Hit-and-Run Nightmare in Marin

Driver of a Pick Up Swerves into Cyclists on a Charity Bicycle Ride, Then Drives Off

The remains of one of the bikes. Photo: Marin County Bicycle Coalition/Jim Elias
The remains of one of the bikes. Photo: Marin County Bicycle Coalition/Jim Elias

Cyclists participating in Saturday’s Jensie Gran Fondo of Marin, a fund raising ride for the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, were nearing the end of their ride at about midday Saturday. A group of cyclists were on Point Reyes-Petaluma Road outside of Petaluma, when a blue pickup came up behind them, swerved and crashed into four riders, and drove off.

“I came on the scene a few minutes after it occurred,” said a still audibly shaken Jim Elias, Executive Director of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, in a phone interview with Streetsblog. “Medical services, which fortunately were stationed right down the road at a fire station, also arrived about the same time. The four riders were in various conditions along the side the road.”

 

A screenshot from the California Highway Patrol's Facebook page.
A screenshot from the California Highway Patrol’s Facebook page.

Fortunately, a motorcyclist with a GoPro-style video camera caught a shot of the truck and turned the evidence over to the California Highway Patrol. Apparently, someone recognized the truck and tipped off police.

A Picture Posted by the Califonria High
A Picture Posted by the California Highway Patrol of suspect Aaron Michael Paff. Photo: CHP’s Facebook page

The suspect’s name is Aaron Michael Paff, a 21-year-old maintenance worker for the Marin Municipal Water District.

“Thank you everyone for all of the tips and information regarding the bicycle collision on Point Reyes-Petaluma Road on Saturday morning. Your help has proven invaluable yet again,” wrote the CHP on its social media feeds. “We received numerous tips that lead us to a house in Novato where our officers located the vehicle involved in the collision. Shortly before midnight, approximately 12 hours after the collision, Marin CHP officers along with members of our Investigative Services Unit placed the driver under arrest.”

Elias, meanwhile, saw the video footage provided by the motorcyclist. “I viewed the video numerous times–it’s clear what happened. The truck was in the middle of the lane approaching the cyclists who were on the right side. Then the truck moved to the right side of the road where the cyclists were riding single file, he hit them, and then moved back to the center of the road and sped off.”

A frame from the passing motorcyclist's video of the truck. Image from CHP.
A frame from the passing motorcyclist’s video of the truck. Image from CHP.

Witnesses, according to reports, told CHP that the motorist appeared to intentionally steer his truck into the cyclists.

Paff, according to the PressDemocrat, was charged with of felony hit-and-run and was subsequently released Sunday on $50,000 bail. “I deal with hit-and-run every day and usually they happen where some kid is driving his parents car and he accidentally clips a cyclist, he freaks out, and drives home,” said Michael Stephenson, a Senior Attorney with Bay Area Bicycle Law of San Francisco, responding to the reports of this case. “That’s not what this is–this is assault with a deadly weapon or attempted murder. He didn’t want to go to jail so he fled the scene.”

Stephenson and Elias agree this reinforces the importance of riding with a camera. If not for the passing motorcyclist it’s unlikely the police would already have a suspect. “It’s an important piece of safety equipment and this unfortunately confirms the value of that sort of evidence,” said Elias.

That said, they also hope this terrible incident won’t deter people from cycling. On the whole, motorists this egregious are rare. “As cyclists we face drunk drivers, pot holes, dangerous road design,” Stephenson said. “There are dangers, but on the whole there are gains to our mental and physical health–it is safe and we should all keep cycling.”

Elias, meanwhile, visited 48-year-old Spencer Fast of Mill Valley, the cyclist with the most critical injuries, on Sunday. “I saw him in the hospital and he’s improving, including seeing light from the eye that was badly injured–he didn’t know if he was going to regain vision in it.” Fast suffered multiple injuries, including to his back, but is expected to recover.

“As awful as this incident was, I am heartened that so many people came forward in an effort to locate and apprehend the driver,” said Elias. “I’ve heard from a lot of people, whether they ride bikes or not, who have said they were heartbroken to learn of what took place.”

First responders treating one of the cyclists wounded in Saturday's hit and run. Photo: Marin County Bicycle Coalition/Elias
First responders treating one of the cyclists, presumably Spencer Fast, wounded in Saturday’s hit and run. Fast was airlifted to the hospital. Photo: Marin County Bicycle Coalition/Elias
  • It’s shit like this i point to when I hear drivers complain about reckless cyclists. Drivers don’t understand that we put up with the possible threat of being run over or knocked off the road from behind by a two-ton or more vehicle, on purpose or *by accident*, every time we get on the road. The actual physical threat that cyclists pose to pedestrians, other cyclists, or drivers is statistical extremely minimal. Not so the other way around.

    And I say this as a driver.

  • saimin

    Attempted murder

  • Cynara2

    The actual physical threat you pose to pedestrians is constantly minimized by cyclists, not extremely minimal, at all.

  • Huh? He said he’s a driver. He’s a driver minimizing the threat cyclists pose…or at least putting it on a spectrum of threat.
    Cyclists are definitely a threat to peds. I definitely feel for people threatened with pain and/or inflicted pain and occasionally death by jerkwads on bikes.

  • Eugene Chan

    If only drivers actually knew how every cyclist gets close passed within inches when being courteous and giving them most of the lane. So they almost clip me with the side of the car in kind… But then when I force them to stay behind me until we get past a blind corner, they tailgate and honk at me, then close pass me anyway. I’ve been knocked down once by a county vehicle this year, and almost hit two other times. Share the road, these road ragers say…lol.

  • MatthewEH

    Cynara2 is The Worst. Not worth engaging with him at all. I blocked him ages ago. (Assuming male pronouns here, though this could be wrong.)

  • Cynara2

    A week before this happened three cyclists assaulted and battered a hiker on the hiker only Matt Davis trail. They put the hiker in the hospital. The ranger asked MCBC, the beneficiary of this charity race, to ask the cycling community to find the hit, beat and run cyclists and identify them. MCBC blew it off. Would not ask cyclists to find the perps.
    A week later, the MCBC is up in arms when cyclists are hit and the headline runs that it was deliberate. All the cyclists want the driver in prison for life.
    MCBC should be ashamed of their hypocrisy.
    Mountain bikers hit person on two feet, who cares?, according to MCBC and the cycling community.
    Some animals are more equal than others, I guess.

  • Cynara2

    Well, Streetsblog pretends to care about pedestrian and cyclist safety, but never runs the stories about cyclists harming pedestrians. Willfully ignores it. Just like MCBC.

  • Well, the way to get that changed is definitely to argue with Xevioso and not read their messages fully.

  • Flatlander

    This is a nonsense rant unless the CHP was asking, say, AAA as a representative of “the motoring community” to find the person who attacked these bicyclists.

  • djconnel

    You lost me at “the cycling community.” This is the sort of language used by bigots everywhere: the “black community”, the “LGBT community”, etc.

    Some bozo in a bike hits a hiker: that sucks. It has nothing to do with this incident.

  • djconnel

    How is this anything less? “Felony hit-and-run” implies he was driving recklessly. He freaking swerved directly into the riders. That’s not reckless, it’s intentional.

  • djconnel

    Cars are by far the greater threat to pedestrians. Sure, there’s a degree of political advocacy here, trying to overcome a strong anti-cycling bias in common culture. Everyone wants people to be safe when they ride bikes. But focus on the primary threat, which is motor vehicles: when people switched from driving to cycling that almost always improves public safety. There’s lots of threats on the roads, including pedestrians running into each other, pedestrians tripping over dog leashes, pedestrians slipping on discarded banana peels….

  • Kemal

    I dont want to upset you, however what you are writing above has nothing to do with this hit and run… But with that said; those mountain bikers are an issue. I sure hope they where not local riders.

  • nateking

    whoa. you have issues.

  • Nathaniel Ford Redmond

    This is such a good response!

  • Tom Boss

    One cyclist was alleged to have gotten into a fight with a hiker. The newspaper that printed the story never actually spoke to anyone involved in the incident. The hiker declined to be interviewed. The story says a fight ensued after the male hiker pushed a female cyclist. It said the hiker was released from the hospital the same morning as the incident. MCBC said if they heard anything they’d report it to the authorities. MCBC pointed out that criminal investigation is not its focus and that they have been been working cooperatively to improve relations among trail users with a “Slow and Say Hello” campaign.

  • Guy Ross

    Equality: Spat on a trail between users / driver attempts to murder numerous random people he has never met with a deadly weapon?

    Really? That’s your position? That’s the double standard argument you’re going with?

  • If this sort of post isn’t getting you the type of attention that you’re looking for, might I recommend a change of approach?
    The way I’ve seen a lot of other people share stories that they think are relevant is to post the link in a comment in the current Today’s Headlines. Relevant stories are often picked up by the person who collects the links for the next Today’s Headlines.

  • GregKamin

    There is no serious doubt that the vehicle swerved. The question is whether the swerve was deliberate or whether it was the result of some mechanical, health or concentration incident.

    The fact that the driver decided to leave the scene is indicative that he knew he’d done something bad and wrong, but not necessarily that he had set out with a clear intention to injure or kill.

    Either way, I suspect he needs a very good lawyer and I doubt that he can afford one.

  • Cynara2

    You said trail etiquette was your focus. So tell me how beating someone was polite? You are misrepresenting what happened, as well.
    What happened was that they rode there illegally, the hiker informed them they were there illegally. The cyclist then hit the hiker. The hiker defended himself and the mountain bikers beat him and put him in the hospital.
    The hiker gave his story to the ranger. Those cyclists hit and ran and that was fine with you.
    But hit and run, supposedly, a cyclist….the end of the world. Why not call this incident “criminal investigation” and not your “focus.” Is it not unrelated to road etiquette, by the same standard?

  • Tom Boss

    Here’s the report you are referring to verbatim: “According to the hiker, as the mountain bikers passed, the female biker bumped him,” Wick said in an email. “The hiker pushed her back. The two male mountain bikers hopped off their bikes and at least one physically assaulted the hiker causing minor injuries.”

  • Cynara2

    No kidding. How do you bump someone without hitting them?
    I wish I did not feel such animosity toward MCBC, but the constant dismissal of pedestrian and hiker safety is extremely insulting. Here is your dismissal (verbatim): “At this time, we have limited suspect information,” Wick said. “We have reached out to members of the mountain biking community for help, as investigators would like to speak with the mountain bikers to get their side of the story.”

    Wick said he had spoken to Tom Boss, off-road director of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition.

    Boss said, “He just kind of gave me an overview of the incident and said, ‘If you hear anything get in touch.’ But that is the extent of it, and I haven’t heard anything.”

    Boss said he hadn’t made any special effort to try to learn the identity of the bikers.

    “I don’t have enough information to even know what went down,” Boss said. “This is really not our focus. Our focus is on fostering good trail etiquette.”

    ——–
    But many decided that the motorist had deliberately swiped and hit these cyclists from behind without any evidence let alone enough information to even know what went down.
    So tell me how illegally riding on the trail, ignoring the hiker telling them it was illegally, hitting him with a body or a bike and then punishing him for trying to defend himself via vigalante beating was polite?
    A lot of people are disturbed by the cyclists treatment of pedestrians in this area.
    If a cyclist “bumps” someone on a sidewalk and the pedestrian pushes them away, will you justify a beatdown? Many of the cyclists wanted to give these violent mountain bikers a medal.
    Will it be okay to put a pedestrian in the hospital if they push away an aggressive cyclist who hits them on the sidewalk or in the crosswalk?

  • Cynara2

    So the story did NOT say a fight ensued.

  • Cynara2

    Oh, I am so ashamed. The long, painful history of six foot long metal vehicles being considered less than human is a tragedy!! s/
    And I suppose Ranger Wick is a bigot now?
    “Wick said. “We have reached out to members of the mountain biking community for help, as investigators would like to speak with the mountain bikers to get their side of the story.”

  • Cynara2

    Okay, thank-you. I will keep that in mind. But it has everything to do with this run as it was to benefit the MCBC and the MCBC weighed in on both cases.

  • Cynara2

    In Marin, cyclists are the far greater threat to pedestrians. The primary threat here is cyclists. And knocking a pedestrian on their skull is something that cyclists dismiss, but pedestrians do not.

  • Cynara2

    “Drivers don’t understand that we put up with the possible threat of being run over or knocked off the road from behind by a two-ton or more vehicle, on purpose or *by accident*, every time we get on the road.”
    That is not a pedestrian or driver talking, that is a cyclist talking.

  • Peter

    You can’t provide any statistics to back that up. Go ahead and try (I mean statistics, not anecdotal stories). Automobiles kill THOUSANDS of pedestrian a year in this country. Cyclists? double digits, in a bad year. Go ahead, look it up son.

  • John Murphy

    29 comments about absolutely nothing.

    Please block Cynara2 and deprive it of its air.

  • daredelvis

    Get a camera people. They are relatively cheep, and are becoming a game changer. People that don’t ride are learning about the “punishment” pass.

  • Cynara2

    No, I cannot. But humans are more than statistics.

  • I am all three, moron. I walk, bike *and* drive in the city. And what I say is 100% accurate….statistically, you are MUCH more likely to be hit by a driver of a car than by a cyclist.

  • Peter

    So deep.

  • Cynara2

    Only because there are more cars. But that is not the reality in Marin. It is the cyclists that are crazy.
    And I knew you were all three. It is roymeo that did not. Do you think he is a “m…..”?

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