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Driver Kills Albuquerque Cyclist

by Joshua Liberles on October 19, 2007

JamesQuinn Driver Kills Albuquerque CyclistOn Saturday, September 15th, my girlfriend and I rode our bikes from our downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico home to enjoy a gorgeous day on the mountain roads surrounding our city. About halfway into our ride, we began to notice many more police vehicles patrolling the isolated roads than is typical. One police car pulled beside me and told us to ride extra carefully: a cyclist had been killed on that road earlier in the day.


Erin Kinnard Thompson, police department spokesperson, issued a statement indicating that a female driver (for some reason the driver’s name has still not been released) was headed east, up old Route 66 into Tijeras canyon. The driver was in the process of passing a group of cyclists when an oncoming car “forced her” into the cyclists. “The driver saw oncoming traffic and had no choice but to swerve back—I’m not sure I would even call it a swerve—and that’s when the cyclists were hit,” said Thompson. James Quinn was killed and his wife Ashley injured in the collision. They were riding on a designated bicycle route.

Lt Scott Baird stated that it did not appear that the motorist was at fault, but that an investigation was in progress.


According to Sheriff Darren White in a subsequent public meeting, the driver initially gave the cyclists a wide berth but was forced back into her lane by the oncoming vehicle. Quinn rode on the road’s shoulder, just to the right of the white line.


Two well-known Albuquerque writers Jon Knudsen (aka Johnny Mango, Duke City Fix) and Jim Scarantino (Albuquerque Alibi) rode their bikes to the scene of the accident last week to get a sense of the circumstances for themselves.


Their assessment largely agrees with mine after I investigated the area: there’s no corner anywhere near the scene of the accident and there’s no hill that obstructs a driver’s view. A survey of the shoulder reveals very rough pavement on the shoulder except for right along the white line. This is not typical of the entire road, which tends to have a rideable shoulder. One salient point is that a cyclist is not required to ride on the shoulder, and is in fact entitled to ride in the road. Regardless of where Quinn was when struck, the accident was clearly due to the reckless behavior of the car attempting to pass.


Route 66 is not a dangerous road. In fact, it’s one of the most popular cycling roads in the state for good reason. The parallel US Interstate 40 accommodates most of the traffic looking to get somewhere quickly, leaving the meandering Route 66 for reduced volume local traffic and those heading to the mountains. The scenery and terrain are spectacular, and the road connects the southern Rockies to downtown Albuquerque via a short bike ride. Route 66 and the east mountains that it accesses are two of the many elements that make Albuquerque a city with so much potential for cycling.


The reaction of the local law enforcement is typical of the car-bike collisions that have resulted in fatalities in New Mexico in the last several years. Even when the driver is clearly at fault, no action is taken by law enforcement. While I’m not implying malicious intent, there was clearly negligence and reckless behavior. If this were a car / car collision, the outcome would have been very different. Bikes are treated as toys, not transportation, and the riders are not afforded any rights or protection. This attitude is reflected both on a local and too often on a national, policy-making level .


Steve Mathias, a local cyclist, arrived on the scene of the accident on his bicycle. He recounts in an open letter to the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department how one of the deputies told him, “See what happens when you ride in the road?”


Liz Cash reported another brush with the law not long before this. She was riding her bike on an Albuquerque road, well within her rights, when an Albuquerque Police officer drove up behind her, got on his loud speaker, and told her she should ride on the sidewalk. In most places in America, including Albuquerque, it’s illegal to bike on sidewalks. Bikes are vehicles and are to ride on roads unless expressly prohibited (i.e. some highways).


Improved education to teach drivers about cyclists’ rights, and to teach cyclists about how to ride safely would go a long way. Perhaps even more important is an educated law enforcement that understands and enforces the laws and an administration that doesn’t contribute to the problem.


This past weekend, 300 cyclists rode in silence up Tijeras canyon from Albuquerque to honor Quinn’s life with the activity he liked best: riding a bike.


For an update, see: Poor Prosecution after Driver Kills Albuquerque Cyclist


Photos via Duke City Fix

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Clayton April 4, 2008 at 12:34 am

So, what do we do about China and India, even if we could theoretically get people out of their cars?


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