A bicycle, painted white and covered in flowers, marked the site in Newport Beach where 43-year-old Michael William Nine was fatally hit. On the fateful July 15th morning, Nine, an avid cyclist, was riding north on Spyglass Hill Road toward Harbor Ridge Drive; at the same time, Jose Luis Huerta Mundo was illegally turning left. Mundo’s white, Chevrolet stake-bed truck collided with Nine, knocking him off of his bicycle. Nine was taken to Hoag Hospital, where he died from his injuries-the third bicyclist fatality to occur in this area in the last two years, explains an Orange County bicycle accident lawyer.
Newport Beach police visited the ghost bike memorial on July 22 to conduct an accident briefing. They may have found the similarity between Nine’s fatal accident and one that occurred nearby last year eerie. On July 23, 2009, 43-year-old Darryl Benefiel was riding on Ridge Park Road when a car turning onto Tesoro fatally struck him. Then in December, a 49-year-old cyclist from Irvine died after a hit-and-run at Jamboree and Ford. The Newport Beach Task Force on Cycling Safety was created in response to the accidents. Last May, the group submitted a report to the Newport Beach City Council that made suggestions for how to make streets safer for bicyclists in the area.
At least two of the aforementioned cyclist fatalities resulted from one of the most common acts of driver negligence: dangerous turning. A driver usually makes a turn that could potentially harm a bicyclist for one of two reasons: impatience or recklessness. Hurried drivers often find waiting for a bicyclist or a pedestrian to cross the street too time consuming: if turning right, the driver may go before the cyclist has a chance to enter the crosswalk, in effect, cutting the cyclist off; if turning left, the driver may underestimate how soon the cyclist will enter the lane. In either case, the cyclist may be forced to brake quickly, causing him or her to fall off the bike, or the bicyclist may collide with the car. Reckless drivers neglect to look for pedestrians or bicyclists when turning or fail to heed signs prohibiting a turn, or both-which was the case with the truck driver who struck Nine. When entering an intersection, pedestrians and bicyclists should make eye contact with surrounding drivers to make sure that they plan on stopping.
Cyclists should also be vigilant when riding in the bike lane. Drivers often fail to observe the boundaries of bike lanes, often entering them when preparing for a right-hand turn. In many cases a driver must enter the bike lane in order to exit a parking space and fails to check for bicyclists approaching from behind. The Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, was recently knocked off of his bicycle in exactly this way.
As Southern California streets increasingly become more dangerous for bicyclists and pedestrians, it is important to ride or walk with caution. Be vigilant and make eye contact with drivers before entering intersections. Ride and walk defensively.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the cycling accident victims mentioned in this article. We hope that Newport Beach does not see another bicycle tragedy this year-or in the years to come.
After helping the victims of bicycle accidents for over 35 years, we at Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie have seen the devastating impact losing a loved one to an accident can have on a family. We would like to wish your family a safe summer. Should you ever need our help or free legal advice from an Orange County bicycle accident lawyer, feel free to call us at 866-981-5596.