Amy A. Suyama ’83 died on September 10, 2016, in Santa Rosa, California.
(The following was published in The Press Democrat, September 10, 2016)
Sebastopol woman dies after bike crash west of Windsor
A 55-year-old Sebastopol woman who was out on a bicycle ride west of Windsor died Saturday after a crash that authorities said appeared to involve an oncoming, passing car.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office late Saturday identified the woman as Amy Suyama.
It was unclear from a preliminary investigation whether Suyama lost control of her bicycle or whether she may have been struck by the vehicle, said CHP spokesman Jon Sloat.
CHP officers responded to a call at 11:11 a.m. of a cyclist who had been struck by a vehicle on Eastside Road near Windsor River Road, Sloat said.
Suyama was riding north with a male friend on the road, a popular route for cyclists.
Along that stretch the road does not feature bike lanes or shoulders, Sloat said.
Courtney Rudin, 73, of Healdsburg, was driving south on the road when he maneuvered to pass a slow-moving truck in front of him, Sloat said.
Rudin told officers that the vehicle in front of him had slowed to about 10 mph. Sloat said Rudin steered his 2004 Chevrolet truck over broken yellow lines on the road as the cyclists approached.
The Sebastopol woman crashed on the roadway. Emergency crews found her responsive, but during the ambulance ride, Suyama’s condition deteriorated and she was declared dead at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.
Suyama was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. Her male companion, who was not injured, had been riding in front of her at the time, Sloat said. His name was not disclosed.
The CHP was trying to determine if the truck struck the cyclist, Sloat said. Rudin told investigators he did not feel any impact. Sloat said officers with specialized training will examine the bike and the truck to try and determine whether a collision occurred. The CHP also will try to determine how fast Rudin was traveling at the time of the crash.
Sloat said officers are also seeking to determine whether Rudin may have violated state law that requires motorists to maintain a distance of 3 feet when passing cyclists. The law specifically references drivers who overtake and pass bicycles that are “proceeding in the same direction on a highway” without mention of cyclists approaching from the opposite direction.
Sloat said officers are also investigating whether the cyclists would have been considered oncoming traffic at the time Rudin went around the vehicle in front of him. Under state law, motorists can pass another vehicle so long as the left side “is clearly visible and free of oncoming traffic.”
“We’re still investigating whether or not this is a legal pass, and whether it violated the state’s 3-feet law,” Sloat said.