Bike rider killed in Vista train collision; popular randonneur killed Saturday in Santa Maria

Sometimes, all it takes is a single tragic error in judgement.

That was the case last night, as a bike rider lost his life apparently trying to beat a train in North San Diego County.

According to multiple sources, a 48-year old man, who has not been publicly identified, was hit by a Sprinter light-rail train in an unincorporated area of Vista. The collision occurred at a railroad crossing at the intersection of Woodland Drive and South Santa Fe Avenue at 8:07 pm Monday.

According to witnesses, the warning gates had been down for more than 40 seconds, with the lights and bells activated, when the victim rode around the gates and onto the track. He was struck by oncoming the train, which had been sounding its horn as it approached the intersection.

The victim was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

No explanation was given for why he attempted to cross the tracks despite multiple visual and audible warnings.

He was the third person killed by a train in the county in the last five days.

This is the 58th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the fourth in San Diego County. He is also the third bike rider to be killed by a train in the seven-county SoCal region since the first of the year.

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

Thanks to Rick Risemberg for the heads-up. 


I don’t normally report on bicycling fatalities that occur outside the SoCal region.

However, I’ve gotten multiple reports of a cyclist killed on Foxen Canyon Road in the Santa Maria area over the weekend.

According to the Santa Maria Times, the victim was a 33-year old Chula Vista resident, who was hit by a 16-year old driver in a truck pulling a horse trailer.

Now word is coming in that victim was Matthew O’Neil, a popular randonneur well known in SoCal riding circles. I’m told that a group of riders participating in the ultra-distance event came upon the scene shortly after the collision, and recognized the victim by his unique Bacchetta recumbent bike.

Meanwhile, rumors are swirling that the driver is the son of a woman involved in another fatal wreck on the same road in 2012.

Hopefully, we’ll have more information later.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Matthew O’Neil and all his family and friends. 

Thanks to Mike T for the link



  1. […] cyclist tries to beat a train in CA, train wins. Bike rider killed in Vista train collision; popular randonneur killed Saturday in Santa Maria The cyclist was reported by multiple witnesses to have gone around the crossing guards with the […]

  2. Stacy Kline says:

    Matthew O’Neill was one of the kindest, most supportive, most knowledgeable randonneurs I have ever met. He would ride with you through tough times, guide you through a tricky route, feed you peach gummy rings when you were bonking, and keep you upright on your bike when you were delirious at night. He hosted many a brevet, owned or cared for a multitude of routes, and was known to offer the most attentive and comprehensive support on extremely challenging brevets. Although we only had two flèche teams this year, he both rode it and hosted the breakfast feast at the end in his home town of Carpinteria. He was absolutely the soul of our close PCH Randos group. Already having completed the Santa Fe Trail 1000K with fellow rando Linda Bott this past May, his next big challenge was to be the Perth-Albany-Perth 1200K he was to ride with Jun Sato of Japan; I’ve never seen him more excited about a big ride. As he rode with us on the California Central Coast 1200K Randonneé, he continually kept his sweetheart Jennie updated with texts. He told us all about their plans to get married and buy a home when he received his Ph.D next June.

    He was our riding partner and roommate on this exquisite ride, and I had the utter horror to roll up on the death of one of my dearest friends in the company of fellow randos. Phil MacFarlane pulled Mark Borba, Julie Ni, and myself all the way back to SLO from that horrific scene at such a clip, that we could do nothing but concentrate on the road and our fellow randos, sticking together through Mark’s flat tire and tough final climb, making it back safely so that Julie and I were able to finish our first 1000Ks, and Phil and Mark were able to finish their 1st 1200Ks.

    The officers at the scene told us it was an accident since it was not hit and run or drunk driving, but I explained to them that we ride legally and visibly on the road, and in spite of this, we were still passed far too closely often during the ride. If we can teach all drivers to change the lane completely when they pass, really make a campaign out of this, Matthew will not have died in vain. We need to stop close passes and the “I didn’t see him” mindset. Regardless of the situation, when wemotorists change lanes to pass, we cyclists are safer.

    Change the lane to pass a cyclist; it only takes the time of a heartbeat.

  3. Lois says:

    If the truck had rear ended a car or truck and killed someone, would that also be an accident? That’s not a rhetorical question. I’d really like to know the answer.

  4. Tammy Channell says:

    Matthew was an amazing friend to us in Carpinteria. He was an inspiration to us all and will be greatly missed by so many.

  5. Kate Faulkner says:

    The loss of Matthew is terrible. Has anybody heard if the driver has been cited or know what agency is in charge of making that decision? What I have heard (3rd or 4th hand) is that the driver admitted seeing Matthew on his bike. However, he didn’t move left to pass because there was an oncoming vehicle. It seems to me that the decision to run into a cyclist is vehicular manslaughter (of which there are different levels). I am wondering if it would be useful for interested parties to voice our opinion to the decisionmaker (CHP? Santa Barbara County Attorney?) regarding whether charges will be filed.

    Thoughts and suggestions would be appreciated.

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