Cyclist dead in Ahwatukee car wreck

vehicle
photo credit: ourhtn.com

[UPDATE: the driver, Diego Ivan Venegas DOB 3/1990 was arrested/booked 2014-12-24 on suspicion of manslaughter, and then indicted: criminal case CR2014-160593  (direct link to Case minutes ) . See  also clippedin.bike story]

[There have been a couple recent items of interest documented at ourhtn.com, on Nov 29 there was a MV crash at intersection, and on Dec 1 a mobile speed trailer was set up]

Both cyclist and motorist were westbound Pecos approaching 17th Ave 11/12/2014 ~ 0900.  NOTE the google maps has both new and old views of the striping — be sure you are seeing the current version of the stripes, see pic below.

Damage pictured indicated the driver struck the cyclist with the left – center portion of the front of car. More details are at ourhtn.com; and reports the cyclist to be Dwayne Falkner, age 60 of Tempe “Mr Falkner is known in the cycling world as ‘Highly’ Falker… For at least a decade, Mr Falkner competed in cycling competitions. USA Cycling lists Mr Falkner’s participation in 15 competitions between 2004 and 2013”.

There was a memorial ride to pay respects to Highly Falkner Sunday, Nov 16th morning. See ourhtn.com for some photos and a video of the event.
Article about the community meeting with officials from Phoenix Streets Dept, coordinated via Councilman Sal DiCiccio, held Thursday, Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m.
at ourhtn.com

I should mention this road is very popular with recreational and training/competitive cyclists drawing folks from all around the area.

afn reported: A 59-year-old man was riding his bicycle westbound down Pecos Road around 9:10 a.m. on Wednesday (11/12/2014). He was attempting to cross a right-turn only lane approaching 17th Avenue to continue westbound when he was struck from behind by a vehicle…Police are researching speed and impairment as possible contributing factor…

There have been some recent (how recent?) restriping at the intersection. The fat black line in the picture used to be the shoulder stripe. Google satellite view shows what looks like matched the present striping; but the street view, most recently dated 2011, showed there was no turn lane at that time.

pecos17thAve
When looking at google, be sure this intersection is striped like this picture; something that was done sometime after 2011. Look for the shoulder ending; and the large white arrows; and a (now) right-turn-only lane along with a brief bike lane closest to the intersection

So the current striping has the right through lane on Pecos dropping ~ 600 feet from the intersection with 17th Ave (thus the black line in the photo), through traffic in the right lane must merge into the left lane, or alternately traffic turning right must bear to the right to enter the newly formed right-turn-only lane. There is what appears to be a brief bike lane (I mean, i’m not sure it’s designated) between the left/through lane and the newly created RTO lane.

Pecos Road in Phoenix

pecos17thAveDiagram
Here was a diagram Fox10 used to explain how the bike lane / right turn lane is supposed to work: the commentator began with “…to say this is a little confusing would be an understatement…”

It appears (preliminary) the crash was in the “mixing zone”. I have to wonder if this new (sometime after 2011) striping regime was ever a good idea. This road functions as a high speed / low volume highway, particularly out this far west (the road dead-ends ~ 1 mile west of here). It directly connects to the east with a (full blown, limited access) highway; by directly i mean there is no interchange, or ramps, it just suddenly becomes limited-access east of 40th St.

pecos17thAveDennisMong
Photo: Dennis Mong Photography, taken after the crash

This pic shows signage at the Scene of the Crash. There is an R4-4 sign “Begin Right Turn Lane Yield to Bikes”. Also this photo shows there were no evident skid marks.

There have been numerous traffic fatalities over the years along Pecos Road (in Phoenix. It’s a stretch of about 7 miles), including one other cyclist back in 2004, and numerous motorist fatalities and of course numerous serious injuries; including this serious ped injury due to a driver’s gross distraction just a few months ago.

Crash History near/at that Intersection

It’s been claimed this intersection generally has “a lot” of crashes. I don’t know how to evaluate that claim but I did look at reported crashes; there have been 23 crashes of all types at or near this intersection over the 5-year period 2009-2013. Two involved a bicyclists; one from 2009 was an oddball one (discussed here) where a cyclist crashed into a stopped (police!) car; the other involved a classic motorist overtaking/sideswipe in 2013 causing incapacitating injuries to two bicyclists that was, incidentally, eastbound). Neither involved the intersection. There were no  MV-ped crashes.

There were two motorist (both were motorcyclists) fatalities; the first 10/27/2012 a single vehicle motorcyclist road departure (and was not intersection related); and the second a motorist turning left from 17th failed to yield to a westbound motorcyclist, killing him. It was this second one that occurred in April 2013 that apparently directly led to the new striping plan, which was installed (i’m thinking i heard something like) June 2013. I was totally unaware of this new striping; I don’t travel on Pecos much (it’s too far west of me) so I wouldn’t have seen it, and I hadn’t otherwise heard anything about it.

SELECT IncidentID,IncidentYear, TotalNonMotorists,eJunctionRelation,OnRoad,CrossingFeature from 2009_incident WHERE (OnRoad LIKE 'PECOS%' AND CrossingFeature LIKE '17th%') OR (CrossingFeature LIKE 'PECOS%' AND OnRoad LIKE '17th%') ;

History of bicyclist traffic fatalities in Ahwatukee

Ahwatukee is relatively isolated section of the city of Phoenix; population ~ 75,000. Earlier large scale development was mostly Presley developed retirement communities dating back to the 1970s.

Most of what is now Ahwatukee was “built-out” between the mid to late ’80’s to the mid ’90’s)

Bicyclist fatalities are relatively rare and idiosyncratic. In any event, in the (somewhat short) history of Ahwatukee, there have been three known bicyclist traffic fatalities — back to at least the mid-1980’s (before that is hard to research).  The previous two were:

In 2001 a 9-year-old boy failed to yield at a stop sign at Liberty Lane at 17th Street .

In 2004 Don Anselmo was killed by a driver who apparently and inexplicably drifted onto the (very wide) shoulder of Pecos Rd near 20th Street.

There is one more related bicyclist death, in 2008 a cyclist rode into a parked utility truck; This is not “counted” as a traffic fatality simply as a definitional matter; traffic crashes to be counted as such must involve at least one “motor vehicle in transport”.

18 thoughts on “Cyclist dead in Ahwatukee car wreck”

  1. The blacked out line is the old “activity lane” line. Where this occurred there is a protected bike lane in between the right turn lane to 17th Ave (shown) and the driving lane that continues West on Pecos. It appears that the cyclist was struck just past where the Yield to Bikes begins. He would have been on the process of crossing the lane to get to the center protected bike lane. The driver is at fault for failing to yield as the accident occurred well past the yield sign.

  2. A very bad intersection that has to be redesigned from a very bad design to start with!! Someone has to take action before someone else is killed!

  3. This was a Death by Design. Who in their right mind would put such marking on the road? They tried that same concept several years ago at Pecos and Desert Foothills Parkway. It was re-done after several accidents and complaints. The City Official responsible for this road marking decision needs to be held accountable!

  4. I have been cycling this road a long time and commented to my riding partners that this design is death trap. Looks like i’m right. A shame.

  5. RIP Highly! So tragic and should have never happened! My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, a wonderful family!

  6. Here is a discussion thread i started on ‘cyclists are drivers’ f.b. group (must join group to see, I think). This forum is frequented by a number of traffic engineers.

    It has been pointed out to me that the concept of placing some extra space between a through lane, and a right turn only lane is referred to in ADOT’s design guide (and note, this area is not under adot control, afaik; it is city of Phoenix) as a “Bicycle buffer”. Though neither of the diagrams look much like what was done at Pecos and 17th.

    From ADOT Roadway Design Guide (RDG) 2012, page 400-30:

    408.11 – Right-Turn Channelization
    E) Bicycle Buffer: Where bicycles are expected to be prevalent, a buffer area between the
    through lane and the right-turn lane should be provided. Figure 408.11A shows the bicycle
    buffer with a wide curb lane. The buffer area is formed by the extension of the through lane and the face of curb line. Figure 408.11B shows the bicycle buffer for non-curb and gutter sections. The buffer may be omitted where bicycle traffic or right-turn traffic is expected to be infrequent.

  7. Highly will be missed by MANY! He lived his life to the fullest as one of the kindest, honorable and most sincere human beings you will ever meet. If you are able to join us tomorrow for the memorial ride please do. All are welcome and the show of support for Highly, his family and the cycling community as a whole would be meaningful even if you never had the pleasure of meeting, riding with ir getting to know him.

    My father-in-law was also struck a little more than 1 year ago at this intersection and continues to recover from serious injuries.

    Please ride carefully, ride defensively and look out for one another while on Pecos or any road for that matter. And please keep the Falkner family in your thoughts and prayers.

  8. I have both biked and driven this route many times. No doubt the bike lane/right turn lane is poorly designed, but:
    1-The design requires the driver to yield to the biker; and 2-Regardless, if the driver is exercising ANY sort of common sense, there is no way he/she should hit the biker crossing over. Although I don’t know all the facts, it appears likely that the driver will be charged with something akin to criminal negligence – even if he/she wasn’t chemically impaired. My guess, though, is that for someone to do this they had to be impaired.

  9. AFN story 11/18/2014; this is, IMO, misleading, the other “cyclist” fatality was a motorcyclist, not a bicyclist, who lost control, and was nothing to do with the intersection.

    “This is the second cyclist fatality at this location since 2013,” DiCiccio wrote in the letter. “This is unacceptable. The city of Phoenix must find a way to make this intersection safe for both motorists and cyclists. I am very concerned, as are the many residents of that area who have contacted my office since yesterday calling for action by the city of Phoenix to make the intersection safe.”

  10. I live right off the corner of 17th ave and pecos. The first week after I moved into my house 3 years ago, I knew something needs to be done at that intersection. I think we need a traffic light there.

  11. For whatever reason, the Christmas-eve arrest and booking of the suspect nearly escaped the notice of all media outlets; e.g. there’s an AP story dated 1/9/2015 — two weeks later!

    Suspect arrested in fatal bicycle accident in Ahwatukee
    Friday, January 9, 2015 9:54 am Associated Press |
    A man has been accused of manslaughter in a traffic accident that killed a bicyclist two months ago in a Phoenix suburb.
    Phoenix police announced Thursday that 24-year-old Diego Ivan Venegas was arrested in the case and booked into jail.
    It’s unclear if he has a lawyer yet.
    Police say 59-year-old Dwayne Faulkner was bicycling on Pecos Road in Ahwatukee when he was struck and killed by a vehicle driven by Venegas on Nov. 12.
    Detectives say they saw signs and symptoms of drug impairment, and toxicology analysis confirmed that drugs within the driver’s system at the time of the fatal accident.

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