Tacoma cyclists react to crash that killed 13-year-old

Days after a 13-year-old boy riding a bike in a crosswalk was hit and killed by a car in Parkland, local bike advocates expressed their anger and grief over an accident they called avoidable.

According to Washington State Patrol, the teenager was using the crosswalk on Tuesday afternoon near Pacific Avenue and 134th Street South when he was hit. Soldiers said he activated the flashing signals at the crosswalk, but the driver did not yield and hit him.

“It’s just shockingly sad, and it’s completely 100% preventable,” said Noah Struthers, executive director of Second Cycle, a bike shop in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood.

Struthers and other cyclists who spoke with The News Tribune said their thoughts were with the family of the teenager who was killed. Struthers said he hoped they would be able to find a sense of peace and justice, and that he expected the driver to be held to the level of the law.

Detectives are continuing to investigate the collision, according to Cavalier Robert Reyer. The driver, a 27-year-old woman from Lakewood, was not arrested at the scene. Reyer said charges could be filed once the investigation is complete. The soldiers initially said that she was not over-extending and not driving while impaired.

Struthers, 40, said he mostly gets around by bike or on foot in Tacoma. It’s stressful, he said, and he feels the safety of people who cycle or walk is often put aside in favor of people who drive cars.

“Bikes are kind of an afterthought. It’s not really designed for us to keep us safe, Struthers said. “The infrastructure is not there yet. It’s a disconnected patchwork of bike paths and lanes.

He said preventing fatal crashes between bikes and cars comes down to infrastructure, engineering and enforcement. In this case, he said, all three seemed to fail at the same time.

Paul Tolmé, spokesperson for the Cascade Bicycle Club, said measures such as lowering speed limits and providing protected bike lanes – which separate cyclists from car traffic using some sort of physical barrier – are two steps that can be taken to create safer streets. Cascade Bicycle Club is based in Seattle and is a statewide group that educates cyclists and advocates for safe places to ride bikes.

In that accident, Tolmé pointed out, the boy was in a crosswalk, which he said should have been a safe place for a cyclist. He said he hoped the Pierce County District Attorney’s Office would review the facts of the incident.

“We don’t have all the facts about what happened,” said Tolmé, 57. “From what I’ve read, the blame clearly lies with the person driving the vehicle.”

Teena Johnson, 58, is a member of Tacoma’s Cycle Pedestrian Technical Advisory Group. Her husband, Thomas, was killed by an impaired driver in May 2020 while cycling near Port Orchard.

“If someone does something like that, I feel for that driver, but there have to be consequences,” Johnson said. “And if there are no consequences, drivers just think it’s not that bad.”

Johnson, who likes to ride an e-bike in Point Defiance or along the water, said she was already nervous about cycling on the road before her husband died. Afterwards, she was only more nervous. Tacoma drivers go fast, she said.

“It’s sometimes hard to drive at the speed limit or under the speed limit because no one else is really doing it,” Johnson said. “Everyone is like five miles and up. And people get a little crazy sometimes. You’re on Ruston and you’re driving the speed limit and people are on your bumper.

Johnson said she couldn’t see how the driver who hit the 13-year-old boy wasn’t considered driving recklessly. She compared the incident to walking down the road with a large knife and then punching someone walking in front of you.

“It’s definitely reckless. It’s a crime,” she said. “It’s a heavy, sharp thing, and a car is that.”

Peter Talbot covers crime and breaking news in Pierce County. He started with The News Tribune in 2021. Before that, he earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Indiana University. While in college, he worked as an intern at NPR in Washington, D.C. He also interned for the Oregonian and the Tampa Bay Times.

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