a result of his insurance company making a payment to Mrs. Armas as part of a settlement.

The restitution hearing was continued to Dec. 12.

He also reports that a plea bargain was reached in the case of William Keith Square in the hit-and-run death of an unnamed cyclist in Carson:

On Sept. 22, a plea bargain was entered between the District Attorney’s office and the Public Defender representing Mr. Square.

Felony hit and run charges, DUI charges and 2nd degree murder charges were dropped in exchange for a plea to Count 1 – gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated – PC 191.5(a), which carries a state prison sentence of 4, 6 or 10 years.  Judge John Cheroske sentenced Square to the max term of 10 years in state prison and ordered him to pay a $2000 restitution fee.  Square has been in custody since being arrested shortly after the incident, so he was given credit for 159 days in actual custody.

I believe this matter is now considered disposed of, and no mention is made of any other type of restitution to the family of the victim.

And according to the Orange County Register, Javier Rivera has entered a guilty plea in the hit-and-run death of Patrick Shannon — just one of the many cycling deaths in Orange County that was not caused by bad bicyclist behavior.

Rivera pled guilty to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and felony hit-and-run with injury. He now faces up to four years in prison.

Four years for inflicting a self-imposed death penalty on another human being for the crime of riding a bicycle — despite multiple previous convictions for possession, as well as fleeing from a police officer with wanton disregard for public safety.

And in another four year — or less — he’ll be free to do it again.


Host cities are announced for the Amgen Tour of California; local stages include a Solvang time trial, Claremont to Mt. Baldy, and Santa Clarita to Thousand Oaks. Claremont celebrates their part with a kick-off event.

Not surprisingly, Italy’s top anti-doping prosecutor backtracks on his earlier statement that all cyclists are on drugs; I’m on antihistamines, does that count? Shane Perkins, the Aussie track cyclist who twice flipped off the judges following a penalty, penalizes himself by pulling out of the team sprint final.

Italy’s L’Eroica race is a throwback to the past, with wool jerseys, gravel roads and no bikes born after 1987.


People for Bikes tops 100,000 members. Good news, but we should have that many from here in SoCal alone. If you haven’t signed up yet, it’s free, there’s no obligation, they won’t spam you and it only takes a few seconds.


L.A.’s first CicLAvia takes place from 10 am to 3 pm on Sunday, 10/10/10 along a free seven-plus mile route through Downtown, MacArthur Park and Hollywood; walk, bike, skate, dance or just hang out. Note: Santa Monica’s ciclovia, which had been planned for the same day has been postponed for now; thanks to Eric Weinstein for the heads-up.

All signs point to a good time, with yoga and Capoeira along the way, and you might even find Ellen Page. KNBC-4 invites you to go car free, then again, it might help if you know how to get there and it couldn’t hurt to make your plans in advance. Animals are welcome; in fact, they may be blessed. And the new Fixx Carlton powder coating boutique will open Sunday at the west end of CicLAvia.


In other events —

Bike Talk airs Saturday at 10 am; listen to it live or download the podcast from KPFK.

Explore the effects of bicycles on art and culture at the Grand Opening of Re:Cycle — Bike Culture in Southern California, October 7th – 9th, at U.C. Riverside’s newly relocated Sweeney Art Gallery at the Barbara and Art Culver Center of the Arts3834 Main Street in downtown Riverside. A reception will be held from 6 – 10 pm Thursday, October 7th; the exhibition continues through December 31st.

Flying Pigeon and the Bike Oven host the free Spoke(n) Art Ride on the 2nd Saturday of every month, starting at 3714 N. Figueroa St. in Highland Park on Saturday the 9th at 6:30 pm.

Tuesday, October 12th, there will be a community meeting to discuss the soon-to-open Elysian Valley section of the L.A. River Bike Path starting 6 pm at Allesandro Elementary School, 2210 Riverside Drive; parking is available off Gleneden and Riverside Drive.

Santa Monica’s Bike It! Day has been rescheduled from last week to Wednesday the 13th due to the heavy rains; students are encouraged to bike or walk to school.

Glendale will host two public meetings on the proposed Safe & Healthy Streets Plan on Monday, October 25 at the Glendale Central Library Auditorium, and Wednesday, October 27 at the Sparr Heights Community Center; both meetings will run from 7 pm to 8:30 pm.

New Belgium Brewery’s Tour de Fat makes its first L.A. stop on Saturday, October 23rd. The following day, Sony sponsors their bikeless, but probably still fun, Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon


Gary submits a questionnaire to the candidates for Santa Monica City Council, and gets a response almost immediately. LADOT Bike Blog does a great job of reporting on Tuesday’s BAC meeting. The Southern California Assoc. of Governments invites you to join in the bike planning process with their new Bike Ped Planning Page, while the South Bay Bicycle Coalition now has its own website. Another great response to KABC-7’s recent lightweight report on bikes in traffic. The once and future Car-less Valley Girl is back on her bike, and she likes it. Even cops commit hit-and-run around here. A bike cozy spotted in Santa Monica, or would you’d rather have a U-lock cozy instead?

A 22-year old San Francisco cyclist was killed Thursday evening in a rush hour collision with a Muni bus. Watch out for bicycle extremists. EcoVelo says it would be nice if drivers just treated us like other road users. Making bike path pavement from plants, not oil. Does dropping a bundle on a bike mean you’re a better rider? Uh, that would be no. A former CIA officer and his wife are riding cross country to raise money for the CIA Officers memorial Foundation. Oregon residents insist on getting their lanes back. Bike Denver plans a 1,200 space bike corral for the Denver Bronco’s first ever ride to the game on Oct. 17th; think L.A could fill even a tenth of that for our NFL team? Oh wait, we don’t have one. Yet another cross-country cyclist is killed when a truck blows a tire when trying to pass safely. Zeke deals with a rash of confrontational drivers. The department of DIY spreads to Missoula as cyclists face charges for painting their own bike lane. An Augusta cyclist is left lying in the street after an assault by the occupants of a passing car.

Biking the French Wine Road. A Winnipeg cyclist is hit by a dirt biker, who pauses to laugh at her before riding off. Montreal redesigns a popular riding route to make it less safe for cyclists. London cycle stylists help women choose the right bikes and fashions. Five years for an uninsured and unlicensed drunk driver who killed an Edinburgh cyclist in a head-on collision; at least that more than Rivera will get.

Finally, if a cardboard bike helmet can exceed design standards, is the design that good or are the standards that bad? A study at NYU Medical Center shows that 76% of bike-related ER patients weren’t even wearing that much, but the cool kids do.


  1. Opus the Poet says:

    On the OR cyclist killed in IA, the story doesn’t make sense from a physics point of view. If you believe the driver he was moving left to pass the cyclist and was crossing the center line when the right front tire blew causing the truck to leave the road to the right and taking out the cyclist in the process. First of all a flat tire doesn’t make that much drag, second the mass was moving to the left when the tire supposedly blew reversing that momentum and changing it to the right requires a great deal of force, much more than can be generated by a flat tire. Now to establish my bona fides on this, I have had experience with blowouts on trucks and in sedans (OK once with a truck and once with a car, and a suspension failure that caused the right front tire to fold up sideways in the fender), and there was very little pull from the flat tire and it was easily kept under control. Even when the tire folded sideways and was just dragging I managed to stay in my own lane and not go off the road. In none of these cases did I have any advanced warning that the tire was going to blow, it was just a BANG flopflopflop,flop,flop,flop…flop and smoke filling the cabin where the fender was ripped out.

    So, yeah from my personal experience I find the “blowout” theory bunk.

    What I think really happened was a buzz job that the driver mis-judged an hit the cyclist with the bike frame cutting down the tire. A quick way to tell was the direction the truck rolled over, right or left. If the truck rolled left then it was a buzz job, right could be either way.

  2. […] 8 Bike Deaths in Three Weeks in the Southland: Tragic, Not Newsworthy (Biking In L.A.) […]

  3. Mihai Peteu says:

    Thanks for reporting on these tragedies, they really do not get enough media coverage. I was moved by the outpour of support from Danny’s friends and extended family in San Fernando for his memorial ride. About 50-60 people attended, and everyone I spoke to had something positive to say about him.

    We cannot push this into a corner and forget about it, that’s what desensitizes people. Imagine if Danny was your kid, or your friend, or sibling. He was only a kid, literally a block from home before his life was abruptly ended.

    I’ve downgraded the murder charge on my BikeSide post because I’m assuming it was an unintentional killing. However, this does not make Shawn Fields any less responsible. Even though there are conflicting reports, Daniel’s family claims this indeed was a hit and run, another motorist had to chase down the culprit and get his license plate.

    • bikinginla says:

      Thanks, Mihai. I really appreciate you saying that. I’m glad that memorial ride for Danny was successful; while every biking death is tragic, this one has really struck a cord with me.

      And I wouldn’t argue with the original wording on your did not intend to kill anyone that night, but any person who gets behind the wheel under the influence is fully responsible for whatever happens as a result.

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