Bicyclist killed in Tempe

Eastbound Curry approaching College Ave.

1/23/2019 6:14a Victim  66 y.o. male Peter Bergsneider. In the area of College and Curry. It must have been near the intersection because of the mention they were struck next to a left turn lane. One unconfirmed report is that it was eastbound Curry at College, and another unconfirmed report states “the driver was allegedly texting”.

If that report plus the description released by police, below, is accurate, it would be sortof an odd/unusual position for a bicyclist to be in, being in Lane 1 as there is another through lane (lane 2) plus a designated bike lane; though of course there are a variety of reasons a cyclist might be using lane 1, like preparing to turn left, or if lane 2 was obstructed for whatever reason.

This is a signalized intersections; no mention of who had what light.

It would have been dark at that time.

Tempe PD (apparently, privately; it never as far as i could tell was posted on TPD’s facebook, or twitter, or anywhere I could find) released this statement that Lauren Kuby shared through facebook, and added later on her LaurenKubyForCouncil identity’s post that “The investigation is pending, but the driver was allegedly texting.”

“We wanted to advise you that today at approximately 6:15 am, Tempe Police and Tempe Fire Medical Rescue responded to the area of College and Curry for the report of a vehicle vs bicycle <a-word redacted> that occurred. The bicyclist was in the first through lane next to the left turn lane when he was struck from behind by a vehicle. The vehicle remained on scene.
The adult male bicyclist coded on scene and was transported to an area hospital where the medical staff was able to find a pulse for him. He was transferred into surgery where he eventually died from his injuries.
Impairment does not appear to be a factor in this incident. The victim is an adult male in his mid 60s. The investigation is ongoing.”

Tempe PD, please #crashnotaccident.

There have been eight, including this latest one, fatal bike-MV crashes in the City of Tempe since 2009;  see a detailed list of all Tempe fatal bicycle collisions since 2009. This would be the only one of those that involve a strike-from-behind.

The incident was apparently never reported in the news media.(?)

Crash Report

Took strangely long to show up, not sure what’s up with that.

ADOT incident 3512530. Tempe FileNumber 199616

Crash occurred 614AM; sunrise 7:29 (45 minutes before sunrise); so darkness — civil / nautical / astronomical twilight was 7:03 / 6:32 / 6:03 respectively.

Based on the database, I don’t have a copy of the report itself, it appears to be written up as the bicyclist was eastbound Curry approaching but not yet at College preparing to turn left. This point listed in the report is about 150′ before the left turn pocket opens up; it’s about 400′ before the intersection itself. The motorist was also eastbound Curry.

The police have faulted the bicyclist for unsafe lane change; It also flags the motorist for speed too fast for conditions.

There is a confusion in which lane each unit was in — the road there has a left through lane (lane 1), a right through lane (lane 2) and a BL.

A bicyclist preparing to turn left would first change from the BL to lane 2, and then from lane 2 to lane 1.

The data says the bicyclist was in Lane 2 (the right through lane); but that the motorist was in Lane 1 (the left through lane). This obviously can’t be correct since if it were no collision would have taken place. Based on the facebook blurb, it sounds like the datafile is incorrect, and should say the bicyclist was in lane 1. — so upon reading the report; the narrative makes clear the bicyclist was struck in lane 1; according to the narrative the bicyclist’s merge from lane 2 to lane 1 was too close, thus the “unsafe lane change” behavior.

There is a DistractedDriving flag on the driver: OTHER_ACTIVITY_ELECTRONIC_DEVICE — the report details information recovered from the driver’s cell phone which indicated she texted multiple times in the few mintues immediately before the crash.

In any event, it’s not clear how fault is established; the written report would have more details of course, including witness statements, if any. In other words, how do you differentiate the unsafe lane change scenario from a plain old rear-end? Once a driver (or a bicyclist) changes lanes; following drivers have a duty to control speed to avoid colliding with anyone ahead. Had the driver who struck the bicyclist not been distracted, would she have avoided the collision?

In any any event, the data can’t tell us what, if any, legal actions were taken against the driver. Tempe, for example, had a distracted driving ordinance that, at the time, made it a criminal misdemeanor (class 1) if a driver becomes involved in a serious/fatal collision while doing certain proscribed things with cell phones. (Tempe has since, inexplicably, watered-down their ordinance Ord. No. O2019.07, 2-28-19 to remove any criminal penalty)

The full police departmental report

I got the report in july 2019. The report has a lot of information and evidence that is otherwise not knowable: The cyclist had a garmin that establishes relatively precise speed and time and placement. The driver’s cell phone was seized and it was found that the driver sent multiple texts immediately before the crash was found. The driver’s speed, estimated at 51mph, was significantly above the posted maximum speed limit. Tempe police also took the trouble to return to the scene 24 hours later to simulate sight distances with the victims lights (he had multiple bright taillights, one steady, one flashing), they established a watchful driver could would have seen the lights ABOUT 1,000′ FEET AWAY, though the driver said she never saw bicyclists. She also said she never saw the other bicyclist who was ~ 500′ behind the victim:

(the driver) called 911 immediately after the crash to report that she had struck a cyclist, but she did not know where he had come from prior to the collision as she never saw any cyclists in the area.

These circumstances of gross distraction, coupled with speeding lead the report to conclude recommending charges against the driver, despite labeling the cyclist as “most at fault”:

Time / Distance analysis showed that the distraction, coupled with the elevated speed, were major causational factors in the collision. Charges of Manslaughter… are submitted to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for review. This case will remain open pending the results of the MCAO charging review

That was as of mid-July 2019

As of April 2021 it would appear no charges were brought; that would mean the county attorney “declined” to bring charges. I have no idea how to find out anything from MCAO; it’s an opaque process, they toil in obscurity.

As a side-note, the lead investigator Tempe PD officer  was Det. Kasey Marsland of Tempe PD’s vehicular crimes unit; he popped up in a youtube video for MAG’s “See Me AZ” campaign. He was also the lead investigator in the Uber-involved pedestrian fatality that referred charges against that driver.


2 thoughts on “Bicyclist killed in Tempe”

  1. I work near here, and saw the debris from the accident that morning as well as the ghost bike that is there now. It saddens me that this wasn’t put in the media, people need to know

  2. There are a number of similarities between this incident and another fatality that occured in nearby Chandler a few months later:

    Both victims were experienced cyclists.
    Both victims were using bright taillights (2 taillights in the Tempe case)
    Both incidents occurred in darkness about 45 minutes before sunrise (taillights are visible from a longer distance in the dark)
    Both drivers appear to have been grossly distracted; in other words were not looking ahead for extended periods of time; and failed to react ; despite there being no other traffic.

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