No Justice for Cyclists
Below, "the paper" and "AAS" refers to the local daily, the Austin American-Statesman.
Please do not write to ask for "more information" about any of these cases.
It should be painfully obvious that the whole point of this website is to share what we know.
(i.e., If it's not on the website, we don't know about it.)
Bernie (May 19, 2008)
Just a quick update on my car v. bike crash of 19 May. I finally got a copy of the crash report by going down to APD headquarters yesterday after work (*incident reports* are available online, crash reports are not).
It turns out that the 76 year old motorist who slammed into me was *NOT* issued a citation, although the report does clearly indicate that the motorist failed to yield right of way at a stop sign.
The folks at APD have continued to be friendly and helpful, and have provided me the phone number of the officer at the scene as well as his supervisor. I plan on giving them both a call today to politely but firmly let them know that the failure to issue a ticket sends the wrong message to the cycling community, and they really blew a good opportunity to build some bridges.
Carrie Miller (March 29, 2008)
A driver hit & run'd Carrie Miller, and she solved the crime herself. She picked up a piece of a mirror from the accident scene, and she happened to walk by a car in her apartment complex parking lot which was missing that very piece. The driver was charged with failing to stop and render aid. (KXAN)
Arjun Khanna, 43 (Fri. August 26, 2006)
The driver was charged with intoxication manslaughter. Below are the initial news articles, and here's the Aug. 31 News 8 Austin report. According to the article, there were 226 traffic accidents involving bikes last year, and only 109 so far this year. The article predictably blames cyclists for breaking the law, ignoring the fact that motorists break the law in far greater numbers than cyclists, and that motorists are at fault in the overwhelming majority of car-bike collisions.
From the Statesman, August 27, 2006
The driver of a Toyota Tundra that struck and killed a bicyclist Saturday afternoon on Capital of Texas Highway (Loop 360) was in custody, and investigators anticipate filing alcohol-related charges, Austin police said.
The bicyclist, an unidentified 43-year-old man, was taken to Brackenridge Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 7:39 p.m., police said.
Witnesses said the pickup, which was swerving while traveling north, veered into the paved shoulder and struck the bicyclist about 4:50 p.m. in the 7800 block of North Capital of Texas Highway.
The driver, Jeremy R. Wigley, 27, showed signs of intoxication, police said.
Detectives ask witnesses to call 974-8211.
It was Austin's 41st traffic fatality this year.
From the Statesman, August 28, 2006
Man arrested in cyclist's death has prior reckless driving recordBy Isadora Vail
A man who was arrested in the death of a bicyclist in the hills of Northwest Austin has a record of reckless driving, driving while intoxicated and possession of illegal substances, public records show.
Jeremy Ron Wigley, 27, of Belton, west of Temple, had not been charged Sunday but remained in jail, and police spokeswoman Toni Chovanetz said she anticipated that alcohol-related charges would be filed early this week.
Witnesses told police that Wigley's 2002 Toyota Tundra was swerving Saturday afternoon before it struck an unidentified man who was riding his bicycle on the shoulder in the 7800 block of North Capital of Texas Highway (Loop 360).
The cyclist, a 43-year-old man, was taken to Brackenridge Hospital and died less than three hours later, police said.
Police said Wigley showed signs of intoxication when he was arrested after the wreck.
Wigley has a criminal record dating to Aug. 21, 1999, when he was arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated and possession of marijuana under 2 ounces, public records show.
He pleaded guilty to those charges, records show.
His record includes convictions on charges that include reckless driving, marijuana possession, delivery of a controlled substance, burglary of a habitation and evading arrest.
The area of the collision is familiar to David Henschel, who rides his bike from Barton Creek Square mall to the Arboretum area daily and has done so for the past 10 years. He said the hills and paved road make a nice 2 1/2-hour workout.
"I have been cut off, yelled obscenities to, swerved at and harassed," Henschel said. "I just wish there were more support with drivers and cyclists so we can be seen as a positive part of the community."
The wreck has made Henschel more aware of his surroundings. He said he always uses his mirror and vowed to be extremely alert when riding.
Another cyclist, Mike Albrecht, believes that no driver would purposely swerve at a bicycle.
"It shouldn't be an us versus them scenario. We just need to get along and respect each other," said Albrecht, noting he chooses to ride in the Hill Country because traffic and automobile exhaust in Austin are too much to deal with.
"There is a supposed conflict between drivers and cyclists, but I think people are happy to co-exist. I don't think people are going out of their way to hurt each other," Albrecht said.
The bicyclist was the 41st traffic fatality in Austin this year. He wasn't the first cyclist to be killed on the popular scenic route. In April, Gay Simmons-Posey was killed by a hit-and-run driver on Loop 360 near the Bee Cave exit.
Other articles from Aug. 28:
Russ & John (sports cyclists) (Sat. April 22, 2006)
A motorist ran a red light and hit two law-abiding cyclists. The driver wasn't ticketed. (more...)
Cedar Park woman, 49 (Wed. April 19, 2006, 3800 block of FM 1431 )
Cycling incident leaves woman with head injuries
Cedar Park woman knocked unconscious by morning wreck.Thursday, April 20, 2006, Austin American-Statesman
A 49-year-old Cedar Park woman riding a bicycle suffered head injuries after she collided with a tractor-trailer in Cedar Park about 8:45 a.m. Wednesday, officials said. Bridget M. Holliday was biking west in the 3800 block of FM 1431, also called Whitestone Boulevard, when she hit the back axle of the truck after it turned east out of a driveway, police said. She was unconscious when airlifted to Brackenridge Hospital, but hospital officials said later in the day that she would be treated and released. Holliday was wearing protective headgear and was riding legally. Police continue to investigate the incident; their paint marks color the pavement at the scene.
Unknown (Sept. 22, 2005, S. Congress @ St. Elmo Road)
Bicyclist dies in morning accident
17-year-old dead after collision with cement truckBy Claire Osborn AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Thursday, September 22, 2005
A 17-year-old bicyclist died after a collision with a cement truck in South Austin this morning, police
His identity has not yet been released. The teenager and the truck driver were both traveling north on South Congress Avenue. The collision happened when the truck turned eastbound on St. Elmo Road at 7:57 a.m. police said. The bicyclist died at the scene.
This was the 43rd traffic fatality in Austin in 2005
Unknown (Oct. 11, 2004, S. Congress @ Live Oak)
Dana Price writes:
I came across the scene of an accident this evening about 10:20 as I was driving home down S. Congress. This time I was in the car, but Live Oak and Congress is on my daily bike commute route.
A witness had stopped a car in the center lane near where the man had fallen and several people were there, including the man's friend. I only stayed until help arrived because Liam was asleep in the car and I didn't have any information or skils that would have helped.
The cyclist was unconscious but breathing, and there was blood on the pavement. It shook me up to see the scene, I guess that's why I felt that I had to write. Could have been any of us. Though he wasn't wearing a helmet, the bike had lights- at least, a rear blinkie. I didn't see the front.
The driver who had hit him had fled the scene.
I'm not going to speculate how it happened- there was at least one person who says he saw it, so perhaps someone can find the police report. Sometimes there's something either party could have done to prevent it.
Matthew Rodieck (sp?) (Oct. 21, 2003, near Mopac & Northwood)
- Report is on a separate page.
Unknown (July 23, 2003, Shoal Creek Blvd. @ 2222)
- An unsettling incident occurred on SCB this morning as
I was coming to work. I didn't actually witness the accident
but heard it and turned my head in time to see a woman rolling on
pavement next to her fallen bike.
She was headed south on SCB, just crossing 2222 after waiting at a red light. I was heading north on SCB. I recall noticing her as traffic began flowing through the intersection when the light changed, and I seem to recall that she was waiting on the far right, and that there was a line of perhaps three or four cars waiting alongside her.
After hearing the "THWACK!" and turning to see the immediate aftermath, I turned around and biked over to where she was dragging her bike to the side of the road, out of the intersection. Her glasses were askew, and she was obviously dazed, but other than some obvious road-rash on her shoulder and what looked to be a lightly bruised hip, she seemed OK, and said as much in reply to my asking. She said she'd been hit by a car turning right (heading out of Allandale). I immediately felt pangs of regret for not being able to grab the car's license or a description of the car; damn. She indicated that she'd noticed that the car did not signal the turn. Given that, and what little I recall about what I noticed prior to the accident, it's hard to reconstruct what happened, having not actually seen it happen.
Anyway, she insisted she was OK, and only had a short distance left to reach her destination, so after wishing her a safe trip, I headed on my way. Probably should have hung out with her a little longer, made sure she was OK and that her bike was functional, but she seemed uncomfortable at the prospect. Next time, I think I'll insist.
Hard to believe that anyone could hit a biker hard enough to make a noise as loud as the one I heard and not notice, so I'm left with the suspicion that this was hit and run, plain and simple. Also, pretty freakin' disgusting that there were cars all over the damned intersection, stopped at the light and so forth, and no one offered any help or information on the car that hit her. Sheesh. Sad.
Keith Vick (Dec. 3, 2002, 10th & Guadalupe)
See our separate page about Keith.
unidentified cyclist (Sunday 9-29-02, 4th & Trinity)
Here's the complete extent of the Statesman's blurb on Monday, 9-30-02: "A fourth fatal wreck, involving a vehicle and a person on a bicycle, occurred near Trinity and Fourth streets. Police had no details on Sunday."
Kelton Valdez (Monday 9-23-02, 11500 Farmhaven Drive)
Here's the complete extent of the News 8 Austin article: "A 6-year-old boy who was hit by a car Monday afternoon has died. Kelton Valdez was riding his bike in the 11500 block of Farmhaven Drive, when a 1998 Ford Windstar hit him. He was taken to Brackenridge Hospital, where he later died. Austin police traffic detectives are still investigating the case."
- On June 11, 2003, Kelton's mother sent us this:
- My name is Sonja Smelser. I am the mother of Kelton
Trae Valdez. I would like to clarify that my son was wearing a
at the time he was killed. This was reported incorrectly in the
newspaper but is supported by the accident report.
I would like to share w/ you what I know about the accident and see if you have any insight as to how I can press the District Attorney's office to pursue prosecuting the lady driving. School had just let out and the neighborhood kids were filing down the street to their houses. Kelton was crossing the street to enter our section of the neighborhood when the driver hit him. These things are known:
- The detective can verify that she was traveling at least nine miles an hour over the speed limit.
- She was cited in the police report for faulty evasive action.
- The driver has told several people that she saw Kelton and thought she could miss him.
The detective took the case to the D.A. and he said that because Kelton was traveling against traffic that he was also at fault and it evened out. Please forward any info you may have that could help me.
Thank you for writing and sharing your information. First, let me extend my sympathy for your loss. The reason I work on bicycle safety issues is because I want tragedies like this to be less common.
I updated the table to reflect that Kelton was wearing a helmet. This is important because people tend to blame the cyclist for being hurt if the cyclist wasn't wearing a helmet even when the collision was the motorist's fault. People need to know that helmets don't make cyclists invincible when they ride. They're helpful, but they're very overrated. They're no substitute for safer streets, knowing how to ride safely, and attentive motorists.
On prosecuting the case, I'm afraid the D.A. is probably right: If Kelton was breaking the law too, then he would be considered partly at fault as well. It seems unlikely that a jury would convict the motorist because of that. Still, I wish the D.A. would at least try the case. As for how to get the D.A. to take action, I'm afraid I don't have any advice for you. If I knew how to get justice for cyclists, I wouldn't have a whole website about how cyclists *don't* get justice. My best recommendation is to consult an attorney. You also have the opportunity to pursue a civil case against the motorist.
Good luck, and please let me know of any developments.
Saturday April 20 09:28 PM EDT
Austin Man Killed In Hit and Run
An Austin man called his wife to let her know he was his way home, but he never made it. Investigators say 35-old Bill Moore is the victim of a hit and run accident in Southwest Austin. Police say about 1:30 Saturday morning, Moore was either riding, or walking with his bike along Thunderbird Road near highway 290 when he was hit and killed by a passing vehicle. The driver left the scene. Austin detectives are trying to get to the bottom of exactly what happened. (From Yahoo/KEYE local news)
From the Austin American-Statesman:
From News 8 Austin:
Debra Prokop, 45 (Saturday, 5-19-01, Intersection of 44th & Avenue G, 4:35pm)
Debra Prokop was killed in the intersection of 44th & Avenue G one afternoon when she was struck by a pickup truck. It's a four-way stop. We don't know who was at fault, but we suspect that the motorist was at least partially at fault, because how else could he have obtained the speed necessary to kill someone in the intersection if he had stopped as he was supposed to? One suspects that he either didn't stop, or accelerated ultra-rapidly, or both.
Two articles about this incident are on a separate Debra Prokop page.
Prof. William Gardiner, 67 (Tuesday, 11-14-00, 10pm, Guadalupe at 6th St.)
(Did not try to locate case number since no car was involved.)
This is not really a lack of justice case, since apparently no car was involved, but this is probably where most folks are going to look for info about Gardiner, so I'm listing it here. (Then again, Gardiner reportedly crashed because he hit one of those big metal plates on the road that cover construction projects, and it could be considered a lack of justice that the City puts serious bicycle hazards like those on the roads.) Anyway, here's the Statesman article about Gardiner's death.
Update, Dec. 2002: Gardiner's family is suing the City, blaming Gardiner's death on unsafe road conditions. (See the Austin Chronicle article.)
Anneke Pfister (Tuesday, 10-31-00, 10:51am, Guadalupe at 26th St.)
APD Case No. 00-3050513 (As of 3/01, case was still being investigated by Det. Patrick South)
The cyclist and the bus were traveling north on Guadalupe when the bicycle's handlebars grazed the side of the N. Lamar (#1) bus, causing the cyclist to fall into its path, running over her legs (according to an article in The Daily Texan, the UT student newspaper, quoting a police spokeswoman). While we don't yet have a police report, it seems almost certain that the bus was overtaking the cyclist too closely. The driver of the bus reportedly not only was not aware that he had hit the cyclist, he reportedly didn't believe it when someone told him that he had. The article mentions a Capital Metro program, created with the help of the Texas Bicycle Coalition, which teaches bus drivers how to avoid hitting cyclists, and notes that that it "has reduced bicycle accidents 54% since March". A bike lane on that section of Guadalupe could be added only by removing a parking lane, car lane, or middle turn lane, and it's illegal for cyclists to ride on the sidewalk there.
Michael Bluejay, 33 (Friday, 10-27-00, 5:30pm, S. Congress just north of Barton Springs Rd.)
APD Case No. 00-3011170
Matthew Bohr, 14 (Tuesday, 7-18-00, 4:00pm, 8637 Spicewood Springs Rood)
APD Case No. 00-2000939 * Closed, no charges filed
Matthew Bohr, 14, was crossing Spicewood Springs Road after leaving the Spicewood Springs Branch Library (8637 Spicewood Springs Road) crossing Spicewood Springs Road, when he was killed by a van turning left onto Spicewood Springs Road from Parliament Place, shortly after 4 p.m. The name of the 34-year-old man driving the van was not released. As is usually the case, the police say the case is under investigation and no charges have been filed. We don't yet know who was at fault, but we don't expect any charges, because the police or grand jury will likely blame the cyclist no matter what happened since the cyclist wasn't wearing a helmet. Here's the article from the paper and the obituary.
Update: I checked the public computer at the police station, and it says that the case is closed with no charges filed.
Unidentified Police Officer (7-17-00, 7:45pm, I-35 & E. 7th St.)
Keith Hailey (Wednesday, 6-18-00, 1:45am)
(Keith did not supply case number and police say they have no record of this incident.)
KHailey(at)io.com writes: "After 22 months af riding for transportation, I finally got hit by a car. I had a reflector and a blinking light on the back and a 10-watt headlight in front, so I think they probably hit me on purpose. I think they just clipped me with their mirror. It didn't knock me off my bike, but did force me into the ditch. Did they stop? Of course not. I'm okay. Just walked funny for a couple of days."
Michael Zeno Smith (Saturday, 3-18-00, 8:45pm, Bee Cave Rd. & Creeks Edge Parkway)
(APD says they have no record of this, because it was probably handled by County officials.)
with contributions by David Prater
The Statesman article, which did not appear until the following Monday, was so brief we reprint it here in its entirety:
AUSTIN -- A 25-year-old bicyclist died Saturday night after being hit by a pickup near the intersection of Bee Cave Road and Creeks Edge Parkway. Michael Z. Smith was taken by STAR Flight to Brackenridge Hospital, where he was pronounced dead upon arrival, said Warren Hassinger, Austin's Emergency Medical Services spokesman. Smith was riding his bicycle east on Bee Cave Road when he was hit at about 8:45 p.m. by an eastbound 1982 Chevrolet pickup driven by Doris Davis of Austin, according to a Department of Public Safety report. The accident remains under investigation. (Compiled from staff and wire reports)
The article typically raises more questions than it answers. What we'd like to know is:
Jon Beall (JBeall(at)tdiaustin.com) writes:
My wife & I drove by the accident shortly after it occurred. Police and firetrucks were still blocking the road, but the cyclist had already been medivaced. The accident was at Creeks Edge Parkway which is the main road into the Bee Caves West subdivision. The bicycle was laying on the south side of Bee Caves Road about 10 yards east of the intersection. Some clothing including a jacket were laying near the bicycle. An automobile (possibly a pickup truck) was being loaded onto a wrecker/car carrier to be hauled away.
Jason Boardman & Cameron Cooper (Saturday, 12-18-99, 12:30pm, Loop 360 N. of Bee Cave)
(No APD case number because it was handled by State troopers.)
The short story is that an elderly man fell asleep while driving and seriously injured two cyclists, and typically did not face any charges.
The Statesman article on the collision, which did not appear until the following Tuesday, was so brief we reprint it here in its entirety:
Bicyclist critical after accident, by Mary Ann Roser
Here's an email from the emergency room technician shortly after the collision.
From: Jorge Simental
Dear fellow riders: I was involved in the direct treatment of Jason and Cameron yesterday afternoon at Brackenridge. In the trauma bay it is always stressful to welcome trauma victims, yet when they are cyclists you ride with on the weekend, it becomes a difficult circumstance to accept. Jason was presented to us after a helicopter ride from 360. Evidently a 71 y/o man had fallen asleep on the road in a suburban. His drug test will be disclosed during the court trial. Jason was unconscious with a Glasco Coma Score of 9, broken neck, multiple contusions and blood in the abdomen. This a multisystem trauma that carries severe mortality and morbidity. He has considerable amount of brain swelling that for sure, his bike helmet helped him, otherwise he would have died immediately in the field. He was subsequently taken directly to the operating room and is currently in the surgical ICU. His prognosis is improving, moving his hand fingers and balancing energy expenditure with sedation. People who know him should visit him as well as his loved ones. It is a critical time to show some support to our cycling community, especially in this holiday season. Cameron was plated on the humerus and is doing well. My sense of awareness on wearing helmets becomes an issue, especially when I continually see cyclists on the Sweetish ride without them. We should spend time and educate those people, as controversial as it may be. For me, it is a nonissue, personal experience and control studies demonstrate that. We all hope the best outcome for Jason, Cameron and the other two cyclist, and hope we can provide some support to their families. Do not send flowers any more, create a trust fund or something like that. [Note: Both cyclists have since been released from the hospital.]
Jay Williams (Friday, 12-17-99, night)
APD Case No. 99-3511578, DA Cause No. 01-0031
Dr. (Raymond) Lee Chilton (Wednesday, 11-17-99, 4:38pm, 9th & Red River)
APD Case No. 99-3210962
Chilton was riding North on Red River when a van traveling south made a left cross into him. Chilton was unconscious when taken to Brackenridge hospital and was in critical condition that night. Ironically, Chilton himself was an emergency room physician (at Heart Hospital). Although police admitted that the driver failed to yield right of way, they have not yet filed any charges, and are giving their standard explanation that the case is "under investigation". (Info from the Statesman, 11-18-99)
The Statesman ran a follow-up story about the collision and the doctor's nearly full recovery in the Sun. 4-2-00 edition, but in their massive 2500-word article, completely failed to mention the status of the case against the driver!
In 3/01, the police told us that the driver was issued a citation for Failure to Yield Right of Way. They also told us that they had determined that the car was traveling at about 13.5mph, the bike was going 13-17mph, the cyclist "could not have avoided the collision by braking to a stop", steering left or right wouldn't have been possible, and that "A review of the available evidence and circumstances surronuding the injury indicates the collision resulted primarily from the negligence of a person other than the victim." They sent the case to the DA's office, the DA sent it back recommending a citation for failure to yield right of way turning left, and the police issued a citation.
James Andrew Morgan, 25
(Sunday, 11-14-99, 5:52pm, 10100 I-35 [northbound I-35 frontage road near Slaughter Lane])
(APD Case No. 99-3181212, Traffic Fatality #46 for the year)
Dennis Buie, 27, of Kyle, a man with an arrest record with prior charges of reckless driving and evading police, swerved his privately-owned school bus to the right side of the road, hitting and killing James Morgan from behind, according to witnesses and to the arrest warrant. Witnesses also said that the bus dragged Morgan about 100 feet. As about half the motorists who kill cyclists in the Austin area do, Buie then fled the scene. Police located the bus the next day, and located and arrested Buie the day after. Buie faces felony charges of failing to stop and render aid, and tampering with evidence (repairing the bus and cleaning the blood off of it). Of course, the burning question is why Buie has not been charged with homicide, since police say they think he swerved to hit Morgan.
Emergency workers found Morgan dead at the scene. Morgan had been riding to visit relatives. Morgan's sister said he took the safest route possible. She added there were no skid marks at the accident scene (indicating that the driver didn't try to avoid hitting Morgan).
Sandra Burleson, a supervisor for the AISD's north fleet of vehicles, said, "I can imagine someone so fearful of what they've done that the first thing they want to do is run..."
Despite the improbability of surviving an impact by a SCHOOL BUS under ANY circumstances, the Austin American-Statesman tried to report on whether the cyclist was wearing a helmet. (The police didn't know, so the Statesman said, "Buchanan said he didn't know if Morgan was wearing a helmet.") When it was later revealed in a subsequent article that the cyclist was dragged 100 feet and that the driver may have intentionally hit him, Dan Connelly, local bicycle pundit, had this to say: " 'Dragged 100 feet....' Gee, he should have been wearing a helmet.... I am surprised they didn't report whether the occupants of the Air Egypt flight had their seat trays in the upright position at the time of the crash."
Despite the fact that the collision happened at night, and that lights can PREVENT night-time collisions (unlike helmets, which have no prevention qualities), the Statesman did NOT ask whether the cyclist had any lights on his bike. (Yes, we know NOW that the driver may have killed the cyclist on purpose, rendering moot the question of whether the cyclist had lights on his bike, but at the time the Statesman reporter was asking about helmets, it may not have been known that hitting the cyclist might have been intentional.)
It's also worth mentioning that in the original article on the incident, the Statesman referred to it as an "accident" no less than five times, before they even knew whether it was really an accident or an intentional assault. (e.g., "The accident occurred on the northbound frontage road...)
Buie was charged with reckless driving and evading police in 1990. At that time, in exchange for his No Contest plea to the misdemeanor charge of evading police (for which he was given probation), the reckless driving charge was dropped.
(Much of above summarized from police department press release, and the Austin American-Statesman, with my commentary added, of course.)
Update: Dennis Buie went to trial on 7-11-00 and was convicted by a jury on 8-30-00. He received 5 years in prison for manslaughter and 17 years for failure to stop and render aid. His trial was in 390th District Court, starting on July 11, 2000. (Case No. 00-1334.)
Janne Osborne (Sunday, 6-6-99, 7:00pm, 45th & Shoal Creek)
APD Case No. CL 99-1571243 * Closed, no charges.
The cyclist came to a complete stop at the 4-way stop, and then proceeded through the intersection. When she was about halfway across the intersection, a car traveling in the opposite direction hit the cyclist with a left cross. The bike was totaled, the cyclist suffered a broken leg, and the motorist (a woman around 80 years old) did not receive a ticket or have any charges filed against her. (Information from the cyclist's son, Dan.)
Mark Bennett Brooks (3-19-99)
APD Case No. 99-0780320 * Closed, no charges.
Brooks wrote: I was on the receiving end of a hit and run, car vs. bike collision, 3-19-99 at 7:30am while biking in to work on east 51st street, headed west, when I was struck from behind. The first witness to stop said the driver of a small white car swerved over to hit me. It looked to him like the guy did it on purpose. I was in the bike lane with a rear flasher on my backpack and my helmet on my head. I don't remember the wreck, but I'll get the police report Monday.
I was taken to the ER of Brackenridge Hospital where they x-rayed me and put 14 stitches in my lower back. I have a shattered scapula (shoulder blade) and other minor cuts and bruises. I'm feeling much better this morning. just a little sore. The hardest thing is getting in & out of bed. I was very lucky.
Mark Bennett Brooks, Architect
- - - - - -
Thanks for your return email and kind words. I am recovering quite well. Most of my general soreness has gone. Every muscle in my body has been stiff for the last two days, but those are returning to normal. My arm is in a sling because of the shattered scapula. The orthopedic surgeon told me there was nothing he could do for it, other than start an aggressive physical therapy program. Luckily, none of my joints were affected. I'll get the stitches out next weekend.
Wesley Ray Belcher (3-16-99).
Wesley Ray Belcher, age 15, was killed by a car while biking west on in the right lane of U.S. 79 east of Taylor. The driver, Joe Anthony Hernandez, 31, said that he didn't see Belcher because of the glaring sunlight. (The collision happened at 6 p.m., about 40 minutes before sunset.) Hernandez was arrested for allegedly driving with a suspended license (not for negligently killing another road user). He also had an arrest warrant on a bond forfeiture that stemmed from an earlier arrest for driving without liability insurance, according to DPS. As is standard in fatal traffic collisions, DPS will forward the case to the Williamson County district attorney's office for review once the investigation is complete, according to DPS. A longer article about this topic appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, 3-18-99, p. B5.
I called the Williamson County DA's office, which told me that Hernandez plead guilty on 2-3-00 to charges of 2nd degree manslaughter in the 26th District Court, and received 10 years probation, 180 days in jail, a fine of $2500, and was ordered to perform 400 hours of community service. While we're glad that the motorist didn't get off scot-free, we'd like to see judicial remedies that aren't so punitive, such as simple suspension of the motorist's driver's license. Also, we're waiting to see if a white motorist in a non- hit & run ever receives the severe penalties that Hernandez did.
Ben Clough, 25 (Friday, 10-2-98, 8:47pm)
Ben has his own page.
David Moreno (night, July 4th weekend, 1998)
APD Case No. 98-1850238 * Arrest.
A drunk driver (David Rogriguez, 34, of 1311 E. 52nd St., according to the Austin American-Statesman) hit and killed cyclist David Moreno at E. 7th & Chalmers with truck, and then tried to flee. The driver was arrested and charged with intoxication manslaughter and failure to stop and render aid. He was in jail that Sunday under $22,500 bail.
What could account for THIS motorist getting charged when others, like Tom Churchill's killer, were not? Are law enforcement officials suddenly tuned in to the idea that cyclists have an equal right to the road? Probably not. In this case, the accident happened on the East side, the driver was Hispanic, and perhaps most importanty, the driver hit a police car a few minutes later in the 1200 block of E. 7th minutes after he killed the cyclist. (The police officer reportedly received minor injuries.)
Lance Armstrong (3-98).
Motorists frequently face no consequences for injuring or killing cyclists in Austin. What does it take for a cyclist to get action taken against a hostile motorist? Well, if recent news is any indication, it takes being local sports cycling celebrity Lance Armstrong.
In a front page story [Dec. 15, 1998], the Austin American-Statesman reported that Michael Carter ran Armstrong and two cycling buddies off Volente Road near Lake Travis. After buzzing the cyclists with his car, the cyclists yelled at him. Carter then made a U-turn and aimed his car straight at them, throwing Armstrong head-first over his handlebars to avoid being hit.
That same day, Carter was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for the attack. At the request of Carter's lawyer, the judge lowered his bail from $300,000 to $30,000, angering both cyclists and women's rights advocates. (Carter posted bail and was released from jail.)
Why were women's advocates upset? Well you see, when Carter attacked the cyclists, he was out on bail awaiting a trial for tying up, beating, and raping his wife. In September, he was convicted and sentenced to 10 years for that crime, but he is out while awaiting an appeal. Having a hard time following this story? Let's back up and start from the beginning.
In 1996, Carter was charged with punching his 6-year-old daughter in the face. In 1997, he was charged with assaulting his wife. He got out on bail while awaiting that trial. While he was out on bail, he attacked the cyclists in March 1998. In September, he was convicted of assaulting his wife and sentenced to 10 years in jail. The judge approved an $80,000 appeals bond for that case, and a $30,000 bond for attacking the cyclists. Carter posted both bonds, and returned to roaming the roads with impunity, while awaiting his appeal for assaulting his wife, and his trial for attacking the cyclists.
The judge's decision to let the convicted rapist go was certainly controversial. Check out how the judge downplays the seriousness of Carter's attack on the cyclists. Regarding the attack, District Judge Jon Wisser said, "No one was actually injured in the incident. In the scheme of things around here, it was not as serious an offense." Hmm. Well, if Judge Wisser really feels that way, we'd like to see him get his ass on a bike and ride around Austin and see how he feels when some lunatic runs him off the road with a deadly weapon.
Consequence to the motorist: Surprisingly, Carter was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the attack, marking the first time we know of that a motorist in Austin has faced punishment for harming or threatening a cyclist. Let's see if this ever happens again when the cyclist doesn't happen to be a celebrated local hero.
Jennifer Schaeffer (morning, 1-98)
Jennifer was struck by a motorist on North Loop while she was biking to work. She was thrown off her bicycle and rendered unconscious. She was taken to the hospital, and was lucky to make a full recovery. (From her letter to the Austin Chronicle.) Consequence to the motorist: None. The motorist left Jennifer for dead (as far as s/he knew), and didn't even bother to stop.
Jim Erwin (Fall 1997)
"I'm on the Team Roadkill listserv and enjoyed reading
your No Justice for Cyclists web page. I do know of one,
recent injured cyclist whose assault vehicle's driver WAS
cited by the
police. One of our Roadkill group, Jim Erwin, sustained broken
(shattered) hip last Fall. When riding through his
daylight, a female driver made a left turn and ran into him in
middle of an intersection! He reported hearing the woman
police officer who was writing the citation why she was being
rather than the cyclist! That memory stuck with Jim inspite of
excruciating pain he experienced at the time. Jim is back on
again, though, against all projections made by the medical
treating him. I don't know whether the driver of the car was
injury to a person or the less onerous failure to yield,
Mary Lou Lumpe (mllumpe(at)mail.utexas.edu) 6-98
Andrew Turner & Heather Sealey (evening, 6-14-97) diagram of collision (#6)
Andrew & Heather, who were engaged to be married, were struck by a drunk driver (Melissa Graham, 28) in Bastrop. Andrew was killed, while Heather suffered massive injuries, including a crushed vertebra, crushed pelvis, broken leg, fractured skull, and brain damage. Graham's blood alcohol level was "well above the .10 level" according to the Bastrop police. Though the police did not determine how fast Graham was driving, they did determine that she never hit her brakes before striking the cyclists. The cyclists were riding single-file on the extreme edge of the roadway, but the accident apparently happened after dusk, and the cyclists didn't have lights on their bikes (although they did have rear reflectors). By the way, we'd like to once again publicly challenge all bicycle shop owners to equip every bike they sell with a white headlight, a flashing red rear light, and a mirror. It's high time that bike shops took more responsibility for the safety of their customers.
Consequence to the motorist: None, yet. Both the motorist's trials (2-98 and 11-98) ended in a hung juries. The defense attorney was apparently able to convince some jurors that it was the cyclists' fault for getting hit, even though he openly admitted that his client was well over the legal limit for alcohol intoxication.
A witness at the first trial (June Elliott of Dynamic Cycles in Bastrop) said, "It amazed and disappointed me to see the way the rights of the accused compared to the rights of the victims. Melissa Graham [the motorist] sat with her head lowered, crying and whimpering. She was allowed to show her emotions, but at the same time, Andrew's mother and father were not. Mrs. Turner let one tear fall and was asked not to re-enter the courtroom." (Cycling News, 3/98)
Pete Haney (6-97)
Pete (phaney(at)mail.utexas.edu) began his email to me by saying, "I'm typing this one-handed because of an accident I had the other night..." Pete was buzzed (passed too closely), caught between the car that was buzzing him and a car parked in a bike lane. (It's legal for cars to park in most bike lanes in Austin. Thanks, City of Austin, for letting cars use our lanes! And thanks, motorists, for being so inconsiderate that you need a law to tell you not to!). Pete lost control of his bike, crashed, and suffered bad multiple fractures to his arm. "I fractured my left clavicle and left elbow. I will have to have surgery to put the end of the left ulna back on with a pin." After that, Pete had to wear a cast for several months, which he couldn't get wet. Consequence to the motorist: None. The motorist didn't even bother to stop.
William Sigtryggsson (11-24-96)
Drunk driver José Ruiz hit and killed cyclist William Sigtryggsson on FM 1625 in November 1996. Ruiz fled the scene, although his then-girlfriend, Joba Mendez, wanted him to go back. Mendez turned Ruiz into the police, for which Ruiz allegedly beat her up. Ruiz pled guilty and was sentenced by a jury to in 1/99 to 12 years in prison (eligible for parole in six). Although the cycling community was amazed that a driver would finally go to jail for killing a cyclist, the fact that Ruiz admitted his guilt and pled guilty meant that at that time, still no motorist in the Austin area had been convicted of injuring or killing a cyclist. Also note that the driver was Mexican, drunk, and fled the scene. We doubt that the driver would have had to face any consequences if he were white, sober, and didn't flee, but just negligently or recklessly killed the cyclist. Further note that the cyclist was white and had a mental disability. Would the motorist be convicted if the victim was a minority and didn't have a mental disability?
Patrick Goetz also adds this thought: "Let's put this in perspective. The current minimum mandatory sentence for possession of 15 grams or so of cocaine is 6 years, with no chance for parole (in theory). So possession of small quantities of a topical anesthetic derived from a South American plant is as serious a crime as killing a bicyclist [and fleeing]. Holland, anyone?"
Sigtryggsson was struck from behind at night and didn't have a rear light on his bike. Light up, people.
Here's the article from the Austin American-Statesman about the sentence.
Devorah Feldman (day, 10-96) ... diagram of collision (#9)
Devorah was struck by a careless driver in broad daylight as he turned right into a crosswalk which she was biking across. Her left arm was broken and her legs badly damaged, and it was unclear whether she would be able to bike or run again at all. (She had been a competitive runner.) She underwent extensive surgery (including the insertion of two long screws and synthetic bone into her right knee) and lengthy rehabilitation. After being sofa-bound for two months, she began the long process of learning how to walk again. Over a year after the accident, she was finally able to run again. Consequence to the motorist: None. The motorist didn't even get a traffic ticket.
Tom Churchill (night, 9-6-96) ... diagram of collision (#6)
Tom was biking home from his job at Magnolia Café on a Friday night when he was struck from behind and killed by Michael Memon, owner of the Pecan Food Mart on S. 1st. Tom had a rear light on his bike and was wearing his helmet, but he died at the scene anyway. This particular stretch of S. Lamar is very flat, so Tom must have been doing 15-20mph, which means that Memon's sport utility truck should have been approaching him very slowly (the 35-40mph speed limit MINUS Tom's speed of 15-20mph). Memon was obviously going much faster to not see Tom until it was too late, and to flip his truck over trying to avoid him. A witness I interviewed told me that he and other observers were angry that Memon showed no remorse, seeming to act like the whole thing was an inconvenience, and showing no concern at all for the young man who was lying in the street bleeding to death because of his reckless driving. Memon had a blood alcohol level of .08, although this test wasn't taken until 30 minutes AFTER the crime. For the next six months, police refused to give me any information about the case, saying only that the case was "under investigation". After I was interviewed by K-EYE 42 about the lack of action by the police (a report which noted that after an Austin cop was killed by a drunk driver, she was charged immediately with no six-month "investigation"), the police finally turned the case over to the District Attorney's office. At that point, the DA's office ignored the letter I sent asking for more information, and wouldn't return any of my calls. The DA's office finally brought the case to a grand jury (which decides whether to press charges), but the grand jury decided not to charge Memon (4-96). Grand juries, just like regular juries, don't give explanations for their decisions, so we don't know on what basis they let Memon off the hook. But we can guess: The commonly-held perception among motorists is that when one of us gets hit & killed, it's our own fault. They may have also thought that Memon wasn't guilty because he wasn't LEGALLY drunk, but the fact is that it's still illegal to run over and kill somebody, whether you're drunk or not. One of Tom's best friends, John Yarbrough, has established a memorial page for Tom. Consequence to the motorist: None. The motorist didn't even get a traffic ticket.
Thomas Linsley (1996) (June?)
Bicyclist Thomas Linsley was hit & run'd by a red car at the intersection of Speedway & 26th Street at the UT campus. He wasn't killed, but he might as well have been. After being in a coma for months, he became conscious but could not communicate or take care of himself in any way. No one knows what he understands. He's been in a rehab center in this sorry state for years now. A court has declared him to be incapacitated, and an attorney (Walker Arenson) acts as a guardian to make decisions for him. Arenson told me that, eerily, Tom tries to move his legs as though he is riding his bicycle.
Update: Thomas died on on January 21, 2012, almost 16 years after the crash. Here's his obituary.
Consequence to the motorist: None. The motorist didn't even bother to stop.
Here's an email we got from a reader in 11-00:
I was searching the web looking for a Thomas Linsley who was involved in a car-bike collision and came across your site. Am visiting my Dad at the Brown rehab hospital on Ditmar off Manchaca in S. Austin, and Linsley is in next room. They say has been there five years after a bicycle collision. He keeps moaning all day and is only a quarter present. Sits in wheel chair all day or in bed unable to comunicate and groans. My own response is that he is suffering a fate worse than death (and is not expected to recover, ever.) They say he knew many languages and was a professor.
Here's a letter from Tom's friend, Kevin Wheeler, which appeared in the Austin Chronicle on 7-5-96:
Tom Linsley, a friend of mine, lies in a deep coma in Brackenridge Hospital. He has been in this condition and in this place for six days, since he was run down on his bicycle by someone driving a red Geo Tracker. The driver, after throwing Tom from his bicycle into a coma, left the scene without bothering to render aid of any sort. As of this writing, although I'm given to understand that the police have a license number, the driver remains at large. [Ed. Note: The police tell us that the license plate number given to them does not match the description of the vehicle which hit Linsley.] The last time I saw Tom, we were having one of our typically animated politico/cultural discussions. The discussion this night centered on the recently enacted bicycle helmet law. Tom and I are both cyclists. Tom always wore a helmet and I have never worn one, but we agreed that the aforementioned law was misdirected in that bicyclists were not out there killing themselves. Indeed, a bicyclist moving at maximum velocity will rarely receive more than severe scrapes as the result of a bicycle-only accident. On the contrary, cars and drivers are killing bicyclists.