Encino cyclist killed in Leucadia; local TV speculates an attempted vehicular serial killer could be at work

This is not what I wanted to write about tonight.

I had planned to discuss another exceptionally successful CicLAvia; hopefully I can get to that tomorrow.

But this time, we need to talk about, not just the tragic death of a local cyclist on SoCal streets, but the chilling possibility that someone may be intentionally running down bike riders in San Diego County.

According to multiple press reports, 47-year old Encino resident James Steven Swarzman was riding with two other cyclists in North San Diego County around 1 am Sunday. The riders were headed north on the 1300 block of Highway 101 in Leucadia — a stretch of road I rode hundreds of times when I lived down that way. A competitive cyclist, he was reportedly on a late night training ride to get ready for the upcoming season.

A witness on the scene reportedly described a Ford pickup drifting between the Number 1 and Number 2 lanes before striking Swarzman’s bike from behind. Despite a flight to a local trauma center and aggressive attempts to resuscitate him, Swarzman was declared dead just three hours later.

The driver fled the scene without stopping; the vehicle is described as a newer blue Ford F-150  pickup, and should have damage to the front end, including one or more broken headlights. Anyone with information is urged to call the Encinitas Sheriff’s station at 760-966-3500.

That should be the end of the story.

I only wish it was.

According San Diego TV station KGTV, S.D. Sheriff’s Investigators are looking into the horrifying possibility that the collision was intentional.

According to their report, a witness said that the driver didn’t slow down before hitting Swarzman. The description sounds eerily familiar to 33-year cyclist Heath Bernstein, who was seriously injured in a hit-and-run collision on the same highway last January.

He was also riding with two other cyclist, at 11 pm on Tuesday, January 18th, when he was struck from behind by a dark colored pickup truck in nearby Carlsbad. According to Bernstein, it was clearly a deliberate act, with the driver crossing over two lanes of traffic before hitting him in the bike lane.

KGTV notes that the description of the truck is virtually identical to the vehicle in Bernstein’s crash.

It’s bad enough if this turns out to be another needlessly tragic hit-and-run.

The idea that this could be murder — let alone the work of a wannabe vehicular serial killer — is almost beyond comprehension.

Update: A fellow rider remembers Jim Swarzman, and says he had been riding in Leucadia with his fiance and a friend as part of a 600k hosted by the San Diego Randonneurs; he also points us to an old, brief blog Swarzman had started.

Update: In the comments below, Joe Mizereck, founder of 3 Feet Please, has personally offered a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest of a suspect in this case. And Scott Wolfe, who identifies himself as a friend of Jim’s, asks for contact information for Jim’s parents; if you have that information, please call him directly (click here for number) rather than leaving in a public forum like this.


As long as we on the subject of hit-and-run, there’s more bad news from Torrance.

According to the Daily Breeze, a girl was critically injured when she was hit by a car driven by an 83-year old driver while riding her bike at the intersection of Emerald Street and Madrona Avenue around 3:40 last Thursday afternoon.

The driver fled the scene, but witnesses followed the car and called the police and followed the car, who pulled him over not far from the scene. The paper reports that the driver was not taken into custody due to his age and medical condition, however, authorities plan to file felony hit-and-run charges.

Neither the victim or the driver have been publicly identified.


Thanks to Jim Lyle for the heads-up on both these cases. I’ll try to get back to some good news tomorrow.


  1. Jodi Cassell says:

    My heart goes out to the families of these victims … how incredibly horrible to think that someone might be doing this deliberately! Not that it really matters, but I had heard that swarzman was riding an organized brevet ride.

    • bikinginla says:

      At this point, every detail matters, and no detail matters, since it won’t change the outcome. And as horrible as it sounds, we can only hope this turns out to an unintentional hit-and run.

  2. Lajollaseal says:

    I and my family knew Jim…please encourage others with this ‘story’ to only release factual confirmed statements as Jim’s parents and siblings grieve. A good family – and hard to comprehend.

    • bikinginla says:

      Sorry for your loss. My heart and prayers go out to Jim’s family and loved ones.

  3. […] on the Network today: Biking in LA reports that two strange hit-and-run cycling fatalities have led local television news anchors to […]

  4. Dean Patterson says:

    It is about time for Spike Bike to hit the road again.

  5. […] …and now, to make matters worse, checking the news, I find there is some speculation this wasn’t an accident. […]

  6. Scott Wolfe says:

    Jim is a friend of mine and I only have his phone numbers. I would like to contact his parents and go to the funeral. If anyone has his parents number please call me ASAP!! My number is 818-363-7896 and my name is Scott Wolfe.

  7. Opus the Poet says:

    OK, again? Another person out using his vehicle as a weapon against cyclists?

  8. Joe Mizereck says:

    My prayers and thoughts go out to the family and friends of James Steven Swarzman.

    I am sickened by the news that the motorist left the scene with James fighting for his life on the side of the road. And I am equally disturbed by the fact that James is one of a growing number of cyclists who have been hit this year in the United States and the motorists have fled. This is simply deplorable and must stop.

    Our society has to make it very clear to motorists that it is unacceptable to hit a cyclist and leave him or her in the road to suffer. One way to stop motorists from choosing to run is to make running less attractive. Judges, when dealing with hit and run cases, need to enforce the maximum penalties available to them by law. If the laws aren’t strong enough, we need to make them stronger. Motorists need to understand that if they run, an all-out effort will be made to bring them to justice. Here, we can offer rewards for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of violators. For this purpose, I would like to offer a reward of $500 for information leading to the arrest of the motorist who hit and killed James. I will only need confirmation from the Encinitas Sheriff’s office that the information provided lead to the arrest of the person(s) involved.

    These roads are “our” roads and we must learn to share our roads in ways that allow all users to travel safely. This kind of motorist behavior is terribly wrong and should concern all members of our communities and move us to act. If we don’t act, I fear the worse.

    Joe Mizereck
    Founder, The “3 Feet Please” Campaign

  9. […] hit-and-run drivers. EDIT: After posting this I got news that this may have been deliberate. Encino cyclist killed in Leucadia; local TV speculates an attempted vehicular serial killer could be… with links to reports of other similar wrecks with identical […]

  10. Joe says:

    “the driver was not taken into custody due to his age and medical condition”

    Right. Because clearly he’s in good enough condition to drive safely, and if that ever changes then his judgement is good enough to recognize the change and refrain from driving.

    Did they at least ask him to pretty-please not drive any more?

  11. Digital Dame says:

    That is so disturbing. My condolences to Mr. Swarzman’s family and friends.

  12. Martin says:

    Apparently the vehicle description has been updated to a “2007 or 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 or a 2007 Dodge Ram 2500 or 3500 with damage to its front passenger side”


  13. pr0ject2501 says:

    Hey, stay off the gdamn roads on your bike at night. Can’t stand you guys.

    • bikinginla says:

      Oh please. Writing something like that on a story like this shows a complete and total lack of compassion for your fellow human beings, as well as your ignorance of traffic law and the rights of cyclists.

      No one really gives a damn whether or not you like cyclists. We have as much right to be on the road as you do, any time of the day or night. You are legally and morally required to drive safely around bicyclists and any other road users, whether or not you think they should be there.

    • Opus the Poet says:

      Actually we could say the same thing, stop driving at night because you can’t see to stop in the distance your headlights light at the speeds you drive. You kill wildlife and cyclists.

    • Digital Dame says:

      They also kill other people in cars, not just those without the protection afforded by metal boxes.

  14. Kenny Chan says:

    The link that Martin posted “http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/New-Vehicle-Sought-in-Cyclist-Hit-and-Run–119698339.html” now shows that a man has turned himself in and has been arrested.

  15. […] month to the day after Encino endurance cyclist Jim Swarzman was killed by a hit-and-run driver, charges have been filed against the man accused in his […]

%d bloggers like this: