A Fatal Rear-End Collision

Like the rest of the Austin cycling community, I am saddened by the death of cyclist Verter Ginestra, 55, over the weekend. He was riding on the shoulder of Loop 360, a major highway on the west side of Austin. The shoulders on 360 are very generous.

Television news stories of the crash show the car in the shoulder. Sound bites from police did not lay blame on the cyclist; in fact, they urged motorists to watch out for them because 360 is such a popular cycling road. It features long hills and few stoplights. The worst part about riding 360 is having to cross exit and entrance ramps, and being on the outlook for fast-moving cars in those spaces.

Verter Ginestra (From KVUE Television website)

Crash scene (From KVUE Television website)

Ginestra apparently was not crossing an entrance or exit ramp. He appears to be the victim of a type of collision that is fairly rare — the daytime rear-ender. One statistic I saw (and cannot vouch for) says that only three percent of car-bike collisions are daytime rear-enders.

On top of it, the driver of the car is 85 years old. So you’ve got a bike on a wide shoulder, in bright daylight, and still he gets hit.

What can a cyclist do?

Not much, apparently. Cyclists should always be aware of what’s happening around them. “Scanning” — looking behind — is a riding technique everyone needs to learn. But if you’re riding with traffic, and you’re on the shoulder, you’re not likely to spend a lot of time looking behind you. The most common advice for avoiding rear-enders I’ve been able to dig up is to wear a rear-view mirror. That idea has its pros and cons. It might have alerted Ginestra to the car moving onto the shoulder, but since traffic on 360 is fast, it might not have given him enough time to react.

I didn’t know Verter Ginestra, but Dan Colvin, who joined me on my birthday ride, rode with him often. Dan says Verter was the kind of cyclist you’d want to ride with: “He was strong enough to ride with most A groups, but was not one to force the pace if others weren’t as strong. Interesting conversationalist. Helpful with mechanicals. The whole nine yards.”

Cyclists plan to converge on Austin City Hall Thursday evening to urge tougher enforcement against drivers who hit cyclists. As I write this, the 85-year-old driver has not been charged in the crash.

The KVUE story about the crash can be seen here.

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10 thoughts on “A Fatal Rear-End Collision

  1. and once again I ask the question…the same question I ask those who lecture me about wearing earbuds on solo rides…even if you could sense (see, hear) the car approaching you from the rear…what can you do about it? is there an avoidance maneuver?

    the simple answer is no…not a thing you can do about it

    wear a mirror on your helmet, put one on your bike…just be aware of its limitations

  2. Sadly, we just had a rider killed two weeks ago here in St. Pete. She was riding on a busy street, but one with a generous, well-marked bike lane. Speed limit is 30 mph. A 27-year-old driver with cocaine, meth, oxycadone, and several other drugs in his system was drag racing another car at 80+ mph (this is a downtown, city street). When his path got blocked, he decided the way to get around the car in front of him was to go into the bike lane. Guy had his 3-year-old child in the car.

    Interesting thing is a week later, local police started a big crackdown…on cyclists. Mostly for rolling stop signs on several popular morning routes. Handed out a LOT of tickets, with hefty fines, one time even waiting behind a country club and flying out with lights and sirens. Not faulting them for enforcing the law, but not a single person I know can recall one time where any motorist got ticketed for violating the three-foot law.

  3. What an unfortunate accident.
    I feel terrible whenever I hear news of fellow cyclist death.

    Looking at the google street view of Loop 360, that looks like a very dangerous road for cyclist.
    Also in the news video shows speed limit of 55Mph, which means cars are driving near 60Mph.

    Here in CA, I would never be brave enough to ride on such a high speed road.

    • Frankly, I and a lot of experienced cyclists I know avoid it, although we have a club ride that uses part of it. I don’t like riding on shoulders of busy roads, because I don’t find them pleasant. But two-lane roads in the country have their own challenges.

    • That 3% stat doesn’t ease any concerns, though. Perhaps more should be done to protect cyclists. In SF, there are physical barriers separating bike lanes from the traffic lanes.

      • I don’t pay those kinds of taxes (nor would I want to)… I see your point, but you can’t protect everybody all of the time, it just is what it is. The old lady that hit that guy never should have been on the road… It’s her fault, not the lack of barrier…

        Besides that, as soon as barriers go up you end up with laws restricting bikes to being behind the barrier – then they take away all of the other roads (to protect me), so now I’ve gotta drive my bike to protected roads to ride. No thanks.

  4. Pingback: Tribute Ride For a Fallen Biker | Bike Noob

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