Home NEWS Police/Fire Fatal Auto Vs. Cyclist Crash In Moraga Friday

Fatal Auto Vs. Cyclist Crash In Moraga Friday


One person was killed in an auto vs. bicycle collision in the 500 block of Moraga Road Friday.

The rider was identified by coroner’s deputies Monday as Roger Russell, 77, of Moraga.

Shocked passersby reported a rider down in the center divide in the road in front of Rheem Center, fire and police arriving on scene to render life-saving aid. The driver of the Honda involved in the collision remained on scene and was cooperating with police.

Chief Jon King told News24/680 cameraman Craig Cannon that both the victim and driver were of “adult” age.

Russell was pronounced dead at the scene at 10:29 a.m. Police quickly shut down Moraga Road in both directions to facilitate their investigation into the fatal crash.

Russell’s mountain bike was at the scene for several hours after the crash.

We’ll have more on this very unfortunate story, the latest in several recent fatalities involving bicyclists on local roads, as additional details become available.



      • Are you sure about the youthful part? We thought the yellow cover or bag on the ground seemed to have someone of adult size in it. Full disclosure, I’m horribly biased because I really don’t want this to be any of my kids’ friends.

        • Went with passersby description of “youthful” appearance of rider. Definitely not a child. Descriptions are subject to many factors and we hold to none. We’ll get more definitive news later, we know.

          • Totally understand and this happens often with a disparity of views, observations… which ranged from “kid” to “adult male” later in the morning. We’ll get some definitive answers shortly, hopefully…

  1. We were down looking for breakfast and looked up at the sirens…. we are so very sorry to get this news.

  2. Every parent’s most visceral fear. My heart aches for the poor kid’s family. What a horrific shock on thanksgiving weekend.

      • I appreciate the clarification.

        Understand that you are reporting a verbatim witnesses statement and that “youthful” is a broad, subjective characterization.

        Still, he was somebody’s kid, irrespective of chronological age. Heartfelt condolences to his loved ones in all events.

  3. Wow, so sad to hear of the passing of the cyclist. I saw the impact and knew that his chances of survival were not good.

    • We were on our way back from buying a Christmas tree. As soon as I saw the bicycle, I knew why there was so much law enforcement there for an accident. It was like a kick in the gut. I don’t feel remotely festive now and am terrified that it will be someone my kids know.

      A few years back the town had a livable Moraga Road project to solicit thoughts about making the road safer with some traffic calming, bike lanes, and and sidewalk upgrades. People who attended the outreach meetings almost universally supported the safest measures, but the Town Council (David Trotter really) was so worried about commuters having to drive a few miles per hour slower that they commissioned a survey of people who hadn’t heard about all the people killed on Moraga Road or heard from the traffic consultant about the relatively minor impact on traffic.

      With real bike lanes, a bike accident would be much less likely. With slower traffic, the victim would have been much more likely to survive even if the accident did happen.

      • I remember being very disappointed by the outcome of that “Moraga Road Project” and the decision not to reduce the number of lanes and use more “traffic calming” strategies. Not sure who made the decisions, but there was clearly ignorance of the facts around traffic flow and safety. A two-lane road with center turn median would be much safer I think (aka three lanes) and allowed more bike lane space. Having four lanes—only between Corliss and Rheem Blvd anyways—encourages unsafe speed AND requires cars to merge back together. The island in the crosswalk in front of Rheem Center (which is as much a hazard as a help for pedestrians) probably could have been avoided by narrowing the distance across the roadway. This accident may not have been avoided by more informed choices surrounding that initiative, but hard to know and maybe this will be a time to reconsider the need for a short highway in the middle of a mostly sleepy town?

        • The process organized by the town’s staff was good, but the council’s handling of it was a joke.

          Trotter barely let the traffic consultant we’d paid for get a word in edgewise. He was far too busy expounding on his own thoughts on traffic. He also refused to believe that the residents who participated in the outreach effort supported reducing the number of lanes in some places. Not all did initially, but the 3-4 fatal accidents in the previous 10-15 years just on the stretch between Ascot and Corliss got everyone’s attention. I live on that stretch and have two kids, so I’m pretty strongly opposed to fatal accidents on Moraga Road. The Council felt differently.

        • I’m heartbroken about the deaths a cyclist but need to coolant about the traffic calling plans and removing lanes of traffic. I’ve lived in Lamorinda for most of my life and removing traffic lanes is not an option. In the event of a wildfire we are already in deep trouble. If everyone pays attention and does what they should cyclists and pedestrians alike would be safe. When I’m crossing any intersection I check both ways and if a car is approaching I make eye contact. Everyone should always do this.

          • I’m sorry that you don’t care about the 3-4 people who were killed on the few blocks in front of my house. It’s sad that so many feel as you do. You’re also completely wrong about traffic. The carrying capacity of Moraga Road in an emergency would not be significantly affected if the stretch between Rheem and Corliss were two lanes, just like the parts of the road to the north and the south of that short stretch. Furthermore, reducing the number of lanes for cars and adding a full-width bike lane would change essentially nothing in an emergency evacuation. In an emergency, cars are physically capable of driving in bike lanes if drivers find it necessary and I really doubt the police would be out there ticketing people for trying to evacuate in the bike lane.

            Your implication that the victim was at fault for neglecting to “check both ways” before crossing is also misguided. I do not know the precise details of this accident, but I can say the following:

            1. Bicycles are vehicles, not pedestrians. They are usually moving with traffic on the road, not “crossing” the road as you suggest.
            2. This bicyclist was apparently in the left lane, was not at an intersection, and was not “crossing.” Cyclists usually occupy the left lane when they are preparing to turn left. Perhaps the victim was – perfectly legally – turning into the shopping center.
            3. The bicycle’s back wheel was bent, which is consistent with him having been rear-ended by a vehicle moving faster.

            I can’t say for sure who was and wasn’t negligent, or what shares of fault both may bear, but rear-end accidents are almost always the fault of the person who runs into the vehicle in front of them.

            You are right that Moraga is short on exit routes in an emergency, but the widening of Moraga Road to four lanes for maybe half a mile isn’t helping much. If you want to improve exit routes, talk to Orinda about paving Wilder Road all the way to Edgewood (there’s already a dirt road the whole way) or grade and pave a route down to Lost Valley Drive next to the PG&E substation, even if only for emergency use. Moraga Road, Moraga Way, St. Mary’s, and Canyon are currently the only real ways out and one or two more would be nice.

            Your advice about “crossing” roads is good for pedestrians, but not relevant to this accident.

        • “This accident may not have been avoided by more informed choices surrounding that initiative”…
          I don’t believe this is a design problem. People drive irresponsibly. People bike and scooter and walk across roadways irresponsibly. There is no design that corrects for inattention, aggression, and entitlement. Deaths and injuries will occur. If you want to make a difference, I suggest that addressing the INDIFFERENCE is the place to start.

          • Design can’t prevent careless people bumping into each other. But design can reduce the average speed to something more appropriate for a mixed residential and commercial neighborhood and a modest reduction in speed hugely reduces the risk of fatal accidents. We’d still have accidents, but a lot fewer deaths.

            According to AAA the risk of death for pedestrians hit by a car is “10% at an impact speed of 23 mph, 25% at 32 mph, 50% at 42 mph, 75% at 50 mph.” I don’t have equivalent information for cyclists, but the increase with speed should be similar, even if the total risk differs somewhat. If traffic is moving at 35-40, even a slightly attentive driver should be able to slow down to 32 mph or less before impact. At 45-50, the same deceleration would leave the vehicle down to 42 mph or less. At the high end, that’s a difference between a fatality rate of 25% and 50%, or twice as many deaths at the higher speed. In a scenario with a little more time to slow, we might be comparing a 10% risk of death (at 23 mph) with a 25% risk of death (at 32 mph). These are big differences in deaths.

            Narrower lanes and fewer of them make drivers drive slower. Says who? The traffic consultant the town hired, for one. Design changes like that could hugely reduce deaths.

        • There ARE clear design issues, safety issues, in some places, such as the obstructed-sightline approach to the crosswalk at Corliss and at Country Club/Canyon Rd. where cars speed around the curve at 50 mph even when the cross walk is occupied, but I don’t believe that poor sightlines were an issue for this collision, based upon my understanding of the location.

          • The poor visibility at Corliss terrifies me. My kids cross there and I’ve seen how many drivers will try to intimidate pedestrians into staying on the curb, rather than respecting pedestrians’ right of way.

            And a Country Club and Canyon, I once stopped for an elderly pedestrian (still on the other side of the street). After he got to my side of Moraga Road, a woman in the adjacent lane barely slowed in an effort to scare him into running. She only slowed enough to avoid killing him after she (illegally) entered the intersection and then (illegally) rolled up all the way to the crosswalk in her effort to intimidate him, rolling through the crosswalk immediately behind him as he finished crossing her lane (also illegal).

            That was assault with a deadly weapon, even if it might never be charged as such. And many around Moraga think nothing of using their vehicles to intimidate pedestrians with the right of way into not crossing for fear that they will be killed by a driver who is deliberately trying to cause that fear. They don’t intend to kill, but they do intend to use the fear that they will to intimidate others and would probably be surprised to learn that the intent converts bad driving into a felony.

  4. This is sad, especially on Thanksgiving weekend. That being said, the reality is you can’t cycle safely anywhere near vehicles these days. Things have changed — the roads are overcrowded. And too many cyclists, kids and adults don’t stay in the bike lanes. And too many motorists aren’t paying attention. A recipe for disaster.

    • Keith Montoya: According to vehicle code section 21202 cyclists don’t have to stay in the bike lanes or ride at the right edge of the road. They can ride further to the left for a variety or reasons as listed below.

      a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:
      (1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
      (2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
      (3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a “substandard width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
      (4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.
      (b) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway of a highway, which highway carries traffic in one direction only and has two or more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of that roadway as practicable.

      • Bicyclists aren’t supposed to ride in the center turn lane until they approach their turn any more than other vehicles are. It would create the risk of a head-on collision.

          • I’m sorry, but I don’t have much more detail. I moved here after the prior deaths and learned of them through a neighbor and other attendees at Livable Moraga Road meetings. The most recent was the hit and run pedestrian accident that the local PD deserves a lot of credit for tracking down the perpetrator so he could be prosecuted. Before that there was a motorcyclist killed in a head-on collision (I don’t know who crossed the line) and at least one person in a car in another accident that the police chief told me also involved someone crossing the center line. One participant counted four, but I always thought he was probably my counting one fatality twice.

            It’s possible that the accident that killed someone in a car was significantly earlier, but my impression at the time was that it wasn’t more than 15 years before those meetings.

    • My condolences to the victim’s family.
      I am glad the driver stopped immediately and was cooperative with the police.
      It is a tremendously sad accident. 😔
      Thanks so much for the information, on vehicle code section 21202.
      I will have the vitim, his family and the driver in my prayers.

  5. Pedestrians are also hard to spot sometimes, and often disregarded by drivers. It can be dangerous. I understand that reducing the number of lanes will constrict the flow and slow it, but that doesn’t reduce the number of vehicles, and putting aggressive, inattentive drivers in a narrower, bumper to bumper stream doesn’t sound like a justifiable safety solution to me.

    My condolences.

    • The risk of death increases essentially exponentially with speed. Also the road is two lanes north of Rheem and south of Corliss. The 4-lane speedway in between does little to relieve traffic congestion.

      The only serious traffic problem Moraga ever has is the backup from Campolindo as far back as Ascot when people are driving their kids to high school. There are nearly empty buses arriving on time to get to classes every day, but apparently a lot of kids in Moraga suffer from a walking-related disability.

      • “a walking-related disability” and seen-on-bus phobia. It’s endemic here. Too many kidnappings, carjackings, drug deals on the way to school, apparently. I was afraid I would be reported to child services if I pushed too hard on the subject…

        I understand what you are saying about speed, but I fear the fundamental problem is distracted, aggressive, and entitled driving which is exacerbated by speed, but not the underlying problem. It’s more a lack of focus and lack of respect for the various bad outcomes.

        • Accidents will continue for all the reasons you say, but a 10-mph reduction in speed can often cut the risk of death in half. If we have to have so many accidents, I’d still like to cut the rate of deaths in half.

          My daughter is – reluctantly – on one of those buses almost every school day. The other days, when she oversleeps, she gets a ride to the shopping center and has to trot the rest of the way. I haven’t heard from CPS yet, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.

  6. @elementary:
    Your limitless enthusiasm for your point of view does not make it more persuasive to me. Slower speed is not a silver bullet. There are many other factors at play in my opinion, and we don’t yet even know how this particular collision occurred.

    • David, I’m not sure who you are addressing with the @elementary. I hope it wasn’t 123ABC. I read both your early comments and agree there are surrounding issues but reducing speed is critical, not reducing speed will continue to be deadly. Walking in the cross walk with a green light is scary if cross traffic lanes do not have stopped vehicles. Riding a bike with your back to traffic is also scary, even if you are hugging the right side of the street. Even standing on the sidewalk, it is wise to keep an eye on traffic. I have had close calls in all three scenarios. There are a lot of other measures that can be taken to make roads safer, but reducing speed tops the list.

      It is clear by the damage to the bike, the rider was hit squarely from behind. The speed of the vehicle probably will never be released. In the case of the May 5th crash in San Ramon, it was determined the truck ran the red light 8 seconds after it turned red and speed at impact was 58 mph in a 45 mph zone. Broken neck and ribs, torn aorta and facial lacerations. I hope the Moraga community replaces the whole council that decided not to make the road safer. I also ask for support in the prosecution of Jeff Adelman, who ran the red light in San Ramon on May 5th.

      If it was up to me, his passenger would also be charged with manslaughter. At 60 miles an hour, 8 seconds of red light and the 3-4 seconds of yellow, that vehicle travelled just short of a quarter mile at freeway speed. Death row for Jeff Adelman would be my choice .My thoughts, prayers, empathy and condolences go out to the family and friends of Roger Russell in this senseless death. Too many, too often due to inattention and too much speed. And yes, the feeling of entitlement plays a major role also.

      • “it was determined the truck ran the red light 8 seconds after it turned red”.

        If that is true, this is simple non-compliance, negligence, disregard for the law. I’m sympathetic to your pain, but slower speed doesn’t even come into play when someone simply disregards a red light or a stop sign or someone riding a bicycle in front of him/her.

Leave a Reply