Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Looking for answers in Allen Belonger's death

Allen Belonger was killed on July 11, 2009, while riding in Iowa County. As he descended a hill at 30 to 35 miles an hour, a 16-year-old driver named Eric Hendrickson "abruptly turned [his truck] in front of Belonger," according to a recently released state trooper's report. The report states that Hendrickson "failed to yield" even though Belonger was in his sight line for 10 seconds prior to the crash, and that the "manner in which Belonger was operating his bicycle was not a factor in this crash."

Despite these conclusions, no charges have been filed against Hendrickson. Nor has he received a ticket for failure to yield. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Hendrickson orginally received a citation related to intoxicated driving, but when tests showed no alcohol in his system, that citation was dropped and no other citations were made.

Belonger's friends at the Spring City Spinners cycling club are pressing Iowa County District Attorney Larry Nelson for answers. A recent letter to Nelson written by Spring City Spinners President Laura Fisher and co-signed by six other club members, along with Bonnie Belonger (Allen's widow) and Bike Fed Executive Director Kevin Hardman, says:
Our question is a simple one: Why was no ticket issued to Mr. Hendrickson? There is no defense to his driving that day. Our friend died a violent and needless death because this young man was not paying attention and violated the law, and not even a traffic ticket was issued. Why?

Please understand that we have no vendetta against Mr. Hendrickson. He must be
devastated by this tragedy, and no doubt will carry it with him the rest of his life. We also understand that you must be very busy in performing the important functions of your office. Nevertheless, it is our opinion that there must be some official condemnation of his actions. Otherwise, the public may very well and possibly quite reasonably conclude that your county does not take the safety and rights of bicyclists seriously. That type of attitude can only lead to a greater disrespect of cyclists' rights and therefore to more tragedy, not only in Iowa County, but throughout the State.

The Bike Fed fully supports the Spring City Spinners in their quest to find justice for Allen Belonger and make the roads safer for everyone, and we are working to educate motorists about the rules of the road as they pertain to bicyclists. (Please direct your friends and acquaintances to for an introduction to these rules.) Yesterday, Tony Galli of WKOW 27 in Madison interviewed our Madison director, Amanda White, for a piece that laid out the problems with the case and why it's important for motorists to treat bicycles as the legal vehicles they are. You can see a summary of the piece, which aired on the evening news, here.

The Waukesha County case referred to at the end of the story was the Father's Day killing of Waukesha resident Brett Netke as he rode on Highway 18. He was hit from behind. The driver in the case has paid a $114 traffic ticket for failing to provide a safe passing distance and, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, may receive a three-point license deduction. You can see a story on the case from Milwaukee's TMJ 4 here.

1 comment:

Corey J Sepanski said...

Gail Marschak, a woman from Pleasant Prairie Wi., is facing serious fines against her for calling 911 because her dog drowned. Not a single ticket was issued biliumpofor killing a bicyclists? Where is the justice? It happens time and time again the judicial system does not take the rights of cyclists seriously.