Update: Carlsbad cyclist killed in hit-from-behind collision

Damn it.

This is not what I wanted to write about tonight. And not the news I wanted to come home to today.

I wanted to write about yet another amazing CicLAvia, marred only by the decision to use just half of the Venice Blvd roadway, resulting in massive bike back-ups from the once-again grossly underestimated crowd.

Anyone who thinks less than 200,000 bike riders turned out to enjoy the day probably wasn’t there; personally, I’d put the number at over 250,000.

Well over.

And I wanted to tell you about a friend I met along the way, and finally unveil the identity of one of this site’s leading contributors.

But all that will have to wait.

Because we have to add yet another name to the growing Southern California body count. Or we would, except once again, the name has been withheld pending notification of the next of kin.

And once again, there’s almost no information available, despite virtually identical reports from four different sources.

According to the reports, two cyclists were riding north in the bike lane on El Camino Real north of La Costa Ave in Carlsbad around 7:40 this morning when one of the riders was rear-ended by an apparently driverless and apparently invisible vehicle, since there’s no description of the driver or the car.

There’s also no description of where the riders were positioned on the road, or any conditions that may have contributed to the collision, despite a number of apparent witnesses. Although that doesn’t stop some of the commenters from drawing their own conclusions.

The victim suffered a head injury, and was pronounced dead at the scene.

A commenter on the local Patch website describes him as a La Costa Valley resident, who leaves behind a wife and three young children.

This is the 18th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the second in San Diego since the first of the year.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for the victim and his loved ones.

Update: The victim has been identified as 45-year old Eric Ringdahl of Carlsbad; thanks to Phillip Young for the heads-up. Comments below describe the vehicle as a red or maroon sedan, possibly a Corolla. The driver remained at the scene — and how sad is it that something like that even has to be noted? A comment from Stone says the weather was clear and traffic light at the time of the collision, suggesting the victim should have been clearly visible.

Update 2: I’ve just been forwarded an email from the Traffic Division Commander with the Carlsbad police, which confirms what many have been saying, that the driver fell asleep at the wheel coming home from working the night shift. However, he indicates that the driver was a man, rather than a woman, as virtually everyone had assumed, myself included.

According to the Commander, there was no indication of impairment and no intent to cause harm or break the law, which eliminates the possibility of serious criminal charges such as assault or homicide. However, he says the collision will result in a lengthy investigation by the Carlsbad Police and the San Diego Medical Examiner’s office, and that the results of that investigation will be forwarded to the county DA for review and possible prosecution.

And that’s one of the major problems with the California Vehicle Code.

There is, to the best of my knowledge, no specific legal requirement for motorists to remain alert behind the wheel — let alone awake. Unlike many other states, there is no blanket prohibition against careless driving. We assume that all drivers are required to be alert and aware of road conditions at all times, to operate their vehicles carefully and safely. And most of all, to not kill anyone.

But that’s not necessarily the case.

Thanks to Chris Menjou for the information.

Update 3: The San Diego Union-Tribune confirms that the male driver told police he had fallen asleep while driving home form work and drifted into the bike lane, where he struck Ringdahl. And despite finger pointing in the comments here and elsewhere, the police say he was wearing a helmet and “riding properly in the bike lane” when he was killed.

The paper says it should take somewhere around a month to complete the Medical Examiner’s investigation, at which time the driver could be charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, if they find the crash was caused by the driver’s carelessness or inattention. 

In addition, according to a comment from Kim, a CaringBridge page has been set up to raise funds for Ringdahl’s family.

Thanks to Philip Young for the heads-up.


  1. cycle206 says:

    The car was a maroon sedan with a heavily damaged bumper and windshield. I rode past, well after the accident and asked a police officer if everyone lived and he said the cyclist did not.

    I am not going to add anymore insight as it would only be speculation.

  2. JD says:

    Our sincere heartfelt prayers go up for the family and friends of the victim.

  3. Scott says:

    I’m a father of three young kids and I ride that area. Could have been me. My wife drove by at 8:45 and said it was a red car, driver still sitting in it, and a covered body on the ground. Every one of these is a terrible tragedy, why doesn’t the media pay more attention?

    • Tim says:

      I was considering riding the EXACT same route that day and slept in instead. Could have been me too.

  4. paul livingston says:

    my prayers go out to his family and friends.

  5. Alan Stanley says:

    Will there be justice? Will the driver face vehicular manslaughter charges? Only time will tell.

  6. Stone says:

    It was a red Toyota Corolla. A couple was sitting next to it, both looked shocked. I think the girl was crying. The biker was a 1/4 mile before lying on the on the bike lane….covered up 🙁 sad scene. I wouldn’t want to judge who was in fault here. Surly it wasn’t a DUI otherwise they wouldn’t have let them go for now. Bottom line, this was another probably avoidable accident. By the way, weather was clear and there was almost no traffic on this 3lane street.

  7. […] 150,000 people at Ciclavia yesterday. Ted in LA says he’s guessing a quarter million. I saw a Tweet from Wolfpack Hustle claiming up to a […]

  8. jg says:

    Your update is removing almost all doubt about this being anything but a distracted driving incident. I’ll bet she was texting. If so, this is not an accident.

  9. Stone says:

    Check out FOX news comments. She was a nurse; apparently fell asleep returning home from a long shift. I am sure she feels horrible even without other people bashing her. She is in the business to care about hurt people not to run people over…no excuse for driving tired but I am sure she knows all the bad things people want to tell her. I feel sorry for everyone in this tragic and avoidable accident. Ask yourself if you always do everything right when you drive. I surely was driving before when i was tired and I should have pulled of the road. No winners here…My heart goes out to the guys family.

    • Tim says:

      Driving exhausted is just as dangerous as drunk driving; why the double standard in our society?

  10. […] Carlsbad cyclist killed in hit-from-behind collision (bikinginla.wordpress.com) […]

  11. I can’t believe there aren’t more deaths. Trying to ride a bike in Cbad is getting more and more dangerous. I’ve had so many near misses that I won’t ride anymore in the city. I bet anything they were texting. It’s so sad. I’m very sorry for the family.

  12. Sam says:

    If that one commenter is correct in that the driver is a nurse who was exhausted and fell asleep, then we need to start talking about why our medical professionals are expected to work long hours in a very demanding profession endangering not only their patients, but also other road users on their commutes home.

  13. Scott says:

    If you work the night shift, you have to sleep during the day. It was her responsibility to drive safely or to not drive at all. It’s not the medical profession’s fault.

  14. Elle says:

    I’m very surprised at comments about the driver. We really don’t know what the facts are, yet. The word “accident” is perhaps appropriate in this tragic situation. Has anyone commenting EVER experienced an accident in any form? Accidents are a fact of life. Bicyclists know the inherent risk in riding a bike. They could fall and hit their head, and sadly, they could tragically get hit by a car. I had the misfortune of driving by this accident yesterday morning. I looked over, saw the white cloth and knew this was a fatality. I also looked at the car with the shattered windshield and knew this must have been the driver. I then looked at the driver and saw the most pathetic sadness – head bowed in hands. I cried all the way to my destination because I knew there was great loss in this tragedy. I will pray for the family of this cyclist. It is the most humane thing we can do at this sad time – rather than point fingers and blame.

    • bikinginla says:

      I have to argue with you on that one. You’re right that we don’t yet have the facts, and that it is premature to point the finger anywhere.

      However, there is no such thing as an accident on the streets. In order to have a collision — which is the correct term — one or both parties has to break the law, or act in a dangerous, careless or distracted manner. If you obey the law and drive safely, and I obey the law and ride safely, it is virtually impossible for us to have a wreck.

      Accident implies that no one is at fault or did anything to cause the collision. And that is virtually never the case.

      • Elle says:

        Sorry. My world is not a perfect world and I don’t know anyone else who lives in a perfect world. Accidents occur all the time. There is very little black and white with human beings. While safe driving and observation of the law at all times is critical to our co-existence with fellow human beings, the human element is ever present…No law can eradicate mistakes or accidents completely. It is a good thought to hold on to though.

        • bikinginla says:

          Oh please. It has absolutely nothing to do with any perfect world.

          When people don’t take responsibility for their actions behind the wheel, other people die. Over 33,000 people die on American streets every year because we don’t take traffic safety seriously, and prefer to call it an accident when someone gets injured or killed.

          It’s not.

          And innocent people will continue to die until we stop making excuses for dangerous drivers.

          • Jill Parkison says:

            Well said and Amen.

          • Elle says:

            Enough. Blame is never going to bring loved ones back. We do not live in a perfect world and I will not be bullied into agreeing with somebody who believes that all driving accidents are avoidable. I would love to believe that as humans, we could react in a robotic sort of manner and react perfectly to all situations, but I know we can’t and we don’t. Accidents happen. Whether or not this particular tragedy was an accident is yet to be determined. I’m just not going to cast stones at the driver until all the information is known. My prayers and thoughts are with the family of the cyclist, not on who we should be blaming.

            • bikinginla says:

              No one is bullying you, Elle. If you can’t handle someone disagreeing with you, the problem is yours, not mine.

              Despite what you infer, I have not blamed the driver in any way, as I don’t yet know what happened or who was at fault. But someone was, simply because someone almost always is. It could be the driver, it could be the victim, it could be both.

              If I truly believed that “accidents” were unavoidable, I would be terrified to get behind the wheel of my car or ride my bike. Or leave my house, for that matter.

              And if you read the post above, you may note that I ended my post by offering my prayers for the victim and his loved ones, just as you do.

              So please, don’t come onto my blog and tell me “enough.” You are more than welcome to comment here, whatever your opinion may be, and whether or not you agree with me.

              Just as I or anyone else has every right to disagree with you, however strongly.

        • Elle, there will be a cause of the collision that could have been eliminated.

          • Jill Parkison says:

            Unfortunately, the public will probably never know the “cause” that could have been “eliminated” because the press does not take these incidents seriously, and does not follow up and tell the public the outcome. My heart hurts for this family, no family should say a casual goodbye that turns out to be the last….

            • bikinginla says:

              Jill, very sorry to read about your husband. If he died as a result of a bicycling collision, you are more than welcome to share the story here. You can find my email on the About page.

          • Elle says:

            Perhaps David. This may hold true. I, for one, will look forward to reading the cause/causes of this horrible tragedy that took a father and husbands life. My prayers are with his wife and children.

            • Jill Parkison says:

              Elle, I look forward to reading the final conclusion by the major accident investigation team as to the cause of this horrible tragedy too. But, don’t hold your breath, I am not holding mine… How often do we read of these collisions but we never read of the eventual police report determination? Except for the “hit and run” or “DUI” cases, I have not read one follow up on these types of collisions. I know the outcome of my husband’s fatal collision was never released by the media, and I have given it my best effort.

            • ars says:

              You’re looking forward to reading it? Have you read your posts? You’re sounding quite defensive. Thus far, the odds are that it’s the driver’s fault. Why try so hard to defend your position when a wife and three children have no father. Odd.

    • TQ says:

      Elle, I’ve “experienced” what you erroneously call “accidents” both as a victim and an emergency medical care provider. It is no fun to lay in the street bleeding, and it is even less fun to hold the gurney ready while the fire guys to extricate a screaming-in-pain driver from the passenger side of a vehicle that has been totaled not by “accident” but by the CRIMINAL ACTIONS of another motorist.

      As a graveyard shift worker myself, I understand that the DSM IV recognizes shift work as a mental disorder, and find it especially nauseating that a nurse, someone who should know the inherent risks of operating a motor vehicle while impaired, would fail to take into account the impact of her chosen work hours on her cognitive performance. This collision was not an “accident”; it was a consequence.

    • Bridget Burke says:

      Thank God for rational people unfortunately accidents happen all the time. How judgmental and irrational people appear to be on this blog regarding the driver not having been there and not knowing the facts. Cyclists take their lives in their hands cycling on these suburban extremely busy streets wandering in and out of traffic lanes without any warning riding two abreast in the lanes turning around to communicate with fellow cyclists and wobbling into traffic lanes.
      May the victim RIP and condolences to his family. Everybody is a victim in this sad case.

      • bikinginla says:

        You want the facts?

        Here they are. A husband and father is dead because he was run down by a car while riding his bike. Period.

        That’s all we know for certain right now.

        As for your other complaints, there is nothing in California law that prohibits cyclists from riding two or more abreast; the subject isn’t even mentioned in the California Vehicle Code. And there is no information on whether the victim was or wasn’t riding abreast, nor whether he was riding in or out of the bike lane at the time of impact.

        But let’s get one thing straight. Cyclists don’t take their lives in their hands when they ride on this or any other street. We place them in yours, trusting you will drive safely around us.

        Sometimes that trust is misplaced.

      • Not accidents, Bridget. Mistakes. And they don’t happen; they are made. By people who could have prevented them.

      • Jill Parkison says:

        Everyone is NOT a “victim in this sad case”. Look up the definition of victim and tell me how it applies to the driver. The first Webster’s Dictionary line defines victim as “one harmed or killed by another”. Nope on that one for the driver. The only definition of victim that comes close to applying to the driver is “one harmed by or made to suffer from an act, circumstance, agency, or condition”. Does the driver feel bad? Probably. Will he/she suffer for her actions? Probably. But, if this collision is found to be the fault of the driver, is he/she a victim? Maybe a victim of their own negligence, hardly a circumstance that can be lumped in with the real victims here: the man that will never see his children grow up, the woman left to pick up the pieces or her destroyed life with a broken heart, the kids that lost their father and will suffer the rest of their lives with that loss, the parents that outlived their child… However you feel about cyclists and drivers and our responsibilities on the road(and I do not agree with you there), to include the driver as a victim is insulting to the real victims. You should choose your words better.

    • billdsd says:

      Elle, there are no accidents. This was completely preventable. Someone did something that they were not supposed to do. Yes, I’m sure that the driver feel terrible but that doesn’t bring back her victim. Driving when you are too tired to control your vehicle is illegal and it gets people killed.

      You act like nothing can be done to prevent things like this from happening. Something CAN be done to prevent things like this from happening. We just have to do what is necessary to end it.

      Too many drivers don’t know how to drive properly or blatantly disregard the law and proper safety practice. Better driver’s education and stricter enforcement will save many lives — especially of motorists.

  15. kim says:

    I am a good friend of the cyclist. And we are absolutely devastated. He has 3 young children left behind and a wife utterly ruined. The best dad ever! He was that rare breed of a dad: completely attentive and so loving. Please pray for his family that will never be the same.

    • bikinginla says:

      I’m very sorry for your loss, Kim. That’s the problem with any traffic fatality; the victim is not a statistic but a human being, who’s death tears a hole in the lives of those left behind that can never be patched.

      My prayers go out to them, and to all those who cared for Eric.

    • Elle says:

      We are praying for the family of your good friend. We don’t know him but are heart-sick for such a tragic loss. We will hold his entire family in our thoughts and prayers.

    • Jill says:

      Kim, my condolences to you & to his family. My husband, 3 children & I passed this very sad scene Sunday on our way to church. The visions of it havent left us & all involved will be in our prayers.

  16. Shirley says:

    There was a little morning fog on Sunday. When I drove by around an upward turning slightly ro the right street on Camino real foing northbound, i saw thw flares. i then saw the bent red bike with black wheels along with a sock. i said, oh my Lord!!!! then i saw the white cloth over the body about 20 feet away on the edge of the road. I said a prayer. as i kept driving, I saw a police officer next to a parked red Corolla. The person in their car had their head in their hands shaking their head. The right side of the bumper was on the ground and the passengers windshield was caved in. I don’t wish this experience on anyone. My prayers go to his family. I drove down from La Costa resort to my sisters house on camino real about 7 miles down and passed dozens of riders. All I could think about is that this man decides to kiss his family good bye for a quick morning ride and didn’t make it back. He is in Gods loving arms now. We will see him again.

    • ars says:

      Elle does have the right to her opinion, but I and others obviously don’t agree with it. To me, it sounds ignorant and trite. If the accident is as described and in broad daylight, it is probably going to be her fault and she’ll have to live with the consequences of her actions. I’m going out on a limb here, but maybe Elle has hit a cyclist or knows someone who has? Too fervent to be showing up on a cycling blog. This isn’t the OC Register.

      • ars says:

        I don’t know. Maybe people like this show up on here. How sad! True prayers to the family.

      • bikinginla says:

        If this was the OC Register, it would be hidden behind a paywall and you’d have to subscribe to see it. Not that I couldn’t use the money…

  17. Jim Lyle says:

    In his excellent book, “Bicycling & the Law,” Bob Mionske discusses “duty of (due) care” as it affects traffic collisions. There are no “accidents.” In this case, If we can believe what we read, it appears the driver chose to drive her car when she couldn’t keep her eyes open thus violating her duty of care. She didn’t mean to kill the cyclist but her actions did result in his death. My thoughts and prayers to everyone involved and their families.

  18. k says:

    I also drove by this tragic scene right after it happened…that part of ECR is dangerous!! People drive like race car drivers up that hill! My family and I were also on our way to church, and prayed for the poor person who was taking a ride on a beautiful Sunday morning. Prayers to his family!

    • Bill in Encinitas says:

      I live very close to that area, and bike it fairly frequently. El Camino Real is not nearly as dangerous as many other places (especially downtown Encinitas, Oceanside and Laguna Beach, to name only a few). There is a wide bike lane, well-marked, and good visibility.

      Cyclists have a RIGHT to the road. That means a right to use it in safety. We know we are taking risks but we have every RIGHT for that risk to be minimal.

      I work in health care. Employers too often don’t care about the effect of long, late hours. But as a safety issue, you are responsible for taking care of that yourself. If you are feeling sleepy, PULL OFF THE ROAD. Get coffee, take a short nap, or wait until you are sure you can drive safely.

      The driver killed a bicyclist and is devastated. As a fellow human, I feel sympathy. As a cyclist, not so much.

  19. Tom Costello says:

    Eric was the conscious of integrity in work ethic, family and friends. The energy of a child, with unlimited ambition and dreams. A loss for those who knew him, and those that did not.

    • Lorraine says:

      Tom – Is there a memorial fund being established for Eric’s funeral expenses and the support of his family? If so, some of us in the local cycling community would like to contribute.

  20. Kim says:

    Lorraine- There is a Caring Bridge website that is being worked on as I write this. It will have everything on it including donation links for the kids’ college funds, etc. Don’t know how that works as far as needing a password or not but if his site can’t be found by his name, Eric Ringdahl, then maybe I could put a link back up on this blog when the site is complete.

  21. Kim says:

    Caring Bridge site for Eric Ringdahl was just completed. it is http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/amyringdahl.

    • Lorraine says:

      Thanks Kim! I have shared the link with my cycling group here in San Diego and I think many will contribute. We were on a half century ride on Sunday and our 2nd SAG stop was at Starbucks at La Costa and El Camino Real. We all rode right by the scene at around 10-10:30am and officers were still present. The bike lane was full of debris encircled with spray paint. We didn’t know at the time what had happened earlier, but I got sick to my stomach when I saw a single sunglasses lens on the ground with an orange circle around it. I just new it belonged to a fellow cyclist. Prayers go out to Eric’s family and friends. Donations are on the way, too.

  22. Glenn says:

    My prayers go out to the Ringdahl family and I hope they can find peace soon.

    I understand the Ride of Silence is coming up on May 15 and, according to their website, rides are scheduled throughout California as well as nationally. I didn’t see one scheduled for San Diego but maybe something could be coordinated to pay tribute to Mr. Ringdahl and other cyclists who have lost their lives as well as increase public awareness.

    My brother’s friend lost his life last year riding in the LA area. We’re planning to do the San Clemente Ride of Silence.

    • bikinginla says:

      Sorry to hear about your brother’s friend, Glenn. I strongly support the Ride of Silence; for those in the L.A. area, there will one at the Rose Bowl on May 15th,

  23. Tim says:

    Such a sad story, as a cyclist and someone who lives just down the street from where this happened (and saw the funeral this morning), I really wanted to know what happened.

  24. This is Truly a Sad event – Sorry for everyones loss.

    All years growing up on a bile – it was always against traffic to see clearly what’s going on – getting struck down from behind was always the fear.

    Now 40 yrs on motorcycle – Nothings Changed – we are still killed from behind at lights.
    100% from texting.

  25. Margarita says:

    I believe the road was La Costa, west of El Camino. I was a few cars back when the traffic stopped. When I went around the vehicles I saw him on the ground not moving. I pulled over and called 911. He was not responding to the the other bike rider. I was afraid he had passed away.

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