Sidney Johnson, husband, father, avid cyclist, USAPCC volunteer killed by motorist in Westminster on his birthday. The original coverage of the story was minimal at best when the accident happen on the 11th of October. 303Cycling digs deeper into the accident, the rider and what changes are coming from this incident. Read on please.
Back on Oct. 13th, 303Cycling shared a link from the Denver Post regarding the death of a cyclist in Westminster. At the time, very few details were available. Wanting to know more, I recently attended the Bike Jeffco meeting in order to hear directly from Westminster Police about what happened and to learn more about Sidney Johnson directly from his daughter.
What happened on 100th Avenue
On October 11th, 2011 Sidney Johnson, age 52, was struck from behind by a motorist on West 100th Avenue between Simms and Alkire. The crash happened around 2:20 in the afternoon, Sydney was pronounced dead on the scene. Both the driver and Sidney were traveling westbound on 100th Avenue. According to the Westminster police, the driver, a 20 year old male who was driving a green 2005 Kia Sorento, claims to have seen Sidney and moved over to the left to pass but was then noticed a car approaching in the opposite direction. He then moved back over to the right and struck Sidney from behind. Westminster police performed a full investigation, including an accident reconstruction, and came to the following conclusions. The driver was speeding, going 57 mph in a 40mph zone. Toxicology reports confirm that the driver had no drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of the crash. The driver was not using a cell phone at the time of the crash, as police confirmed that his cell phone was not charged up that afternoon. Police also reported that the weather was clear on Oct. 11th and the wind was blowing due east and was not a contributing factor to the crash. Westminster police commented that this stretch of road has relatively little traffic and no intersections except for one residential driveway. The investigation is now complete and police are characterizing this crash as a "tragic accident" as opposed to a criminal act. The charges filed against the driver are Careless Driving Resulting in Death (a class 2 misdemeanor), which is the same charge made against Christopher Loven in the Left Hand Canyon crash in Boulder County (Lefthand Canyon Bike Fatality), and Speeding 10-19 miles over the speed limit (a class A traffic violation). Typical consequences of these charges are probation, a suspended driver's license and financial restitution.
Sidney Johnson, Oct 11, 1959 - Oct 11, 2011
According to police, this is a case where the cyclist was doing everything right, including wearing a helmet, but was killed due to a moment's inattention by the driver and a failure to give Sidney a three-foot clearance. Sidney has been described as an experienced and careful cyclist who at 6'6" in stature would be hard to not notice. While members of Bike Jeffco agreed that 100th Avenue is a terrible road for cyclists, with absolutely no shoulder, they also commented that it is the best option available for cyclists to travel west towards Boulder and therefore is an extremely popular cycling route. Westminster police also commented that this case has generated an unusually high number of calls to the police, over 75, from concerned members of the cycling community.
Beyond the headline, more about Sidney
It is heartbreaking to read the impersonal headline "Bicyclist Hit by Car, Killed", but even worse is the lack of coverage stories like this sometimes receive. At the Bike Jeffco meeting, I had the chance to chat with Sidney's daughter, who is a student at C.U., and learn a little more about her dad:
Sidney was a husband and a father to two daughters ages 21 and 22. He worked as a senior program manager at LGS Innovations and on October 11th he was on his way home early from work to celebrate his 52nd birthday with his family. Sidney was a regular bicycle commuter and his current bike commute to work took him about 30 minutes. Sidney's daughter also mentioned that before his office moved, Sidney used to ride his bike all the way out to 120th to work, which typically took him an hour. Sidney was as an avid cyclist who had participated in several Ride the Rockies, most recently with her. They also rode the Buffalo Bicycle Classic together in 2009 and volunteered together last summer in Golden during the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Outside of cycling, Sidney also enjoyed traveling with his family and he loved everything to do with aviation.
What can we as a cycling community do?
Enlarge Jeffco Bicycle Plan (proposed).
The most inspiring aspect of attending the Bike Jeffco meeting is how engaged this group is in wanting to improve cycling conditions in Jefferson County. They have formed a sub-committee called Cyclists Have Rights to work towards making Jefferson County safer for cyclists. Also at the meeting was Will Kerns, a transportation engineer with Jefferson County, who previewed the upcoming Jefferson County master plan for both bicycles and pedestrians. It was good to see that 100th Avenue was already marked on the map as needing improvements for cyclists. Jefferson County recently published it's entire master plan and maps, available at http://jeffco.us/bike-plan and invites public input, including new ideas, during a four-week comment period during January. This is also the time to advocate for which safety improvement projects should be prioritized. So, this will be a critical time for the cycling community to voice it's desire to have 100th Avenue improved. It should be noted that 100th Ave. goes through both the City of Westminster and Unincorporated Jefferson county. Sidney was killed within the boundaries of Westminster and the city has also noted 100th Ave. an an area needing improvements for bicyclists on their own master plan. Bike Jeffco plans to work with both jurisdictions to prioritize improvements on this popular cycling route. The uplifting aspect of this story is that there are some really concrete things we as a cycling community can do to improve safety for cyclists, in honor of Sidney's memory and his family:
1. Comment on and get involved with the new Jefferson County Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan by adding your thoughts to the site during the four week public input time period in January, 2012 at http://jeffco.us/bike-plan. The more they hear from cyclists about 100th Ave, the more likely the project is to get prioritized.
2. Get involved with Bike Jeffco and their subcommittee http://cyclistshaverights.org,