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Bike safety: Driver and badly injured cyclist both cited in Boulder crash

More cars and cyclists are crashing into each other in Denver, prompting heated debates about who is responsible in the collisions. But in a recent Boulder crash, there's plenty of blame to go around. The accident report about the incident, in which a bike rider was knocked to the ground and seriously injured, is that both the cyclist and the driver were at fault: The driver drove carelessly and the cyclist failed to obey traffic signals.

Since we published our feature, "On a Roll," about the growth of cycling in Denver and the potentially devastating consequences, there have been a string of high-profile accidents that involved cyclists, including the tragic death last week of Gelseigh Karl-Cannon and the alleged road rage incident in Deer Creek Canyon, during which a driver's attempt to pass a group of cyclists went very wrong.

A street in Denver where cars and cyclists ride alongside each other.
A street in Denver where cars and cyclists ride alongside each other.
Sam Levin

In addition, a car hit a cyclist riding in a crosswalk in Boulder on November 5. The accident report from the Boulder Police Department reveals a confusing collision where both the cyclist and the driver appeared to make mistakes, earning them summons.

Just after 9:30 a.m., the cyclist, Alfred Christansen III, 23, was approaching the intersection of Spruce Street and 28th Street from the sidewalk, the report says. At the same time, 73-year-old Richard Chrappa, driving a 2005 Chrysler Sebring, also approached the crosswalk, just north of Spruce Street.

The cyclist turned into the crosswalk, but did not activate the flashing LED crosswalk signal. He then passed in front of a stopped Chevy van, according to witnesses, but the Chrysler driven by Chrappa passed that van and entered the crosswalk at full speed. The cyclist was struck in the crosswalk, rolled onto the hood of the car and hit the windshield. The car then allegedly carried the cyclist 82 feet before the driver was able to stop, at which point the cyclist rolled off the hood and fell onto the pavement on a center concrete median. Medics arrived and rushed Christiansen, who suffered serious injuries in the collision, to the hospital.

On the scene, Chrappa stated that he never saw the cyclist, because his view was blocked by the stopped Chevy van -- and he said the crosswalk lights were not flashing as he approached. Asked how fast he was driving, he said, "Whatever the limit is," according to the police report.

The vehicle, with a shattered windshield, was towed from the scene.

At the hospital, the cyclist was wearing a neck brace as he lay in the emergency room bed when police interviewed him. Asked if he had activated the crosswalk signal before entering, he replied, "I didn't."

A scan found that he had broken a vertebrae and suffered a large laceration to the top of his head. He also had a fractured foot. He was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.

Christansen was issued a summons for "Pedestrian Disregarded Traffic Control Signal."

And Chrappa was ultimately issued a summons for "Careless Driving Caused Bodily Injury."

Continue for more details from the police report.

Here's one witness account from the official police report, which says the cyclist was "totally at fault." McCue is the name of the witness and "TU1" refers to the driver":

Bike safety: Driver and badly injured cyclist both cited in Boulder crash

Regardless of who was at fault, this crash, like other recent collisions, is likely to raise concerns about bike safety. With a complicated accident like this, questions arise about everything from cyclist and driver education and awareness of best practices to the design of intersections and the role of traffic signals -- as well as questions about what behavior is legally allowed and how police enforce traffic laws. As is clear in the police report, there seemed to be problems of visibility for both the cyclist and the driver in this instance, and both probably could have taken more precautions to avoid this kind of collision. Still, regardless of fault, the cyclist always loses in accidents like this one.

Screenshot of 28th Street and Spruce, intersection where the collision occurred.
Screenshot of 28th Street and Spruce, intersection where the collision occurred.
Google Maps

Here is another excerpt from the official report. #1 refers to the driver and #2 refers to the cyclist.

Bike safety: Driver and badly injured cyclist both cited in Boulder crash

Here's a second excerpt that references interviews with both the driver and the cyclist after the accident.

Bike safety: Driver and badly injured cyclist both cited in Boulder crash

And here's a diagram of the scene.

Bike safety: Driver and badly injured cyclist both cited in Boulder crash

More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Yakov Rakhshtut: DIA bus driver criminally charged in death of Katherine McKinley"

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.


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