Update: 21-year old bike rider killed by 18-year old drunk driver in Santiago Canyon hit-and-run

Scene of the collision, looking back towards oncoming traffic; photo by Biking Brian.

Scene of the collision, looking back towards oncoming traffic; photo courtesy of Biking Brian.

More bad news from south of the Orange Curtain, as a bike rider lost his life on Santiago Canyon Road.

According to the Orange County Coroner’s office, 21-year old Irvine resident Joseph Robinson was riding on southbound Santiago Canyon in Orange around 7 this morning when he was struck by a car south of Loma Ridge Road. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 7:04 am.

Unfortunately, no other information is available at this time.

Google’s street view shows an unprotected bike lane next to a two lane 55 mph speedway, with limited side access, suggesting the rider was most likely struck from behind. Although it’s always possible that he was sideswiped, or that the driver drifted over from the opposite side of the road.

At 55 mph, any collision is likely to be fatal.

Hopefully, more information will be available soon.

This is the 12th fatal bicycling collision in Southern California this year, and the first in Orange County; there were at least 12 bike-related deaths in the county last year.

My deepest prayers and sympathy for Joseph Robinson and his loved ones.

Thanks to the Seegmiller Law Firm for the heads-up. 

Update: The story gets worse.

According to the Orange County Register, Robinson was killed by an 18-year old drunk driver. 

Yes, 18-years old, drunk and behind the wheel at 7 am. And apparently speeding, despite the already high 55 mph speed limit.

The paper reports Sommer Gonzales was driving south on Santiago Canyon at an unsafe speed when she turned to the right, suggesting that maybe Robinson was killed in a right hook. (Update: It appears the reference to an unsafe turn refers to a deadly swerve into the bike lane, rather that a turn onto another road or driveway.) 

Unfortunately, the rest is trapped behind their paywall. (Update: The Register has remove the paywall on this story.)

Ghost bike installed by coworkers at Irvine Jax; photo courtesy of Biking Brian.

Ghost bike installed by coworkers at Irvine Jax; photo courtesy of Biking Brian.

Update 2: The story just keeps getting worse.

What was hidden behind the Register’s paywall was the news that Gonzales had fled the scene. According to the paper, she was arrested a short time later on suspicion of felony driving under the influence and felony hit and run; sounds like a charge of felony vehicular manslaughter would be in order, as well.

She’s expected to be in court today.

A comment from Dom below says she was seen fleeing the scene at high speed.

I am a rider and was second to come upon the crash site. An off duty fire fighter was on the phone with 911 as he saw the car that killed Joseph speeding and badly damaged just a mile or so from the crash, the driver was fleeing.

Joseph was deceased when I arrived just minutes after the hit and run. My deepest condolences go out to Joseph’s family and friends. May god have mercy on the murderer as I have none for her.

A post on the SoCal Trailrider’s forum identifies Robinson as an employee of the Jax Bicycle Center in Irvine. 

This morning a friend of mine was hit and killed while riding his Road Bike on Santiago Canyon Rd by a hit and run driver. Joey worked with me at Two Wheels One Planet in Costa Mesa for about a year and was currently working at Jax in Irvine. He was 21. Joey was a really good road cyclist and one of the safest riders I know of. The woman who hit him fled the scene but we were told she was later caught. I don’t have a lot of information about it right now but Joey will be missed. Be careful out there!

Thanks to Lois, Ann, Dom and Brian for adding to this story. And thanks to the Orange County Register for making their story available to the public.

Update 3: If there’s a hero in this heartbreaking story, it’s OC firefighter Marc Stone. 

According to a gut-wrenching, non-paywalled story in the OC Register, the paper tells how the off-duty Battalion Chief spotted a car with a smashed windshield driving in the opposite direction, and thought it may have hit a deer.

But this was Stone’s regular Sunday morning commute, and he knew bicyclists frequent the scenic road on weekend mornings.

“My gut instinct was just, ‘No one drives with a crunched-up windshield like that,’ ” he said. “I kept thinking, who would keep driving after hitting a person?”

He slowed down, and about three minutes later saw tumbleweed against the guardrail, damaged and smashed as if someone had hit them.

That’s when he saw a black bicycling shoe sitting on the road, next to the tumbleweed.

“Please tell me it isn’t so,” he said to himself.

After determining that the victim’s injuries were probably fatal, Stone called 911 to report what he’d seen.

An OC deputy spotted the car shortly afterwards, as Gonzales attempted to transfer her belongings to a friend’s car in a parking lot, where she was arrested by CHP officers.

The paper also reports that she was found in possession of meth and drug paraphernalia.

Update 4: Friends and coworkers remember Joseph Robinson in the latest Register piece, which is once again available to the public.

According to the Over the Hump website, there will be a memorial ride for Robinson this Wednesday evening. 

Memorial Ride “Ghost Bike”

In honor of Joseph Robinson Jax Bicycle Center is holding a memorial ride on Wednesday, February 5th.  We will be meeting at Jax Bicycle Center – Irvine at 6:30 am to ride to Joseph’s “Ghost Bike” memorial site on Santiago Canyon Road / Loma Ridge Jeep Trail in Orange, CA.  For those of you who don’t wish to ride, you are welcome to drive to the “Ghost Bike” memorial which will take place at 7:15 am.

Memorial Ride
When:  Wednesday, February 5th 2014 at 6:30 am
Where:  Jax Bicycle Center – Irvine
14210-6H Culver Dr., Irvine, CA 92604
Ghost Bike Memorial Ceremony
When:  Wednesday, February 5th 2014 at 7:15 am
Where:  Santiago Canyon Road / Loma Ridge Jeep Trail in Orange, CA 92869
Thanks to Biking Brian for the head’s up. Update 5: Unbelievably, the driver, 18-year old Sommer N. Gonzales has been released without charges. 

According to Rancho Santa Margarita Patch, prosecutors have asked the CHP to investigate further into the case before filing charges. California law only allows police to hold a suspect for 48 hours without filing charges.

She had been held without bail.

Why they can’t file preliminary charges to keep her in custody while the investigation continues is beyond me.

The site also clears up the confusion on how the collision occurred, saying Gonzales’ car drifted into the bike lane due to her impaired state.


  1. Yep, fatality rate at 55 would fall between the 95% of 50 MPH and the 99+% of 60 MPH (I’m betting something like 99% even).

  2. JD says:

    Our prayers go up for the family and friends of Mr. Robinson.

  3. Candace Smith says:

    It’s really time that CA started coming up with more laws and safety measures for bike riders. Thoughts and prayers for the family.

  4. Dom says:

    I am a rider and was second to come upon the crash site. An off duty fire fighter was on the phone with 911 as he saw the car that killed Joseph speeding and badly damaged just a mile or so from the crash, the driver was fleeing.

    Joseph was deceased when I arrived just minutes after the hit and run. My deepest condolences go out to Joseph’s family and friends. May god have mercy on the murderer as I have none for her.

  5. BikingBrian says:

    What a shock, especially on the early morning of Super Bowl Sunday, which in my experience is the best low traffic day to ride. The location is only a few miles from my home, so it could have easily been me riding out on Santiago Canyon that morning, had I not been home recovering from surgery. Hopefully the motorist is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. (BTW, the OC Register article is no longer hiding behind the paywall as of about ten minutes ago, but there is no new information there.)

  6. Daa says:

    Our group had just arrived at the scene minutes after it happened. Didn’t see the fallen rider but it definitely changed the moods of the others as we turned around in complete disbelief. Very sad, condolences to the family.

  7. James says:

    Was the cyclist murdered at that t-intersection with the gated road that is apparently not open to the public? Is this the Jeep trail that appears on the map? That is one hell of a high speed right hand turn lane to get you and jeep to a closed road.

    I believe this is the scene of another crime. Criminal negligence on the part of whatever traffic engineers thought it would be a good idea to create a two lane road with a 55mph speed limit (and most likely a design speed in excess of 55) and a absurdly long right hand turn lane to the left of an unidentified bicycle lane that is probably commonly misidentified as a shoulder. What you have here is essentially a long high speed freeway offramp designed to encourage right hook collisions on the way to a closed gate.

    I “walked” this rural speedway on google maps and discovered a hellish location not far from the accident where the bike lane disappears near a freeway onramp. The bike lane appears to take you part way down the onramp where you then have to cross two highway onramp/right hand turn lanes and continue riding inside a buffered section of road if you want continue on Santiago Canyon. Ideally you’d make your way across the high speed onramp lanes early but in practice this may be too difficult or scary for most cyclists. Once again Orange County’s or Caltrans highway engineers prove themselves to incapable of designing a bikelane anywhere near a freeway on or off ramp that provides even a basic degree of safety or user-friendliness. As always this totally predicable and predictably fatal collision will be mislabled an accident and blamed on alcohol. Roadway design will never be considered.

    • BikingBrian says:

      The details are sketchy, but based on the description of Loma Ridge, the approximate location of the crash is as you describe.

      I agree with the comments about the interchange. I have never seen anyone negotiate that interchange the way the engineers intended, which is to ride in the bike lane until it ends, and then press the button to cross the ramp. I made these points after the interchange was constructed over 15 years ago but they fell on deaf ears. It’s surprising there hasn’t been a fatality there.

      As much as I would like to hold someone’s feet to the fire for the interchange design, the crash happened further away on a “conventional” two lane 55 mph rural road with shoulders, so drunk driving is to blame rather than the engineers.

    • Dom says:

      Joeseph was killed at the top of the hill, past the right side driveway when heading south. Joeseph was well past the toll road intersection. While I agree that is not the best designed area of road, Joesephs murder was due to callous disregard for safety from a drunk driver.

      • bikinginla says:

        Can you explain why CHP said the driver was making an unsafe right turn? That doesn’t seem to make any sense, given your description and the Google satellite/street view. Maybe it was just a poor way of saying she swerved into the bike lane?

        • Dom says:

          I have no clue why she would have attempted a right turn other than to purposefully run him over. I am of course assuming she did not hit and carry him on the hood. The only opportunity she would have had to do that would be if she were coming off the toll road coming onto Santiago Canyon. Pure speculation; but she may have been coming off the toll road, turned right onto Santiago and killed Joseph near the top of the hill. To understand why the reports indicate a right turn at that point in the road only begs the question “where was she coming from?”. frankly all of that is irrelevant. Joseph was struck from behind on the left HARD and ended up hitting the guard rail vertical posts once he was off the car.

  8. Dan says:

    I was the second cyclist that arrived after Dom and the off-duty firefighter minutes after this tragedy. I don’t recall there being a right hand turn in the area- it was just as the ridge peaked and a little while away from the first downhill on the ride. It could have been any cyclist biking that morning- could very well have been me if I had decided to leave my house a few minutes early. It looked like Joseph died upon impact- no pulse by the time we had reached the area. I think speed and intoxication are the main culprits. Very very tragic. Unfortunately two young lives ruined yesterday morning, one in an instant, and the other most likely for a long time in prison.

  9. Dan says:

    My deepest condolences to Josephs family and loved ones. Been thinking about him since the tragedy yesterday morning. I came home, hugged my wife, and still feel horrible about everything…

    • bikinginla says:

      As I learned from my wife’s heart attack, the best thing you can ever do for the people you love is to make sure they know, always, that you do. Because you may not get another chance.

      Not because bicycling is dangerous but because life is.

  10. Very difficult story to read. Even more difficult to express my feelings after reading it. I’m sorry to hear about another cyclist killed by a motorist, and a drunk driver no less.

    I hope they throw the book at the driver. I hope sharing the story brings more awareness for cyclists, in some way.

    • bikinginla says:

      Thanks Brian. I have to admit, I’m pretty gutted by this one, as our Brit and Aussie friends say. There’s simply no excuse for any of it, from an 18-year old apparently still drunk from the night before, to running away to leave a young man dying in the street.

      I hate to see a young woman throw her life away like that. But I agree, maybe a harsh sentence will send a message to other young drivers, or anyone else thinking about getting behind the wheel after drinking. My fear, though, is the OC DA will plea bargain the case away.

      • jane Chavez says:

        She is a Meth using drunk driver, please throw the book at her. HARD
        It is always dangerous on Santiago Canyon for bicyclists. People driving have to care about people on bikes like I do. This driver was 18 + alcohol + methamphetamine = disaster. People have to ALWAYS care about people.

  11. Rawket won says:

    An 11 year old boy was also killed in bakersfield feb. 2nd 2014 shortly after 7pm …. no alcohol or drugs suspected and not a hit and run.

  12. M.A.P. says:

    My wife and I ride this road frequently both together and alone. Reading this I can’t help but feel a sense of vulnerability and fear.

  13. Dom says:

    I am not sure how to go about it, but I would like to setup a ghost bike for Joseph as a memorial and warning. Sad but true the Ghost Bike memorials are popping up all over the place. Does anyone know how to get one approved so it does not get removed by the county?

    • bikinginla says:

      Ghost bike placement is generally an underground activity. However, I just checked, and was told a bike is already being prepared for Joseph.

      As for getting it approved, Caltrans considers any kind of roadside memorial a dangerous distraction for motorists, rather than a reminder to driver safely. Their policy is to remove it within a few weeks. So if this is a roadway Caltrans has responsibility for, it’s not likely to last long.

      If the road is maintained by the county, my suggestion would be to reach out to county officials and ask that it be allowed to remain as a warning and public safety message.

  14. Steve says:

    I knew Joey from his days at Two Wheels One Planet. He was a wonderful young man, who always had a smile and a kind word. My condolences and prayers to his family and friends, and may the Lord comfort them. This is just tragic.

  15. cdp8 says:

    OC Reg writes: “an unsafe turn to the right.” This doesn’t sound like a right hook, even in CHP-speak. This sounds more like a weaving drunk driver.

    I mourn for Mr. Robinson’s family. The cycling community is lucky Ms. Gonzalez did not plow through one of the many group rides that go through the canyon every weekend.

    I attended a Super Bowl party yesterday with more than a dozen current and former members on an OC cycling club yesterday. Though we were unaware of this homicide, a topic of conversation was how few were still riding on the road. These are people who used to log 5-10k miles per year, double riders, masters racers, etc. Most no longer ride on the road and those that do have severely curtailed their miles. Universal was the sentiment that the roads are just far more dangerous than they were even ten years ago. Sadly, everyone’s tires see more action on trainers and rollers than asphalt.

  16. cdp8 says:

    OC Register has a new article posted. Quotes from the battalion Chief that saw Gonzalez car with the busted windshield and found Mr. Robinson.


  17. BikingBrian says:

    Photo of crash site here. NBC Channel 4 is going to lead in with this story at 4PM. I also saw a CBS Channel 2 van approaching as I was leaving.


  18. Ted says:

    Joey and my son were best friends growing up. He was a great kid, working hard, and had his whole life in front of him. I have ridden that loop 100 times but have hung up my road bike for this exact reason. Joey was an awesome rider, but there is nothing you can do to avoid iressponsible jerks in 2000 pound missles. Our deepest sympothy to his family.

  19. scott says:

    I agree that this is a murder due to callous disregard for safety from a drunk driver. A car is lethal and does not drive drunk just like a gun cannot shoot someone. It takes a callous monster to perform this act and it sickens me to hear the death any biker that is struck by a car by a callous murderer.

  20. Patch has an article up on it at: http://ranchosantamargarita.patch.com/groups/police-and-fire/p/fire-chief-finds-downed-cyclist-aids-in-search-for-suspect
    Also reported in the comments that the driver was arrested as they cleaned out the car and transferred evidence to another vehicle. Driver and accomplice both held without bail.

  21. BikingBrian says:

    A memorial ride to the crash site is planned for early Wednesday morning.



    What: Ride to the Santiago Canyon site where Joseph Robinson was fatally struck by a car Sunday morning followed by a short memorial.

    Where: Ride begins at Jax Bicycle Center, 14210 Culver Drive, Irvine, ending at East Santiago Canyon Road and Loma Ridge Jeep Trail in Orange.

    When: Wednesday, Feb. 5, 6:30 a.m. The ride is expected to reach the crash site at 7:15 a.m.

  22. […] first is a DUI fatality from CA. Update: 21-year old bike rider killed by 18-year old drunk driver on Santiago Canyon Road in Orange and Fire Chief Finds Downed Cyclist on Way to Work, Aids in Search for Suspect Hit-from-behind […]

  23. Jeff says:

    My deepest sympothy to his family. The last cyclist to die in Newport Beach was a friend of mine. I have thought about the danger in road riding for quite a while.
    I know what we need to do now to fix this and make sure no one ever gets run over again. We need a bike trail that completely circles Orange County. Use old roads, railroad tracks, closed bases, and existing trails. Forget the Great Park, what about a Great Trail? No one is dying for the lack of a playground. This is what we need to do to make it safer. As cyclist we should work together to accomplish this. Let’s do it in the name of these wonderful young people who have lost their lives on our roads.

  24. ValleyBall1 says:

    Whether it be clockwise or counterclockwise, Santiago Canyon is a staple in OC. It breaks my heart to read stories like this because, like many have said, it could have been any of us. 7am and still drunk? Fleeing the scene? I get frustrated when work and family obligations take over (and I can’t ride as much) but often think it’s a blessing that I’m not riding 100+ miles a week anymore. When I do ride, I stick with trails and residential areas with little traffic. Sure they’re not as fun as other rides but I have a family I need to come home to.

    God bless Joey and his family as they deal with this terrible tragedy. The murderer should be hung from the 241, just a few feet from the collision. I know that’s rather draconian but she needs to suffer for such an inhumane and heinous crime. Prayers to all.

  25. Sydnee says:

    There has been a memorial fund set up in Joey’s honor to help his family. If anyone would like to donate visit http://www.jaxbicycles.com

  26. anonymous says:

    Tustin teen suspect in fatal hit-and-run to be released


  27. Steve says:

    Tustin teen suspect in fatal hit-and-run to be released


    Why is this? No bail? Murderers seem free to roam the streets perhaps to kill again before court appearances. Why not?

  28. Dan says:

    She’s going to be released because CHP needs more time for the investivation?!? You have got to be kidding me….

  29. Eddie A. says:

    This is tragic, I have seen memorials and flowers for about 4 killed on Santiago Canyon Rd.in the last 6 years. Also
    ….word of warning Silverado Canyon Rd. is just as dangerous ask any cyclist… no bikes lanes, aggressive cars

    • ValleyBall1 says:

      I agree about Silverado. Those residents appear to hate cyclists as I’m constantly honked and yelled at while going up; but, man, is that descent fun!

      Be safe folks.

    • David says:

      I did not know about this incident until I was on a Santiago Ride this past Thurs the 13th and another cyclist warned me at Cooks Corner.

      They did a nice job on the Ghost Bike memorial site.

      This saddens me to a great extent.

      Not only the loss of life, but this particular road has a nice defined bike lane from Jamboree to Cooks Corner–a distance of approx 10 miles+ up and down the hills and there is enough separation the entire way that a car should never be having any impact with bikes that are in the bike lane. The car lane is also over-sized with lot’s of room for error.

      This is not a case of a cyclist trying to share a car lane on a high speed road.. It’s really bothersome to think that someone cannot control their vehicle to keep it out of the bike lane!

  30. ValleyBall1 says:

    I have ZERO respect for DUIs.

  31. Vicki says:

    In this story; “This is the 12th fatal bicycling collision in Southern California THIS YEAR!, and the first in Orange County.” Is this statement correct? 12 already this year? 2014? If so, Please site references to all 12.
    Thank you,

    • bikinginla says:

      Or you could just scroll backwards to find my write-up for each of those deaths; actually, the number is up to 13 now. Or go over the the Categories listing on the right and click on Injuries and Fatalities, which will bring up each of those 13 fatalities, along with a few other stories on the subject.

      If you’d like, you can keep scrolling back through time to read about the 89 bicycling fatalities last year and the 74 in 2012, each of which I’ve written about on here.

      And yes, that number is correct, and should be qualified by “at least.” While I get many reports of injuries and fatalities, I don’t include any deaths in that total unless I can verify it in some way, whether through the press, local police or the coroner’s office. It’s also entirely possible that there may be more fatalities that I am not aware of.

      • Vicki says:

        I would like to copy your story into our club newsletter. If I have your permission.
        I am thankful you have taken the time to verify and organize these sad but important events.
        Thank you. (:

  32. Vicki says:

    thank you for your help

  33. […] week at 7 a.m. Joey Robinson was riding his bike on Santiago Canyon when he was killed by hit-and-run drunk driver, Sommer […]

  34. James says:

    I am interested in the effect of the guard rail in this incident.
    The comments above state “Joseph was struck from behind on the left HARD and ended up hitting the guard rail vertical posts once he was off the car.”

    Was the guard rail instrumental in the fatality? If there had been no guard rail might Joseph have survived?

    I am an active cyclist and am fighting for removal of a guard rail in the area that I live that traps cyclists and pedestrians adjacent to traffic moving 50-55 MPH.

  35. James says:

    Also, can anyone provide me examples where pedal cyclists have been injured or killed by collision with road side barriers (‘guardrails’)?

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