Fatal Crash in Minocqua Kills Bicyclist
Motorist initially charged with negligent homicide, but that has been dropped to inattentive driving, though investigation is not completed.
In an incredibly tragic story, 55-year-old Robin Kuzel, well-known as a year-round bicycle commuter in Minocqua, was killed Thursday, October 23, at 3 a.m. after he was hit by a truck while riding home from work on Highway 51. The driver of the truck, 28-year-old Adam B. Lynch of Delevan, was arrested for Homicide by Negligent Operation of a Vehicle, Reckless Driving – causing great bodily harm and Inattentive Driving. This is the fourth fatal bicycle crash this year, compared to nine at this time in 2013.
The day after the accident I had the unfortunate duty of breaking the news to Jeff Lauder, an employee at Chequamegon Adventure Company, where Kuzel was a frequent customer. Jeff told me he knew Kuzel well.
“He was just one of those people who almost lived on his bicycle. He is an avid bicycle commuter who worked at the Burger King. He couldn’t afford a car. We just sold him a (KHS 29er) 620 because of a kind of sad story. He had this old bike that we had maintained and he needed the money for something so he sold his bike to a pawn shop to get a loan. Then after he saved up enough money to get his bike back, the pawn shop had sold the bike. He got a crummy thrift store bike to get him by, but when he came in with it to get it fixed, we worked with instead to get him on a new bike.”
I asked Lauder how Kuzel could afford a new bike. Lauder said they let Kuzel to put down a deposit and they gave him store credit for the balance and let him take the new KHS. “He came monthly and give us another hundred or what he had, Lauder said. “He didn’t have a lot of money and we wanted to help him out.”
Most days I think I have the best job in the world, but reporting on fatal crashes is also part of my responsibilities to our members. We report on these crashes to honor the victims, but more importantly to review the circumstances and see if there is anything we can do to prevent a future crash. To that end, I have requested the crash report from the Minocqua Police Department, but the crash remains under investigation by the State Highway Patrol Crash Reconstruction Team. I have also requested the officer on the scene call me to share any other details he can at this time.
All we can tell at this time is what I can glean from the report in the Lakeland Times. Based on that story and the accompanying photo, the crash apparently happened Thursday morning on Highway 51, which has a wide, paved shoulder.
Until then, please have Kuzel and his family and friends in your thoughts and prayers. We can also all do our part to pay full attention to the job of driving when we are behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and do our best to ride according to the rules of the road when on our bicycles.
The number of such crashes has been on the decline for years, even as the number of people commuting by bicycle increases. The fatal crash numbers are so small that the variations from year to year are probably statistically insignificant. Of course our goal is to make that number zero.
And remember that despite rare tragic fatal crashes like this one, bicycling remains a very safe, healthy and fun way to get around. If you look at the statistics for the Wisconsin DOT, the crash rate in Wisconsin has been declining for years. In fact, if you factor in the health benefits and the extremely low chance of being involved in a fatal crash, bicycling is more likely to add years to your life than end it.
Update: It is possible that charges against Lynch might still be pending an investigation of the crash and review by the Oneida County District Attorney, but at this time, we have no reason to believe that other than the early media reports. I have now received the crash report, but it is extremely limited in details and offers no new information. We will have to wait for the results of the investigation and an update from the Minocqua Police or the Oneida County District Attorney. After I get more information I will share it here.
This story was originally published by the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.