Cyclist killed in Fountaingrove collision
Published: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 7:23 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 2:34 p.m.
A Modesto-area cyclist was killed in a collision with a pickup shortly after 7 a.m. Tuesday on Fountain Grove Parkway in Santa Rosa, the fifth death of a bicycle rider in the past 10 weeks on Sonoma County roads.
The crash occurred on a steep stretch of the parkway at Thomas Lake Harris Drive, where a dark blue pickup heading uphill turned left into the path of the westbound cyclist, Police Sgt. Rich Celli said.
Cyclist Ruben Hernandez, 37, was visiting Sonoma County from the Modesto area, Celli said.
The driver of the truck was identified as Adam Bigham, 22, of Sebastopol.
Hernandez was wearing the shorts and jersey of typical recreational cyclist and was riding a high-end road bike. He
Officers said he was in the right-hand lane and traveling with traffic at a speed that may have been as fast as 40 mph, the speed limit on the lower part of
Bingham was heading east in a Chevrolet pickup on the parkway approaching Thomas Lake Harris Drive.
“The truck appears to have made a left-hand turn into the path of the cyclist and other traffic,” Celli said. “We are still getting statements from witnesses. There were no skid marks indicating others had to take evasive action.”
Celli said the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office is involved in the investigation and will be responsible for determining whether charges will be filed against Bigham.
Police closed westbound lanes of the parkway from Alturia Drive to Thomas Lake Harris Drive after the crash.
Tom Helm of Santa Rosa, who teaches a riding skills class for the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, said the stretch of Fountain Grove is difficult to ride or drive slowly, and bicycles can't stop as quickly as cars.
There are no bike lanes on that section of Fountain Grove Parkway, which has two traffic lanes in each direction.
“The other side of Fountain Grove (toward Rincon Valley) has a bike lane and it feels safer,” Helm said.
Helm said 90 percent of collisions between bicycles and cars are at intersections, where the traffic is turning or crossing.
Phil Heydorn of Santa Rosa, who works at Echelon Cycle & Multisport in Santa Rosa, said Fountaingrove is a popular training ground and he rode his bike to the scene to see if it was anyone he knew.
“I went up there because I know so many guys or gals who ride it for training,” Heydorn said. “It could have been anybody I knew. The owners of my shop ride that loop, people I work with ride that route, people whose bikes I work on ride the route.”
Heydorn, who has been riding for 30 years, said he is not blaming motorists, but he has been shaken by the high number of deaths and injuries of cyclists lately.
“It is an emotional thing. Somebody is not there anymore. It is a real shame,” he said, referring to Tuesday's crash. “I don't understand what is going on with all these automobile and bike incidents. It is scary, and it has me spooked.”
“I don't think it is any worse; it goes in cycles,” said Craig Hutchinson of Windsor, who rode by the crash scene on his daily commute by bicycle to Agilent on Fountain Grove Parkway. “This definitely seems to be a bad year.”
Hutchinson said it would not stop him from commuting to work, which he has done since 1996, but he is wary of traffic and was wearing a bright yellow jersey Tuesday.
“If people hit me, they will definitely see me,” Hutchinson said.
Before Tuesday, there had been four fatal crashes this year: August Bissiri, 85, of Laguna Woods Village, was hit by a car and killed May 24 on Highway 1 near Bodega Bay; David Standley, 34, died May 31 when he apparently rode a bike into oncoming traffic on River Road; retired Sonoma State University professor Steve Norwick, 68, was fatally injured when struck from behind June 8 on Petaluma Hill Road; and Brian Laurie, 68, of Sonoma, died when he rode into the path of a big rig in Sonoma.
Celli said the deaths have not followed a particular trend with similar causes and appear to be half the fault of motorists and half the fault of cyclists.
“Everybody is aware of it, all recreational cyclists are aware of all the accidents and how much traffic there is,” Celli said. “This has turned into a bicycling community, there are bicycles everywhere.”
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