Call

Blog

Law
02

Blog

Update On The Kalamazoo Cycling Tragedy

On June 22, 2016, the driver who ran down and killed five Kalamazoo cyclists and injured four others was officially brought into a Kalamazoo courtroom and charged with five counts of second-degree murder and four counts of reckless driving causing serious impairment.

At that court proceeding, it was also revealed that the driver, 50-year-old Charles Pickett Jr., was under the influence of an undisclosed drug at the time of the collision. As a result, Pickett is now facing five additional charges of operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing death. At the request of Pickett’s lawyer, the judge has granted a mental competency hearing, to determine whether Pickett is able to understand the charges brought against him.

Pickett struck the nine bicyclists, who were part of a cycling group known as “The Chain Gang,” on June 7, 2016, with his blue pickup truck. The cyclists were heading out on a 30-mile route and were struck from behind after riding only 5 miles. Pickett attempted to flee the scene, but was later apprehended by police. Kalamazoo law enforcement confirmed that, about a half-hour before the collision, they had received complaints of a blue pickup truck driving erratically in the area.

Since the tragedy, the outpouring of support and well-wishes has been nothing short of tremendous. The Michigan cycling community, the Kalamazoo community and the entire nation have offered their support and kind words, rallying around the victims and honoring them in various ways.

Here is a timeline, to help put the tragedy into perspective:

June 8, 2016

  • The 5 bicyclists killed were identified as:
  • Fred Anton (Tony) Nelson, 73, of Kalamazoo
  • Larry Paulik, 74, of Kalamazoo
  • Debbie Bradley, 53, of Augusta
  • Suzanne Sippel, 56, of Augusta
  • Melissa Ann Fevig-Hughes, 42, of Augusta
  • The 4 bicyclists injured were identified as:
  • Paul Gobble, 47, of Richland
  • Sheila Jeske, 53, of Richland
  • Paul Runnels, 65, of Richland
  • Jennifer Johnson, 40, of Kalamazoo
  • Five Ghost Bikes were placed at the scene of the collision, a rural road just north of Kalamazoo. Thank you, Michigan Ghost Bikes: Karen Dunnam, Gayle Underwood and Meg Zapalowski. While they intended to place five Ghost Bikes at the scene, when they arrived, one had already been placed by a neighbor.

June 9, 2016

  • Kalamazoo Prosecutor Jeffrey Getting announced that the following charges were authorized against Pickett: five counts of second degree murder and four counts of reckless driving resulting in serious injury.  At this time, there was no mention of drugs or alcohol being involved. No charges were mentioned regarding Pickett’s attempt to flee the scene.
  • State Senators Margaret O’Brien and David Knezak introduced bills in the Michigan Legislature known as “vulnerable roadway user protections,” that stiffen penalties for a motorist who kills a cyclist, pedestrian or wheelchair user.  A similar bill has been introduced in the Michigan House and is awaiting a hearing and vote in the House Criminal Justice Committee. A change.org petition has also been created, which is being sent to Governor Rick Snyder and Senators O’Brien Knezak.
  • Numerous vigils and tributes began being held for the cyclists and their families, not only in Kalamazoo, but across Michigan and the country.

June 9, 2016

  • The Detroit Metro Times published a fantastic article written by Michael Jackman titled, “Some cry foul on coverage of Kalamazoo cyclists’ deaths.” In the article, Jackman points to the absurdity of the coverage provided by various media outlets, that simply reminded cyclists to “practice bike safety” rather than focus on unsafe, careless and reckless motorists. 
  • The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) confirmed it is investigating the collision, and that it has a team at work in Kalamazoo. A spokesman for the NTSB acknowledged the investigation was not requested by any Kalamazoo agencies, but was being conducted because the collision caught the agency’s attention, particularly because there were five fatalities and many serious injuries. There is also speculation the NTSB decided to investigate because the agency has failed to examine bicycle/motor vehicle safety for decades, and in the meantime there has been a dramatic increase in the number of bicycles on U.S. roads.

June 11, 2016

  • Lance Armstrong announced he was traveling to Kalamazoo on June 14, 2016, to complete the ride that “The Chain Gang” was unable to finish.

June 14, 15 and 16, 2016

Continued Support

  • On June 26, the Kalamazoo Bicycle Club holds its Kal-Tour, and all funds raised will benefit the victims’ families.

Comments

Contributory Negligence
Ann Groninger Apr 08, 2021

There is finally a positive development in the fight against Contributory Negligence in North Carolina. Last week a bill called the “Victims’ Fair Treatment Act” was filed in the North Carolina Senate. If passed, the bill would finally bring North Carolina into line with all but 3 other states by eradicating this deeply unfair law. […]

Read More
Bike Shop with wheels
Danny Feldman Apr 04, 2021

Birmingham is blessed to have a number of great bike shops.  Two of these shops, although very different, are the focus here.  Future blog posts from Bike Law Alabama will focus on some of the other great shops in Birmingham and throughout Alabama. A NON-PROFIT BIKE SHOP: REDEMPTIVE CYCLES Why choose Redemptive as your Bike […]

Read More
Dooring of bicyclist
Charlie Thomas Mar 24, 2021

Buena Batiste did not plan to be “doored.” She was knocked off her bike by a car door and then yelled at by the woman who opened it. Fortunately, we were able to take Buena’s dooring case to trial and win. And in doing so, we set a new precedent for bicyclists who suffer a […]

Read More
Bike Hand Signals
Peter Wilborn Mar 12, 2021

Before you get a driver’s license, you typically have to take a test that demonstrates your understanding of the rules of the road. This includes the importance of signaling your intentions when you are turning or changing lanes. Across the United States, bicyclists are required to use signals to let others know what they plan […]

Read More
Ash Our Streets
Daniel Brazil Jan 13, 2021

As a Minneapolis-based attorney, I live, work, play and bike in the city. Although my city might be known for its lakes and our infamous Juicy Lucy, Minneapolis’ dedication to having safer streets for all should be included in that list. To reach the safe streets goal, numerous non-profit organizations and groups are working tirelessly […]

Read More
Ambassador
Rachael Maney Jan 11, 2021

Applications for the Bike Law Foundation Ambassador Program are now live. CLICK HERE FOR THE APPLICATION. The deadline to apply is Sunday, January 24th. Those selected will be notified on or before February 1. Thanks for your support and willingness to work together to make bicycling safer for all. We are committed to you, to one another, and […]

Read More
3-foot passing close call
Charlie Thomas Jan 11, 2021

It happens all the time: Someone emails me video footage, clearly showing they were biking along when a car buzzes past, coming within inches of a horrible crash — and there’s nothing I can do about it because we don’t have the laws in place to do something to help. Luckily, that might be about […]

Read More
killing cyclist bike law
Rachael Maney Dec 22, 2020

BIKE LAW ANNOUNCES THE INDICTMENT OF CARL BEHLER FOR KILLING CYCLIST AND INJURING OTHERS   Today, Carl Behler appeared in court for the first time for killing cyclist Arthur Carter and injuring others. He was indicted on Friday (12/18) by the Anne Arundel County Grand Jury and promptly arrested and detained for 7 crimes related […]

Read More
Bicycle Mayor
Bruce Hagen Dec 03, 2020

When I (Maria of Bike Law Georgia) called Pattie Baker, the first Metro Atlanta Bicycle Mayor, she was trudging through marshland on her bicycle on Alpharetta’s Big Creek Greenway. I pictured her in my mind with her bike, wearing her signature skirts, and mud on her sandals. Always on the go, the newly minted Metro […]

Read More
Load More