San Diego cyclist killed by sleeping 77-year old street sweeper

Just a week after San Diego cyclist Ben Acree was killed in a highly questionable collision, another San Diego-area rider has been killed in truly horrifying incident.

The still unidentified 44-year old San Diego-area cyclist was riding in a marked bike lane on Genesee Ave near Clairemont Mesa Blvd Drive in the Clairemont neighborhood at about 5;20 pm on Friday. According to police reports, a 77-year old street sweeper operator fell asleep at the wheel, drifted into the bike lane and struck the bike from behind.

Clearly, there are still a lot of questions to be answered. Not the least of which is why a 77-year old man was operating heavy equipment like that — in rush hour traffic, no less.

I don’t know if the driver will be held accountable.

But I’m pretty sure the person who put him there should be.

Update: The victim has been identified as Suntat Peverley of Mira Mesa, just north of the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station. My condolences to his family and loved ones.

And once again, the press feels a need to note that the victim in a bicycle collision was wearing a helmet, as if that means it wasn’t his fault he was killed. What part of he was run down by a street sweeper don’t they get? In a situation like that, a helmet isn’t going to make a bit of difference — and clearly, it didn’t.


  1. David Kelly says:

    My condolences to the family. It is utterly shocking to hear that a 77 year old individual is still working no less operating heavy machinery. I know times are tough, but come on where is the labor board. Now another cyclist life is lost because of another’s poor judgment and probably trying to save a buck. We now have 2 tragedies 1) the cyclist whose life was lost. And 2) the 77 year who possibly doesn’t have much longer to live has to live with guilt of causing the loss of life. Someone needs to be held accountable. Condolences once again to the family.

  2. Joe B says:

    I am dismayed at the loss of yet another cyclist. I feel I should be outraged; but if I were to get outraged every time one of us was killed unnecessarily, I’d spend my entire life in a state of rage.

    I’m also a little disturbed by the blatant ageism here. Obviously THIS 77-year-old shouldn’t have been behind the wheel, but you make it sound like ALL 77-year-olds should be forcibly retired and stuck in the back of a closet somewhere to finish up the last bits of the dying process.

    • bikinginla says:

      I think you’re reading more into this than there is, Joe.

      I have no problem with anyone working as long as they like, as long as it doesn’t put the public in jeopardy. Had the driver of this street sweeper been working behind a desk or in maintenance yard, I’d think it was wonderful that he was still productive at that age.

      But I would sincerely question the judgement of anyone who would allow someone to operate heavy equipment in his upper 70s. The human body naturally declines with age, and to ignore that is to invite disaster, as we have just seen.

      Having been through it myself in the not too distant past, there are few things harder than telling someone they can’t do something anymore. In my case, it was telling my father-in-law he couldn’t drive anymore because he could no longer do it safely. He was sure he was still a good driver, but it was he no longer had the physical dexterity or judgement to do it safely. That’s not to say other people can’t drive safely at his age or older; such decisions have to be made on a case-by-case basis.

      But when it comes to public safety, we have to err in the side of caution. I think it’s wonderful that the driver was still able to work at his age; I think it’s tragic that he was allowed to do it in a way that put others at risk.

  3. […] San Diego Cyclist Killed by Sleeping Street Sweeper (Biking In L.A.) […]

  4. WmJSheffler says:

    Since the cause of death was reported,by the SD Union-Trib to be head trauma. His use of a helmet is significant.

    • bikinginla says:

      Actually, he suffered multiple blunt-force trauma, including massive head injuries. I would argue that the fact that he suffered those injuries despite wearing a helmet shows that it was irrelevant in this case.

      I’m a firm believer in helmet use, but too many people assume it’s some sort of a magic talisman that will protect the wearer from all harm. As this case clearly shows, a helmet is only designed to protect against slow speed impacts, and does nothing whatsoever to protect against trauma anywhere else on the body.

      Considering the sheer size of the machine that hit him, as well as the way it operates, I doubt this collision would have been survivable in any case; tragically, I suspect Peverley’s fate was sealed the moment the driver fell asleep. It would have been far better for the news reports to focus on why he got hit; discussion of whether or not he was wearing a helmet is just wasted space.

      • Jared says:

        I can’t speak for WmJ, but I’m thinking that the use of his helmet is significant exactly because it didn’t save him.

        Just like you said, it makes it very clear that a helmet isn’t magic.

    • Will Campbell says:

      It’s significant, how? That a piece of foam and plastic strapped under his chin didn’t save his life after he went underneath a 3-ton street sweeper that struck him from behind? And as such am I now to hear the drums beaten as to how unnecessary and unsafe helmets are?

      Even if there’s been a re-creation of the tragedy conclusively demonstrating he was killed by the trauma to his head, that the victim was wearing a helmet is worth noting, but significant? I don’t agree.

      I understand why people don’t wear helmets. I’ll never understand why people will point out instances such as this in an effort to debunk a helmet’s safety benefits — however limited those benefits are.

      So hang on a sec while I go put on my helmet and slam my head against the desk so that I can conclusively prove it was significant at preventing injury.

      • Jared says:

        I think the point is that a helmet isn’t enough to save you from that level of vehicular negligence. If the writer didn’t point out that he was wearing a helmet, someone might have said, “Well, he should have been wearing a helmet.”

        I’m assuming your comment wasn’t directed at me, since I never said, nor implied, that a helmet is a bad thing. I wear one when I ride, because in many situations they help quite a bit. Just wanted to make my point more clear.

        • bikinginla says:

          You’re right, of course; if they hadn’t said he was wearing a helmet, some idiot undoubtedly would have blamed that for his death — as if anything would make a collision with a street sweeper survivable.

        • Will Campbell says:

          Indeed Jared, my rant wasn’t directed at you. Apologies. My aim was more scattershot at anyone who might point out that this tragedy is significant evidence of a helmet’s worthlessness.

  5. Brian Graves says:

    It seems like there is a bounty on cyclists in SD these days. I am a commuter and cyclist and have several rules I follow now for commuting or riding:
    1. Choose route carefully. It may be longer, hillier etc, but less traffic and more room for bikes is key. Experiment on route to pick good commuter/cycling routes. For rec-cycling in SD, get out where it is rural.
    2. Avoid rush hours at either end of day. I would rather ride at oh-dark-30 or leave work later and have less traffic (along with less rush-hour aggressiveness). It is darker but I find that it is a lot safer. Avoid post-bar hours too.
    3. Remember different people and parts of town have different attitude towards cyclists. Avoid industrial and delivery vehicle prone areas.
    4. Assume no one sees you. Wear no music in commuting traffic.

    It breaks my heart to hear another one went down. 2 in 2 weeks here.

    • Jerry says:

      Brian is absolutely right. Think always about where the sun is as well and if glare from the sun may make you harder to see.

  6. wes oishi says:

    What if the cyclist was 77 and the driver 44?

  7. jimmy says:

    “I don’t know if the driver will be held accountable.

    But I’m pretty sure the person who put him there should be.”

    WTF?! Of course he should be held accountable! What on earth could possibly make anyone think the operator of the vehicle should not be held accountable for his actions? If he had been drinking everyone would be up in arms over it. Get a fucking clue people.

    • bikinginla says:

      “Get a fucking clue?”

      Feel free to offer any opinion you want on here, Jimmy. Just don’t be a jerk about it.

    • Jeff S says:

      I think you’re missing the point.

      Motorists are frequently let off with little to no punishment after murdering cyclists. Expressing question over whether the same would happen in this case is simply that, a question, and not an opinion that it should be so.

      From what I have seen, it appears to matter very little whether you were sober, have been drinking or even if you fled the scene. They all get a slap on the wrist at best. The message is consistently that murder by motor vehicle is acceptable.

      The jack*** yelling at you from his truck would get more jail time if he got out and hit you in the face than if he ran you over with his car.

  8. RS says:

    I’m just saddened by the entire thing. I’ve lost a friend who has a wife and two kids because of a 77 year old man who fell asleep. Who’s to blame? Doesn’t matter now because we can’t have Sunny back. Please pray for our dearly departed Sunny and his family. Only God can give them strength during this sad time.

    • bikinginla says:

      I’m sorry for the loss of your friend, RS. But I’d disagree with you on one thing; while faith provides a lot of comfort and strength in times like this, the caring and support of friends means more than you will ever know. Even if you don’t know what to say, just saying I care and I’m here for you is enough.

  9. charlie says:

    its a problem with the entire industry of streett sweeping, due to there is no government oversight of the industry, not dot, not osha, no oversight by any governing body, trust me im a former contractor, no rules nada, dont even have to have a drivers license to operate one and they dont need license plates and not to mention they afect public health, the dead bird they pick up, you breath it,

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