Questions linger after death of avid bicyclist in train collision

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Posted: Monday, April 21, 2014 9:57 am

Suzanne LeBeau was an experienced bicyclist, say neighbors and friends, and they and cycling advocates don’t understand what led the Santa Fe woman to ride in front of a Rail Runner Express passenger train at the Zia Road rail crossing, where she was struck and killed Saturday morning.

Santa Fe police say LeBeau, a 60-year-old property management consultant, was riding her bicycle northbound on the Santa Fe Rail Trail west of St. Francis Drive, which mostly parallels the railroad tracks until just south of Zia Road — near the still unused Zia Station — where the trail crosses the railroad tracks. Red, flashing signal lights, bells and security arms warn of oncoming trains and block Zia Road vehicular traffic, although the crossing gates don’t physically block pedestrians or bicyclists from continuing onto the tracks.

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  • Khal Spencer posted at 8:52 am on Wed, Apr 23, 2014.

    Khal Spencer Posts: 1420

    Note to all. In today's New Mexican is an article that states that there were no earphones found at the scene, which is what Suzanne's sisters have been telling us as well. One sister speculated that the witnesses who claimed there were headphones may have seen a headband.

    I would back down on that early speculation, which was never confirmed but tends to reinforce our prejudices about inattention. I've seen enough walkers, joggers, and cyclists that do use these, but that doesn't mean LeBeau did.

    We won't ever know everything. Best lesson learned on this one is to always be careful, and have your soul's paperwork in order just in case.

  • Al Martinez posted at 5:42 pm on Tue, Apr 22, 2014.

    AMar Posts: 5

    Texting, listening to music and riding a bicycle do not make for safe travel.

  • Khal Spencer posted at 1:58 pm on Tue, Apr 22, 2014.

    Khal Spencer Posts: 1420

    Good find, Steve.

    Those are the sorts of options that are available. NMDOT apparently has made the decision not to use them.

    I don't think such equipment should be everywhere. Just not cost effective. But someone ought to reevaluate whether we should spend the bucks in busy urban crossings.

  • Steve Salazar posted at 12:23 pm on Tue, Apr 22, 2014.

    Steve Salazar Posts: 1888


    Should these be required, see figure 76.

  • Çhris Quintana posted at 11:35 am on Tue, Apr 22, 2014.

    cquintana Posts: 15 Staff

    Thanks for the catch, we're working to get the error corrected.

  • Khal Spencer posted at 11:29 am on Tue, Apr 22, 2014.

    Khal Spencer Posts: 1420

    "...who crosses a street, train track, etc, without looking? "

    Not me, Bill.

    Twice in the previous two weeks leaving work in Los Alamos, I had to evade blatant red light runners. In one case, I saw the guy looking down at something inside his car. In the other case, the guy was looking straight ahead, but obviously not paying attention. What gives?

    As a motorcyclist and bicyclist, I assume, usually correctly, that the only way to avoid personal tragedy is to take on 100% of the responsibility for my safety and the safety of those in my vehicle. One cannot count on the guy searching for his dropped CD or assume a traffic light will keep you alive. That's just the way it is.

    People need to take PERSONAL safety more seriously. Period. You can do so much to make bike paths safe, but my fear is when we tell people they are on a "safe facility", they stop ACTING safely.

  • Pat Shackleford posted at 10:45 am on Tue, Apr 22, 2014.

    Pat Shackleford Posts: 1100

    Yes. No. Maybe. But other tragic incidents "might" have happened "if" the Zia station had been operational. It appears she had a date with destiny, undeterred by already sufficient warning systems.

  • Steve Salazar posted at 9:54 am on Tue, Apr 22, 2014.

    Steve Salazar Posts: 1888

    Might this have been avoided if the Zia station was open?

  • Bill Salopek posted at 9:53 am on Tue, Apr 22, 2014.

    Bill Salopek Posts: 13

    It's a tragedy. My deepest condolences to the family.


    We can't as a society, implement every possible safety feature ever created or dreamed of to protect people in every conceivable situation.

    People simply HAVE to be personally responsible for themselves. Americans are already WAY to coddled.

    There were a lot of warnings...sounds, lights, etc...but even if NONE if those existed, who crosses a street, train track, etc, without looking?

    No one knows why this particular accident happened, and yes, again, it is SO tragic. But we can't design everything so that no one will ever get hurt. THAT kind of thing hurts ALL of us in the long run, as we become even more like sheeple than we already are...not able to think for ourselves...common sense going out the window, etc.

  • Kay Bird posted at 9:44 am on Tue, Apr 22, 2014.

    kb204 Posts: 12

    Should the map show the road is St. Francis, not Cerrillos?

  • Khal Spencer posted at 8:53 am on Tue, Apr 22, 2014.

    Khal Spencer Posts: 1420

    Although the cyclist would be screened from the tracks until clearing the Zia Station buildings, one should be slowing and checking for train traffic before encroaching on the crossing. Stop, Look, and Listen. My hunch is this is a case of inattention.

    Those who have never been inattentive can cast the first stone. Most of us survive our inattention moments with a "whew....". Once in a while, inattention happens at a critical moment and we are left picking up the pieces. Lesson learned for all of us, regardless of how we get around.

    I remain a critic of the NMDOT's policy of providing least common denominator treatment to bicyclists and pedestrians. It may or may not be "standard treatment" to omit gates or warning lights at a busy trail crossing but it would not be a bad idea to do so on such a busy, cluttered, urban intersection where cyclists are arriving at right angles to the warning lights and screened by buildings. The new NACTO urban bike guide often has higher standards than NMDOT uses.

    This incident focuses attention on both the individual's and the government's need to do better. Cyclists need to ride safely, and the State needs to do better than offer lame excuses on its often lousy treatment of cyclists and pedestrians.

  • Alfred Padilla posted at 8:05 am on Tue, Apr 22, 2014.

    Xenoace32 Posts: 538

    She had to have seen the train even with headphones on. Was she a diabetic or did she have any other medical issues?

  • christopher quintana posted at 7:45 am on Tue, Apr 22, 2014.

    christopher quintana Posts: 39

    condolences to friends and family.

  • karl hardy posted at 5:36 am on Tue, Apr 22, 2014.

    karlhardy Posts: 206

    Even the most avid bike rider needs to pay attention - and it is obvious she was not, it is hard to miss a train when you are out in the open. I feel sorry for the conductor who must be traumatized along with the witnesses because of her inattention. I feel sorry for her friends who will miss her.

  • david ford posted at 5:31 am on Tue, Apr 22, 2014.

    d4fords Posts: 4

    This is sad and unfortunate. A basic of any "crossing" anywhere is to look both ways. I am surprised we do not see more accidents with bicycles since I rarely see one stop at a stop sign or even a red light. For those few (a very small minority) who do I thank you for following the rules of the road.

  • Pat Shackleford posted at 12:31 am on Tue, Apr 22, 2014.

    Pat Shackleford Posts: 1100

    Very puzzling how she (northbound) and the train (southbound) were heading right at each other, and she somehow didn't see it or the crossing gate lights or hear all the clanging noise and train horn?

  • Khal Spencer posted at 3:38 pm on Mon, Apr 21, 2014.

    Khal Spencer Posts: 1420

    What the article does not point out is that there are no barrier arms or warning lights on the Santa Fe bicycle rail trail itself. The bike/footpath runs parallel to St. Francis, and the warning lights would be at right angles to a northbound cyclist.

  • Gary Cascio posted at 3:22 pm on Mon, Apr 21, 2014.

    garycascio Posts: 34

    Oh my Lord, you're right. Thanks Steve.

  • Steve Salazar posted at 1:16 pm on Mon, Apr 21, 2014.

    Steve Salazar Posts: 1888

    That was a different person, hit by the train near Belen.

  • Gary Cascio posted at 12:04 pm on Mon, Apr 21, 2014.

    garycascio Posts: 34

    You originally identified the victim as someone else…"New Mexico State Police identified the victim as Mary Odell, 67, of Albuquerque." That article is still up. Shouldn't you update it and clarify this one?


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