No charges against driver in accident that killed bicyclist Joy Covey

San Mateo County prosecutors have decided not to bring charges against the driver of a delivery van involved in a fatal accident in September 2013 that took the life of Woodside cyclist and former Amazon CFO Joy Covey. The van and bicycle collision occurred on Skyline Boulevard about three miles south of La Honda Road.

Ms. Covey, 50, was the mother of an 8-year-old son, Tyler.

The Almanac learned this week of the decision not to bring charges when it asked District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe for an update. He said the District Attorney's Office made its decision in February after receiving the California Highway Patrol's completed accident report in November.

In an excerpt of a memo to the CHP, prosecutor Joe Cannon says there is insufficient evidence to establish negligence by the driver.

At the time of the Sept. 18 accident, she was riding her bike north on a downhill section of Skyline Boulevard at about 1:30 p.m. when a white Mazda minivan traveling south turned left onto Elk Tree Road "directly in front of the bicycle," according to a CHP report.

In the memo, Mr. Cannon says the van driver was neither distracted nor intoxicated. Mr. Cannon cites a witness who describes the area as dappled with light and shadow at the time, a condition that the witness said makes seeing a bicyclist difficult.

Mr. Cannon also cites a witness who said that it appeared that Ms. Covey and the driver did not see each other. These findings would "prevent" a jury from finding negligence beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard of proof in such a case, Mr. Cannon says.

"Based on the totality of the circumstances and results obtained in similar scenarios, a jury would more probably find what occurred was a tragic accident rather than negligence by the suspect," he says in the memo.

At the time of the accident, Ms. Covey was the treasurer for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). She had been the chief financial officer at Amazon from 1996 to 2000.

See earlier story (Sept. 25, 2013).


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Posted by resident
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 16, 2014 at 8:44 am

Cutting off bicyclists is not illegal? That's news to me. Cars own the road.

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Posted by Mike
a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2014 at 10:42 am

This is intolerable. Cyclists have no protection, either on the road or in the courts. It is quite apparent that if you want to kill someone without penalty, wait until they get on a bicycle. As long as you are drunk and stay at the scene, there is zero chance that you will be prosecuted. Disgusting.

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Posted by Aquamarine
a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2014 at 11:02 am

What was she wearing that day while cycling? Not being able to see someone due to light and shadow is not the fault of the driver. The driver is not responsible for the road conditions.

Like this comment
Posted by Turquoise
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 16, 2014 at 11:11 am

Drivers are responsible to drive safely given the current conditions. If visibility is poor should you just step on the gas and hope for the best? Should roads just be a free for all at sunset and sunrise?

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Posted by johngslater
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 16, 2014 at 1:08 pm

johngslater is a registered user.

I find it hard to accept Mr. Cannon's comments.

I am pretty sure Joy Covey saw the vehicle that suddenly turned left in front of her. I hope it is not expected that whenever a cyclist sees a car moving in the opposite direction they have to jam on the brakes.

While it is sometimes difficult to see bicyclists on Skyline, I have biked and motorcycled Skyline for 40 years. I doubt if any bike, motorcycle or car has ever passed me in the opposite direction that I "didn't see".

So I tend to equate "didn't see" with "didn't look". I call that negligence.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Why are all the commenters remarking against the driver convinced that they know more about this case than the authorities did? What WAS she wearing? Did it contribute to poor visibility? By reading previous accounts, I recollect that the driver turned when he thought it was safe to turn. I'm always grateful when cyclists wear clothing bright enough to be seen in shade.

When will people start considering how dangerous some of our beloved outdoor activities can be? Dying while hiking, falling and dying while hiking, getting killed while cycling, while out walking - these are the tragedies affecting locals.

Are local cycling groups lobbying for improved safety? Or, do they accept that what they're doing is unsafe?

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Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 16, 2014 at 3:14 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Hmmm good points. The Jr. attorney's always know more about the law than the attorney's who are charged to prosecute cases. A lot of people believe if a crime has occurred, then there will be a conviction. NOT true. Juries do not always find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a sad case and my heart goes out to both families. The driver of the van will live with this accident for the rest of his life.

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Posted by matt from the block
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Apr 16, 2014 at 4:34 pm

matt from the block is a registered user.

C'mon people none of you were there. You didn't witness the collision, you have no idea what the rider or driver were doing, and you didn't experience the conditions.

Could it be, just maybe, that this was an unfortunate ACCIDENT -- instead of some great conspiracy to murder bikers?

Would you be rising up in the same righteous indignation -- and making wildly unfounded allegations -- if the biker had killed a pedestrian?

Of course not, because that wouldn't fit your world view.

This was a horrible accident. Sometimes these things happen. Deal with it and move on.

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Posted by doop
a resident of another community
on Apr 18, 2014 at 11:22 am

doop is a registered user.

OOPS isn't an acceptable excuse past adolescence. Failing to yield the right of way is not "just an accident". Tired of people not taking the responsibility of driving seriously. These types of okay no drugs, no alcohol, not racing equals "just an accident" doesn't help things. People just need to slow the hell down, take the extra second or so to make sure it's safe to proceed. Someone's at fault in most collisions. The true can't be avoided accident is rare.

If it was a bicyclist that failed to yield resulting in someone else's fatality people would be more outraged not less, they get less slack on news forums. As was the case in SF last year when the cyclist killed a pedestrian. Pedestrian hit by car is just business as usual. Far less outrage, fewer pages of forum ranting. Matt you're revealing your own bias.

Web Link

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Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 18, 2014 at 2:52 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

@Doop. Where does it say speed was a factor. Are you saying the bicyclist needs to slow the hell down? The Van?? The Van driver did not see the bicyclist.

Like this comment
Posted by Adina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 18, 2014 at 10:52 pm

Adina is a registered user.

@stevec exactly. If you are driving and have poor visibility of the road, it's your responsibility to slow down. The speed limit isn't just the number posted, it could be a slower speed depending on conditions. If it's foggy, or there's glare, or it's otherwise hard to see, the driver should slow down.

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Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 19, 2014 at 8:02 am

SteveC is a registered user.

He was Making a TURN! same applies to the bicyclist.

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Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 19, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

Arguing that the same applies to the bicyclist is a false equivalence. A driver who is turning is responsible for making sure that they will not collide with oncoming traffic. If road conditions are such that there is not a great deal of visibility, it is still on the turning vehicle to make sure the turn can be made safely. It sounds like SteveC is arguing that it is somehow the bicyclist's fault that the delivery van didn't see her. That is flat out wrong, and if you don't believe me, go look at a driver's manual. It's pretty basic rules of the road.

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