Cyclist Dies, No One Goes to Jail. Again.
The local newspaper reported yesterday, February 15, 2018, that “Bicyclist found lying injured in Southeast Austin yard was likely hit by car, police say.” The piece quoted heavily from a statement by the Austin Police Department:
“A bicyclist who died last month was likely struck by a hit-and-run driver.”
The article in the Austin American-Statesman is by breaking news reporter Katie Hall. It goes on to say:
“Leonel Hernandez, 58, was found around 10:40 a.m. Jan. 29, lying in a yard in the 4800 block of Teri Road in Southeast Austin. He had “significant trauma to his head.”
“Witnesses reported seeing him dragging a damaged bicycle just before he collapsed.”
And it concludes sadly:
“Based on the preliminary investigation, detectives believe Hernandez was likely struck by a vehicle.”
“He died two days later at a local hospital.”
(The Austin American-Statesman article is copyrighted 2018 Cox Media Service, all rights reserved.)
A Dude Abikes’ Analyzes This Vehicular Manslaughter
Several things are worth noting in this case, particularly the demographics.
- This street has no bike lanes, at least from the latest Google Maps image. It does have a wide shoulder that cars park in, and a sidewalk. But poor infrastructure is a leading cause of bicycle versus car accidents. Will the city put in a Leonel Hernandez Memorial bike lane because of this accident? No, but they should. But it will probably take other accidents to do that. (It’s possible this street is already due for bike lanes, however.) A white ghost bike may appear as a tribute and memorial, but that does very little to change drivers’ behavior.
- The bicyclist died from head trauma, indicating he was probably not wearing a bicycle helmet. People don’t wear helmets usually due to lack of income and education about the importance of protecting one’s head. Sometimes it is a lifestyle choice. He may not have survived the wreck with a helmet, but he may well have. I belive the City of Austin Public Health and Active Transportation Departments, Travis County, Central Health, Texas Health and Human Services Commission and Department of Transportation, hospitals, bike helmet manufacturers, bike shops, insurance companies and many more should partner together to provide free helmets and bike lights to every low-income adult in the area who wants one.
- The rider was an older Latino male — not the stereotypical white guy in Spandex on a group ride. But he was seen by witnesses as “dragging his bike just before he collapsed.” So he did not call for help either because he either did not have a cell phone or was likely in shock and did not realize the extent of his injuries. In any case, there were witnesses, but nobody stopped to help him. This is disgraceful. (Although someone “found” him and called 911, so he was eventually taken to the hospital, but too late to save his life.)
- It was mid-morning on a Monday. Traffic may have been busy, but it was after rush hour. So either the bicyclist made a mistake and veered into traffic, or more likely, the vehicle driver was distracted by texting or something else and veered into the cyclist. I deduce that by the fact that it was a hit and run, it was not the cyclist’s fault. Why hasn’t the Austin Police Department made any arrests in this case? Are they even investigating it? What if anything is Vision Zero ATX doing anything about this murder, or any other vehicular assaults, besides just having meetings and releasing statistics?
- It took him two days to die. I can’t imagine the pain he must have felt, if he was even conscious. Nothing was mentioned of family or friends being notified. Is there any follow-up, memorial, or fund set up? Do you have to be a young, white, well-known racer like Tommy Ketterhagen to have attention be paid?
What Will It Take to Have Zero Deaths?
Obviously, A Dude is pissed anytime a car driver kills a bicyclist. I take it very personally. It could be me the next time, or any one of the thousands of cyclists in this town. We can do better, people. I don’t know how. But we must do better. Writing this blog post is but a drop in the ocean. A tear drop.
Meanwhile, 50 bike cops got better helmets with face masks donated to protect them “from protesters,” according to a story on TV station KVUE.
Esto es para Leonel Hernandez. ꜟPresente!
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