Just after midnight On an otherwise quiet May 4, a man was riding his bike on Country Club Drive, approaching Eighth Avenue.
Fifty-year-old Carlos Cortez Hernandez was hit by a car, which did not stop.
“Unfortunately, the male did not survive his injuries,” said Nik Rasheta, a Mesa Police Department spokesman. “We also located the vehicle involved and the investigation is ongoing.”
On the Facebook home of the group Bike Mesa, people were saddened but not
“Once again, Country Club, where bicyclists and pedestrians are targets and prey,” commented Alycia de Mesa-Weeden. “We hate this road with a passion to try to navigate safely.”
Luis Montes suggested this was an avoidable situation:
“The blame goes on the driver and everyone in our local government that hasn’t worked towards safe transportation.”
As Mesa City Council starts studying how to spend the $100 million voters approved last year in a bond issue – along with $62 million in matching funds – more attention is being paid to pedestrian and cyclist safety.
The Transportation Advisory Board will meet at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 18, to discuss the results of an Active Transportation Projects survey involving bicyclists and pedestrians.
The board is developing recommendations that will be presented to Mesa City Council this summer. The live meeting may be listened to by calling 888-788-0099 or 877-853-5247 using meeting ID 530 123 2921 and following the prompts.
The May 4 fatality was the most extreme vehicle-vs.-bike accident of the year, but hardly the only one.
Police responded to 71 collisions involving vehicles and bicycles last year. The fatal hit-and-run was the 22nd time police investigated a vehicle colliding with a car in 2021.
Of the vehicle-vs.-bike collisions, the great majority of victims were in crosswalks or bike lanes.
And the Hernandez case was the most recent of four injury accidents where drivers fled the scene, leaving a biker bleeding in the road.
The youngest victim was 8.
A litany of incidents
Just before noon Jan. 25, another biker was more fortunate than Hernandez, surviving a hit-and-run with minor injuries.
The victim was riding down Center Street near Southern Avenue when a white flatbed tow truck took him out before racing away on Center Street.
Hours later, there was another hit-bike-and-run on North Sycamore and West Main Street. A witness saw a driver take out a woman riding in the bike lane with the car’s side mirror.
Riding at night, the bicyclist had front and rear lights and a light-up necklace; but the driver apparently didn’t see her.
On the afternoon of Feb. 26, another driver took out a biker and fled. The injured biker told police he was in a crosswalk at University and Sossoman when a car making a right turn slammed into him.
Before the car raced away, the biker was able to take a photo of its license plate, giving investigators a key lead.
On March 10, an 8-year-old girl was riding on the sidewalk of South Apollo crossing Rubidium Avenue in Eastmark when a white minivan slammed into her. A witness who said he saw the whole thing said the van didn’t even pause before speeding away.
The girl was not seriously injured.
In the great majority of cases, drivers stayed on the scene to help the bikers, then told police their versions of what happened.
The first vehicle vs. bike incident of the year happened around 11 a.m. Jan. 7 at West Southern Avenue and South Macdonald when a car driver “saw the bicyclist eastbound on the north sidewalk of West Southern Avenue but thought that he was going to turn to go northbound on South Macdonald and that she would be able to make her turn.”
A witness saw the bicyclist enter the crosswalk and get hit.
The biker got a bloody nose.
The 31-year-old driver got tickets for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk and not having vehicle insurance.
On a Sunday morning 10 days later, a 71-year-old bicyclist was in the crosswalk at West Rio Salado Parkway and West Decatur Street when a car took him out.
He did not appear to have life-threatening injuries but was taken to Banner Desert Medical Center for assessment.
The driver said she was making a
left turn and didn’t see the biker until she hit him.
She received tickets for failure to be reasonable and prudent and failure to yield to a pedestrian.
Four days later, at West Keating Avenue and South Dobson Road, another biker went to Banner Desert Medical Center after a 20-year-old driver took him out in a crosswalk. Police gave the driver a ticket for failure to yield to oncoming traffic while turning left at an intersection.
On Jan. 28, a man was biking down West Southern Avenue when, as he told police, “some lady mowed me down.” She was making a left turn into an apartment complex.
The biker was taken to the hospital.
Two days later, a senior citizen was biking on East Brown Road in a marked bike lane when a driver going too close took him out with the car’s passenger-side mirror. After being toppled, the biker complained of head pain but declined to go to the hospital.
Police noted marks on the biker’s helmet, which likely saved him from severe injury.
Police ticketed the driver for failure to provide 3 feet of space.
Around noon Jan. 31, police arrived to a call for service and found a man down on East McKellips Road, his bike underneath a GMC Yukon.
The Yukon’s driver said he was making a turn-out of his driveway and didn’t see the biker.
Police say the 46-year-old driver had slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and sluggish reactions. The driver denied drinking or taking illegal drugs, but told police he took a number of medications that morning, including the muscle relaxant Baclofen. The driver’s wife brought bottles of the prescription drugs to the police.
“I looked at the bottle of Baclofen and read the warning which it states to be careful when operating a vehicle,” reported an officer.
The driver was cited for failure to yield while turning from a private driveway.
Two weeks later, another driver coming out of a driveway clipped a biker, this time in front of a Walgreens on West Main Street.
After failing field sobriety tests, the driver was arrested for DUI; the woman he hit was taken to Banner Desert Medical Center.
On March 10, a biker was in a crosswalk on East Brown went down when a man making a right turn nailed him. He escaped serious injuries.
According to the police report, the driver “stated he did not see the bicycle because the sun was in his eyes.”
One month later, a bicyclist on McKellips Road was hit when a driver trying to merge to turn on North Miramar didn’t see him. The biker was not hurt, but his bike was totaled.
In almost all of the cases, vehicles run into bikes.
But, on March 26 at Brown and Mesa roads, a witness saw a school bus stopped at a crosswalk. After a boy left the crosswalk, the bus started to go.
The witness then saw a teenager on a bike “hauling ass” to get through the crosswalk in front of the bus; the biker braked and skidded just before running to the front part of the bus.
The 15-year-old girl had cuts all over her body. She was taken to the hospital with a possible concussion.
On Jan. 28, a Pontiac Grand Am slammed into a bicyclist on Main and Dobson streets.
The biker was rushed to the hospital for treatment of multiple broken teeth, a broken left arm, broken right leg, two broken vertebrae and a ruptured spleen.
In this case, according to the police report, the driver was not at fault: “The bicycle was not in the crosswalk area and was crossing against the red light … The collision occurred east of the crosswalk on Main Street. The vehicle struck the front end of the bicycle and hit the right leg of the bicycle rider.
“The bicycle rider then came upward, from left to right, along the hood of the vehicle and impacted the windshield.”
The driver told police she never saw the biker who ran a red light until she heard the boom of her windshield crashing and looked back to see the biker down in the road.