The motorist responsible for the death of Washington DC cycle campaigner David Salovesh has been jailed for eight-and-a-half years. Robert Earl Little Junior was charged with unauthorised use of a vehicle and second-degree murder but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.
NBC reports that on April 19, Little sped through a red light in a stolen van and hit Salovesh on Florida Avenue NE near Benning Road. The 54-year-old cyclist died at the scene.
A ghost bike was placed at the spot where he was killed. In May, a speeding motorist drove into it and then ran away.
Locals and campaigners had flagged the stretch of road as dangerous for years. Tweeting shortly after Salovesh’s death, his friend Matthew S said that a Florida Avenue cycle lane project had been in the works for a long time, “but our leaders are not brave enough to step up to protect their constituents.”
The District Department of Transportation has since made a few improvements but says it will only begin major works in 2021.
As well as the prison sentence, Little also received five years of supervised release. The sentence was agreed upon with prosecutors as part of a plea deal. Had the case gone to trial, he could have faced up to 30 years in prison.
A member of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), Salovesh wrote about the need for protected bike lanes and called for better enforcement and investment in cycle infrastructure.
“I never knew him as anything but a bicycle advocate,” said his friend Rudi Riet, who first met Salovesh at a weekly cycling coffee club. “He lived and breathed making the streets safe.”
Riet said his friend wanted his teenage daughter, “to have the freedom to ride to school safely. He wanted everybody to have their safe way to get from point A to point B in something other than a car. He was really trying to make the street safe for everyone.”