Tragic news from the Foothill Farms area: This morning a 13-year-old boy riding to school on the sidewalk was killed by a driver leaving a parking lot on Hillsdale Blvd. near Palm Ave. Our thoughts are with the victim, the two boys riding with him, and everyone else involved.
The victim was riding his bike northbound on the sidewalk on the west side of Hillsdale when a driver exiting a parking lot hit him while turning onto southbound Hillsdale. The Bee story did not report on the driver’s speed or whether he stopped before entering Hillsdale. The California Vehicle Code requires drivers to look both ways before leaving a driveway.
In a statement to The Sacramento Bee, the CHP – North Sacramento spokesperson emphatically blamed the death on the boy’s failure to wear a bike helmet, as required by law, and claimed that he’d still be alive if he had been wearing a helmet, but didn’t offer any evidence to back up the assertion. We independently spoke with the CHP North Sacramento office, where an officer confirmed that the collision investigation would not be completed for at least 30 days and that the coroner had not issued an official cause of death.
The spokesperson’s statement fits a pattern we’ve observed with this particular CHP office, where spokespeople tend to offer conclusions and assign blame (typically focusing on the victim, not the driver) when investigations have barely begun. We’ll request the investigation report when it’s available, to see what we can learn about the actual circumstances of the crash.
This collision also fits a pattern we see among fatal collisions in Sacramento County: nearly all of them occur in suburban North Area and South Area neighborhoods on multi-lane arterial streets with long distances between traffic signals and pedestrian crossings – conditions that encourage speeding and make bicycling in the street even more uncomfortable, especially for younger children. The half-mile between signals and crosswalks on Hillsdale Blvd. may also help explain why the children were riding northbound on the sidewalk, instead of trying to cross Hillsdale to reach the northbound bike lane.
While riding on sidewalks presents unique, well-understood hazards, it can often be a safer option for younger children than riding on a busy street like Hillsdale. It doesn’t appear that the neighborhood surrounding the Foothill Ranch Middle School has designated, marked bike routes that would enable children to avoid riding on Hillsdale.
We’ll continue to monitor the CHP’s investigation and share more information when it is available.