UPDATED: U.S. cycling community stricken by multiple tragedies over Christmas weekend
The American cycling community was rocked by a spate of tragedies over the Christmas holiday weekend.
Three riders were killed on the road in incidents involving motor vehicles — hit-and-run fatalities occurred in Baltimore, and Santa Cruz, California, as well as a head-on collision during a group ride in the Bay Area — while a fourth cyclist was seriously injured in a hit-and-run incident on Christmas morning in Colorado.
A fifth tragedy struck the Kansas cycling community with the death of Joel Dyke, one of the co-creators of the Dirty Kanza 200; his death was not cycling-related.
All five occurrences happened over the span of three days — between Thursday, December 25, and Saturday, December 27.
The first incident took place on Christmas morning, when Lee Waldman, 64, of Wheat Ridge, Colorado, was the victim of a hit-and-run.
Waldman, a race promoter in the Colorado cyclocross community and a contributor to Cyclocross Magazine, suffered fractures of the C1 and C6 vertebrae, a concussion, and broken ribs. According to the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado, “His life is not in imminent danger, and thankfully there are no signs of paralysis; he remains at St. Anthony’s North ICU and is unable to take visitors or receive calls/texts.”
On Friday morning, 63-year-old Jose Lianez was killed in Santa Cruz. The Santa Cruz Sentinel reports that 63-year-old Jose Lianez was riding his bicycle east on Soquel Avenue when he was struck from behind by a full-sized white pickup, which fled the scene. The pickup also sheared a traffic light pole from its base, denting it and sending the traffic light into a nearby parking lot. Firefighters and paramedics declared Lianez dead at the scene.
On Saturday, two cyclists were killed while riding.
The first, Herman Shum, was struck by a truck when he swerved to avoid a crash that occurred after two riders collided at the front of a group of about 50 riders, near Livermore, California. Local media reports that the truck in the oncoming lane tried to dodge the crash by veering away from the cyclists, but could not stop in time to avoid Shum. The driver of that vehicle stopped, and cooperated with police.
“[The driver] saw a lot of bicyclists scrambling to avoid the first collision and, at that point, he did see somebody come into the lane in front of him and he tried to stop as best he could and was unable to avoid him,” a California Highway Patrol officer told ABC7 News.
The Napa Valley Register reports that Shum, 40, was the vice principal at Saint Mary’s College High School in Berkeley, and was to become the new principal at Justin-Siena High School in Napa. A member of the Norcal Christian Cycling team, Shum is survived by a wife and two daughters. A memorial fund has been started to support his family.
Later that day, in North Baltimore, Maryland, Thomas Palermo was killed in a hit-and-run incident.
Palermo, 41, was a framebuilder who specialized in custom, lugged steel frames and repairs with his company, Palermo Bicycles. Baltimore Brew reported that Palermo, who was riding in a dedicated bike lane, was taken to Sinai Hospital but later died of injuries. It was reported on Sunday, also in Baltimore Brew, that the driver who allegedly killed Palermo was Heather Elizabeth Cook, an Episcopal bishop.
According to Reverend Eugene Taylor Sutton, of Cook’s diocese, “Several news agencies have reported this as a ‘hit and run.’ Bishop Cook did leave the scene initially, but returned after about 20 minutes to take responsibility for her actions.”
Cook, 58, was arrested for DUI in 2010; she has been placed on administrative leave. When the Associated Press contacted the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office to inquire about potential charges, a spokesperson did not immediately respond.
Chris Merriam, who is active in Baltimore’s bicycling community, told the Associated Press that Palermo, a father of two, was well-known among bicyclists in the area for his custom frames. “He was a craftsman,” Merriam said. “A lot of people owned frames built by him with loving care. He was a very talented guy, and a lot of people knew him.”
A memorial fund for Shum, to help with funeral costs as well as college tuition for his daughters, has been put into place, while a Facebook page has been set up seeking homicide charges for Cook, the driver responsible for Palermo’s death.
Another tragedy occurred Saturday when Dyke, who helped create the Dirty Kanza 200 race, slipped off a ladder while climbing to the loft in his garage workshop, and died from his injuries. Dyke, 48, lived in Kansas City with his wife, Michelle Davis, and their young son.
On Sunday, Davis posted a brief account of the accident, on Dyke’s Facebook page: “It was one of those weird, horrible inexplicable things. Just like almost every night, after I’d put Joseph to bed, we hung out and chatted for a while, daydreamed about some camping trips for summer, and then I went down to my sewing room to work on a sleeper for Bubs, and Joel watched a movie. Later, I came back up to do a little baking and fool around on my computer; Joel went out to his workshop, like he has done almost every night since the shop was built. Midnight rolled around, and I went to bed. Again, regular stuff, I often crash before Mr. Night Owl came to bed, the next morning finding that he’d finally zonked at 2:00 a.m. So, when I awoke at 6:00 to an empty bed, I knew something was very wrong.”
Dyke’s friends have set up a memorial fund to help take care of his wife, son, and soon-to-be-born second child.
The staff of VeloNews expresses its sincere condolences to family, friends, and everyone affected by these tragedies.