2021 was an absolutely awful year for cyclists riding on the road in Ohio and around the country. While riding in Ohio remains “safe,” especially when compared to other large states, the recent trend of increasing numbers of fatalities continued.
I see article after article in the media stating the same fact in many jurisdictions… Speeds are UP… Crashes are UP… Deaths are UP
Deaths were UP in big states and small – Ohio, Kentucky, Florida, California… You can read about it here and here and here and here and here.
In Ohio the DOT reports that 2021 was the deadliest year EVER on the roads
There were TWENTY-EIGHT cyclists killed on Ohio’s roads in 2021, making 2021 the deadliest year ever for cyclists as well.
Ohio has averaged 17-18 cycling deaths annually for many years. That started to tick up slowly around 2010, but that last few years have really been devastating.
In the 21 years from 1994 to 2015 Ohio had 366 cyclists killed – an average of 17.4 per year. In 2015 we saw a high of 26 and since 2015 we have seen a consistent rise in deaths with 22 cyclists killed in 2018, 23 in 2019 and an almost inexplicable 21 cycling deaths in 2020, when actual driving miles were down significantly!
The 28 CYCLIST deaths in 2021 represent the worst year we have seen.
The Fatal Crash Project
For the past decade I have tried to learn about fatal bike crashes in Ohio in “real time,” meaning I watch for media reports, run regular searches and rely on the kindness of strangers who forward stories of deadly crashes to me. We then dig into them immediately – we run down each crash as if we were handling the case. We determine who is investigating and reach out to the LEO [Law Enforcement Organization] with a long, detailed Public Records Request.
I explain that I will need ALL of the following documents:
- The COMPLETE Crash Report including all supplemental pages, witness statements, measurements, field sketches, drawings, notes and the like;
- All Witness Statements, whether written or recorded;
- All Photographs, Video Footage including but not limited to all Cruiser Cam and/or Body Cam footage;
- All 911 Calls;
- All Field Sketches & Field Notes;
- All Accident Reconstruction Data and Reports, including but not limited to all Total Station data, measurements, drawings, diagrams and the like in any form or format;
- All Forensic Reports (Toxicology Reports, Vehicle Inspection, ect.);
- The Autopsy or Coroner’s Report & Associated Photos, Sketches, Diagrams, notes.
When the LEO does not fully comply with our request we need to follow up & remind them of their obligation to release public information upon request under Ohio’s Public Records Laws. Sometimes it takes MONTHS to get the data. To date, we have not filed a lawsuit under the Public Records Law, but that is on the table if we believe the refusal to release data is contrary to law.
Sometimes they seem to forget about our requests and we need to follow up. In the October Shaker Heights fatality we’ve received almost nothing. After sending our 3rd follow up I did get a call from the Records person telling me nothing was available yet as they were “still investigating…”
Ohio’s Public Records laws are clear that virtually everything we ask for IS a “public record.” However, there are exceptions to what must be produce for “ongoing investigations” and some LEO’s interpret those exceptions VERY broadly…
We try to get the FULL crash report [not just the 3-4 page report they send to state]. The full reports are typically 50-75 pages and include investigative details not available in the short reports.
We also try to get the 911 calls, photos, video, Cruiser/Body cam footage, forensic reports, toxicology analysis, Total Station data, crash reconstruction reports and the autopsy report.
When the LEO complies with our request, this produces a LOT of data. Cruiser & Body Cam Video generates especially large files – Gigabytes of data for us to review!
Often, most of the video is not helpful as it shows the call coming in and the drive to the scene. However, sometimes the video shows the scene immediately after the crash, the location of evidence, witness interviews and other important details which may not make it into the written record. Reviewing the data is time-consuming, to say the least!
In one of our KY cases, the cruiser cam video from a significant injury crash showed our client lying on the ground with his head being held in place by EMTs. This was a very powerful image which reflected the seriousness of the crash and injury. In fatal crash cases, the video often shows police interviewing witnesses at the scene… much of which is often omitted from the report!
We’ve been seeking and storing and reviewing and analyzing this data during our “spare time” here at the BikeLawyer’s World Headquarters for the past decade. However, we are going to be moving the data, and conducting FUTURE crash research from the new non-profit we’ve started with Kentucky’s Bike Lawyer, Chris Carville.
The new non-profit is The Bicycle Crash Research Center, or BCRC for short. The non-profit was officially started in 2021 and we filed our IRS request for 501[c] status. We are awaiting a response from the overburdened IRS. While we wait we are working on getting the website up and running. Soon you’ll be seeing a new logo:
The hope is that we’ll be able to generate some funding for the 501c3 which will cover our cost for obtaining the data, reviewing it, storing it, generating work product, publicizing it and providing it to others. MUCH More information on how YOU can help will coming in the near future!
Once we have the data we review it, for every crash. We try to see what happened and why. What lessons are there for cyclists and motorists? What could be improved? What common problems are we seeing? Are police doing a good job at investigating? Analyzing the crash? Pursuing the wrongdoer? Can local, state or national advocates help in any criminal case arising out of a particular crash? Can advocacy groups help solve or minimize ongoing threats or problems? Can we develop a better relationship with LEOs, local government, state government and others to create a safer place to ride, smart infrastructure, better laws?
As you can imagine, this process takes a LOT of time, energy and a little money. I have funded these efforts and have tried to do analytical side on my own but I now enlist my legal assistant to help obtain and organize the data and Chris & I each review the data and discuss our findings. Chris & I started BCRC in part to be able to have a more formal way of storing and making the data available. BCRC will also be publishing reports like this one which go into the details and problems with the crashes even deeper.
This rest of this piece is going to be long. I’m going to briefly review each of the 28 fatalities. In some cases we already have ALL the data and in some we have received NOTHING from the investigating LEO, which makes reviewing the crash very difficult. In some it is obvious what happened… and in some, not so much.
We’re also trying to determine what criminal cases have arisen out of the 2021 crashes and we’ll keep you posted as we learn more there as well.
First some numbers…
2021 FATAL Crash Data
There were a total of 28 bicycle operators killed on Ohio’s roads in 2021. 23 male/5 female. They ranged in age from 5 to 82. There were 6 killed under the age of 20, which is unusual in Ohio. More than half of the cyclists killed on Ohio’s roads … 15 riders … were over the the age of 50!
Where were they killed?
When were they killed?
|6am – 12pm||9|
28 FATAL CRASHES
- FRANKLIN JOHNSON, Age 23 On January 9, Franklin Johnson was killed by a hit & run coward. He was apparently riding his bicycle on Broad St in Columbus when he was hit from behind and left for dead. We’ve requested records on this crash but have not received much. The police later located a vehicle “of interest” which they impounded. From what I can tell there has been no “case” yet…
- You can read about it here:
- RICHARD STRAMM, Age 58 Richard Stramm was killed in Lima, Ohio, Allen County on January 21. Mr. Stamm was riding a bike at the intersection of E. 4th and St. Johns in Lima. He was apparently not in a lane but tried to cut across the intersection diagonally. He was struck by a westbound car driven by Zachary Bess. Bess was making a left turn and struck Mr. Stram near the center of the intersection. No charges were filed so far as we can determine. The Lima Police provided us with all cruiser cam videos which were helpful and provided good evidence of the light conditions at the scene.
3. ROBERT RAUSCH, Age 51
On March 6 cyclist Robert Raush was riding eastbound on Bancroft Street in Springfield Township, near Toledo. Brian Urbanski was apparently driving westbound on Bancroft when he went left of center and slammed into Mr. Raush. Urbanski was later indicted for Aggravated Vehicular Homicide by OSHP and Lucas County prosecutors. His case remains active and pending.
The case is set for a Pre-Trial Conference on February 10, 2022
4. JOHN FLYNN, age 55
At around 8:40 pm on March 28 cyclist John Flynn was apparently riding on the sidewalk adjacent to Werk Road in western Hamilton County when he left the sidewalk and entered the road in front of a car. Mr. Flynn was struck by a 2019 Ford Transit van driven by Deng Zheng. It was dark. The rider had no lights.
Sometimes you request data and you find that the investigating LEO [Law Enforcement Organization] simply didn’t do much. Here, we received a trove of data indicating that Cincinnati Police looked closely at the facts, obtained “Total Station” mapping data, took the van into custody for inspection, and determined that nothing on the vehicle was a cause of the crash. There was also evidence of two baggies with a white powder found on the victim and evidence from the family that there had been a recent relapse.
5. RICHARD VENNEMEYER, Age 53
Richard Vennemeyer was killed on May 27 in CIncinnati. Mr. Vennemeyer was riding an e-bike down Kemper Lane towards Columbia Parkway. Kemper dead-ends into a T at Kemper. There was a car stopped at the red light on Columbia and the driver stated that Mr. Vennemeyer came off of Kemper straight and hit his car before slamming into the concrete lane divider to the right of the car. Nurses at the E/R found a baggie of pot in his clothes. The autopsy report showed a BAC of 0.25% along with pot & evidence of “recent cocaine use” by the rider. Blunt impact trauma to the head and neck caused his death. The motorist was found by police to have done nothing wrong.
This is the first year I have seen “e-bikes” showing up in fatal crash reports.
6. SURRENDER SINGH, age 28
On May 29, around 1am, a cyclist, Surrender Singh, was struck from behind while riding in the center lane of US 62 near Clime Road in Fairfield Township, near Columbus. There was no headlight or taillight on the bike despite the late hour. The motorist was identified. We have sought the full crash report but have not received anything other than a brief report from the Franklin County Sheriff’s office.
7. CHENGRU LIU, ag 82
The 7th cyclist killed in 2021 was Chengru Liu, an 82 year old rider who was killed in Cleveland on June 10, 2021. We only recently received the documentation from the Cleveland Police on this crash. At 9:30 am on June 10 an 82 yr old cyclist, Chenru Liu, was riding northbound on the west sidewalk of E. 55th, north of White Ave in Cleveland. The report says that the cyclist entered the lanes of travel on E. 55th, apparently crossing the roadway. After crossing the two southbound lanes, the rider was hit by a motorist, 57 year old Lester Pasley, who was driving a 2010 Dodge Charger. Pasley said he saw Liu riding across the the northbound lanes but then said the 82 year old rider “darted” into his northbound lane from “the middle of the street.”
E. 55h is not a big street. The White Street intersection is a T-Insersection. For Mr. Pasley who was traveling northbound on E. 55th, the rider would have been on the sidewalk to his left, next to the southbound lanes. He would have observed the rider cut over two southbound lanes before he hit the 82 year old Liu.
Here’s the overhead view.
Here’s the view looking north. The rider would have been on the left. The report indicates the cyclist entered the roadway near the Post Office Driveway, north of White Street. The speed limit was 35 and the motorist claimed to be going…ta da… 35. The speed of the 82 year old cyclist is listed at “3” …
At 3 mph the rider is barely staying upright on a 24″ Huffy. When you “do the math” 6 mph = 8.8 feet per second and 3 then = 4.4 feet per second. If the two lanes of southbound 55th Street are a very typical 25 feet wide, it took 5+ seconds for the 82 yr old Liu to cross those lanes before entering the northbound lane.
Why did the motorist not slow down? This was 9:30 am on a clear sunny summer Thursday. If the rider was “crossing” the roadway then Liu was likely perpendicular to northbound traffic. The police report states there are no “traffic control devices” or “pedestrian controls” where Liu entered the roadway… BUT… is that true?
Here’s the view from White Street looking at E. 55th. Liu would have left the sidewalk across the street, from the driveway at the Post Office. The motorist would have been coming left to right, like the white Pickup in the Google shot. While there are no crosswalk lines PAINTED on the roadway, there IS a crosswalk there.
Because Ohio law imposes IMPLIED crosswalks at EVERY Intersection. They have exactly the same force as any crosswalk painted. They might look something like this…
Was Liu in an Implied Crosswalk? Why did the motorist continue to drive towards the cyclist crossing the road when it MUST have been obvious what the rider was doing?
Somehow I doubt very strongly that an 82 year old rider on an old Huffy was able to “jart out” unexpectedly when the motorist SAW THE RIDER FOR SEVERAL SECONDS LEADING UP TO THE DEATH OF THE RIDER…
No charges filed here. The rider was held by Police to be completely to blame. I have…doubts… but would like to see the rest of the crash reconstruction data first… nonetheless a troubling crash at 9:30am on a clear sunny summer day…
8. ISAIAH WESLEY, Age 5
The eighth fatal crash was also troubling to me. On June 17, 2021 a 5 year old boy was riding his bike in Canton, Ohio. According to the crash report, he came out of an alley, was struck by a car and killed.
Canton, OH police worked up the crash considerably as they tried to reconstruct what happened. The crash occurred on a small neighborhood street, 14th Street, SE. The 21 year old motorist was driving a Nissan Altima westbound on 14th. She told police she never saw the boy and that he just came out and hit her car. Police went over the area with her and she believed the 5 year old boy came out of an alley. She said she was going “25-30 mph” at impact.
Police pulled data from the Airbag Control Module but no crash events were recorded.
Because the damage to bicycle lined up with imprints on the car police opined that the boy had come out of the alley from the motorist’s right and made a right turn before being struck FROM BEHIND by the motorist. However, the mathematical analysis was made more difficult as both the car & bike were moved after the crash. The woman driving the car said she felt threatened by the victim’s family & got in the car & drove farther up the street. The bike was also moved. However, the boy was struck by the car & traveled some 78 feet before coming to final rest. The police estimated the boy’s speed to be 30-43 mph after impact.
Below are shots of the front of the Altima and the dent on the hood. The area circled in red shows the imprint of the bike tire.
Had the boy hit the side of the car, or been perpendicular to the car at impact, the damage would have been very different. Here, clearly a “rear ender” from the damage to the bike and the imprint of the tire on the car’s bumper.
The police felt the boy was “Not Discernible” due to the high grass in the area. Again, we are awaiting additional photographs, field sketches and data to assess. An argument can be made that the motorist’s self-assessment of vehicle speed was inaccurate, and too low… An argument can also be made that the motorist’s inability to detect a 5 yr old boy on a bike may have been due to inattention…
At this point, it looks like no charges have been or will be filed.
9. Gerald Crumpley, Age 61
On July 2, 2021, in Cincinnati’s Bond Hill neighborhood, Gerald Crumpley was slammed into by a hit/run coward/felon and left for dead on the side of a very small, narrow residential street. Mr. Crumpley lived on Joseph Street and was struck in the early morning hours right in front of his house. The killer hit Mr. Crumpley and his bicycle, then left Mr. Crumply in the road and drove off, dragging the bicycle along. Around the corner from the crime scene, on Oberlin, the killer apparently stopped to extract the bike from the car and drove off.
Police learned the the car was apparently stolen and have not found the killer/s.
In PART II of this Report we will discuss the rest of the cyclists who were killed in 2021, including:
|Monica Faith Miller||7/9/21|
|Sharon Lou Streby||7/15/21|
|Rhoda V. Miller||7/19/21|
|Terry L. Bork||9/4/21|
|Nathaniel R. Stewart||9/10/21|
|Charles Jeffery Fink||9/25/21|
|Richard Todd Adams||9/30/21|
|Ethan Dakota Howard||10/16/21|
|Winston S Autry||10/31/21|
|Luke Ray Newswanger||12/5/21|
|Dennis C Loo||12/17/21|
I’m pretty sure it was Kemper Lane where I nearly failed to stop at Columbia Parkway when I was riding my motorcycle as a UC student nearly 30 years ago. It’s a very steep hill, and the road was wet. I locked up at least my rear wheel and slid to a stop sideways, maybe a foot from being into the high-speed cross traffic. It’s a moment forever embedded in my mind.