Allen Johnson

Avid cyclist, and Tuscon police officer (off duty) Allen Johnson was killed March 10, 2009 in the afternoon. From the KVOA news report:

According to the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, Johnson was riding his bike along East Old Spanish Trail when he was hit.

Witnesses say the off-duty officer was hit from behind by a red Dodge full sized pick-up. The driver of the pick-up stopped and tried to help.

So far, no charges have been filed against her, but Pima County detectives are still investigating.

Pima County Deputy Dawn Barkman says, “She complied with all the requests that the traffic unit made of her, she submitted a drug test, and was interviewed by investigators, and so that’s all part of the investigation.”

The location is apparently outside of the city of Tuscon, and as such would be the Pima County Sheriff’s jurisdiction. The collision occurred traveling eastbound on Old Spanish Trail, just west of  S Camino Loma Alta (approx location on maps)

Unconfirmed reports at tusconbikelawyer state that the collision occurred on the shoulder (this was later confirmed by the sheriff’s investigation); and that it is a case of massive distraction on the part of the pickup driver. If that is the case, it would be very similar to the Anselmo fatality that occurred  in Phoenix in 2004.

Since/if the collision didn’t occur on the roadway — it’s not completely clear that 28-735 applies on the shoulder. If it does not, then the appropriate citation would probably be 28-701 (“failure to control”). The only practical difference between the two being that 28-735 carries an enhance penalty ($1,000 for a fatality), compared to 28-701. Police/prosecutors as a matter of course will not seek any criminal charges regardless of circumstance unless there is impairment.
As I write this on April 23, the investigation is still pending — which seems slow… it would seem that assuming no impairment (none was hinted; slow lab results, perhaps?) the Sheriff will just issue a ticket and be done with it.

Coincidentally, on April 23, this story appeared in the Tucson Citizen. It sounds like the Sheriff’s office has completed their traffic investigation (but they didn’t say that), and are now just waiting on blood test results of the pickup driver. For some reason, people keep referring to this as a bike lane… There is NO bike lane there (the Pima county bike map lists it as a “Bike Route with Striped Shoulder”) and when they say bike lane, they are apparently referring to the shoulder. You would think the Sheriff’s office would use correct terminology — but I guess not (hopefully, it was a misquote).

“The investigation shows a pickup truck either drifted or veered into the bike lane and hit Allen Dixon Johnson, said Sgt. Jeffrey Copfer, head of the sheriff’s traffic investigations unit. …(blood) Tests being done on the driver of the pickup are not complete and could take as long as six months, Copfer said”

I sure hope they don’t blow the time limit to issue citations, or forget to issue them. I really don’t see this going anywhere criminally.

tucsonbikelawyer.com is reporting that the driver has (finally! Today is Aug 13, that would make it about 5 months!) been cited for traffic violations in connection with the incident. Not official — nor was this unexpected —  but this pretty much indicates that the county prosecutor will not be bringing any criminal charges. According to the report, the driver will be cited for violating the 3-foot rule (28-735), and driving in a bike path (28-815D).

More on ‘Is This A Bike Lane?’

[added Feb 2012] The picture above is near where, and representative of the roads where Allen Johnson (top) and Jerome Featherman (bottom) were killed. The top is clearly not a bike lane. The bottom clearly appears to be one (albeit with old designation and signage?). If this is the case, the driver involved in Johnson’s death should not have been cited for 28-815D. However, if either of them were straddling lanes, they should have been cited for 28-729 and charged with 28-672 (a criminal offense; though minor, it seems like symbolically a big deal, plus contains potentially serious sanctions that 815D does not have).