Archive for category driving

Anger and frustration for family of slain cyclist

At just after 7.00pm on a hot, clear September evening last year, 27-year-old Patrick O’Conner was riding his bike west on Fulkerth Road in Turlock when he was struck from behind by a 1999 Toyota traveling at 55mph. The force of the impact threw Patrick off his bike, causing him to suffer severe and ultimately fatal injuries. The driver of the Toyota, Vanessa Carrillo, reportedly paused momentarily before speeding away from the scene, leaving Patrick to die in the road.

The 21-year-old Carrillo continued driving until she reached her home in Patterson, a few minutes west of Turlock. Upon arriving, she waited for an hour before telephoning 911 to report that she thought she may have hit a dog in the road.

After further questioning, Carrillo divulged that, in fact, she realized she had hit a person when she saw the body lying in the road behind her.

But it wasn’t until December 22nd, more than three months after Patrick’s death, that an arrest warrant was finally issued in the case. Carrillo was charged with Felony Hit and Run, and Vehicular Manslaughter without Gross Negligence, which is a misdemeanor.

But in the weeks immediately following the accident, in the midst of his grief at the sudden violent loss of his son, Patrick’s father, Jim O’Conner recognized that something wasn’t right. Why hadn’t the driver who killed Patrick been arrested or charged? On October 6th, a month after the accident, O’Conner wrote to the Department of Justice questioning why, despite her own admission of responsibility, Vanessa Carrillo was still free.

He was particularly dismayed by what he felt was a “cavalier attitude and lack of action” shown by assistant District Attorney, John R. Mayne, whom Jim O’Conner had expected would pursue more serious charges against Carrillo. Angry and frustrated, O’Conner researched the criminal history of Vanessa Carrillo, and discovered four recent convictions for moving traffic violations in Stanislaus County. Notably, Carrillo had been convicted twice of driving at unsafe speeds, a pattern of behavior which witnesses claim may also have been a major factor in the death of Patrick O’Conner. Carrillo’s last conviction for speeding occurred less than a year before she hit Patrick with her car.

Jim O’Conner claims that, in a phone conversation he had with Mayne, the assistant DA stated “that he was aware of Vanessa Carrillo’s driving history, and of this Vehicular Manslaughter case”. O’Conner went on to express his frustration that Carrillo had not been detained or charged, adding that he hoped the case would receive immediate review.

Shortly after Carrillo was finally arrested in December, Jim O’Conner met with the Stanislaus County District Attorney, Birgit Fladager. In the meeting, he expressed his consternation at the formal charges, which he and his family felt did not accurately reflect the severity of the crime.

O’Conner suggested that he thought Carrillo should face charges of Second Degree Murder with Implied Malice, a more serious charge which involves an “unintentional killing caused by extremely reckless behavior”. Specifically, the Implied Malice contingent assumes that “the defendant knew about the danger of the acts (in this case reckless driving), yet consciously and deliberately disregarded the danger to human life”. According to Jim O’Conner, Mayne refused to consider the more serious charge of Implied Malice in the death of Patrick.

The program given out at Patrick O’Conner’s memorial in September shows several pictures of a handsome, athletic young man with a disarming smile. The services, one in Northridge where he was born, and one in Sacramento, where he lived and worked as a tax consultant, were attended by friends of Patrick from all over the country. The assembled mourners reflected upon a promising life cut short, and a warm personality who would be terribly missed.

As Jim O’Conner revealed in an email to Talking Treads:

“Pat had a lot of great friends in Sacramento. He loved that city and had many friends there. He was training for the Iron Man competition.”

Vanessa Carrillo is due to be arraigned on 3rd March in Stanislaus County.


The Cost of Owning A Car

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Superbowl Sunday car/bike hijinks

Intoxicated you say?

SACRAMENTO, CA – A high speed chase along Interstate 5 ended when the driver crashed just north of Sacramento Sunday night.

The chase started with the man driving the wrong way down “L” St. in downtown, police said. Police said an officer on a bicycle tried to pull him over, but the driver took off and turned on to I-5.

Police chased the man north through the city of Sacramento before he exited the interstate at Garden Highway before losing control and going over an embankment, leaving his car totalled and the driver himself hospitalized.

Police on the scene tell News10 they believe the driver was intoxicated.

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Family of Jim Rogers marks sad anniversary

On January 31st, 2010, former professional road cyclist and Grass Valley area resident Jim Rogers was struck and killed by an SUV on Highway 174 whilst out for a recreational morning ride. The driver, Patricia Hernandez, was charged with vehicular manslaughter, and her trial begins in early May.

Rogers was riding on one his most beloved routes, the scenic and winding road that connects Grass Valley and Colfax when the Ford Explorer approached from behind and hit him, knocking him off his bike. He suffered severe head injuries, despite wearing a helmet, and died in hospital shortly afterwards. He left behind a wife and two children.

Rogers raced professionally in the 1980s, dominating the popular Nevada City Classic as a member of the PenVelo team. He became quite famous locally, and was considered one of the finest, most aggressive and talented riders ever to come out of California.

Rogers’ widow, Carolyn, has continued advocating for greater car/bike relations in the year since her husband’s death, calling for a focus on the dangers of distracted driving. Authorities prosecuting Hernandez suspect she may have been using a cellphone while driving, which accounted for her failure to avoid colliding with Rogers.

A memorial fund has been established in honor of Jim Rogers, with proceeds to go to college tuition for his son, Nate. You can view the memorial and donate here.

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Really? Twice?

About seventeen minutes into my ride yesterday afternoon, two-hundred yards after I dropped my chain while shifting down into my small chainring (I need to get that derailleur tuned), ninety seconds into the final climb on Iron Point Road, I was passed at speed by a knobjacket in a clown-red Dodge pick-up truck. Now, IPR has a very generous bike lane, but it also has three massive lanes for traffic on a relatively un-busy stretch. But, given his torque and horsepower, and his geographical options, Old Crotchflaps decided to hum past me, hugging the white line while gunning his engine.

It was moist on the road from the ample rainfall, so I caught a little of his spray, which doesn’t bother me, since I don’t have mudguards anyway, but it does illustrate just how fucking close he was. “Arse doctor”, I thought to myself as I re-focused my attention on beating Michael’s very impressive best time for the ascent (sorry Mike), and by the time I crested the rise I had pretty much forgotten all about Mr Spleensucker.

But apparently he wasn’t finished with me. About seven and a half minutes later, as I rolled down Sophia Parkway, passed by eight or nine perfectly charming drivers who afforded me several acres of clear space as they slowed down to overtake, who should come up on my left flank but King Wankshaft in his lipstick-red scrotum-wagon, screaming past me at a steady clip, just inches from my shoulder.

Was he lost? Running errands? Or just a massive tool who gets his jollies from side-swiping innocent, law-abiding cyclists. I wish I had shouted something, or tried to memorize his license plate, but honestly, I was just keen to get the hell off the main road in case the smegmuncher came back.

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James Martin, you are not alone

Sacramento Bee columnist Stuart Leavenworth’s timely editorial on July 20th highlighted a phenomenon which regular road cyclists are unfortunately very familiar with: the “joke” of swerving a motor vehicle into a bike’s path to intentionally frighten the rider.

Leavenworth’s excellent piece focused on Sacramento-based radio talk-show host Mark Williams, who was recently expelled from the National Tea Party Federation for characteristic racist comments. Leavenworth points out that Williams has a history of hate-speech, but that his ire is not solely directed at African Americans, socialists and Muslims. In 2005, Williams went on the air to actively encourage motorists to swerve at cyclists. His comment stirred up furious responses from regional and national bicycling groups, and Williams issued a hasty apology, but much of the damage had been done.

Williams’ dangerous and offensive comment echoes similar remarks by British celebrity chef, James Martin, who has also advocated for reckless endangerment of cyclists. In an article published in the conservative tabloid The Daily Mail, Martin expressed his loathing of cyclists before gleefully recounting one recent effort to cause actual bodily harm to a group of English riders. Martin side-swiped the riders on a narrow country lane, using the powerful but silent electric Tesla sports car to execute his thoughtless and illegal stunt.

“The look of sheer terror as they tottered into the hedge was the best thing I’ve ever seen in my rear-view mirror.” He bragged, remorselessly. Like Williams, Martin issued a weak apology afterward, in an apparent effort to stave-off the flurry of criticism and a popular Twitter campaign to lambast the irresponsible TV chef.

As cyclists know all-too-well, riding on roads without adequate dedicated cycle lanes can be very frightening. Many of the roads in the Sacramento area that offer the best cycling terrain are unfortunately among the most dangerous for riders. Rural, isolated arteries offer great opportunities for challenging climbs and beautiful scenery, but on these roads the risk of encountering a cyclist-hating driver appears to be much higher. Rarely can cyclists enjoy a ride on some of the spectacular roads in Placer and El Dorado counties without being intimidated by dangerous drivers. Familiar techniques of intimidation include sudden acceleration past riders, leaning on the horn, yelling profanities, swerving into the cyclist’s path, throwing objects or actually forcing riders off the road.

Cyclists who have experienced intimidation at the hands of a driver may be unaware that they are the victims of assault. The law defines assault as “the threat of bodily harm coupled with an apparent, present ability to cause the harm”, which certainly includes the implicit or explicit intent by a driver to threaten a cyclist with his or her vehicle. Indeed, perhaps if more drivers were aware that what seems like an hilarious joke actually constitutes reckless endangerment and assault, they might be less inclined to target cyclists.

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