Urban Velo

Cyclist Killed in Indianapolis

I hate that stories about cyclists hit and killed by cars are more common than we want to admit, and although most of us realize that we are in a losing proposition with a car collision, the moments allow us to reflect and keep a greater sense of awareness about us on the roads. At least I hope.

IMG_5035I was riding to a doctor’s appointment this morning when I passed a wreck, but I was paying too much attention to the traffic to divert my eyes onto the scene. Only when I arrived at the office did I find out a cyclist had been hit and killed at that very intersection just fifteen minutes before I arrived. On the way back home I stopped to take a photo as the bus that hit the cyclist was in the road, investigative crews were mapping the area, and the rider’s bike was still on the ground. As I started to ride away I saw an officer pick up what was left of the mangled frame and place it in his car. From a distance I could tell it was a nice bike and I feared it was an experienced cyclist from the riding community, and either myself or a number of friends might know who it was. Turns out, I didn’t know him, but others in the community did. His name was Neil Kelty. He was 23. He was a new commuter, very excited about progressing Indy forward in alternative transportation, and was doing everything right. He was in the bike lane. He was wearing a helmet. But none of that mattered. The bus still turned into and collided with him head on. This was his last Facebook post.

“Absolutely love how helpful & open experienced cyclists have been as this newbie tries to learn enough to begin a 20 mile daily commute to/from work. The folks at Nebo Ridge Bicycles were absolutely amazing earlier this week – talking to me for nearly an hour after their shop was closed. Loved that they led with a teaching heart instead of a hard sell. That’s what I call great service, I’m looking forward to heading back once I’ve narrowed down options a little more.

And this was a recent blog post. The irony of the last line stabbing.

“And if you see me out there, please don’t hit me with your car.

I detail this story because it is an opportunity for remembrance, both of Neil Kelty, but also that we must always be on the lookout. We must always look over our shoulders, expect drivers to operate their vehicles erratically, and remain on the defensive at all times.

Further, this is another opportunity to open up the discussion about appropriate “punishments” for drivers that kill. At the time of this writing, the bus driver was not charged with anything…but is that ok? I have no doubt the bus driver was not acting maliciously or with murderous intent, but THEY screwed up and deserve retribution of some manner. They WILL have to live with the image and knowledge of killing another human, but should they also lose their job? Should they have their license taken away for at least a year? These are just thoughts of my own, but I’d be interested in hearing what you think is appropriate for drivers that kill cyclists, even by “accident”.

Again….be safe out there…watch your back…protect yourself.
kelty

About Scott Spitz

Commuting, touring, kid hauling, couriering, mechanic work, sales, advocacy, fixed, free—Scott has had his hands in it all over the years.

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10 Comments

  1. BradApril 25, 2014 at 8:54 am

    While its important to not ignore the deaths of people who ride bicycles, it’s also at least as important to understand people who both walk and drive or are passengers in motor vehicles die as well. In fact in my neck of the woods cyclists have no greater incidents of fatality than those who walk and the people in MV’s aren’t behind by much.
    Obviously, we should do what we can to prevent such deaths but we should also understand people who ride bikes most live longer lives in spite of the risks

  2. MendocinoApril 25, 2014 at 11:09 am

    To me, it’s the same justice mindset that comes back with “no charges were filed” when an adult leaves a gun lying around and a kid kills another kid with it. It’s negligence, purely and simply. There have to be repercussions for negligence. Remember the story a little while back about the homeless woman who had a job interview and who left her kids in the car outside while she was interviewing? CPS took her kids away. Why is negligence punishable in some contexts and not in others?

    Being irresponsible and causing others harm is a crime. Not punishing people for negligence means we’re perfectly happy with people being killed because someone wasn’t paying attention. That’s not acceptable. Even when there is no malice, if negligence isn’t punished there’s no impetus to change anything. Given the fact that we don’t have good bike infrastructure in the U.S. drivers need to be forced to be more aware – even if only by fear that they will be punished by the legal system if they are not.

    I wish his friends and family peace.

  3. Harriet ConnorApril 25, 2014 at 11:49 am

    The bicyclist was in the bicycle lane. The driver is 73 years old he needs to be charged, he killed this boy. If the driver is going to drive in the bicycle lane he needs to make sure no one is in the lane I am 64 years old and am so mad about even the thought that the driver will not be charged. I heard on the news they are calling it an accident.

  4. Anthony Foxx: If States Want to Toll Freeways, U.S. DOT Is Open to That | Streetsblog.netApril 25, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    [...] Wash Cycle caught the transit supervisor of Arlington County, Virginia, parking in the bike lane. Urban Velo shares a first-hand account from someone who biked past the scene of a collision in which a cyclist [...]

  5. KillMotoApril 25, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    “Professional” drivers shold have their commercial driver’s license suspended immediately when they kill or maim, and not get it back until there’s a full investigation including, at a minimum, a read of the person’s cell phone record and the vehicle black box. Commercial vehicles shold also be required to have functioning dash cameras, but I digress.

    These are prudent measures designed to protect innocent lives while facts are collected. Criminal or civil culpability is determined after the investigation is complete.

  6. Michael Whitworth, MDApril 26, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    Many questions: IC 35-42-1-5 defines reckless homicide as unsafe operation of a vehicle resulting in the death of an individual. In this case, if the cyclist was operating with the confines of the law, then the bus driver should be charged and tried for the felony of reckless homicide. Intent or willfulness to commit the act is not required- only unsafe operation resulting in death. Turning directly into the bike lane, a protected lane by law, and directly striking the bicyclist causing his death is no different than pointing a gun at him and shooting him, claiming unawareness the gun was loaded. The endless litany of motorists that continue to not be charged for criminal acts against bicyclists cannot continue, if the motorists are at fault. Certainly bicyclists as a group have a less than stellar track record, causing many crashes themselves, however a wayward bicyclist crashing into a car or bus injures only themselves. A motorist crashing into a law abiding bicyclist, running them off the road, or throwing items out of their windows can result in death of the bicyclist. Indeed, an average of over 700 deaths occur in bicyclist each year in the US.
    Questions-
    1. Why has the prosecutor not charged the bus driver with a crime?
    2. Was her license to drive suspended and when was the last time this 72 year old driver had an actual driving test?
    3. What is the school corporation and Durham planning to do to educate their bus drivers about bicyclists, bicycle lanes, and operating their buses safely within the law, treating bicyclists with equal rights on the road as is embedded in Indiana Code?

    Perhaps we will all benefit from the unfortunate death of this safety conscious cyclist by examining ways to educate the public on the rights of bicyclists.

  7. khal spencerApril 26, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    I take it the bus driver was not even cited for failure to yield?

  8. kristinApril 28, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    This makes me so mad/sad/upset. My heart breaks for him and also for the impact that this may have from discouraging other people to bike, but mostly I am furious that the culprit was a “professional driver” that was in charge of driving around children!

    And to Brad at the top, yes, cars kill about 30,000 people a year, few of which are cyclists only because cyclists account for much less of the population. But I think the difference that angers many in the cycling community is typically when cars injure pedestrians or drivers/passengers in other cars, there is often more of a punishment. Even driving under the influence, when not resulting in any injuries or deaths, is punishable by the potential removal of one’s license (especially here in WA where it is insanely strict). In that situation the mere potential for destruction is taken very seriously, where the actual death of a human on a bicycle is sadly often not.

  9. Ron NicolasMay 2, 2014 at 7:44 am

    As a cyclist who rides the streets of Indianapolis daily, I can say with a fairly high degree of certainty that nothing will happen to the driver. This type of story comes up all the time and always ends the same way-local officials act like they care for a while, then the story fades away only to be brought up again when the next cyclist is killed or severly injured- rinse, and repeat.

  10. Cops in Bike LanesMay 6, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    Vehicular Homicide is classified as a crime (in most locales) for a reason.

    Such a tragedy….thoughts are with his loved ones.

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