As cyclist's mother watches, driver denies killing her son
By Linda Goldston, Mercury News, Posted on Wed, Sep. 13, 2006
Six days before John Peckham was fatally struck by a car while riding his bike, he and his mother went on a long ride, pedaling past the spot in the hills above Palo Alto where Peckham was killed Friday.
Peckham had inspired his mother to take up cycling, and the two rode from Mountain View to Woodside on Sept. 2.
``I saw that little road where he was killed,'' his mother, Mary Ann Parker of St. Louis, said Tuesday after a court hearing for the man accused of killing her son, a 31-year-old from Mountain View.
Parker also made sure she got a good look at Chevelle Bailey, 41, of Fremont, whose bail was increased to $2 million by a judge who said he himself had been hit while cycling. Bailey is facing four felony charges and a misdemeanor charge of possessing drug paraphernalia in connection with the death of Peckham.
Parker moved from her seat in the middle of a row to the end seat when a bailiff escorted Bailey into the courtroom. He made a brief but noisy appearance in Santa Clara County Superior Court in Palo Alto.
While his attorney, Gary Goodman, was trying to tell him what he was to be charged with, Bailey blurted out, ``I don't care what it is, I didn't do it.''
His arraignment was continued until next Tuesday.
Bailey, who faces a maximum of 26 years in prison, remains in custody in the Santa Clara County Jail in San Jose. Because he has a 1986 conviction for robbery, his case will be considered a second-strike case, which doubles the penalties. His current charges include driving under the influence, traveling at excessive speed, leaving the scene of an accident and being in possession of a methamphetamine pipe, said Supervising Deputy District Attorney Jay Boyarsky. Bailey also has a conviction from 1998 for driving under the influence.
Boyarsky said a witness saw Bailey open and drink a beer right after the accident. His blood alcohol level in tests at the crash site was barely above the legal limit. Results of blood tests are pending.
Shortly after raising Bailey's bail, Judge Doug Southard revealed his own ties to cycling.
``I have for most of my life been an avid bicyclist and have myself been run off the road with injuries,'' Southard said, adding that while he felt obligated to disclose that information he believed he could handle the case fairly.
Southard denied Goodman's request to recuse himself. Goodman did not return a call from the Mercury News later in the day about whether he would appeal Southard's decision.
In an interview punctuated by tears, Parker said she wanted to see Bailey in court. ``I had to see the person that killed my son. He would have wanted me to do that.''
Peckham was a member of an elite cycling team that's part of the 400-member Webcor/Alto Velo Bicycle Racing Club. Last Friday, he was on a lunchtime training ride with other cyclists on Old Page Mill Road. Peckham had ridden a little ahead of the rest of the group when he was struck.
``One of the witnesses said he passed them going 90 mph,'' Boyarsky said of Bailey.
Bailey allegedly continued driving up the road for a short bit before crashing down an embankment.
``One of the witnesses said to the suspect, `Are you OK?' '' Boyarsky said. ``He said, `Yes, give me a minute, I'll be right up.' '' Then, Boyarsky said, ``He grabbed a 24-ounce can of Coors.''
Boyarsky said Bailey told another witness: ``I thought I was going to die, but I got out of the car like a soldier, cracked a beer and downed it.''
Peckham and Parker, who had flown to the valley Sept. 1 for a visit, were to have had dinner with his girlfriend and her parents Friday night.
``About 3 p.m., Cindy and her mother pulled up and said, `We need to get to the hospital. John got hit,' '' Parker said.
Parker immediately called Stanford Hospital. ``Can you tell me if he's alive?'' she asked repeatedly. She said she knew he was gone when the hospital would give her no information.
When she arrived at Stanford, she said, she had to see her son's body.
``He was badly broken,'' she said. `The car was going upwards of 80 mph, I was told, and went right into him.''
In some way, she said, seeing her son's battered body ``made me feel better, to know he couldn't have suffered much.''
Peckham had just bought a condominium in Mountain View ``and was so proud of it,'' said Parker, who has been staying there. ``I look around at it and think, `He'll never be able to live here.' ''
Visitation and farewell services will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. today at Spangler Mortuary in Mountain View. Peckham's cycling club is planning a memorial ride and will post details on its Web site, www.altovelo.org
, when they are available.
``I will be on the memorial ride and probably cry the whole time,'' Parker said. ``I feel like I'm not in the same world that I was in on Friday morning. I will never be the same.''
Contact Linda Goldston at email@example.com
or (408) 920-5862.
Fisher: Crazy drivers and bicyclists often show little judgment
By Patty Fisher, Mercury News Posted on Wed, Sep. 13, 2006,
Cyclists tell me there's nothing like the freedom of riding on a country road, drinking in the scenery, powered only by your own muscles. I've watched their eyes light up when they describe the eerie quiet of a deserted mountain road, the breathtaking beauty of that first glimpse of the ocean, the exhilaration of zooming down a hill on the edge of control.
I understand why people are drawn to cycling. It's fun, healthy and environmentally friendly. It's a great alternative to paying $3 for a gallon of gas.
But it's also increasingly dangerous.
Last week, John Peckham of Mountain View became the latest local cyclist to be killed on a country road. Peckham, a talented 31-year-old bike racer, was out for a training ride when police say a drunk driver hit him.
In July, Thomas Maddox, a retired college professor from Portola Valley, died after a car hit him on Skyline Boulevard. And in June, Ron Gordon, a Palo Alto dentist, was killed by a truck while cycling in the Sierra foothills.
Peckham's death was horrible and senseless. He was taking a noontime ride on Old Page Mill Road. It's not a place cyclists would expect much car traffic on a weekday. Peckham was guilty only of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Considering how many thousands of people ride bikes on Bay Area roads in the post-Lance Armstrong era, perhaps we should expect the occasional fatality. Perhaps we should just accept that cycling is inherently dangerous and that people who ride assume a certain risk. After all, bikes and cars are competing for space on roads that weren't designed to accommodate both. Accidents happen. And when they do, cyclists invariably get the worse of it.
And yet, cycling is going to continue to grow in popularity. People should be encouraged to leave their cars at home for the sake of the environment. And so we need to find ways to make the roads safer for bikes and cars. We need to find resources for more bike lanes, wider roads and better law enforcement. And all of us need to step back, slow down and remember that we don't own the road.
Last month I wrote about efforts by folks in Woodside to limit organized bike rides through their town, and I'm still getting a steady stream of e-mails from readers. I've been told sickening tales of near-misses, of rudeness beyond belief. One guy said he was riding his bike near La Honda last weekend when someone driving a Prius shot at him with a pellet gun.
There's a common denominator in all the stories I hear: lousy, oblivious drivers. On bikes and in cars.
Having lived near the Palo Alto bike boulevard for 20 years, I can tell stories of my own. Like the other night, when a cyclist dressed in dark clothing, with no light on his bike, blew through a stop sign right in front of me. I came this close to hitting him.
If I had, it would have been his fault, but I would have had to live with it.
Some law enforcement agencies, including the Santa Clara County sheriff, are beginning to crack down on reckless cyclists. Perhaps that will improve safety. But there is something the rest of us can do.
About 10 years ago when I was in, ahem, traffic school, the teacher made a point that's always stuck with me. She said: All drivers are doing the best they can at the time. Their best might not be very good -- they may be tired, distracted or just incompetent -- but it's all they can manage at that moment. So ranting at them isn't going to make them shape up; it's only going to distract them more and cause an accident.
So stay out of their way, the teacher said. And try to forgive them.
Next time you may be the one who needs forgiveness.
Contact Patty Fisher at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (650) 688-7510.