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.



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.

Enhanced by Zemanta

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.

Enhanced by Zemanta

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.

Enhanced by Zemanta

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.

Enhanced by Zemanta

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.

Enhanced by Zemanta

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.

Enhanced by Zemanta

“The sun was in his eyes” so please feel sorry for him?

Except for the most hard-hearted of us, we can all empathize to some degree with the driver of the vehicle in the collision that caused the death of bicyclist Susan DeSotel.

No doubt it is traumatic to unintentionally cause the death of another person.

In a comment on this story, someone self-identified as a relative of the driver says, in part, “If all of you only KNEW the trauma and suffering he is going through himself right now.”

He has horrifying images in his head and has to live with it the rest of his life. The commenter (identified as “iwubyou“) concludes:

“Prayers go out to Susan’s family and friends for dealing with their poor loss, and also to my uncle who now has to have this on his shoulders, and all the horrible people and horrible comments he will now face from here on out.”

At the risk of being considered horrible, some observations:

iwubyou asserts that the driver is blameless because the sun was in his eyes and he “did not see a little bike pedaling through.”

As motor vehicle operators, we are obligated to see where we are going and to avoid collisions with others on the road. If that means we must wear sunglasses and use visors or other devices to operate safely, that is what we are obligated to do.

There are all sorts of reasons for what we blithely pass off as “accidents.”

The sun was in our eyes.

We were distracted by a child crying in the back seat.

We just reached down to pick up the cell phone.

Reasons. Those are not excuses that should prevent us from facing legal consequences if they result in our causing the death of another person.

Unfortunately, our laws don’t seem to agree. The police call Susan DeSotel’s death the result of a “driving error.” If the driver is cited at all, it’s possible that on top of a fine for the traffic ticket he could face a $1,000 fine and lose his license for six months.

As I maintained the other day, that is not acceptable. I think some time behind bars is appropriate if your driving error kills someone.

The more compassionate and maybe wiser Mrs. Smith suggested that such a driver should be required to speak at some number of driver education classes over the course of a year. (That is an excellent idea. Think about it.)

What do you think is appropriate? Tell me by leaving a comment here. Tell your legislators.

As people are saying, the driver will have to live with the consequences of his driving error for the rest of his life. I’m sorry, but we all live with unpleasant things, some of which we bring upon ourselves and some that others visit upon us.

At least we are still alive.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Cyclist dies of head injuries following collision

The Iowa woman who suffered severe head injuries in a bicycle collision with a pickup truck died Monday in Iowa City. Susan Milsap DeSotel, 51, was a mother and a member of the Hawkeye Bicycle Association.

According to this article, the driver of the pickup truck might get a traffic ticket.

Additional charges that might apply because DeSotel died could result in a $1,000 fine a six-month license revocation.

Iowa law is terribly inadequate in situations like this.

In an email today to Cedar Rapids city council member Monica Vernon, whose daughter – and my own – attended grade school with DeSotel’s son, I told her:

“If I were the driver, I would fully expect to be charged with a crime and to spend time in jail or prison if my carelessness caused someone to die.
“As a very concerned citizen, I would like to see some official comment from the council and the police chief about the seriousness of this situation.”
No such comment that I have seen so far.
I don’t know why Robert Fleming turned into DeSotel’s path. I’m having trouble imagining how this could be seen as anything other than careless or reckless. We will see what, if anything, the eyewitness to the collision as to say.
Enhanced by Zemanta

On cycling and mirrors…

The debate over bicycle legislation in Iowa has had me wondering if what I’ve believed for years about using a mirror while riding is wrong – that it’s a good idea.

I’ve encouraged other people to use a mirror and check it frequently for traffic approaching from behind. If my mirror happens to be broken or forgotten (which is rare now that it is hot-glued to my helmet), I feel very vulnerable to being overtaken.

The head turn you hear about seems to work well for some cyclists, but others tend to veer left when they turn their heads to look back. I always feel I see better behind me with a quick glance in the mirror rather than turning my head, which I often do anyway.

Some other people swear by mirrors, too, as you can see in a discussion here, but apparently there is no real research showing they improve safety – and certainly no basis for requiring their use.

The best advice might be this: Understand the mirror’s limitations and don’t focus too much on what’s behind you.

Go here for an interesting article on the subject in Adventure Cycling.

What do you think? Do you use a mirror? Bike-mounted or helmet-mounted? Why or why not?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

peopleforbikes

Twitter Updates

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 7 other followers

Archives