Distracted driving blamed in state’s 8th bicycling death

Alex Beld contributed to this story.

A man who reportedly glanced down at some papers while driving on Highway 14 in Cross Plains hit and killed a 62-year-old woman from Madison, who biked the route almost daily to work at HSA Home Warranty.

Cynthia Arsnow is the eighth person killed while bicycling on a Wisconsin road this year and one of four who died because a motorist failed to see them pedaling on the road ahead. Inattentive driving has been cited a factor in her death.

No citations have been issued against the driver, a 69-year-old man from Mazomanie, Rollen J. Fries. Citations or criminal charges might follow the crash investigation being conducted by the Dane County Sheriff’s Office.

Arsnow was biking westbound on Highway 14 about 9 a.m. Friday, when the motorist drifted over the fog line and hit her from behind on the shoulder of the road, according to media reports.

This is a view of Highway 14 westbound, near the crash location.

Arsnow’s family described her as a caring, loving and gentle soul, survived by her mother, two brothers and sister. They knew her as Cindy. Arsnow earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and spent 16 years studying music in India.

Her death offers another sad reminder of the dangers created by inattentive driving. State law says drivers may not perform activities that interfere with the safe driving of their vehicle and may not text while the car is in motion. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation recommends drivers avoid multitasking behind the wheel, and make an effort to remain alert with both eyes on the road.

Still, inattentive driving continues to take a heavy toll on Wisconsin families. In 2012, the DOT found that 107 traffic deaths were caused by inattentive driving, roughly 19 percent of all fatal crashes.

Working with the DOT, the Wisconsin Bike Fed uses the safety messages of the Share & Be Aware program to remind motorists and all people using Wisconsin roads to look out for others. Whether you ride a bike, drive or walk, please share the message with others that obeying the speed limit and driving with full attention can save a neighbor.

Data shows that high speeds compound the dangers on the road. The speed limit on Highway 14 west of Madison is 55 mph, well beyond what it takes to kill someone on a bike or walking. A car traveling at that speed requires roughly 50 yards to come to a stop, and that’s after the motorist has realized they are about to hits someone.

Remaining attentive at all times, and slowing down will help save lives.

12 thoughts on “Distracted driving blamed in state’s 8th bicycling death

  1. This is heartbreaking, bringing to memory Carrie Pete’s bicycle death on M four years ago and Katie Binning’s car death west of Cross Plains. To be rear-ended at highway speeds is every bicyclist’s worst fear. The sun was at her back. She was on the shoulder. She did everything right.

    Hwy 14 bisects some of the best west Madison bike routes, but unfortunately there are few straight crossings so bikers must ride the highway for a nerve-wracking mile or two.

  2. I find this response by the Bike Fed less than satisfactory. I agree with another post – murder. What are we going to do about it? No citations have been issued? Amazing. I sincerely hope that instead of reminding bicyclists, who are the people being killed, to be nice and share the road with car drivers, who are killing bicyclists, the Bike Fed will implement a statewide Red Alert program whenever a bicyclist or pedestrian is injured or killed by a driver – inattentive, drunk, distracted, blinded by the light, whatever. This would mean that all of us in bike fed and any other organizations that value human life, will immediately call, write, show up at the office of, and otherwise demand that charges be filed. Remember that drunk drivers used to get away with this stuff, too, until Mothers Against Drunk Driving started making noise. This really is just another example of privilege driving inequality in law enforcement. At the very least Bike Fed should give contact information so people could more easily demand justice for this bicycle rider and her family and, really, all of us.

    • Hi Cathy,
      Thank you for your excellent suggestions. It is normal for no citations to be issued at this point in a crash that results in a death. The crash reconstruction and blood-test results often take months, and the decision-making by the district attorneys in the individual counties also takes several months. As I follow these cases, I find that it takes a year or more before citations or criminal charges are filed. We are tracking cases now involving deaths that occurred in April, July and August of 2015. I agree that the Bike Fed and its members should be more vocal in pressing their elected and law enforcement officials to treat these cases more seriously. The Bike Fed as an organization is one voice. Within our group, we have thousands. Remember that sheriff’s and district attorneys in each county are elected. Be active locally to push the changes we need.

  3. I was almost rear ended on mn coming into McFarland because of a texting driver. I could see him in my rear view mirror. After that incident, I bought the brightest red rear light that I could find (Dinotte) and use it day or night, always. It gives me a half mile of visibility for drivers to see me.

    Multitasking by drivers is the norm now whether we like it or not. Be careful out there.

  4. Wow. It is NOT murder. It is an accident. My heart breaks for both Ms. Arsnow and Mr. Fries. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves for thinking anyone would want to intentionally cause something like this to happen. People are human and accidents happen, that’s why they are called accidents. I happen to know Mr. Fries and he would never intentionally hurt anyone!

    And for Cathy that posted above, are you perfect, never make any mistakes? You think YOU should be able to DEMAND charges be filed? Why? How about this….There isn’t a bike lane on that stretch highway, perhaps Ms. Arsnow shouldn’t haven’t been traveling on that stretch highway on a bicycle? I’m not looking for a debate and I won’t engage in one, it’s just something for you to think about or stew over I don’t really care which you choose. I just think you are ridiculous and you proved it by your comment above when you wrote that “blinded by the light”, which I assume to mean blinded by sun, isn’t even acceptable as an accident to you.

    • You are 100% wrong. Taking lethal force and directing at another person without regard for the consequences is not an “accident.” It is not cute, and it is not funny. It’s sick.

      This driver’s blatant disregard for human life could have killed another driver had he moved to the left and hit that driver head-on. Someday, this jerk was bound to kill someone, and that day arrived. He did everything he could to avoid being a decent, responsible person. His decisions were not an accident. He thought his papers are worth more than another person’s life.

      • I see you are “perfect” too Lance. Both you and Cathy are so lucky to be so perfect. Too bad we all are like the two of you.

    • Kris: To blame the bicyclist for being killed by in the wrong place (legally, I might add) is a whole lot like blaming a woman for being raped. The word “accident” implies nothing could have been done to prevent it; an “act of god”, “unavoidable”. In the health care field we refer to an incident like this as a “crash”, not an “accident” – a statement of fact, not a judgment. It appears, from the way this was presented (the driver was looking at papers, not the road), that this was a preventable incident. I don’t think Cathy says the driver set out to kill someone that day; rather that he took a series of actions that could reasonably be expected to lead to the outcome that resulted. In short, if you drive (especially at highway speed) without looking at the road, you might hit someone and kill them.

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