Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bike Fed statement on Iowa County DA's letter about Allen Belonger case

Recently, the Spring City Spinners cycling club and the Bike Fed wrote to Iowa County District Attorney Larry Nelson asking why no traffic citations have been issued in the year since Allen Belonger, 61, was killed in a truck-bicycle collision while he was cycling in Iowa County on July 11, 2009.

A state trooper's report completed in October 2009 found that the driver of the passenger truck had failed to yield and that Belonger's behavior did not contribute to the collision.

We thank Mr. Nelson for taking the time to write to us in response to our questions. However, we are disappointed by the content of that response.

Mr. Nelson stated in his letter several reasons for why no citation had been issued. These included:

  • "… issuance of a citation is a law enforcement function. District Attorney's [sic] Offices do not issue tickets." This response begs the question. District attorneys have the power to recommend that law enforcement personnel issue citations. Mr. Nelson made no such recommendation.
  • "I would support a decision not to issue a citation in this or any other matter where the incident occurred and all appreciable facts were known over a year before." This answer is based on a false premise – that all the facts were known more than a year ago. The sheriff's department did not conclude its investigation into the collision until October 2009. The Spring City Spinners did not receive the accident report until July 2010. Moreover, there is plenty of precedent for acting on a legal infraction more than a year after the infraction occurred.
  • “Could I … recommend to the Sheriff’s Department that they issue a citation? Certainly. … I did not do so out of an affirmative decision not to issue because it may or may not have been warranted.” We do not understand why the district attorney feels that a citation "may not have been warranted" in a clear case of failure to yield resulting in death. (That's not our conclusion; that's the state investigator's conclusion.)

We do not seek retribution against the driver whose actions resulted in Allen Belonger's death. However, we do believe that he should not be spared the legal consequences of his actions.

Every day, we teach people how to operate their bicycles safely and legally on Wisconsin's roads, and we support efforts to keep bicycle operators legally accountable for their behavior. We believe that motorists should be held to the same standards.

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