Dissatisfied with the results of a California Highway Patrol report, the family of a bicyclist who died after a collision with a car on Page Mill Road is seeking witnesses to the accident to come forward.
Palo Alto resident Jeffrey Phillip Donnelly, 52, died Nov. 3 from injuries sustained during a collision with a Volkswagen Golf near the intersection of Page Mill Road and Christopher Lane. The driver of the car, a 19-year-old Palo Alto man, was not injured in the crash.
The subsequent CHP investigative report incorrectly indicates that Donnelly made an unsafe lane change, according to Mike Mahoney, a private investigator retained by the personal injury attorney representing the Donnelly family.
The CHP report contains accounts from six witnesses, commuters traveling near the Interstate 280 interchange at the time of the crash, but the private investigative team is hoping additional witnesses present themselves.
Both Donnelly and the car were traveling southwest on Page Mill toward the I-280 interchange at the time of the accident, 6:50 a.m. A designated bike lane exists along the far west side of Page Mill, but it ends just before Christopher Lane and then picks up along the center median after Christopher until the northbound I-280 exit ramp creates an additional southwest traffic lane sandwiching the bike lane. Mahoney calls it a “horrible design” that forces cyclists traveling between 10 and 20 mph to cut across vehicle traffic traveling at 50 mph or more. In November, the Los Altos Hills City Council voted unanimously to issue a letter to county officials urging traffic safety improvements at the interchange.
The front of the car struck the back of Donnelly’s bicycle as he attempted to merge into the designated bike lane, Mahoney said.
Donnelly “was doing exactly what he was supposed to do,” Mahoney added.
Speed a factor?
Alcohol and/or drugs do not appear to have been a factor in the crash, according to the CHP, and the driver cooperated with investigators and has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
But John Feder, the personal injury attorney representing the Donnelly family, believes that the car’s driver was inattentive and driving much too fast for traffic conditions.
“I have no doubt that the driver of the vehicle was going too fast,” Feder said.
Feder said his legal team has established a team of engineers to scientifically examine the accident scene.
In the meantime, the Donnelly family can expect a second official accident report – this one from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office; the accident occurred in a mixed jurisdiction, and it wasn’t immediately clear afterward whether the investigation should be handled by the CHP or the county.
To avoid delays, the CHP took the lead, but now the Sheriff’s Office is handling the case, said Capt. Rick Sung, division commander of the sheriff’s West Valley patrol.
“The CHP’s report is the original report, and what we are doing is a supplemental report to the CHP report,” Sung wrote in an email to the Town Crier. “Our findings may be the same as the CHP’s, opposite or inconclusive; however, we won’t know for sure until we wrap up our investigation.”
Sung expects a final report within the next couple of weeks.
Feder described Donnelly as a “very experienced bicyclist.” He said he was a “happy family guy,” a husband and father of three children between the ages of 13 and 20.
Donnelly earned a chemical engineering degree from Cal Poly Pomona, served as a lieutenant in the Nuclear Navy aboard the U.S.S. Truxtun and completed his MBA at Stanford University, according to his obituary. In Donnelly’s most recent role, he served as chief operating officer of Zeta Instruments, a San Jose-based semiconductor company.
Representation for the driver of the car, whose identity has remained confidential, could not be reached to comment for this article.
Witnesses to the accident are asked to call private investigator Mike Mahoney at (925) 648-3605.