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

Joe Piscitello Jun 20, 2019

Thanks to some outstanding advocacy efforts, both the state of Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia have recently scored two important wins for cycling safety. Pennsylvania:  “Dutch Reach” in State Driver’s Manual The “Dutch Reach” method of opening a car door has finally been added to the State Driver’s Manual after many years of conversation. […]

Read More
Pat Brown Jun 20, 2019

ONTARIO BICYCLE LAWS It’s important to know your legal rights (and duties) when bicycling in Ontario. It is especially important after a bicycle accident (we call them bicycle “crashes” and explain why here). For any questions about the Province’s bike laws, or about your rights to the road, contact attorney Pat Brown directly. Right to […]

Read More
Ladies on Spokes
Bruce Hagen Jun 19, 2019

Some people are in Book Clubs.  Others may have a green thumb and gravitate towards Garden Clubs.   Finding like minded people to share a common interest is an important part of being an active member of your community.   In Newnan, there is a group of women who have made their shared passions a vital […]

Read More
OBRA Crit Championships
Bob Mionske Jun 19, 2019

After a long, difficult Road Race the day before, turnout was small for the criterium. And since the RCB/Bike Law boys missed out on a result, we showed up gunning for a win. The squad was Jeremy Russell, Pat Lemieux, Timmy Reinhart, and yours truly. The course was a very tight and technical kilometer (or […]

Read More
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Jun 19, 2019

This week, Governor Mills signed LD 1222, An Act Regarding Electric Bikes, into law.  The Act’s history, swift movement through the Legislature, and prompt approval by the Governor underscore that e-bikes have made their way to Maine, are here to stay, and require appropriate regulation.  Here’s what you need to know. The E-Bike Movement in […]

Read More
Peter Wilborn Jun 12, 2019

Eric Amis, Jr., was killed around Midnight on May 16 while he was riding on an E-scooter near the West Lake Marta station in Atlanta.   In typical fashion, the police and media focused on all the wrong parts of the story. The driver who hit Mr. Amis was praised for “remaining at the scene of […]

Read More
Charlie Thomas Jun 12, 2019

Should Texas pass a statewide law that bans drivers from buzzing bicyclists? Should Texas fully ban a person from holding a cell phone while driving? We’ve had a decade to consider this issue. Here are my thoughts. A few weeks ago, I sat in the Texas A&M Cycling Team’s last meeting of the school year. […]

Read More
Bob Mionske Jun 12, 2019

It’s the second weekend of June, which means it’s crit season. The Real Critters head to Tulsa Tough. The second-tier critters go to Ballard Crit. And River City Bikes? We just went 1-2 at the Hammer Velo Crit in Portland, Oregon. It’s a flat course on wide open roads with a sweeping right-hander leading to […]

Read More
Danny Feldman Jun 12, 2019

Robert Traphan, a native of Greenwich, Connecticut, settled in Montgomery, Alabama while serving on active duty in the Air Force from 1993 until 1996.  He owned and operated a number of Internet companies for more than a decade until 2006, when he took a job as a software engineer with the Alabama Retirement System of […]

Read More
Bruce Hagen Jun 10, 2019

When it comes to cycling Joe Seconder is equal parts participant, zealot and activist. For example, a portion of his LinkedIn profile reports: Bicycling Advocate / Evangelist. Proactively engaging to make my community, the Atlanta Region and the State of Georgia be a better and safer place to simply go for a bike ride – […]

Read More
Bob Mionske Jun 10, 2019

May 2017 Two years ago—almost to the day—Colin Gibson and I headed east of the Cascades to a little town called Maupin. The plan was to get two epic days of training in before Colin became a father two weeks later. We only had vague ideas of what was in store for us on that […]

Read More
Kathryn Doornbos
Danny Feldman May 20, 2019

Kathryn Doornbos is the executive director of Redemptive Cycles, a non-profit organization in Birmingham, Alabama operating since 2013.  Redemptive’s mission is to “redeem the streets” by getting more people on bicycles to make Birmingham a “more connected, comfortable and livable city.” Redemptive works to achieve its goal by selling many refurbished and some new bicycles, […]

Read More
Load More