On July 25 I, like many of you, was horrified by a bicycle fatality in Kirkland. And today, I arrived to the office to word of another tragic, avoidable death of a man biking to work in Kirkland. Early reports indicate suspicion of drunken driving, and the police have arrested the driver for investigation of DUI at this time.
Normally, Cascade avoids commenting on ongoing investigations, but I’m not sure if that’s always the right approach.
We listened and waited during the investigation of the collision that killed John Przychodzen. John was new to the area, and a new member of Cascade. He was an avid cyclist, was passionate about riding safely, and, on the day he was killed, was biking home from work like thousands do in our region daily.
John was biking on Juanita Drive in Kirkland when he was struck from behind by a truck being driven by Nick Natale.
At the time, Kirkland PD called it “a terrible accident.”
Today, the police have altered their tune, saying the cyclist who died in the wee hours of the morning in the 13200 block of NE 124th Street was “doing everything right.”
John Przychodzen, by all accounts, was also doing everything right, cycling 19mph on a clear afternoon, on a road with a speed limit of 35mph that is frequently used by bicyclists. For reasons that remain unclear, the driver swerved into John, killing him.
We’ve obtained the Kirkland Police Department reports detailing their investigation. Here is the timeline from the reports:
3:30 p.m: Mr. Natale left his workplace in the truck.
3:40 p.m: Mr. Natale made a cell phone call.
3:40 p.m: Mr. Natale sent a text from his cell phone.
3:45 p.m: Mr. Natale swerved his truck to the right into Mr. Przychodzen, striking him, before crashing into the ditch.
Witnesses stopped and called 911. They joined Mr. Natale in trying to help Mr. Przychodzen.
3:48 p.m: Emergency and police units dispatched.
Several things stand out from the reports:
Witness reports fail to corroborate Mr. Natale’s assertion that he moved left to pass John, then swerved to the right to avoid a fast, oncoming vehicle driving on the center line.
All witnesses stated that they saw no reason for the driver to swerve or move from his lane of travel, and no fast-moving oncoming vehicle was witnessed driving on the center line.
There appears to be no cell phone record investigation beyond looking at the phone at the scene. A call and a text were shown to have taken place at 3:40 p.m. presumably, when Mr. Natale was driving his vehicle since he departed in it at 3:30. But no records appear to have been obtained from the cell phone carrier. Why?
Based on the traffic investigation, the driver was speeding, travelling 39 mph in a 35 mph zone. Further, the report shows that if Mr. Natale was driving attentively, he should have been able to see John an excess of 10 seconds prior to the collision.
In the end, police closed the case and issued a $42 ticket for changing lanes unsafely. Do you think it’s shocking and wrong that you can kill someone and simply get a $42 fine? I do, and I’m sad that it took us three years of work to pass the Vulnerable User Bill through the Washington State Legislature. The law doesn’t go into effect until July 2012, and is not applicable in this case.
Back to today. While we await to hear more about the fatality overnight, we send our deep condolences to the man’s family and friends. But we’re not sitting back. We’ve reached out to Kirkland to let officials know we’re watching this case. We ask them to do better and to file charges akin to the unnecessary and preventable loss of someone’s life. And you can as well.
Based on initial news reporting and comments from the police, we’re hopeful that this investigation will be thorough and that charges will be in alignment with the seriousness of the incident. More so than they were in July.