No Justice, Only Victim Blaming After Driver Injures Woman on Littleton Bike Path

Image: YouTube
Image: YouTube

Katrina Bellis was biking through an intersection on a bike trail in Littleton last October when Shannon Miller rammed her Mercury Montego into her. Miller, who was turning left, narrowly missed hitting Bellis’s fiancé and two-year-old son.

Bellis’s spine is crooked now, her life forever changed because of Miller’s careless driving. A dashboard camera captured the crash clearly (fast forward to the three-minute mark).

Bellis and her attorney, Megan Hottman, didn’t want to get Miller locked up — they just wanted some measure of accountability by imposing points against her license and requiring community service. Littleton City Attorney Tricia McCarthy had other ideas.

According to a court transcript [PDF], she insisted that community service was “harsh,” and gave Miller a plea bargain that literally blamed the car — charges for failing to yield were dropped in exchange for something called an “unsafe vehicle” fine, carrying a $391 penalty. The prosecutor ordered Miller to take a driving course as well.

“I’m not seeking jail time but taking a four point violation down to a one or two is very disheartening, especially when, when I was taught to drive that you hit somebody, you lose your license pretty much,” Bellis told the court.

McCarthy instead blamed the victim for the crash, claiming that Bellis shouldn’t have been in the intersection on a bike — that she should’ve dismounted. That’s not true, because the intersection is part of a bike trail, as Hottman lays out thoroughly in her legal blog. What’s more, dismounting a bike offers no protection from a turning motorist who fails to yield.

Here’s more from McCarthy, who falls over herself to absolve the driver while laying the fault at the feet of Bellis and her family:

It is my position that Ms. Miller did not see the bicyclist coming, did not see them probably until the last minute and that’s due to the nature of the road and the curvature of the road and the fact that these pedestrians, bicyclists or bicyclists operating as a pedestrian were coming from behind her and then were travelling [sic] at a speed that is much greater than an average pedestrian.

“My client stood in that courtroom, mouth agape,” writes Hottman, “having been hit by a car while riding legally — she was now being accused of bringing the collision on herself by riding in a crosswalk in broad daylight with her family. She was on the defensive, having to explain her behavior that day.”

McCarthy told the court, “I don’t work for the victim in the case and my job is to seek justice.”

If that’s the case, she didn’t do her job.

  • deadindenver

    What is Littleton City Attorney Tricia McCarthy email address and phone, who is her boss. What is there email address and phone number? I want to post it all on Facebook, twitter what have you this is wrong wrong wrong.

  • TakeFive

    You can learn a lot of legal and mundane things in Law School; one thing they can’t teach is common sense. I reread this just to make sure that McCarthy was the prosecutor.

    One easy observation I made from the video is that the driver turned from a sunny bright area into a shady area which creates an additional hazard. This is merely an observation of the facts and nothing about fault-finding. If anything it speaks to the hazard and potential conflicts of making a left-turn.

    • E. Smith

      The easy observation you made is incorrect. If you look at the shadows of objects around the area, the sun was almost directly behind the driver when she was turning into the shaded area. This is clearly a case of someone not paying attention to their surroundings when operating heavy & deadly machinery.

  • red123

    Pretty much no way to debate that. The driver has a responsibility to yield to those in the crosswalk regardless of if they are on a bike or not. She simply wasn’t paying attention to what she was doing. You can clearly see the cyclists.

  • deadindenver

    Let me answer my own question.
    Please express your displeasure to Tricia McCarthy at catm@littletongov.org or call her 303-795-3845 or better yet, complain to her boss, Stephen Kemp at caosk@littletongov.org or call him 303-795-3725

  • saff123

    I drive this intersection every day on my commute. Simple solution: left turn on green arrow only, red arrow at all other times. Instead, there’s currently a green arrow and a green light, allowing the two left turn lanes to try to gun it across the intersection.

    It’s a simple and affordable signal change that can prevent another pedestrian or cyclist from getting hit. Why didn’t Littleton change the signal here, as soon as they saw this dashcam video?

    • deadindenver

      So true, they could even be more advanced. If the walk button has been activated the turn signal goes red during the walk sequence. This should be standard operating procedure especially if vision zero is to have substance and not a bunch of hot air.

      • TakeFive

        Bingo

    • Allowing dual turn lanes to have an unrestricted turn is asinine.

  • Haggie

    There are a couple of environmental factors (the crosswalk was in shade, the car turning right had already moved into the crosswalk and should have been ticketed too) which would be distracting), but that does not excuse the driver from her responsibility.

    Also, blaming a pedestrian or bicyclist who was no way at fault should get the same response from the public as a blaming a rape victim because she was wearing sexy clothing.

    • TakeFive

      Well stated

    • Timothy53

      CrossWALK in the shadow? Really? That excuse? This was reckless driving pure and simple.

      She belongs in jail.

  • JZ71

    A poor design that invites conflict. And while better signal coordination *might* help, as long as there is little to no enforcement of ROW violations, this is going to continue. For every crash, like this one, there are dozens (hundreds?) of near misses, that both serve to discourage alternative modes AND reinforces bad behaviors on the parts of motorists.

  • Brian Schroder

    #boycottLittleton “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy…”

  • A dashboard camera captured the crash clearly (fast forward to the three-minute mark).

    Or maybe just use a link set to the appropriate time already?

  • G Hazel

    there can still be a civil trial for damages.

  • Timothy53

    To all you simpletons here in the comment section who are making excuses for that woman’s reckless driving by citing the sun to shadow transition, the cyclists we’re nearly entirely across the intersection. There was plenty of time for her to see them. She was just in a big fat rush to get through that intersection and she didn’t give a good goddamn about who was in her way.

    • cyclifist

      That and her scan was locked onto the roadway on her right, fixed on the oncoming traffic that would be a danger to her. It’s a common mistake that bicyclists need education to guard against. Defensive bicycle driving is needed to avoid the mistakes of motorists.

      • Timothy53

        It’s a common mistake that motorists need an education to avoid their own hubris. That was not a clear left turn.

        • cyclifist

          I agree 100% if what you are saying is that education and testing should be much more stringent for motorists to be licensed and much heavier penalties for their mistakes. However, we are just wringing our hands in frustration while we wait for that to happen.

  • cyclifist

    In hindsight, Ms. Bellis could have been warned of the impending danger with a honk of the horn by the driver of the car with the dash cam. Part of the car culture is forgetting that you can communicate in a productive manner with other road users, warning others of danger, not just honking for the purpose of waking someone up when the light turns green. Bicycling, on the other hand, enhances interaction, not enclosed in a cage, which mutes meaningful interaction.

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