This is not the news any of us wanted to wake up to.
According to a release from the LAPD, the rider was riding eastbound near the curb when his bike was hit, throwing him onto the street and into a raised planter box in the Auto Zone parking lot; a witness report says he bounced off the SUV’s windshield.
“This bicyclist did all the right things. Unfortunately, this accident occurred. I mean, he had a helmet on, the reflective vest, the bike headlights. He was an avid bicyclist. He had all the right things on,” said Capt. Ivan Minsal with the Los Angeles Police Department.
The avid bicyclist remark appears to stem from the fact that the victim was wearing bike shorts and appeared to be riding for exercise or recreation, despite the late hour.
Descriptions of the victim vary. The L.A. Times describes him only as a 53-year old male, while KABC-7 says he was a Hispanic man in his 50s or 60s; the LAPD release describes him as a whit male in his late 60s or early 70s.
Police are looking for a dark colored, possibly dark blue, Chevy Blazer or similar mid-size SUV with front end damage, most likely with a broken windshield.
Anyone with information is urged to contact the Los Angeles Police Department, Valley Traffic Detectives, Detective II James Deaton #24252 at 818 644-8035 or Detective III William Bustos #25029 at 818 644-8021 during normal business hours.
Police also note that you don’t have to reveal your identity.
After-hours calls may be directed to a 24-hours, toll-free number at 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (527-3247). Callers may also text “Crimes” with a cell phone or log onto WWW.lapdonline.org and click on Web Tips. When using a cell phone, all messages should begin with “LAPD.” Tipsters may remain anonymous.
At least in this area, Nordhoff is essentially a six lane, high-speed throughway that encourages motorists to drive far above the speed limit, particularly in the late night hours when light traffic essentially allows drivers to go as fast as they want.
The new L.A. bike plan calls for bike lanes on Nordhoff, though I don’t find it on the five-year implementation plan. Hopefully, it will include a road diet to slow traffic speeds; otherwise, a simple line of paint wouldn’t do a damn thing to stop a driver who couldn’t seem to see a cyclist lit up like a Christmas tree.
And keep an eye out for an SUV that matches the description. Anyone who could do something like this and then heartlessly run away like the coward he or she is belongs behind bars.
This is the 23rd cycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 7th in Los Angeles County; it’s the first bicycling death in the City of Los Angeles in 2012. This is also the fourth bike-related fatal hit-and-run in the seven county SoCal region this year.
My prayers and sympathy for the victim and his loved ones.
Thanks to LAPD Deputy Chief Jorge Villegas for the heads-up.
Update: The LAPD has identified the victim as 76-year old Northridge resident Paul Albert Helfen; a $50,000 reward is being offered for the arrest and conviction of his killer.