What happens when you kill a beloved community icon with your car?
The Whittier Daily News reports that 61-year old Whittier resident Danny Martin, well known for waving at strangers from the seat of his three-wheeled bike, was killed in a collision early Monday morning.
According to the paper, Martin was riding to a Bible study class when he was struck by a driver while crossing the 16500 block of Whittier Boulevard.
He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police said he was not at an intersection or in a crosswalk when he was struck. The driver stayed at the scene, and authorities said that speed was not a factor.
Although Martin’s mangled bike would seem to belie that. It’s hard to imagine how that kind of damage could occur without excessive speed.
He also left his usual bike helmet at home, wearing a Christmas hat in its place.
A former motocross racer, Danny Martin was severely injured testing a new motorbike at Dumont Dunes in the Mojave Desert in 1981, spending a full year in a coma. When he finally awoke, he was paralyzed and told he would never walk again.
Yet after a year of physical therapy, he regained the ability to get around on his own, and learned how to ride an adult tricycle.
He never quit, spending the better part of the past four decades riding around Whittier with an American Flag flying high above his trike, and signs praising God attached to it after becoming deeply religious during his recovery.
Martin became a local icon beloved throughout the city, often by people whose only contact with him was a friendly wave as they passed by in their cars.
That love was shown by the Whittier community in 2016, when he was struck by a driver who destroyed Martin’s bike and briefly put him in the hospital.
A crowdfunding campaign to replace his bike trike raised over 14 times the original $1,000 goal; the Daily News reports the extra money paid Martin’s rent for a full year.
And it was shown again last night, when hundreds of people turned out for a candlelight vigil to remember him.
Now another crowdfunding campaign has raised over $7,000 in just the first eight hours to help pay his funeral expenses.
A ride will be held in his honor this Sunday. Let’s hope it gets a big turnout, with lots of flags flying high over the bikes, and friendly waves for everyone around.
Because Whittier is going to be a much poorer place going forward.
This is at least the 73rd bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 32nd that I’m aware of in Los Angeles County.
It’s also the sixth SoCal bike death in less than ten days.
My deepest sympathy and prayers for Danny Martin and all his family and friends.
Thanks to Sgt. Helper, Lois R, Eric Griswold and John Damman for the heads-up.