Sad Saga of Bike Safety
This week Dylan Thomas Rand-Luby pleaded guilty to felony charges of hit-and-run with injury, plus one misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence, in the tragic 2014 death of Laguna Beach bicyclist, husband, father and son, John Colvin. Rand-Luby, a 19 year-old Emerald Bay resident at the time, swerved onto the shoulder of Coast Highway in North Laguna and struck cyclist Colvin from behind, killing him instantly.
He then fled the scene with a shattered windshield and sped off to El Morro School, where he was followed and detained by two good Samaritans.
Rand-Luby was sentenced to one year in jail and three years probation. It could have been as much as four years. What’s more, had he been convicted of gross negligence, it would have been a double felony. Gross negligence is defined as “a conscious and voluntary disregard of the need to use reasonable care, which is likely to cause foreseeable grave injury or harm to persons.” Ordinary negligence is a “mere failure to exercise reasonable care.”
In online chats, bike advocates are seething at the light sentence as an inappropriate penalty and deterrent for taking another man’s life and then fleeing the scene.
But here’s the thing. John’s widow, Joan, has found it in her heart to forgive Dylan. She told me he had the courage to speak to her after the hearing and apologize. She said it was heartfelt and sincere, and that she and her family “could only hope he will lead a meaningful life and positively contribute to society.”
My hat is off to Joan for showing such restraint and compassion. Turns out that, after two years, two months and five days, she just wanted closure and to avoid trial, which she said would be unbearable pain, not just for her and her daughters, but for John’s parents, too.
I reminded her that John’s tragic death was not entirely in vain, that because of her courageous effort to speak to City Council about bike safety immediately following John’s death, some meaningful measures were put in place. We now have a comprehensive network of painted sharrows (shared roads) on side roads from North Laguna to Nyes Place. And we have not had a bike fatality or serious injury since. While the sharrows certainly cannot be the sole reason (luck always plays a part), nonetheless there is a sizable contingent of “Lycra riders” who now divert to the alternative roads instead of the death trap known as Coast Highway.
But we still have a long way to go in creating more favorable infrastructure to attract more biking in our town and a careful détente with motorists. Just two weeks ago, a video went viral of motorist John Lewis going completely postal on a bike rider in Newport Beach, threatening to kill him. Actually, he threatened to pull a Trump on him, which is now a verb that replaces postal and is synonymous with violence. What a campaign!
Lewis has apologized publicly, saying he screwed up. But road rage between cyclists and motorists on our congested streets continues, and this is just the latest example of the thin line between life and death when cyclists want to exercise their rights to pedal on streets.
As for Rand-Luby, it’s a tragic reminder that the gilded life in Laguna is no guarantee for a successful life. This young man will carry this tragedy with him the rest of his days, and deal with shame and guilt with whatever tools he has. And the journey will be challenging for his family as well. You’ve got to hope he does indeed “make a meaningful contribution to society,” because the alternative could be a life of desperation and despair. He will be in a mental prison the rest of his life, especially after the wrenching testimony of so many people who John Colvin touched deeply, and will never touch again. Don’t text and drive, people! It’s not worth it.
Billy Fried hosts “Laguna Talks” on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. on FM radio station KX 93.5 and can be reached at [email protected].