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Campervan driver faces $500 fine for ploughing into group of cyclists, injuring seven, in “terrifying” collision

“After seeing the video, it just seemed like less of an accident,” said one of the cyclists struck by the motorist, as local councillors called for greater protection on popular cycling route

A campervan driver who ploughed into a group of cyclists in a shockingly violent collision, injuring seven and hospitalising four, could face a fine of up to $500 for “failing to give cyclists enough room while passing”, as one victim questioned whether the crash was, in fact, an “accident” and called on “pissed-off motorists” to see the “human element” of cyclists on the road.

Local councillors and activists have also called for safer cycling infrastructure to be introduced in the wake of the horrifying collision, which took place on Saturday morning during a weekly group ride on Lake Mary Road, a popular route for cyclists near Flagstaff, Arizona.

Footage of the crash, which has been shared on social media, shows the cyclists riding on the edge of Lake Mary Road – with most of the group riding on painted bike lane – when the driver of a campervan slams into one of the riders, launching him into the air and flinging him across into the rest of the group, causing most of them to crash heavily.

“I just felt the impact and then I was rolling on the ground for a while,” Dane Wallace, the rider who was struck by the motorist initially, told Arizona’s Family.

“It’s just terrifying. I mean, these people are like family. You ride with them every week. My partner was on the ride as well and she crashed right behind me. So your first thought is just like is everyone okay?”

Three riders injured in the pile-up were immediately taken to hospital. According to a Go Fund Me page set up to raise funds to cover medical and legal bills, one cyclist required surgery for a broken collarbone and ligament damage, as well as suffering concussion to the extent that they “couldn’t recall the date or month”.

Another rider suffered a fractured collarbone and concussion, while a third sustained a possible broken kneecap and tendon damage. Wallace, meanwhile, is set to undergo surgery today on multiple shoulder blade fractures and spinal injuries. Several other riders sustained road rash in the fall, along with minor injuries.

The campervan driver, who pulled in shortly after the collision, was not detained by police but has since been cited for failing to give cyclists enough room while passing, Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Lt Adam Simonsen said.

The citation is a civil violation and carries a fine of up to $500 (just under £400). Simonsen added that there was no evidence that the driver had broken any other laws or that he was under the influence at the time of the crash.

The police officer also said that Lake Mary Road – a route heavily used by both cyclists and runners – is not viewed as particularly dangerous, though he did note that the office often receives reports from cyclists concerning close passes, while motorists have also complained about cyclists “taking up too much of the road”.

“Stop, stop, stop, they’ve all been hit”

One of the riders involved in the crash, Kyle Horneck, a local bike shop owner and member of the Pay-N-Take racing team, told the Arizona Daily Sun that he has struggled to process the collision and its aftermath.

“I bounce back and forth between trying to make sense of it, put myself in everyone’s shoes and just trying to operate from a place of how can I be helpful,” he said.

“I’m less concerned about punishment for the driver, just more concerned with the diagnosis and prognosis of my friends and teammates.”

Group of cyclists hit by campervan driver in Flagstaff, Arizona (Matthew McElroy)

Describing the crash, Hornbeck said: “We’re coming down a decline. We call it the steps, that's like the slang for that area. When you're climbing it, it’s the steps and it’s really hard. And it’s an incline and it’s just a really good challenge.

“When you’re coming down, you’re going 30 to 45 miles an hour, depending on what part of it is. So you’re almost keeping up with traffic there. We stay in the bike lane or as close to it as we can, riding side by side as we typically do, two abreast.

“The rest of the group is behind us and a little compact. And from my perspective, what went down was a [vehicle] screamed past us and then a fender, a piece of his wheel well, flipped up and brushed against the guy I was riding with. And we start hearing, ‘Stop, stop, stop, they’ve all been hit.’”

“It’s very easy for a pissed-off motorist to take the human element out of the cyclist”

The cyclist added that, having now seen the footage which has circulated on social media, he remains unsure about that exact nature of the collision.

Group of cyclists hit by campervan driver in Flagstaff, Arizona (Matthew McElroy)4

“After seeing the video, it just seemed like less of an accident,” he said. “Then again, maybe it could have been. But again, that video is now in the public domain on Instagram. So people can make of it what they want.

“I’m not really trying to be an activist. It’s just good to let people know that regardless of what you think of cyclists or where we should and shouldn’t be riding, we do have a right to be out there and if you pass us, you’ve got to do so in a certain way.

“It's very easy for a pissed-off motorist to take the human element out of the cyclist and the cyclist’s existence there in the bike lane, because it's just something in the road as you pass them doing maybe twice their speed.

“And I just think continued visibility for cyclists in the community, knowing that they’ve got a legal right to be there, and that we do belong on the road. That’s a really easy, simple place to start.”

Hornbeck’s comments were echoed by his teammate Wallace, who said: “I think it’s just a sad point that when we get behind the wheel of a car, we don’t see our fellow humans out there as someone who has someone to go home to after the ride.”

Group of cyclists hit by campervan driver in Flagstaff, Arizona (Matthew McElroy)3

The incident has also spurred local councillors and cycling activists to demand safer infrastructure for cyclists in the area.

“This is a very challenging time for the community, and a time where the community is grieving once again from an incident where cyclists are in danger,” Adam Shimoni, a former councillor for Flagstaff – where one cyclist was killed and several others seriously injured when a motorist drove through a junction and into a bike lane in 2021 – said this week.

“Those of us who are on our bikes and travel by foot are extremely vulnerable and at risk, and it's concerning. It’s a problem and it needs to be addressed by the city and the county.”

In a statement, the county council said they have worked in recent years to improve safety conditions on Lake Mary Road for cyclists and runners.

“With the support of the Federal Highway Administration, the county has invested funds in this corridor increasing the width of shoulders for runners and cyclists, as well as improvements to the roadway surface, and increased maintenance such as sweeping the shoulders to remove cinders and other debris,” the statement said.

“This past summer, Lake Mary Road has undergone routine maintenance including resurfacing portions of the roadway, crack filling, shoulder sweeping, and roadside drainage maintenance.”

> Promising teenage cyclist killed after being hit by driver just days before World Championships

The shocking incident in Arizona comes just a month after a promising 17-year-old cyclist was killed after being struck by a motorist while riding on the hard shoulder in nearby Colorado.

Rising star Magnus White, who was due to represent the United States at the UCI Cycling World Championships in Scotland, was hit from behind by the driver as he used the hard shoulder of a highway popular with local riders.

It has been reported the route is so popular with bike riders there has been talk of building a separate bike lane. In the absence of such infrastructure, White was instead riding on the southbound hard shoulder of the highway when he was hit from behind by the driver of a Toyota Matrix. The authorities say there is no indication that drugs, alcohol, or excessive speed were involved.

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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43 comments

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cyclisto replied to Festus | 7 months ago
0 likes

@Festus I don't remember having ridden in large single file groups tbh, but I believe up to 5 bikes (or the length of a semi with trailer) it is not really dangerous. The only big rides groups I have been to were really big Critical Mass style that there were bike-scouts stoping motor traffic at junctions ahead, so I felt super safe.

@chrisonatrike Yes, I agree riding with a friend side by side is great, and I have done it too in super empty roads (maybe <10 cars/hour) when touring even I was cautious to go back when hearing a car. But I assume the risk as too great for city conditions, let alone that now I very rarely ride with company.

@mattw Around 3.25-3.50m must be the roads that I ride primary, or maybe semi-primary so that I can clearly show that there is definitely no space to overtake me but not provoke them by being in the middle of the road and do something stupid.

 

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mattw replied to cyclisto | 7 months ago
0 likes

If you look at docs such as I think Manual for Streets, they say through pinchpoints make it <3.1m wide or >3.9m wide so the lane discourages the "squeeze pass".

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OnYerBike replied to cyclisto | 7 months ago
3 likes

I must disagree with pretty much every word you have said.

As the article kindly points out, only a matter of weeks ago in the US, a cyclist riding entirely within the shoulder (and as far as I can tell riding solo) was killed by a motorist. Riding in the shoulder is clearly not sufficient.

Regarding your two types of dangerous driver:

Riding in the shoulder/single file is zero protection from the dangerously distracted driver. From the video of this incident and Street View of the location, it is a wide, clear road with excellent visibility. The line that demarks the shoulder is (as far as I can tell) the most basic painted line - no cateyes or rumble strips to alert a driver they are crossing it. Any driver so distracted that they failed to notice a large group of cyclists given the excellent visibility is equally going to be entirely unaware of straying over the line and onto the shoulder.

Whilst there is currently no suggestion this incident was the deliberate result of road rage, I will consider that option too. Again, given the wide road, excellent visibility and apparently low levels of traffic (from the video and Street View), it should have been trivial to overtake with minimal, if any, delay and therefore no reason to be angry. Of course, road rage isn't always logical - but in that case riding in the shoulder is still no protection. I'm sure anyone who cycles regularly in the UK (or, as far as I can tell, the USA) has been on the receiving end of entirely unprovoced abuse from road users who have not been inconvenienced in any way.  I am reminded of this incident from a couple of years ago - that road does not have a wide shoulder, but it does have two lanes in each direction so overall a similar situation. There is no suggestion the driver was inconvenienced in any way by the cyclists; he simply decided to attack them because they dared to exist. 

Speaking more generally, I disagree with your proposition that riding in the gutter or riding single file is often/always the safest option. I disagree that the two types of driver outlined above are the biggest risk on the roads. Whilst both types are no doubt highly dangerous, I think they are also relatively rare. Far more common is low-level recklessness, impatience and risk taking. Every statistic available suggests that is endemic - virtually all drivers speed; watch any set of traffic lights and you'll see drivers doing the "amber gamble" (the law says you MUST stop unless you cannot safely do so - not you may proceed if you can cross the line before the light turns red), etc. I think the greatest risk to cyclists comes not from drivers who completely fail to see the cyclists, nor drivers who act with deliberate malice, but drivers who think "I can squeeze through". Riding in primary position, or riding two abreast, means those drivers most certainly cannot squeeze through, and therefore are not tempted to attempt to do so, instead being forced to wait until they can overtake safely.

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HalfDanHalfBiscuit | 7 months ago
1 like

Nasty. Looks like his helmet took a fierce whack from the wing mirror and came off. I wonder if it wasn't fastened properly or it broke from the impact. It could have been an even worse outcome if he'd landed more on his head.

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andystow | 7 months ago
5 likes

Wow, it ripped his helmet right off! Helmet straps too loose either contributed to the concussion, or saved his neck.

That certainly looked either on purpose or distracted to me. There's no way the driver was trying to leave a foot or two of room and misjudged it. There's also no oncoming driver they needed to avoid.

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HLaB | 7 months ago
12 likes

$500 (cira £400)  The only thing I can hope is that the door is left open for them to sue and trully make that numptee regret their actions!

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essexian | 7 months ago
15 likes

One good thing about the US is they know how to sue people.

Lets hope the cyclists employ a top lawyer and sue the arse off of the idiot. Doing so won't stop the pain they are currently feeling but may make the idiot think again before attacking other people with a deadly weapon. 

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brooksby | 7 months ago
3 likes
Quote:

“After seeing the video, it just seemed like less of an accident,” he said. “Then again, maybe it could have been.

"Accident" or not, it was certainly a case of "I'm not going to move my steering wheel, not one little bit, no sirree".  Disgusting that the driver can (apparently) only be fined for such a minor offence, given what it looks like...

 

PS - When I read the headline, for some reason I'd thought it was going to be in Australia, and that the "campervan" wasn't going to be something the size of a coach.

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AidanR | 7 months ago
14 likes

Surely "failing to give cyclists enough room" is for a close pass. When you literally plough through another human with your RV, that must be a different offence.

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HoarseMann replied to AidanR | 7 months ago
7 likes

You would think so. 'Failing to give enough room' does seem to suggest some room was given. In this case no room was given at all.

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adamrice replied to AidanR | 7 months ago
2 likes

I live in a different (but politically similar) state, and I can confirm that "failure to pass with adequate clearance" means "you hit the guy." My state has no safe-passing distance, and our only governor vetoed one a few years ago.

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Flâneur | 7 months ago
8 likes

$500 fine for that?!

Paging that US cyclist with the handgun - your services are required...

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lifeonabike | 7 months ago
2 likes

FUUUUUUUCK

 

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