Yesterday, over 500 cyclists from all corners of Central Texas’ vibrant cycling community gathered for a memorial ride at East View High School in Georgetown, Texas, for 19-year-old bicyclist Tommy Ketterhagen. The gathering took place just down the road from where Tommy was struck and killed while riding last Monday evening.
The complete facts and circumstances surrounding Tommy’s case are still developing. We don’t yet know the full picture. The person currently in custody regarding Tommy’s death is charged with “accident involving death.” The driver, through his attorney, claims that he had dropped his phone and was reaching down to pick it up when he veered across the road and “thought he hit something.” The driver allegedly stopped and he and his passenger got out of the vehicle and looked around, but claim they saw nothing. They then proceeded on their way.
Here’s one fact we know; it was Tommy’s mother that found him the following morning along the side of Patriot Way.
I spent a lot of time yesterday thinking about that fact. To say I knew Tommy is to say I knew him from the bicycle racing community. I had mostly seen him at the Driveway Series on Thursday nights, and he generally had a smile and a hello. A talented rider, when he would race the junior race, which is sometime combined with the women’s beginner race, he and other strong junior riders would catch the back of the women’s group leaving the other junior racers behind. So my girlfriend knew him too as she would sit on the back of the women’s race, mentoring those just starting out and, by default, Tommy and a few other young men. A nice, young kid. Found by his mother.
I also thought about the place where Tommy was struck. I stood there with everyone else on the ride yesterday where Tommy was hit, where a small memorial now sits, where his mother found him, and wondered how could that driver now in custody not see Tommy, not see his bike? I submit it’s simply not possible.
The driver’s prepared statement and claims of “doing the right thing” made by his attorney, especially in light of seeing the scene, is infuriating and frustrating to many and leaves people wondering, what can be done about this?
First and foremost, you can support the Ketterhagen family as they deal with the aftermath of this tragedy.
We also need to remind each other and others that even in those places where there is no hands-free ordinance, driving while distracted is compounding what for most people is the most dangerous thing they do all day.
Beyond that, and really making an impact in Tommy’s case and in future cases, is letting the Georgetown District Attorney know that the death of a cyclist is not an “accident.” It is a crash, negligent at best, intentional at worst. How? Stop by the DA’s office and tell them, or use our sample letter, reproduced below, to voice your opinion about the prosecution of Tommy’s case.
Cyclists of all walks also need to be pushing their City Councils for hands-free ordinances and their local police forces for the vigorous enforcement of such laws. Cyclist, motorcycle riders, walkers and runners, and other concerned citizens need to push for better infrastructure for vulnerable road users. And yes, vulnerable road users need to lead by example when out on the road. The same laws and rules apply to us all.
Tommy’s Memorial Ride was fitting and moving. Nobody in attendance wants to go to another similar event. Hopefully this acts as a catalyst for our community to act. – Daniel J. Curtin, Jr.
(copy and paste this letter into your word processing program, print it out, and mail it)
January 30, 2017
Williamson County District Attorney’s Office
Attn: Mr. Shawn Dick
405 Martin Luther King Street, Suite 265
Georgetown, Texas 78626
Re: Tommy Ketterhagen
Dear Mr. Dick:
I write to you regarding the case of Mr. Tommy Ketterhagen, killed Monday, January 23, 2017, when he was struck head-on by a motor vehicle while lawfully riding his bicycle.
As a fellow road user and concerned citizen, I strongly urge the fullest prosecution of the driver at fault for Tommy’s death, and the pursuit, and if applicable prosecution, of the passenger in that vehicle. That is the only path to ascertain the complete facts and circumstances surrounding Tommy’s death.
The open, clear stretch of road where Tommy laid dead for his mother to find the following morning leaves little probability that Tommy or his bike couldn’t be seen by the driver as claimed. And claims of “doing the right thing” simply ring hollow.
Against such self-serving prepared statements, I urge you and your office to take a stand against the seeming normalization of inuring and killing cyclists and other vulnerable road users under the guise of “accident.” It’s time for you, an elected official, to side with the people you serve.