Scottsdale cyclist's death shows problems with law
The garbage truck that plowed into Cindie Holub left her body a broken mess.
The bicyclist lay near the intersection of Dynamite Boulevard and Alma School Road in north Scottsdale, spine broken in three spots, nine broken ribs, a broken shoulder blade, collar bone and pelvis among her injuries.
Still trying to process what happened moments after the Feb. 24 crash, she asked a passerby to call her husband, Brian Holub, in Massachusetts.
Cindie Holub, 52, was riding a bicycle and had been hit by a Waste Management garbage truck. She was airlifted to Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn Medical Center, where she died four days later.
Scottsdale police cited the driver of the truck, Fernando Jimenez, 50, for not leaving a safe distance of at least 3 feet between the vehicle and a bicycle when passing. The civil fine is up to $1,000 when a death is involved.
The Holub family has hired an attorney for a wrongful-death suit against Waste Management, Brian Holub said. A spokeswoman for the company said she was unable to comment because the incident is under investigation.
The accident is a stark illustration of the dangers faced by bicyclists who ride alongside traffic in Arizona.
Holub is one of six bicyclists killed in Arizona this year, according to Ed Beighe, who tracks fatalities as part of his AzBikeLaw blog. State and federal data for 2009 are not available, but Beighe estimates that 16 Arizona cyclists died last year.
In 2008, the latest data available, there were 19 fatal bike crashes in Arizona, making the state the 10th deadliest in the nation, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The League of American Bicyclists, a national advocacy and education group, ranked Arizona No. 7 on its list of bicycle-friendly states last year, down from No. 3 in 2008. Scottsdale is one of seven communities in the state to earn the organization's "Bicycle-Friendly Community" designation.
States and communities are judged on five criteria, including education of cyclists and motorists and connections between cyclists and law enforcement.
But Arizona bicycle advocates are concerned that the state law mandating that motorists give bicyclists 3 feet of safe passing distance is inconsistently enforced.
"It seems more law-enforcement officers are aware of the law, but I think there is still some confusion on what the law is and how to apply it," said Bob Beane, president of the Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists.
The group would like to see increased awareness of the law, increased penalties and a clarification of how the law applies if designated bike lanes are not suitable for riding, he said.
It eventually might push for laws protecting so-called "vulnerable users" of the roads, which could cover not only bicyclists but also motorcyclists, pedestrians and people changing tires on vehicles, he said.
Enforcement of the 3-foot law and other laws vary widely. Among cyclists killed in Arizona last year, reports by Beighe's Web site and in the media show:
• Allen Johnson, 26, an off-duty Tucson police officer, was struck from behind and killed by a pickup truck while riding last March in Tucson. The driver had her head beneath the dashboard at the time and later tested positive for medication, but she has not been charged, said Eric Post, a Tucson attorney who has represented bicylicst and their families in such cases.
• Michael Gordon Gray, 43, was struck and killed while riding with two other cyclists on Maricopa Road near the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa on the Gila River Indian Reservation. Driver David Allen Wiechens Sr. was charged with manslaughter.
• Drake Okusako, 55, was struck and killed while riding in a bike lane in midtown Tucson. Driver Jesse James Segebartt, who had been weaving in and out of traffic, was indicted on charges of manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death. He pleaded guilty to leaving the scene and to a reduced charge of negligent homicide, and was sentenced April 12 to four years in prison, the Arizona Daily Star reported.
• Jerome Featherman, 86, was struck and killed while riding in a bike lane in Green Valley. Driver David Armstrong was cited for violating the 3-foot law and driving in a bike path and paid $254 in fines to the Green Valley Justice Court.
Driver, witnesses dispute accident
That February afternoon, Cindie Holub was out for a 45-mile ride that normally took her about two hours, her husband said. The Holubs, who own a veterinary hospital in Massachusetts, bought a second home in north Scottsdale last year to be close to Cindie's father, who lives less than two blocks from where she was hit, Brian Holub said.
Over the past years, Cindie Holub had competed in three triathlons and was training for an Ironman triathlon.
Her coach in Massachusetts, Sharon Johnson of New England Triathalon Training, said Holub was a smart, dedicated athlete.
"She was cautious. She wouldn't do anything over her head," Johnson said.
According to the Scottsdale police report, Jimenez told officers, "I thought I left enough room for her, I went to move over but there was a car next to me."
Brian Holub said witnesses driving in front of and behind the garbage truck said there was no vehicle next to the truck and they never saw the truck swerve to avoid the cyclist.
"The driver one car back saw my wife for half a mile. The driver two cars back could see my wife. Everybody could see my wife. This truck driver totally didn't see my wife," Holub said.
"A driver (behind the truck) saw her bike fly up and over the garbage truck. That witness thought a bicycle had fallen out of the dump truck. But the right-hand bumper struck her squarely in the back."
As best as the family can tell, the driver just didn't see her, Brian Holub said. "I don't know if he was thinking about something or physical distracted. . . . Anybody paying even a little attention to the road would have known she was there."