Breaking News — Cyclist killed in Irvine collision

This is exactly what I was afraid of.

Maybe it was the distraction of Valentines Day. But there was an unusually high number of bicycling collisions reported over the weekend, continuing through this morning. And sooner or later, it’s almost inevitable that one  or more of those collisions will turn out to be life-threatening.

That’s exactly what happened today, as a 28-year old cyclist died as a result of a Tuesday morning collision in Irvine.

According to the Orange County Register, Christian Rhineer of Irvine was hit by a Volvo Sedan at the intersection of Von Karman Avenue and Michelson Drive just before 8 am. He was taken to Western Medical Center with severe injuries, where he died at 6:30 pm.

The 26-year old driver remained at the scene. It was unclear who had the right of way; no one was arrested or cited at the scene.

And yes, the Register notes that the victim was not believed to be wearing a helmet; whether it would have done any good under the circumstances is not clear. Hopefully, we’ll get more details later.

This is the sixth traffic-related cycling fatality so far this year, and the second in Orange County; a third Orange County cyclist died of natural causes after a fall while mountain biking.

My sympathy and prayers for Rhineer and his family and loved ones.

Update: An anonymous source confirms that Rhineer was wearing a helmet at the time of the collision. And thanks to Vinh Nguyen for the heads-up on the Register story.

Update: Comments to the original article in the OC Register from a man who claims to be a witness indicate that Rhineer ran the red light. In addition, he was reportedly wearing headphones, which is against the law in California; a single headphone in one ear is allowed, but not in both while riding.

People who knew Rhineer describe him as a great guy and former Mormon missionary who recently moved to Irvine from Salt Lake City along with his wife.

Bear in mind, though, that witness reports can be wrong, and comments on internet news stories aren’t always true. When I was injured in a road rage collision, a supposed witness lied to the police to make it look like I was at fault — even though the way he described the events was physically impossible.

There’s no reason to suspect that the witness in this case isn’t telling the truth, but take all unconfirmed reports with a grain of salt.

Thanks to ValleyBall1 for the tip.


On a related note, the driver who ran down a 13-year old girl in Santa Ana earlier this month, leaving her bleeding in the street as he fled the scene, has finally turned himself into the police.

According to KABC-7, the family of Arif Abdul Sattar convinced him to turn himself in after seeing news reports, along with his admission that he may have been in a collision.

Don’t expect me to get all teary eyed because he did the right thing. The right thing would have been to stop at the scene and try to help the little girl he nearly killed, rather than run away like a coward before surrendering to the police over a week later  — after retaining an attorney, of course.

Fortunately, his victim, Teresa Pham, is recovering and has been released from the hospital. Let’s hope she continues to improve.

And that the man who put her there gets the justice he so richly deserves.


  1. pholocity says:

    RIP fellow cyclist.

    I hope it wasnt the same Volvo that almost rear ended me as I was SIGNALING w/ my hands to make a left lane change to I can get into the turn lane. He didnt see me till about 20′ away and had to slam on the brakes and then gesticulated at me like what was I doing.

    • bikinginla says:

      If that occurred in the same area around the same time, you should definitely report it to the police; if it was the same driver, it could establish a pattern of behavior leading up to the collision that could indicate that the driver was at fault.

  2. Jared says:

    Thank you for your post. Makes me realize I need to be that much more alert while riding.

  3. ValleyBall1 says:

    I just read the OC Register article; according to a witness who posted a comment, it appears the cyclist had headphones on and ran a red. This is truly very sad news. My deepest condolences go out to CJ’s wife and family.

  4. trip says:

    First off – thank you for this blog. It obviously takes a lot of time to gather all the cycling news and put it on the site.

    This is awful and regardless of whether the cyclist was at fault, each month I get closer to quitting road riding all together and just riding my mountain bike. I love the road, but sometimes it’s not worth the risk. At least on a mountain bike most of the burden of safety is on my own shoulders (I say most since there is the chance of a mountain lion).

    • bikinginla says:

      Trip, don’t let something like this put you off from riding. While reports like this and experiences on the street may make bicycling seem dangerous, it’s actually a relatively safe activity. You’re actually far more likely to be killed in a car than on a bike, even adjusting for relative usage.

      The fact is, most cyclists never get hit by a car; the only time I’ve been hit by a car in over three decades of riding was an intentional collision caused by a road-raging driver. While there is always a risk from overly aggressive, distracted or drunk drivers, good riding techniques, proper lane position and riding defensively can go a long way towards keeping you safe on the road.

      • trip says:

        Thanks for the encouragement. I’ve always ridden very defensively, and thanks to the stats you post have stepped it up – bright tail light on during the day, only high visibility jerseys, and out as soon as it is light enough with the fewest cars on the road.

  5. I really appreciate these blog entries. Thank you for keeping us informed. I also have almost been run down a number of times while trying to turn left.

    Also, the advertisement at the bottom is for a Volkswagen. I don’t know if you have any control over these, but car commercials after news of cyclist being run over make me just a little sad. I’m glad it wasn’t a Volvo commercial.

    • bikinginla says:

      Unfortunately, I have no control over any advertising that may appear on this site. While WordPress forbids me from accepting advertising, they reserve the right to place ads themselves, and receive all of the income from those ads.

  6. DG says:

    I hope someone who wears earphones will stop after reading this story. I see this all the time: riders wearing earphones blowing lights/stops. Very possibly Rhineer wasn’t doing that, but it’s not a rare sight. To be fair, I see people power walking on the street wearing headphones, too.

    Not sure what sort of educational effort would get Pod People to change their behavior. How do you teach common sense?

    • bikinginla says:

      To be fair, I also see drivers wearing headphones on a regular basis, which is just as illegal. Although, unlike cyclists, it’s often difficult to tell if they have them in one ear or both.

      • DG says:

        I don’t have much of an issue with drivers wearing headphones (rolled up windows and loud music have the same effect, and there’s no prohibition against that). I also don’t have a problem with riders wearing headphones (though it’s not a risk I choose to take); it’s when they combine deafness with reckless riding that I cringe.

        A while back I approached a 4-way stop where there was a car already stopped on my right. She started to go through and hesitated, then a moment later a rider blew past me and through the intersection, wearing earphones and looking as unconcerned as if he was on a bikeway. I caught up to him and told him his riding makes us all look like f-in jerks.

  7. Anonymous Witness says:

    Unfortunately, I bore first hand witness to this tragic accident on my ride to work. I was stopped at the light on Von Karman waiting to make a left turn on Michelson. There was a sedan in front of me, but being in an SUV, I had a clear view of the cyclist.

    The cyclist began to cross Von Karman from the Southeast to the Northwest in what appeared to be an attempt to beat the light. He was pedaling quickly and as noted already, he was wearing headphones. He was not wearing a helmet, something I noted since my mother forbade me to ride my bike as a child without a helmet.

    The signal to allow traffic to turn left from Von Karman to Michelson and also to go straight on Von Karman across Michelson changed from red to green as the cyclist approached the turning lane for oncoming traffic. Because the cars in the turning lane were already stopped (there were two of us), we saw the cyclist and yielded to him. As he passed in front of our row of cars, the driver who evenutally struck him was approaching the green light on Von Karman, traveling at what I assume to be the speed limit, as the light was green. He was unable to see the cyclist, since the bicylce was directly in front of our row of cars as the driver approached. The cyclist entered to cross the lane for traffic traveling straight across Michelson at the same moment the driver was approaching and entering the intersection.

    It was clear that the driver never saw the cyclist as he never touched his brakes prior to the accident.

    • balayeur says:

      I hope in my lifetime never to see something like that as I think it would completely scar me for life. It’s truly unfortunate for everyone involved that this accident had to happen. the driver for sure will truly never be the same again as is the rider’s family.

    • ValleyBall1 says:

      I work in Irvine and drive that route frequently so your description gave me an, unfortunately, perfect visual of this tragic event. I know it took courage to write these comments but it is appreciated (as well as this site is); hopefully it will force others to re-evaluate their riding habits (including myself).

      I think everyone has ran a red at one point in their cycling lives and I no longer ride with headphones on due to a very recent close encounter with an SUV. Helmets were never an issue for me due to a number of snowboard injuries I’ve experienced throughout the years.

      God bless CJ, his wife, and his family. Please be careful out there fellow riders!

    • Erik G. says:

      Killed (as I was almost once, but I was in a car) by synchronized green lights. Hooray for traffic engineers!

      And thank you for telling us this because we now can be certain that a helmet would not have helped.

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