Tag Archive for Jim Swarzman

The sad stats behind this year’s rash of Southern California bike deaths

I’ve started a database to track information about biking fatalities throughout the Southern California area.

It’s not just morbid curiosity.

I’ve gotten tired of people blaming cyclists for the unacceptably high rate of riding deaths, and wanted to be able to respond to baseless accusations with actual, factual statistics. And I want to be able to offer more than just anecdotes when arguing for better bike safety measures before various state and local bodies.

So far, it’s complete for this year only, from January 1st to date. As time allows, I plan to go back through my files and include every riding fatality I can find for the last few years.

If you know of a bike rider who was killed in Southern California — which for the purpose of this exercise I’m defining as anywhere between Santa Maria south to the Mexican border — prior to this year, feel free to send me the information or a link to the news story to ensure I don’t miss it.

I’ve been debating whether to share that information, though. In some ways, I think there’s too much focus here on the tragedies on our streets, especially this year with the rash of riding deaths we’ve seen. Lord knows, I’d much rather discuss happier topics.

However, I believe very strongly that that every fallen rider should be remembered. And that nothing will change if we don’t call attention to it — because no one else is likely to if we don’t.

However, that decision was made for me when Steve Vance, author of Steve Can Plan — one of the nation’s leading biking and transportation planning blogs — asked for more information following last night’s tragic death of Alex Romero.

And as long as I shared the information with him, I might as well share it with you.*

• Wednesday’s tragic hit-and-run death of Alex Romero was the 24th fatality of a cyclist in Southern California this year; 22 in traffic incidents or riding accidents and two by shootings while riding.

• Of those killed in traffic, 11 were the fault of the driver, the cyclist was at fault in nine, and two were undtermined; in two of the 11 collisions where the driver was at fault, poor street design may have been a contributing cause.

• Two cyclists died in solo collisions; one additional rider lost control and fell in front of an oncoming car.

• Two cyclists were killed by trains while crossing railroad tracks.

• Three were killed while riding on the sidewalk.

• Two died while riding without lights after dark, one was riding on wrong side of street.

• Despite common accusations against cyclists, none died as a result of running stop signs or red lights.

•Four of the deaths were hit-and-runs.

•At least five involved drugs and/or alcohol — four drivers, 1 cyclist — though we can safely assume that some of the hit-and-runs were likely committed under the influence, as well.

• Location, by county (includes shootings):

  • Los Angeles – 8
  • Orange County – 4
  • San Diego – 7
  • Ventura – 1
  • Santa Barbara – 2
  • Riverside – 2

• The current rate projects to 83 cyclists dying on the streets of Southern California in 2011, compared to an average of 100 deaths throughout the state each year.

* A quick note about necessary biases in my methodology. This database contains all the fatal cycling incidents of which I am aware; any incidents which failed to make the news or which I did not learn about by other means cannot be included here. In assigning fault, I accepted the determination of the investigating authorities where available, even when that was questionable; where no official determination was available, I made my own determination based on the information on hand. In the event of a hit-and-run, I assigned blame to the driver in the absence of any conflicting information.

.………

Cyclist/attorney Dj Wheels reports that the trial of Marco Antonio Valencia is on hold until next week, and could conclude as early on Monday. He speculates that the defense attorney is building an argument that Valencia was too intoxicated to appreciate the danger he posed behind the wheel, negating the required intent for conviction under the murder charge for the hit-and-run death of Joseph Novotny

However, even if the defense is successful in convincing the jury that Valencia was too wasted to know what the hell he was doing — or more accurately, the risk that he posed — his client still faces as much as 20 years on the other charges and numerous probation violations.

.………

The San Fernando Bicycle Club will be hosting a memorial ride on Sunday in honor of Jim Swarzman. The ride — Jim’s favorite with the club — will start at 8 am at the NW corner of Nordhoff and Etiwanda in Northridge; it will be a challenging 40 mile ride, with over 2,000 feet of climbing.

And yes, it is open to everyone.

Speaking of Swarzman, plans are in the works to improve road safety on Hwy 101 where he was killed by a hit-and-run driver; unfortunately, it comes a little too late.

And the LACBC reports receiving over $2500 in donations made in Swarzman’s name following the request of his family and his fiancé Nicole Honda’s request that donations be made to the LACBC in lieu of flowers. Honda also asked that anyone touched by Swarzman’s story get involved by joining the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition or the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition.

Donations can be made by PayPal or sent directly to the LACBC; indicate that it is for the Swarzman fund when you make your donation. You can make a difference on our streets by joining the LACBC, or giving a gift of membership to a friend or loved one, by clicking here.

.………

The bike rider who was bumped by a car, then fatally shot by a passenger in an apparent gang killing on Sunday, has been identified as 28-year old Manuel Santizo. According to KCBS-2, no arrests have been made.

Writing on the Midnight Ridazz forum, Aktive reports that Santizo was a hard-working man who gave most of the money from his job at Jack in the Box to his parents, and to the mother of his four-year old son. A ghost bike will be installed at the scene on Friday, while a car wash will be held on Saturday to benefit his family. Thanks to Dj Wheels for the heads-up.

.………

Best wishes to Eric B, who’s sporting a new sling and a broken collarbone after becoming collateral damage in a bike racing collision last weekend.

The sad stats behind this year’s rash of Southern California bike deaths

I’ve started a database to track information about biking fatalities throughout the Southern California area.

It’s not just morbid curiosity.

I’ve gotten tired of people blaming cyclists for the unacceptably high rate of riding deaths, and wanted to be able to respond to baseless accusations with actual, factual statistics. And I want to be able to offer more than just anecdotes when arguing for better bike safety measures before various state and local bodies.

So far, it’s complete for this year only, from January 1st to date. As time allows, I plan to go back through my files and include every riding fatality I can find for the last few years.

If you know of a bike rider who was killed in Southern California — which for the purpose of this exercise I’m defining as anywhere between Santa Maria south to the Mexican border — prior to this year, feel free to send me the information or a link to the news story to ensure I don’t miss it.

I’ve been debating whether to share that information, though. In some ways, I think there’s too much focus here on the tragedies on our streets, especially this year with the rash of riding deaths we’ve seen. Lord knows, I’d much rather discuss happier topics.

However, I believe very strongly that that every fallen rider should be remembered. And that nothing will change if we don’t call attention to it — because no one else is likely to if we don’t.

However, that decision was made for me when Steve Vance, author of Steve Can Plan — one of the nation’s leading biking and transportation planning blogs — asked for more information following last night’s tragic death of Alex Romero.

And as long as I shared the information with him, I might as well share it with you.*

• Wednesday’s tragic hit-and-run death of Alex Romero was the 24th fatality of a cyclist in Southern California this year; 22 in traffic incidents or riding accidents and two by shootings while riding.

• Of those killed in traffic, 11 were the fault of the driver, the cyclist was at fault in nine, and two were undtermined; in two of the 11 collisions where the driver was at fault, poor street design may have been a contributing cause.

• Two cyclists died in solo collisions; one additional rider lost control and fell in front of an oncoming car.

• Two cyclists were killed by trains while crossing railroad tracks.

• Three were killed while riding on the sidewalk.

• Two died while riding without lights after dark, one was riding on wrong side of street.

• Despite common accusations against cyclists, none died as a result of running stop signs or red lights.

•Four of the deaths were hit-and-runs.

•At least five involved drugs and/or alcohol — four drivers, 1 cyclist — though we can safely assume that some of the hit-and-runs were likely committed under the influence, as well.

• Location, by county (includes shootings):

  • Los Angeles – 8
  • Orange County – 4
  • San Diego – 7
  • Ventura – 1
  • Santa Barbara – 2
  • Riverside – 2

• The current rate projects to 83 cyclists dying on the streets of Southern California in 2011, compared to an average of 100 deaths throughout the state each year.

* A quick note about necessary biases in my methodology. This database contains all the fatal cycling incidents of which I am aware; any incidents which failed to make the news or which I did not learn about by other means cannot be included here. In assigning fault, I accepted the determination of the investigating authorities where available, even when that was questionable; where no official determination was available, I made my own determination based on the information on hand. In the event of a hit-and-run, I assigned blame to the driver in the absence of any conflicting information.

.………

Cyclist/attorney Dj Wheels reports that the trial of Marco Antonio Valencia is on hold until next week, and could conclude as early on Monday. He speculates that the defense attorney is building an argument that Valencia was too intoxicated to appreciate the danger he posed behind the wheel, negating the required intent for conviction under the murder charge for the hit-and-run death of Joseph Novotny

However, even if the defense is successful in convincing the jury that Valencia was too wasted to know what the hell he was doing — or more accurately, the risk that he posed — his client still faces as much as 20 years on the other charges and numerous probation violations.

.………

The San Fernando Bicycle Club will be hosting a memorial ride on Sunday in honor of Jim Swarzman. The ride — Jim’s favorite with the club — will start at 8 am at the NW corner of Nordhoff and Etiwanda in Northridge; it will be a challenging 40 mile ride, with over 2,000 feet of climbing.

And yes, it is open to everyone.

Speaking of Swarzman, plans are in the works to improve road safety on Hwy 101 where he was killed by a hit-and-run driver; unfortunately, it comes a little too late.

And the LACBC reports receiving over $2500 in donations made in Swarzman’s name following the request of his family and his fiancé Nicole Honda’s request that donations be made to the LACBC in lieu of flowers. Honda also asked that anyone touched by Swarzman’s story get involved by joining the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition or the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition.

Donations can be made by PayPal or sent directly to the LACBC; indicate that it is for the Swarzman fund when you make your donation. You can make a difference on our streets by joining the LACBC, or giving a gift of membership to a friend or loved one, by clicking here.

.………

The bike rider who was bumped by a car, then fatally shot by a passenger in an apparent gang killing on Sunday, has been identified as 28-year old Manuel Santizo. According to KCBS-2, no arrests have been made.

Writing on the Midnight Ridazz forum, Aktive reports that Santizo was a hard-working man who gave most of the money from his job at Jack in the Box to his parents, and to the mother of his four-year old son. A ghost bike will be installed at the scene on Friday, while a car wash will be held on Saturday to benefit his family. Thanks to Dj Wheels for the heads-up.

.………

Best wishes to Eric B, who’s sporting a new sling and a broken collarbone after becoming collateral damage in a bike racing collision last weekend.

Cyclist killed in Indio area, suspected Jim Swarzman killer released, Marco Antonio Valencia on trial

I was really hoping I wouldn’t have to write this.

Last night, the CHP reported a collision involving a cyclist in the Indio area; the cryptic feed indicated that the coroner had been called.

As I searched for confirmation, though, I found another report online that said the coroner call had been cancelled, and the rider had been transported to the hospital with major injuries. The CHP feed was later updated to indicate that, as well.

Unfortunately, the good news didn’t last.

According to a story in the Desert Sun, 39-year old Travis Carroll was pronounced dead at 8:17 last night, after being hit by a van while riding on Avenue 42 in Bermuda Dunes. The collision occurred between Washington and Adams Streets at around 7:35.

The sparse description of the collision in the Desert Sun doesn’t really make sense.

The paper reports that Carroll was riding on the north side of the street, which suggests he would have been riding west if he was riding with traffic. He then reportedly began riding southeast, which would mean he either had to make a U-turn, or had actually been riding against traffic and drifted across the roadway before being struck by the west-bound van,

However, that raises the question of why he would cross the path of an oncoming vehicle which should have been clearly visible as he faced it — especially since the paper reports that alcohol does not seem to be a factor.

According to reports, the investigation is ongoing.

.………

The same day Encino endurance cyclist Jim Swarzman was laid to rest at Forrest Lawn, word came that the driver suspected of killing him was released from custody.

According to San Diego’s KGTV, Joseph Ricardo Fernandez was released at the last moment before being arraigned. Reportedly, the reason stemmed from the three day limit authorities have to file charges after taking the suspect into custody.

The station indicates that the delay is due to ongoing forensic work to ensure that Fernandez’ Dodge Ram 1500 pickup was in fact the vehicle that took Swarzman’s life; following that, the DA needs to be able to show that Fernandez was actually the one behind the wheel.

I would hope that they are also investigating his actions before the collision; I suspect they may find that he was drinking heavily.

The reports I’ve heard say the collision was extremely violent; I’ll spare you the details, but it would have been virtually impossible for the driver to have been unaware he hit something, putting to question Fernandez statement to the police that he thought he might have hit something.

Unless he was in a significantly altered state, the driver had to know damn well that he hit something, making his flight afterward a purely intentional — and illegal — act.

The investigation is ongoing, and I have no reason to believe the San Diego DA’s office isn’t taking this case very seriously. But we may want to keep on top of it, just in case.

.………

I’ve been on the run the last few weeks, and haven’t had a chance to update the ongoing legal cases (my apologies to cyclist/attorney Dj Wheels, who has done a great job of keeping me abreast of the ongoing cases).

Wheels reports that the trial has begun in the case of Marco Antonio Valencia, charged with killing Joseph Novotny and seriously injuring three other riders in an alcohol and drug-fueled hit-and-run.

The Signal reports on yesterday’s testimony from the surviving riders; it’s difficult to read, but offers the clearest picture yet what happened on that tragic day. Here’s one brief excerpt:

Chad Lewin, 25, was riding in front of Munana and Novotny during the ride.

As Lewin was riding around a right turn, he saw the bicyclist in front of him slam on his brakes abruptly.

To avoid crashing, Lewin testified that he swerved into the roadway to his left to avoid crashing.

In an instant, he was knocked to the ground by the truck. As he slid, Lewin said his skin was ripped off — in some instances to the muscle.

“As I was sliding backward, I saw Joe 20 feet in the air and hit the mountainside,” Lewin said.

Dj Wheels has been attending some of the court sessions, and offers these thoughts:

It appears that Valencia’s defense will mainly focus on avoiding the “Watson” 2nd degree murder charge by arguing that although he was awake and able to drive, he was not “conscious” of his actions and thus did not have the required specific intent for murder, which would be implied malice.

I don’t know all the case law on these types of DUI murder charges, but essentially Watson says when you have been previously convicted of DUI, you should know all ready that driving drunk can cause serious injury or death, which would establish the intent requirement of malice.  The CA legislature later enacted CVC 23103.5.  As a resulty, many county courts and district attorneys offices for several years now have required defendants to sign a declaration admitting that you acknowledge these risks and that you may be charged with murder if someone dies as a result of their drunk driving.  I believe this declaration can also be used as evidence.

However, under CA Jury Instructions 8.47 says “If you find that a defendant, while unconscious as a result of voluntary intoxication, killed another human being without intent to kill and without malice aforethought, the crime is involuntary manslaughter.”

So my guess is that the defense will try to establish that none of the witnesses actually saw the driver of the vehicle (specifically his face/body) in the seconds before the collision and during the collision in order to establish a reasonable doubt about whether he was indeed “conscious.” I think the only defense witness will be the expert who will testify that someone can be unconscious due to voluntary intoxication, but still be awake.
.………

As long as we’re on the subject of biking collisions and court cases, we might as well keep going.

Danae Marie Miller will be arraigned today on one count of felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated in the death of world-class trialthlete Amine Britel in Newport Beach last month. She’s currently out on $100,000 bail.

.………

John Stesney reports that a pretrial hearing is scheduled next week in the death of local scientist and cyclist Doug Caldwell. The hearing for accused driver Gordon Catlett Wray will take place at the San Fernando Courthouse, 900 Third Street in the city of San Fernando, on Wednesday, April 20th at 8:30 am, case #0SR05313.

My sources indicate that despite numerous questions that have been raised that the defendant was using a cell phone at the time of the collision, the prosecutor either can’t get the records, or won’t request them for some reason — even though they could offer proof of distracted driving in fatal collision.

Maybe a few cyclists in the courtroom could stiffen the DA’s resolve, and show how seriously we’re taking this case.

.………

Dj Wheels reports that Shawn Fields was arraigned on March 30th for the heartbreaking hit-and-run death of 17-year old Danny Marin in Pacoima last year; a description of the injuries suffered by Marin — again, I’ll spare you the details — suggests another extremely violent collision.

Wheels offers some revealing testimony from the case:

According to the arresting officer, Fields was asleep at home by the time they arrived at the location where the vehicle was registered. He wouldn’t wake up at first after knocking and banging on the windows from where they could see him sleeping.  Fields also volunteered a statement before being taken to the police station that he shouldn’t have driven home because he had too much to drink at a wrap up party at the Roosevelt in Hollywood. He also saw many bottles of various alcoholic beverages inside Field’s house.

Also, the officer that administered the breath test at the station noted that his BAC was .14/.15 at about 4:15 a.m. The collision occurred about three hours earlier.

The investigating officer who interviewed Fields at the station also testified. Fields told him he got to the party around 10pm and drank a long island ice tea, a red label whiskey, a gin and tonic, beer and some water before leaving. After walking out, he had a bacon wrapped hot dog on the street, threw up on himself, debated whether to drive home, waited in his car for a while then finally drove.  He did not have a recollection of actually driving home, but recalled he may have hit something because he remembered being at a stop light close to home and looking at sparkly dust on his arms from the shattered front windshield.

.………

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 28th at 8:30 am in the San Bernardino Superior Court in the case of Patrick Roraff and Brett Michael Morin for the street racing death of pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado last April.

.………

A preliminary hearing is also scheduled for May 11th in the case of Stephanie Segal, charged in the drunken hit-and-run death of cyclist James Laing in Agoura Hills last October.

.………

Jim Lyle forwards news that Richard Schlickman, the cyclist critically injured when he lost control of his bike due to newly installed speed bumps in Palas Verdes Estates, is showing amazing progress and determination, and may be transferred to a rehab facility by the end of the month.

.………

Meanwhile, reports are that your prayers continue to be needed for Adam Rybicki, critically injured by an alleged underage drunk driver in Torrance on April 3rd.

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