Archive for the 'Iowa Legislature' Category

Deadly driver charged with “improper turn, no insurance”

From thegazette.com

Update 11/5/2010: The driver charged with traffic violations that resulted in the death of Susan DeSotel turned himself in to police last night.

Update 11/4/2010: It says here that the arrest warrant for Robert Fleming was issued today.

Based on comments from a number of Eastern Iowa cyclists in various forums, they are unimpressed with the performance of law enforcement authorities in this case. That is what you might call an understatement.

If the driver is still around somewhere nearby, “we’ll run into him again sooner or later.”

That’s the best you can do when someone is killed? Seriously?

Shame on you.

Update 10/25/2010: CRPD Lt. Cory McGarvey says the traffic charges against Robert H. Fleming are simple misdemeanors.

He added: “We cannot find the driver. We feel he left town.”

CRPD asked the county attorney to issue a warrant for Fleming’s arrest.

Posted earlier today:

The driver who turned in front of cyclist Susan DeSotel, resulting in the collision that took her life, has been charged with “improper turn and no insurance.”

That information came in an email from Cedar Rapids Police Chief Greg Graham to Monica Vernon, a council member who followed up on my request for information. No other details about the charges – when they were filed or what the penalties are, for example – were provided at the time. Look for more details this week.

Improper turn and no insurance.

It says a lot about the limitations of state law in Iowa and, of course, about the driver, Robert H. Fleming.


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Want to be bike-friendly? Take cyclist deaths seriously

Cedar Rapids, Iowa – This town has made some progress in recent years toward becoming a more “friendly” place to move around by bicycle rather than car or truck.

There are a few bike lanes. There is a city Bicycle Advisory Committee. There are Bicycle Ambassadors, and now and then people make an effort to accommodate and encourage the bicycling public by providing special parking areas, generally staffed by a few volunteers and city employees.

Although most people didn’t know it, largely because of a lack of timely promotion by city officials and lack of interest from the local media, there was even a Bicycle Safety and Driver Alertness Month back in September.

All well and good.

How “bike friendly” is it, though, when a local cyclist can be killed in a collision with a motor vehicle and it takes months (nearly three in this case so far) to decide about charging the driver?

A lack of charges in a timely fashion says the death is no big deal to the city. (The toxicology tests cited as a reason for delay certainly could have been completed by now if this were a priority.)

That there is no serious penalty for careless driving that causes serious injury or death says such injuries and deaths are not very important to the state.

A community that accepts this is not “bike friendly,” no matter how hard it tries to pretend that it is.

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Two months pass without charges for cyclist’s death

This white bike was chained to a post in Oxfor...
Image via Wikipedia

Still waiting.

It has been 61 days since the July collision that resulted in Susan Desotel’s death.

No charges have been filed, and police are still waiting for results of toxicology tests.

Charges won’t help Susan, of course, but they should be filed – and soon – to show that careless driving that takes a life will not be tolerated.

C.R.’s Bicycle Safety and Driver Alertness Month will end this week.

The public awareness it was intended to promote needs to continue.

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Motorists liable until proven otherwise? Hard to imagine

The concept of strict liability for motorists involved in collisions with people riding bicycles was so foreign to me that I had to watch this twice. Imagine…

Thanks to tweeters @alicestrong and @bikecommutenews for calling attention to that video.

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Questioning Sen. Hogg about the consequences of careless driving

At the second stop on State Sen. Robb Hogg’s fifth annual bike ride through his Eastern Iowa district on Sunday, he was asked about the potential consequences of one of his fellow bicyclists’ being killed by a careless driver.

Paraphrasing my own question here: Shouldn’t a person whose careless driving causes the death of another person face time behind bars as a possible penalty?

Well, the answer seems to be, now paraphrasing Sen. Hogg’s various comments:

  • I’m not sure we should be sending people to prison because of legitimate accidents. (I agreed that not every incident should be resolved by throwing someone in jail, but maintained that the state should allow for jail or prison time as a possible outcome for someone whose carelessness causes death or injury.)
  • Sometimes accidents just happen. (I said we could have quite a long debate over what deadly situations can be prevented and what might be termed – legitimately if vaguely – “accidents.” Most traffic “accidents” can be avoided if people take their driving responsibilities seriously and pay attention to what is going on around them.)
  • We need to do more to make bicycling safer. The Iowa Senate did pass a bicyclists’ Bill of Rights. (True on both counts, but that Bill of Rights is meaningless without corresponding success in the Iowa House and a governor’s signature. What have you done for us lately? What will you do now?)

Presently, I can turn my motor vehicle in front of you as you ride your bicycle down the street, causing a collision that leads to your death, then drive away with a simple traffic ticket and, maybe, a guilty conscience.

As Sen. Hogg and others have asked, in one way or another, “Isn’t it enough that I will have to think about that for the rest of my life?”

Well, no. It’s not.

You should think about the consequences of careless driving before your careless driving kills someone. If you know you could wind up behind bars, maybe you will think harder when it counts.

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State senator’s bike ride today in E. Iowa district

For my Iowa friends:

State Sen. Rob Hogg’s annual district bike ride is this afternoon. He wants to know what constituents think is important. I’m planning to pedal along from the 3 p.m. start to Papoose Park at 4:30. See you on the route?

His email to constituents about this event:

This e-mail update is to invite you to join me for my Fifth Annual Bike Ride Across Senate District 19 this Sunday, August 22.  My bike tour is always a great chance to visit with constituents about the issues important to you.

This year’s bike tour will begin at 3 p.m. at Cedar Valley Park in the Rompot neighborhood at the intersection of Memorial Drive and Otis Road SE.

It will end at 6 p.m. with a picnic at the Creekside Pavilion in Noelridge Park off of Golf Street NE (near Harding Middle School). The picnic is being sponsored by the Cedar Rapids Education Association.

The complete list of stops includes:

3:00 p.m. – Cedar Valley Park (corner of Memorial and Otis Road SE).

3:45 p.m. – Anderson Park (corner of 5th Avenue and 21st Street SE).

4:30 p.m. – Papoose Park (end of 30th Street Dr. SE east of Indian Creek).

5:15 p.m. – Bowman Woods Park (along Boyson Road NE).

6:00 p.m. – Creekside Pavilion, Noelridge Park (off of Golf Street NE).

I hope you can ride along, or join me for the picnic or for one or more of the stops on my tour.  I look forward to seeing you Sunday.

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Launch legal reform efforts at Mayors’ Bike Ride

Frustration and anger have grown as we wait to see how hard Robert Fleming’s wrist will be slapped for turning his truck into the path of an oncoming bicyclist and causing a collision that resulted in her death.

Friends, fellow bicycle club members and others have struggled to understand the loss and lack of legal action and to respond to state laws that don’t seem to take seriously the deaths of people like Susan DeSotel.

Stage a protest ride is one idea. Erect a memorial somewhere for people killed while riding their bicycles is another. Put a “ghost bike” by the spot where she collided with the pickup truck to mark the spot and remind drivers to be more careful.

An opportunity will come soon after the expected announcement of Fleming’s traffic ticket. (Officialdom awaits the results of toxicology tests on the victim before deciding, for reasons I really do not understand.)

The Linn County Mayors’ Bike Ride is Sept. 6. What better time to bring attention to the issue?

It is time for the mayors, council members, county supervisors and state legislators to speak up, help educate the public and change the law. We should encourage them – expect them – to speak out forcefully on this safety issue and see to it that appropriate punishments are possible for motorists whose actions lead to the deaths of cyclists, pedestrians and others.

To do nothing is to accept the sad results and wait until it happens again.

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