In one incident, a 29-year-old girl was hit by a flatbed truck at an intersection and killed instantly. I looked her up, and she seemed like a super cool chick -- a nutritionist, full of life,active, very pretty, and obviously very well-liked. Terrible.
The other incident was just as horrific, if not worse: A 57-year-old woman was hit from behind by a truck, and the truck fled the scene. She later died at the hospital. This occurred on a well-known hill in our area, Newport Coast Drive, a hill I climb multiple times a week -- I had been on it just last Wednesday for hill repeats, and several times before that in the past week and a half. It's my go-to hill, as it is for many local cyclists.
Yesterday all of this was still heavily on my mind as I rode again, this time about 60 miles around Orange County. Then when I got home, it got even more personal....
My sister called and told me the 57-year-old woman who was killed on the hill was OUR family doctor of nearly 30 years, Dr. Catherine Campion (or Ritz, her married name). She had been such a huge part of all of our lives in one way or another -- from delivering my sister, to being someone who's helped my mom, dad, grandma, uncle, and myself with our health issues from the minor to serious throughout our lives. I couldn't believe such an amazing, stand-up citizen who was the epitome of health and wellness had her life taken from her. I also know that she was a very accomplished cyclist (she's done 12 double centuries among other accomplishments), and a huge advocate of SAFE cycling. Her husband is also a cyclist, and this was a sport that they shared together. He was riding with her at the time of the accident... I can't even imagine....
Yesterday, I visited both of the accident sites where the women were killed. I went with my mom and sister to our doctor's site, and it was tough. Later on, my dad visited as well while driving on business. In fact, this is a photo of my dad at the site that The Daily Pilot took and has on its website today:
|The Daily Pilot, Newport Beach newspaper|
The site of my doctor's death really got me wondering. The accident did not occur at an intersection -- as it did with the 29y/o girl -- it was a long stretch of straight road after you crest the hill. It has a clearly marked bike lane, and I know it's usually a low-traffic area. (Click here for a picture.) It honestly makes me feel like the driver of the truck probably wasn't paying attention (texting, on the phone, or who knows) and swerved into the bike lane, hitting Dr. Campion. Again, knowing her, I highly doubt that she was at fault by being outside the bike lane or something. Plus, since the murderer fled the scene, that's even more reason to believe he made a big mistake by driving while being distracted and causing harm.
The good news, if any, is that the hit-and-run driver was caught last night. I hope he's in jail forever.
The other comforting thing I noticed is that both sites have white-painted bikes (as you can see above) that have been locked to the sites with a sign that reads the victim's name, date of death and the words "A Cyclist Was Killed Here." This is comforting to me because it shows that someone or some group is trying to increase awareness of these tragedies -- tragedies that often slip under the radar if you're outside the cycling/triathlon community.
In researching these deaths, I also read that another woman was hit and seriously injured in the area last Thursday! Thankfully she is still alive. But in her case, a passenger van (one of those big ones) hit her and kept going!!!
To be honest, this time, after these deaths, I'm ready to start being more active however I can in helping to make cycling safer, prevent accidents and to just increase awareness of this problem of vehicles vs. cyclists. Nine cyclists have been killed in Orange County this year, and that doesn't even include all those who were hit, injured and survived -- and that's just in one county in the US!
It just doesn't feel right that we as athletes need to fear for our lives every time we hit the road for a ride. Most of us who ride are trying to make this world a better place by being keeping our bodies healthy, helping the environment, and by setting good examples for others. We should feel safe in doing so!
Please be safe out there.