The death of a Lexington cardiologist in a bicycle crash Sunday rocked the city’s tight-knit cycling community and renewed interest in a recently defeated bike safety law.
Dr. David Cassidy, 62, was the second member of a small cycling group to be killed in a collision in less than a year.
He was hit about 4:15 p.m. by a woman who didn’t see him as she merged into a lane on U.S. 68 in Bourbon County, police said Monday. U.S. 68 is known as Lexington Road in Bourbon and Paris Pike in Fayette County.
Allison Bishop, 24, of Paris, was traveling southbound in her 2013 BMW X3 when she used the left lane to pass a vehicle in the right lane, according to Kentucky State Police. As she merged back into the right lane, she “failed to see” Cassidy on his bike, police said. Cassidy was struck by the front right side of the BMW. He died at the scene.
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Bishop has not been charged, according to Kentucky State Police. That decision will be made by the Bourbon County commonwealth’s attorney, police said.
Bishop is the daughter of Seth Hancock, general partner of the legendary Claiborne Farm.
Her attorney, William M. Lear Jr. of Stoll Keenon Ogden, released a statement Monday from the Bishop and Hancock families.
“This is a terrible tragedy for all concerned,” it said. “Our thoughts and prayers today are with Dr. Cassidy’s family, friends and patients. We join with them in mourning at this difficult time of grief and loss.”
Cassidy was an experienced cyclist “who definitely knew what he was doing” on the road, said Patrick Wesolosky, president of the Bluegrass Cycling Club. Cassidy was a member of the Zombies.
The group is made up of about 12 men and women, mostly in their 50s, who love cycling and appreciate the camaraderie of riding in a group, members said.
Ben Cowan, a Zombies member, said the group’s name comes from that special fatigue riders feel “at the very end of a long ride.”
Cowan was Cassidy’s next-door neighbor for about 13 years and a fellow Zombies member for five.
Cowan said he talked to Cassidy before his ride Sunday. In their last conversation, about gardening, Cassidy was his typical caring self, Cowan said: “He offered to let me borrow his pickup truck to get more mulch.”
Some neighbors “live right next door and you never get to know them,” but not Cassidy, Cowan said. He had “nothing but admiration and respect” for Cassidy. .
The Zombies had just recovered from the death of Mark Hinkel, 57, who was struck and killed by a pickup truck in May during an event in Scott County.
Odilon Paz-Salvador, 29, was indicted on charges of murder, wanton endangerment, leaving the scene of an accident, fleeing or evading police and driving without a license.
A bill strengthening DUI laws was passed during Kentucky’s 2016 legislative session as a response in part to Hinkel’s death.
“We were all very shaken up by Mark’s death,” Cowan said.
As a group, the Zombies talked a little and texted after Cassidy’s death, but are too “stunned and saddened” to seriously re-evaluate riding, he said.
Mike Kennedy, dubbed the unofficial leader by some of the other members, said he doesn’t know what the group will do.
“David would want us all to continue riding,” Kennedy said. He said he will ride because “you can’t live your life in fear.”
“That’s a small consolation to my wife and children and grandchildren,” he said.
Five bicyclists died on Kentucky roads in 2015, up one from 2014 and two from the year before, according to data from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
In nearly a year since Hinkel’s death, at least one other bicyclist besides Cassidy died in Fayette and surrounding counties. Martinaino Pozos was hit and killed by a driver on Newtown Pike in August.
Wesolosky said cycling fatalities reinforce the importance of safety in sharing the road.
“Tonight there will be bike rides; this will be the discussion,” Wesolosky said.
Wesolosky said Kentucky lags behind other states when it comes to bike safety laws. He cited Kentucky’s 49th ranking in Bicycle Friendly States by the League of American Bicyclists in 2015.
He attributed the poor ranking in part to the state’s lack of a safe-passing law, which would require motorists to put at least 3 feet between their vehicles and cyclists when passing in a lane.
As of December 2015, 11 states didn’t have laws for passing a cyclist, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In Kentucky, Senate Bill 80 was introduced during the 2016 legislative session. The bill included the 3-foot requirement and would have allowed cyclists to use the right-hand side of the highway instead of the shoulder.
SB 80 passed the Senate 33-4 but failed to make it out of the House Transportation Committee.
A call to Rep. Hubert Collins, D-Wittensville, chair of the House’s Transportation Committee, wasn’t immediately returned Monday.
Dixie Moore, a 15-year cyclist who originally pushed the bill in the Senate, said the bill stalled because some areas of the state haven’t prioritized cycling. Moore said she’s not giving up on the law.
“We need better education and a safe-passing law,” Wesolosky said.
Safety issues aside, a ride is likely to be organized in Cassidy’s honor. Cyclists plan to put up a “ghost bike” at the crash site to act as a memorial, as they did with Hinkel.
Lenny VanMeter, Cassidy’s office manager at his practice on 2265 Harrodsburg Road, said the staff would be “manning the phones” to answer questions and offer recommendations for current patients.
VanMeter said Cassidy spent many years in Lexington, serving Central and Eastern Kentucky. Cassidy also had a longstanding affiliation with St. Joseph Hospital, he said.
“He will be greatly missed,” VanMeter said.
Arrangements for Cassidy are being handled by Milward Funeral Home on North Broadway.
Kennedy said he’s probably ridden thousands of miles with Cassidy. He said the doctor had been training Sunday for a special 100-mile ride.
“He died doing what he loved,” Kennedy said.
Were you his patient?
Patients of Dr. David Cassidy can reach his office at 859-554-6440