Orange County cyclist on life support following Santiago Canyon collision

Sherri Norton; photo from Cycles Veloce website

I was hoping I wouldn’t have to write this.

According to the Orange County Register, a female cyclist is now on life support after being struck by a car on Santiago Canyon yesterday afternoon.

I received word of the collision on Thursday shortly after it happened; even then, it didn’t look good. The Register reported that the rider was eastbound in the bike lane on Santiago Canyon near Jamboree Road when she was struck by a Lexus sedan traveling in the same direction at 12:47 pm.

According to the paper, she suddenly made a 90 degree turn directly into the path of the oncoming car and was struck at a speed of around 50 mph, which is the speed limit in that area. She was apparently she turning around to go back to her riding partner who trailed behind. Photos from the scene show her Look frame snapped in two, and the windshield of the Lexus smashed.

She has not yet been publicly identified by authorities; however, the Cycles Veloce website identifies her as Sherri Norton, a member of the club and a frequent participant in local century rides. She was transported to Western Medical Center in Santa Ana in critical condition, while the driver and passenger remained at the scene.

As of this morning, she remained on life support.

While the news is not good, it is not a death sentence; other riders have defied the odds to come back from similar circumstances. However, whatever prayers and good wishes you feel comfortable offering would be appropriate.

As with so many other stories like this, the Register feels the need to note that she was wearing a helmet, even though no bike helmet made that could protect a rider from injuries in a collision at that speed.

Thanks to Lois, Frank Peters and Michael Byerts for links to the story.

Update: Sadly, Sherri Norton died from her injuries on Sunday. Her husband offers his thoughts, and is scheduling a memorial service, and a ride in her memory for this Saturday; donations are requested in lieu of flowers for a pair of charities she supported.


  1. Allan says:

    This is awful to hear. I hope the best for her.

    Both of the streets sound familiar. I’ve been on both a few times. It doesn’t look that dangerous since there’s a shoulder on both streets.

    My thoughts are with the rider. Be strong!

  2. Brenda Gustin says:

    My husband Roy and I will pray for recovery. We have been riding in that area every week and it can feel like riding on a FWY at times. I am so sorry this happened to Sherri.

  3. Opus the Poet says:

    I saw the pictures from the crime scene, that bike did not make a 90 degree turn into the lane of travel. Whatever hit the bike was travelling in the same direction as the bike was. You can tell because both wheels were still true or nearly true, if the bike had made a sudden turn to the left the wheels would have been pringled or tacoed and pointing to the left. From the pictures I would say the woman was sideswiped and the frame was broken either when the rider’s leg was forced into it or during the tumble after the initial impact, from the pictures I would place a greater chance on the tumble after. Also you can tell the car didn’t hit the bike from behind because the rear wheel is still intact. A quick way to double check would be if the rider has a broken left hip and a tib-fib fracture from the bumper hitting the back of the left leg. I know this kind of wreck, don’t let it be another SWSS blamed on the cyclist, The physical evidence from the bike doesn’t fit the story, and physical evidence can’t lie. It can be misinterpreted, but if the hit from the side evidence isn’t there that means it didn’t happen. If the wreck was even close to being as described the wheels would be tacoed and the left chainstay or seatstay would be damaged, probably both.

    • bikinginla says:

      I’ll defer to you. I questioned the explanation at first, but didn’t see the taco’d rear wheel I expected from a hit-from-behind, as you point out, and the bike appeared to be in the traffic lane, where you’d expect it if she had turned into the roadway. And once I saw the explanation for why she turned, it made sense, because I’ve seen too many riders make similar moves without checking for traffic first. But you have a much better understanding of the physics of bike collisions than I do, and are far more skilled in interpreting collision scenes.

  4. Misterbee says:

    I understand, and share your frustration with the constant mentioning of helmets in these articles. But at the same time, whenever these things are reported, it’s the first thing that people want to know. The reporters are just saving themselves from having to revise the story later.

    • bikinginla says:

      You’ve got a point. But the very least they could do is point out how little benefit a helmet is in a collision like this. Too many people — cyclists and motorists alike — seem to think they’re magic talismans that make the wearer impervious to injury.

  5. breeze says:

    My husband has riden with Sherir on many occasions and remarked how ultra cautious she is when it comes to road safety, and finds it hard to believe she would have made a u-turn out into traffic.

  6. Albert says:

    I like to think I’m a cautious cyclist but I can’t count the number of times I’ve made u-turns on climbs to ride down a struggling riding partner. I always look before I turn but the light traffic lulls me into a false sense of security. Never had a close call, but like anything accidents are a numbers game. A long day of riding, low blood sugar and a quiet vehicle such as a Lexus and the odds for this type of collision increase greatly.

    Btw, Opus, if she had been sideswiped, how would she end up hitting the windshield center on?

    Prayers will be with her.

    • Biker395 says:

      A thorough investigation should be performed to see whether the evidence at the scene agrees with the witness statements … that’s the only way to be reasonably sure about what happened. Humans are notoriously bad at remembering details of a traumatic event like this.

      I also agree that although I do my best to minimize the risks while riding, I’m not perfect … I’ve made my share of mistakes and have been lucky enough not to pay the price for them.

      Regardless of who is at fault, it is a tragedy. Healing prayers to her and her family.

      • bikinginla says:

        You’re absolutely right. It will require a full and fair investigation by the local authorities to determine who is at fault. Unfortunately, most police agencies don’t have the training to investigate bicycle collisions, too often falling back on a windshield perspective and the word of the driver.

        We’ll just have to hope that it’s different this time.

  7. […] you may recall, she was critically injured while riding in the bike lane on Santiago Canyon near Jamboree Road in Orange on Thursday. She […]

  8. Matt says:

    We saw the photo from the scene tonight at the Newport Beach Bike Safety Committee meeting. I’m suspicious of the initial findings too.

    As Opus points out, there’s pretty good evidence of a sideswipe, and the suicide swerve story is suspect because it’s so common an excuse. The motorists all say that. Only rarely is it true.

    Send your thoughts and prayers to Sherri’s family and friends, and to the driver’s too. This will be a sad Christmas for all.

    Note that the 4 recent fatalities in Newport Beach were on roads with bike lanes or wide outer lanes — the ones bicyclists seek out because they feel safe. Speed and inattentive or distracted driving…

  9. Janet says:

    The bike trail and the road will have far less sunshine without Sherri’s spirit and beauty.


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