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CHP: Cyclist Had Right of Way in Fatal Upvalley Crash

Napa CHP Officer Garrett Ray said Richard Becker was riding downhill and had the right of way. There are no stop signs or signals at the intersection, and the driver should have waited before turning left, Ray said. By Bay City News Service.

A St. Helena cyclist had the right of way in the vehicle collision that fatally injured him Saturday morning, a California Highway Patrol officer said.

Richard Becker, 54, died at St. Helena Hospital after his bicycle collided with a car at about 9:30 a.m. at the intersection of Sanitarium and Deer Park roads, CHP Officer Steve Aguilar said.           

Kimberly Klingman, 39, of Napa, was driving a 2010 BMW east on Deer Park Road and entered the eastbound left-turn lane intending to go north on Sanitarium Road, Aguilar said.

Becker was riding his Concorde Gavina bicycle west on Deer Park Road near the Sanitarium Road intersection, Aguilar said.

As Becker entered the intersection, Klingman turned left directly into the path of the bicycle, which struck the right side of the BMW, Aguilar said.

Becker was ejected from the bike and was taken to the hospital, where he died.

Klingman was not injured and was released at the scene, Aguilar said.

CHP Officer Garrett Ray said Becker was riding downhill and had the right of way. There are no stop signs or signals at the intersection, and the driver should have waited before turning left, Ray said.

The collision is still under investigation.

By Bay City News Service.

Mark Mathews August 21, 2012 at 12:46 AM
How fast was the bike going?
Andrew August 21, 2012 at 12:48 AM
Very sad but maybe it wasn't a right-of-way issue as you assume (which you shouldn't really do as a fact reporting journalist) - maybe she just didn't see him? People using the highway to get exercise are hard to see and take a very big risk. People should exercise on bike trails. Much safer, don't you think? Cyclists are a severe road hazard to drivers.
Aileen Carroll August 21, 2012 at 01:06 AM
It cold be said that drivers are a severe road hazard to cyclists. As far as cyclists exercising on bike trails, unless there are class I bike paths that go everywhere the current roads (Class III) do, cyclists will continue to apply their rights to the road.
F Otterbeck August 21, 2012 at 01:19 AM
Yes, the bicyclist had the right of way. No doubt about it. However, it is really hard to see bikes as they emerge from the shadows and it is hard to gauge how incredibly fast they are going. We really need bike lanes throughout the valley as more cyclists are riding in the center of the road in unexpected places like Deer Park and Rutherford Crossroads.
Dale Martin August 21, 2012 at 01:24 AM
@ Mark and Andrew The driver of the car has to yield to any oncoming traffic and make sure it is safe before making a left hand turn. That is the law, period. I don't know the posted speed limit for Deer Park Road in that area but I assume it is 45 mph or higher. It is highly doubtful that the cyclist was exceeding the speed limit but regardless it is still the law that the driver making the left hand turn must make sure it is clear before turning.
Antoine M August 21, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Ditto Aileen's words. Cars are the common denominator in road deaths, with or with out distractions such as cell phones and being under the influence cars can be deadly. The privilege of driving one is supposedly only given to those responsible enough to recognize the dangers they are creating for others who use our public spaces. Drivers ed and the DMV could do more to make our roads a safer place.
Jeffrey Wright August 21, 2012 at 01:51 AM
Maybe you should actually read an article before commenting. Preferably the first paragraph !!
Dennis August 21, 2012 at 02:21 AM
As a friend of Richard, but not a resident of St. Helena, I don't think we should be trying to determine who was at fault. I think we should mourn a tragic loss and the suffering by all parties involved. Richard would prefer that we worked to find a way to avoid a similar tragedy in the future. Dennis
Lena August 21, 2012 at 03:07 AM
Regardless of who is at fault the drivers life is forever changed as well as the bicyclist 's families. Instead of pointing fingers we should be thinking about how we can all be better drivers and riders.
Lucas Mingst August 21, 2012 at 03:42 AM
Doesn't matter. The car cut the man off. If he's been on a motorcycle would you be asking the same thing?
Lucas Mingst August 21, 2012 at 03:44 AM
If she didn't see him then she was still in the wrong. Bicycles are legally the same as motor vehicles while on roads. Perhaps drivers who can't be safe around bicycles on the road should turn in their licenses to drive.
Leilani August 21, 2012 at 04:04 AM
I am heart broken! This is such a horrible tragedy! I feel so much sadness for the cyclist and the driver. She is an awesome person who will have to live with what happened for the rest of her life. It's just a horrible accident!
Unfiltered Steve Simoneau August 21, 2012 at 08:13 AM
Bicycles and automobiles are both considered vehicles for transportation, accomplishing exercise on a bicycle is just a benefit of that vehicle. Unless you run out of gas, it is unlikely that you will experience any exercise with an automobile. Successful development of both vehicles occurred at roughly the same time in the mid-19th century, except automobiles were extremely rare and bicycles quite common. So, my opinion based on these facts is that automobiles have always been a hazard for bicycles. If a very large person steps on a small nail is it the person's fault for not looking or the nail's fault for being in the way? The CHP is correct to determine that the bicycle had the right-of-way, although a bicyclist should always make themselves as visible as possible.
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) August 21, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Hi Andrew: If you read the article you'll see we did not "assume" anything about the right of way. We simply reported what the CHP officer said.
Jeffrey Wright August 21, 2012 at 03:35 PM
The ability to gauge how fast an object is moving is one of the many fundamental skills a driver needs to posses to operate his or her vehicle in a safe manner. If this is a skill you haven't acquired I hope our paths never cross .......
Donna August 21, 2012 at 04:45 PM
This IS a tragic accident all the way around, a good friend of mine once told me that 'accidents happen that is why they are called accidents', what is done is done at this point there is no going back, these are good people, you can debate all you want the tragedy is there and these lives will forever be touched one way or another. My heart goes all to all involved.
Darris August 21, 2012 at 05:40 PM
So very sad to hear of this mans death. Many years ago I was a passenger on a motorcycle that was broadsided. Although there were extenuating circumstances involved (the woman was on prescription drugs) she claims she didn't see us (no headlight laws in the 70's). As a driver with over forty years of driving experience and having been a cyclist and passenger on motorcycles for years, I have to say that I have had close calls with motorcycles and bicycles because I didn't see them. Now that motorcycles must have headlights on at all times the incidents of accidents where the bikes are not seen has dropped dramatically. I don't know all of the facts about this accident but it is an opportunity to have a further conversation about what would increase cyclist's safety and one glaring issue is visibility. A fairly easy thing to address.
Eva August 22, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Very sad to hear about this. Prayers to all parties involved. The day after this accident, Sunday, I almost hit a woman near the intersection of Deer Park and Silverado. There were group of three cyclists that was on the opposite side where I was just started to slow down to stop at the intersection When this woman decided to cross the street . Because the accident was still fresh in my mind, I hit my brakes so I would not hit her.....and of course I was shakened...she stop fortunately. Cyclists that comes down the Ang win or Deer Park Road rides down fast, residents of both area knows this...IT'S DOWNHILL SPEED. I got nothing against exercising and exploring around the valley, but some cyclists have NO RESPECT ON THE ROAD. We all as riders and motorists have to respect each other's space on the road. WE SHOULD ALL BE MINDFUL OF EACH OTHER, so this does not happen again. Do you guys think we can all do this? Eva
Caroline Potter August 22, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Thank you, Dennis. This is a tragic accident and finger pointing and blame do nothing to comfort the parties and families of those involved.
Barbara August 22, 2012 at 05:47 PM
The speed limit is 45mph on that section and it's not easy to hit that speed on a bike with the pitch of that hill. I've tried. As sad as this is for both the motorist and the family and friends of Richard, the motorist was either not paying attention or tried to beat the Richard to the intersection before he got there. A lot of cyclists and motorists are out of control in the bay area. Like, when did tailgating become legal? When did impeding traffic become legal? When did rolling through stop signs become legal? There is a need for strict enforcement of traffic laws for both parties and the support in the police force to do so. Cite those cyclists who give me a bad name. Repeated offenders lose their bikes. Just like motorists lose their licenses after repeated offenses. As a cyclist I'm aware of the love affair between most cyclists and their bikes. I'm telling you, it'll hurt. Go ahead and hate me for this but I'll feel a whole lot safer out there without that feeling of hate shot at me, objects thrown at me, or being spit on due to guilt by association.
Barbara August 22, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Road hazard? Really? When was the last time a motorist was hurt running over a cyclist? Also, most cyclists are training on the backroads. Most of what you're seeing on the highways are tourists renting bikes to go wine tasting with little or no knowledge about safely regarding riding a bike on the road.
Barbara August 22, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Agreed. These things are horrible for all involved.
Barbara August 22, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Sir, I understand what your saying and respect your opinion but my helmet saved my life. I hit the bounced off the ground at about 25 - 30 mph slamming the side my head, broke the helmet in 3 places with not even a bump on my head. They do their jobs. So, please don't try to tell me or anyone else that these helmets are inadequate. And, I don't know about all cyclists but my gear is not trendy nor is it beach-wear attire. It's there to keep me comfortable while riding as well as alive. It may be referred to as nothing more than underwear to those that really don't know but you can't miss me with what I wear and I can say that for a lot more who I see out there on the road while driving the car or riding the motorcycle. Also, sweat? If I wore what I wear on the motorcycle I'd be dealing with heat stroke. Not going there.
Lena August 22, 2012 at 06:56 PM
I too have had close calls with bikers coming into my lane suddenly or deciding they need to ride side by side and weaving back and forth into the traffic lane. On Silverado trail and on Deer park. Silverado Trl is dangerous for CARS what makes bikers think THEY are safe on the road? There have been so many traffic deaths on that road as well! Yes we all need to watch out for each other but when you have a biker who doesnt care about following rules
Jim August 25, 2012 at 05:05 PM
I was a cyclist for many years. I no longer ride, but take interest in the sport. This is tragic for all involved. The one thing I cant wrap my head around (would love input from the cyclists here) is this. In all the years I rode, I cant recall a time where I struck anything hard enough to cause this type of injury. I actually once hit a parked car at 16mph..my fault. I understand when a car strikes a cyclist how great the impact can be, but the reports state that the cyclist struck the car who turned in front of him. How fast do you have to be traveling on a bike, to not be able to see the car turning, apply brakes, swerve, something.. and still cause this type of damage. Is there limited visibility at that intersection? Is it a downhill? I am not concerned with fault. I have just thought about this terrible accident and wonder how either party could have prevented it, as to ensure that it doesn't happen again... God Bless all involved.
Jim August 25, 2012 at 07:33 PM
I was a cyclist for many years, although not any longer. This is tragic for all involved. The one thing I cant wrap my head around (would love input from the cyclists here) is this. In all the years I rode, I cant recall a time where I struck anything hard enough to cause this type of injury. I actually once hit a parked car at 16mph..my fault. I understand when a car strikes a cyclist how great the impact can be, but the reports state that the cyclist struck the car who turned in front of him. How fast do you have to be traveling on a bike, to not be able to see the car turning, apply brakes, swerve, something.. and still cause this type of damage. Is there limited visibility at that intersection? Is it a downhill? I am not concerned with fault. I have just thought about this terrible accident and wonder how either party could have prevented it, as to ensure that it doesn't happen again... God Bless all involved.
Lillian Banks August 25, 2012 at 07:59 PM
I drive that road all the time, and a bicyclist can get "lost" in the view of an auto driver, in that they are coming down so fast (bicyclist) on the hill, and have a background of forest trees and their shadows. If the bicyclist is wearing red, orange, yellow they are more easily seen, but lots of them wear green, brown and black and just blend into the vegetation.

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