Hit-and-run on St. Mary’s
A hit-and-run sent one rider to the hospital Saturday morning, but the episode closed with what appeared to be a happy ending.
Shortly after 9 a.m., I was among
17 cyclists heading north on St. Mary’s Road on an extension of the XXX Racing-AthletiCo team ride. After turning right off of Everett Road, we were going about 25 mph single-file on the solid white line of the shoulder. A white pick-up truck driven by Thomas Francis Lynch passed us, veered to the right and applied its brakes. There was no way to avoid a pileup, and as soon as one started, Lynch sped away.
The lead riders were able to ditch into the gravel. Riding fifth in line, Chris McNally (MetCycling) endoed and wound up beneath the truck, making contact with the rear wheel and slicing his shin open on the tailpipe. XXX Racing-AthletiCo president Bob Willems gashed his knee and would be transported to the hospital for precautionary neck and back X-Rays. Something or someone struck and broke the truck’s right taillight. Others sustained abrasions and cut knees.
It could have been much, much worse.
We were able to get his license plate
and immediately called 911. Within minutes, Lake County sheriff’s deputies arrived to take statements. Paramedics followed to tend to the wounded.
As we were preparing to leave, 30 minutes after the attack, the driver returned to the scene to turn himself in. After speaking with the deputy for a few minutes, he was in cuffs and being escorted into a patrol car.
According to the deputy, Lynch claimed he had braked to avoid a squirrel. The deputy told us this was, in the professional parlance of law enforcement, “bullshit.”
Since he had turned himself in within two hours, it did not qualify as a hit-and-run. However, the deputy said he would push for reckless conduct, a felony. If nothing else, Lynch will face a raft of misdemeanors. (Ultimately the state’s attorney’s office will determine which charges will be filed.)
I’ll be following the case as closely as I can. This is not about just me, and it is not about just XXX Racing-AthletiCo. Road rage is a danger that could strike any of us, and St. Mary’s Road is a popular road for cyclists, triathletes and recreational riders. If an example is not made here, the message will be clear: Open season on cyclists.
Update: Here are more photos of the scene. Apologies for the lousy quality.
A few other notes:
- » Three cheers for the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. The deputies took the incident seriously and treated us with concern and respect.
» Two drivers who witnessed the attack attempted to follow the truck, then returned to the scene to provide statements. The deputy said this buttressed our case immensely, as they were able to verify that we had been riding single-file and as far to the right as possible. Otherwise it would have been difficult to call for more serious charges. One more good reason for our group rides to stay no more than two abreast. Not only is it the law and not only does it ensure safety, but in a case like this, it can make the difference between an arrest and a verbal warning.
» There is something incredibly satisfying in hearing handcuffs clasp shut on someone who has just apparently tried to kill you. Justice heals a great many wounds.
» A few weeks ago I got into a lather over comments Steve Dahl made on his radio show. I knew that Dahl was kidding when he said how much he’d like to hit cyclists and “take their jerseys and keep them as pelts,” and that he likes to “get as close as I can to scare them,” but it didn’t take long to find out what can happen when a driver tries to “scare” cyclists. Dahl’s comments contribute to a climate where drivers feel such conduct is acceptable. (This is hardly the first time a vehicle has stopped short to startle a group ride.) Do North Shore cyclists need to do a better job of sharing the road? Yes, of course. Does this mean drivers should use their vehicles as weapons? No, and how dare you, Steve Dahl, to even joke about it.
» XXX Racing-AthletiCo has a tragic history with road rage. In 1999, messenger and team friend Tom McBride was run down and killed after an altercation on Chicago’s West Side. In a landmark case, the driver was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 45 years in jail. This was one wound, however, that no amount of justice could heal.