Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Bicyclist Critical After Collision

By Daryl Kelley
Local public official Richard Handley was involved in a traffic accident early Tuesday morning, when the vehicle he was driving struck and severely injured a 27-year-old bicycle rider on state Highway 33 north of Ojai.
After the 4:30 a.m. accident, Steve Prager, 27, was taken to Ojai Valley Community Hospital for emergency treatment for major head injuries, according to the California Highway Patrol. A hospital spokesman said Prager was in stable condition late Tuesday morning, “but does have critical injuries.”
The CHP reported that Handley, 55, a director of the Casitas Municipal Water District and preserve manager at the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, “was entering a curve when he saw the rear red light on the back of Prager’s bicycle in the northbound lane. Handley struck Prager as he tried to pass him.”
In an interview, Handley said “I did the best I could” to avoid Prager.
Handley said that a few seconds after spotting Prager’s taillight, “as I tried to get around him, the guy made a sharp left turn right in front of me. I was about 20 feet away. He hit on the left side of my vehicle and broke the windshield right in front of me.”
Handley said he routinely drives during the pre-dawn to Matilija Canyon or Wheeler Hot Springs so he can start his day with a walk in the woods. But Tuesday, just after passing Bodee’s restaurant, he saw the bicycle rider and moved left so there would be plenty of room to pass.
Handley said he was traveling about 45 mph when Prager swerved and Handley’s 1992 GMC minivan struck the man. Handley said he flagged down a pickup, whose driver called 911.
Prager suffered a gash in the back of his head, but was conscious when firefighters arrived from the Meiners Oaks station a few minutes later. The man was taken by ambulance to the Ojai hospital, where Handley said he had twice checked on his condition by mid-morning.
“I was just there,” Handley said, “and he was conscious.”
Four CHP cruisers responded, blocking traffic on Highway 33 for about 40 minutes.
Dr. Gordon Clawson, an Ojai emergency room physician, said such accidents are fairly common.
“You’d be surprised at how often this happens — at least once or twice a year.”


Debi Otto said...

The reporting on this story was very substandard. You placed a complete emphasis on Richard Handley instead of reporting on the poor bicyclist who was critically injured. Isn't he just as important (maybe more so since HE was injured by the motorist) as Mr. Handley?? While I hope that Mr. Handley felt terrible about the incident, imagine how the victim and their families must feel. My husband was hit by a motorist while riding his bicycle and sustained serious injuries right here on Ojai Avenue. It took me 5 days to track down the person that hit my husband and she could have cared less! It was a terrifying experience and we are just thankful that he is on the road to recovery.

I think much more focus should be on the bicyclists who are the victims of such incidents. THEY are the victims here. And, bicyclists have the same rights on the roadway as the motorists. We follow the same laws (stopping at stop lights/signs, etc.) and hope that motorists extend a courtesy for those of us who hit the road on our bicycles. Remember, we are out there riding on maybe an 18 pound piece of equipment with only a helmet between our delicate heads and the pavement.

Please do the bicyclist justice and report on HIM not someone else just because they happen to be a public figure.

Millennium Twain said...

this article was not merely "substandard", it was unbelievable ... that a driver hits a bicyclist ... and the driver is not jailed pending a full inquiry and court hearing ... and the Ojai Valley News reports the story from the driver's perspective, and not from the bicylist's or the police reports ... and does not question why the driver did NOT slow down when passing by a bicyclist on a deadly highway at deadly speed?

California Highway law is VERY explicit ... one may NEVER drive faster than it is safe -- and the definition of safe MOST CERTAINLY includes the proximity of children or pedestrians or bicyclists.

Debi Otto said...

Millineum: You are right on point. The person that hit my husband was never even CITED by the police even though the police report clearly established that the motorist was at fault. Truly UNBELIEVABLE.

John Crowley Ojai, CA said...

This accident happened at 4:30am on Tuesday morning. It was researched, written, reported, printed, and delivered to my doorstep on Wednesday morning. The victim was in the hospital, do you think everything is going to stop so he can talk to a reporter?!?!! I strongly disagree with the harsh assessment of reporting quality.

Debi Otto, I am sorry for what happened to your husband and wish him a speedy recovery, but it took you five days to track down the person; how about giving some props for reporting this story in ONE DAY?!?!! Rich Handley is a good man, who has served the Ojai community in many ways for decades, and he deserves our good thoughts at this time, along with Steven Prager.

Millennium Twain said...

Dear Supervisor Bennett,


Supervisor Steve Bennett, L-1900
800 S. Victoria Ave.
Ventura, CA, 93009

Phone: (805) 654-2703
Fax: (805) 654-2226

it was a pleasure to meet you at the opening
of the Oak Grove Earth Day festival.

my wife and I are unable to attend your Valley-Wide policy planning meetings for the Ojai Valley.

we therefore are submitting our policy request
by email.

we ask that for the Ojai Valley, the County adopt automotive, bicycle, pedestrian and equestrian rules and signage -- and lane expansion improvement when and where possible -- to make the roads ten times safer than the current deadly danger they present. according to the Ojai Hospital, for many years the rate of serious to deadly injury to bicyclists on our roads is one to two persons per year.

and heartfully reflect on a plan to reduce bicycle casualities to near zero -- as even one or two every five years is far far too much, and unnecessary.

let us immediately reduce the road speeds where there is insufficient bicycle laneage and shoulders, and implement policies and signeage alerting drivers to slow down to 25 MPH hour, or less when necessary,
to protect the bicyclists who are on unsafe roads.

we will circulate this as a petition in the Ojai Valley.

how many emails and signatures do you require to put this as the number 1 or 2 or 3 priority for the Valley Wide policy plan?

for the love of our family, the Ojai Valley!

Millennium Twain

cc: Oak Grove Cycles, The Ojai Post, Richard Handley (OVLC)

Debi Otto said...

John: After what we experienced during the aftermath of my husband's bicycle accident, this story just hit a nerve. I in no way am critizing Mr. Handley; I was just surprised there wasn't more details on the injured bicyclist. Having been at the hospital for days with my husband; I thought maybe family members or friends of the bicycle victim could have given an update.

I can only imagine how Mr. Handley might be feeling at this point. Unfortunately, the woman who hit my husband wasn't the upstanding and heartfelt man Mr. Handley is. I wish nothing but goodness for everyone involved.

Anonymous said...

This incident strikes a nerve in everyone. Who hasn't had a close call as a cyclist and as a driver involving a cyclist. Not all cyclist are safe and considerate to drivers, and the same certainly can be said of drivers towards cyclists.

I used to be an avid cyclist and had many hair raising experiences, some my fault. Experience is the best teacher, so long as it doesn't kill you during your lesson. Drivers education with drivers training in California needs to be put back in our high schools. It was a mistake taking those programs out. It doesn't seem drivers are getting the intensive training they got in high school.

I'm not saying that would have had any impact on this incident, but because it apparently struck a nerve, revealed with several comments, maybe, maybe some of those experiences we have encountered would not have happened were both drivers and cyclist were better trained.

Dana Wilson

Anonymous said...

What constitutes libel? Asserting that someone intended murder in an accident would be an example.

Aside from the legal, how out of touch, distasteful and unconscious is it to say that kind of crap? -- Who is this MT anyway?

Anonymous said...

MT is Milleunum Twain!!
Inventor of the Space Station.

Anonymous said...

Ojai Hospital reported yesterday that Steve Prager was 'removed' from the Hospital. The staff refused to say anything more, other than 'talk to the family'. Anyone know the family, or Steve? Is he still alive, hopefully recovering?