How the Newspaper Learns About Bike Crashes

Be skeptical of crash reports in local newspapers. The police officer giving the journalist a quote is often sitting in an office miles away from the crash scene. He or she is only getting second information from the on-scene officer who has yet to complete an investigation.

The night of my crash The Daily Camera, Boulder’s local newspaper, quoted a public affairs officer who was located 50 miles away in Lakewood, Colorado. His statement to the newspaper read, “The driver had come to a complete stop and yielded appropriately, when they were hit by the bicycle. The driver had started from a stop sign, but stopped for a turning vehicle. That’s when they were hit by the bicyclist.”

It wasn’t until May, seven months later, before my crash was written down otherwise. I remember the day clearly. I was sitting at work when a new email popped up on my screen. It was the Deputy DA’s sentencing memorandum, which had been submitted to the judge for the upcoming traffic case. The case was People of the State of Colorado v. Russell D. Rosh.

While the case did not officially include me, I had been in communication with the District Attorney’s office multiple times prior to May for updates on the case. I asked what punishments Rosh could face. I requested photos from the scene. I wanted to make sure the letters that had been written by friends and family on my behalf were read in court. Most of all, in all of my communication with the District Attorney’s office I wanted them to understand I wasn’t at fault in my crash.

I’m sure law enforcement and the district attorney’s office had determined long before May that I hadn’t been at fault, but nobody had specifically informed me. So all winter I had the Daily Camera article in the back of my mind and it did two things. First of all it made me mad. I hadn’t been able to stand up for myself because I was being treated in the ambulance and emergency room. Second, it made me question my bike skills. I would replay the moments of the crash I could remember and try to decide if there had been enough time for me to avoid the crash.

Now back to the day in May when I opened the email attachment. Here is a little bit of how it read:

L14T1161 People’s Exhibit A (1)Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 9.05.08 AM

When I got to section 6, where it stated that I could not have avoided the crash, my lips curled upward. My eyes lit up when I got to section eight. The DA understood that it would have been impossible for another car to have turned in front of the red Fiat and not been involved in the crash. The driver had lied. Finally a huge smile broke across my face when I read that I had been following the rules of the road to the “T” pursuant to section 42-4-1412(5)(a)(III) C.R.S.

By the time I saw the bullet points that went from the bottom third of one page and continued for two thirds of the next I was out of my chair reading the memorandum aloud to my coworkers. Each of the 18 bullet points listed a prior traffic offense that Rosh had accumulated. Four bullet points were bold and italicized. That was the way the DA had distinguished the offenses that had led to a crash. Rosh had temporarily lost his license three times. He was listed as a habitual traffic offender and this was only his record in Colorado. The DA could not collect any information on Rosh’s driving record in other states where he may have lived.

Today as I share this story I relive all of the emotions. I grow angry when I pull up the Daily Camera article.  Then I become energized as I reread the DA’s memorandum. I often feel the need to share these documents with someone and discuss my disbelief as though I still need to defend myself three years after the crash.

But here’s the thing: because of that initial newspaper article I still occasionally find myself in situations where I have to defend that I was not at fault in my crash. For instance, over three years after the crash I found myself at the same social event as a prominent figure in the Boulder cycling community. As we began talking over small paper plates of chips and guacamole he told me that he always thought I had not being paying attention and simply run into the stopped car.

So I implore you, on behalf of other future traffic victims, please read each newspaper article about crashes with some suspicion. The article’s writer and the police officers are doing the best job they can do at the moment, but they lack the details that only a full investigation can provide.

12 thoughts on “How the Newspaper Learns About Bike Crashes”

  1. Similarly, a cyclist in Alabama was going to be cited for going the wrong way on the shoulder. The officer ON SCENE said that the bicycle was facing the wrong way, so he assumed she was riding in violation of the law. It was the force of the accident that cause the bike to flip all the way around. The officer just never asked. The victim had to correct him so the report was then corrected (she had witnesses as well). Really make me want my video camera when riding.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I saw that story. It just goes to show how important it is to include the victim’s statement. I had to request to submit a witness statement and often if the cyclist is in critical condition or dies their side never gets recorded. That leaves the police officers to determine what happened, which isn’t always accurate as this Alabama case shows.

      Video cameras can be extremely helpful and can also provide more information for the cops if you need to call in an aggressive/dangerous driver to them. You can capture the make/model/license plate without having to remember it all. The problem for me is mental. Do I want to start every ride turning on a camera with the expectation something bad will happen?

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  2. First of all, I am very happy you are around and able to write this update to your accident. Given how typical cyclist accidents with cars go, that alone is worthy of celebration. Secondly, it is great to see you got “blind justice” in the sense that the facts came through on your behalf while you were recuperating.

    That said, it isn’t surprising you had to write this story up elsewhere and I completely understand your frustration for how the local paper “covered” it. It also explains why they are currently struggling – they are not correctly serving the community’s interest.

    Sorry for the tangental rant but glad to hear you saw justice and are doing better!

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  3. My husband and I were single file in a bike lane traveling downhill when a truck left turned in front of us and took us both out. This happened 10 years ago and we both still have residual from our injuries – but could have been so much worse. I’m still furious about the newspaper article which said ‘cyclists hit a car, lost their balance and fell down’. We were both category 1 bike racers and pretty competent in our bike handling – it added so many bad feelings in an already difficult time. Several friends and I wrote letters to the newspaper – no response. The police were great and assigned fault to the driver without question. No idea where the ‘journalist’ got their information from.

    I remember your accident – it was horrific. I’m so glad you are around to write this. Thank you.

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  4. Adelaide,
    It’s good to read your article here, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s a damn shame that some of the authorities are so quick to come to conclusions based on a drivers’ story, while too often the cyclist is being taken away to the hospital, unable to tell anyone their story until after the newspaper has already reported something.
    I appreciate you cautioning readers that the first story they read is likely not quite right. Seems we have to learn this lesson many times over before we a experienced enough to take news stories with a grain of salt.
    But most importantly, I am glad you are here to write your own story. Keep it up.
    Scott Papich

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  5. Excellent writing and for sharing. I remember this very well as I investigate many of these crashes (for the cyclists/attorneys) – I have seen many of the initial reports by investigative officers and the reporters. Too often these reports are written having the sense of guilty until proven innocent (to the cyclist). These reports can potentially do additional damage than the injuries/death have already caused….It is already a tough battle physically, emotionally and financially!

    Your story here is very well stated, thank you!

    Like

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