Local News

Rickshaw drivers band together to support injured cyclist

Posted November 17, 2010

— The people who pedal rickshaws around Raleigh's downtown plan to pool their Thursday tips to help a friend who was critically injured last weekend by a suspected drunk driver.

Justin Gabriel Walker, 38, was riding his bike along New Bern Avenue at about 3:45 a.m. Sunday when he was hit by a car near Dickens Drive, police said. The collision threw him and his bike 110 feet and left him with serious head injuries, broken ribs and a broken collarbone.

Walker was listed in critical condition Wednesday at WakeMed, but friends said doctors were able to remove his breathing tube and he was beginning to recognize people and form words.

"I just think if anyone was strong enough to pull through it, it would be Justin," friend Donald Mertrud said.

Brandis Chevelle Thomas, 30, of 3407 Baton Road, was charged with driving while impaired and felony serious injury by vehicle in the wreck. Police said she had been drinking and was talking on her cell phone when she hit Walker.

Thomas kept driving for almost a half-mile after the wreck before making a U-turn and returning to the scene, police said.

Rickshaw generic Rickshaw drivers band together to support injured cyclist

"I ride my bike a lot too when I'm not going to and from work. I ride a lot at night. It's scary that could happen," said Bart Tomlin, a friend of Walker's.

Walker had gotten off work and was headed to WakeMed to see his wife when he was hit, friends said. She had had recently suffered a heart attack but has since been released from the hospital.

"At any point, anybody, no matter how accomplished you are as a rider, things can happen. People are drinking, people are texting. It's a sad thing," friend Duncan Moon said.

Walker is a mechanic for Raleigh Rickshaw, and drivers for the service said they hope donating their Thursday tips will help him and his wife, who is distraught over her husband's condition and is constantly at his side in the hospital.

"He's in a tough place, and he's got a long road back," Moon said. "We're all in this together. It's hard work – fun work – and we get close with each other and spend a lot of time on the street together."


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  • HolyGoloBatman Nov 18, 2010

    The folks who work for this service are really great people. Friendly and courteous to a fault, but always remembering that safety of their passengers and themselves is paramount to their business.

    Drunk driving is a problem in this state in that the affluent don't pay the same penalties as the rest of us. I hope this driver is dealt with fairly according to the law, and that anyone regardless of status is treated the same way.

    I have offered to make a donation to Justin's needs and I hope the spirit of the holidays will lead you to do the same.

    Raleigh Rickshaw
    210 Fayetteville Street, Raleigh, NC 27601
    (919) 623-5555
    http://www.raleighrickshaw.com/ click contact us at the bottom of the page and send your email to Donald Mertrud -

    or Amy Mertrud amy@raleighrickshaw.com

    letting them know that you are willing to help.

    Rest well Justin!

  • NTVTXN Nov 18, 2010

    the shames - point taken. Thanks for keeping and directing the attention to where it should be.

  • theshames Nov 18, 2010

    It's sad that some of you are using this thread to bicker over your opinions regarding bicycles on NC's roads. This is not an article about bikes versus cars. It is about Justin, who was critically injured by a drunk driver, and the efforts his friends are making to help out his family. To miss that point in favor of blathering about your ill-informed opinions - over the internet no less - is simply pathetic.

    Consider finding a more appropriate and effective forum for your arguments. And educate yourself beforehand, both motorists AND cyclists: http://www.ncdot.org/bikeped/lawspolicies/laws/.

    For those of you that are actually interested in helping Justin's cause, there is a Facebook event with information about alternate ways to donate: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=177371608939613

  • 88gta Nov 18, 2010

    Justin got off work after well 2am and was going to visit his wife in the hospital. -dmertrud

    That is very sad and he was doing nothing wrong here. However, we all need to understand that we take a huge risk every time we use roadways. We are only as safe as the drivers around us. Given those facts it is crucial to weigh all risks in making a judgement as to whether or not it is worth the risk to ride a bike on a roadway built for cars (no bike lane) in the middle of the night. It seems a bit wreckless and slightly selfish to take such a risk if you have a family, especially children.

  • 88gta Nov 18, 2010

    tritonlm6: Thank you for being a realist here. Well stated.

  • dmertrud Nov 18, 2010

    Justin got off work after well 2am and was going to visit his wife in the hospital.

    There is no reasonable justification any drunk driver on a cell phone can give for hitting a cyclist
    Let's hope for recovery and justice.

  • BigUNCFan Nov 18, 2010


    could not have stated it better myself. great post.

  • BigUNCFan Nov 18, 2010


    Settle down Francis.

    There are drivers like those you mentioned but to be fair there are many many bikers as well that

    1) do not make an effort to go to the side of the road so a car can get around them.

    2) do not wear anything reflective at night.

    3) ride in annoying packs and taunt drivers (noted in rants like yours and calling drivers derogatory terms like cagers).

  • tritonlm6 Nov 18, 2010

    I don't think anyone is bashing here. I wouldn't say I OWN the road. But the property tax I pay on my vehicles and the revenue generated by the driver's license fees, registration fees, inspection fees, gasoline taxes, etc. supposedly pay for road construction/maintenance. Do you need to pass a test and have a valid license and carry insurance to operate a bicycle on the road? Do you pay registration fees and yearly property taxes on your bicycle? There are plenty of cyclists out there that don't follow the rules of the road. There are even more driver's that do the same. If a cyclist blows a stop sign and t-bones me at an intersection I won't be the one going to the hospital. But you can bet that the cyclist won't be carrying liability insurance to cover the damages to my vehicle. Cyclists are hard enough to see in the daytime. Be very cautious when riding at night. Share the road. It works both ways.

  • NTVTXN Nov 18, 2010

    Allright - all you bike bashers, come on out!!! You know who you are - you who are compelled to mash that gas pedal to the floor everytime you pass a cyclist on the road (the closer the better, right? - hey, it's all about intimidation), all the while muttering under your breath "That @#$%", irate because you had to slow down to 50mph in the 45mph zone you're driving in. I've seen it countless times. But, it only goes to figure that those who would habitually drive reckless would have their patience tested by having to slow down for a minute or two until it's safe to pass a cyclist. I mean, really, roads aren't built for bicycles, right? YOU own the road because you're in a car/truck/van/suv, right? And besides, you don't have time to slow down - you'll lose AT LEAST a minute or two getting where you're going! Stupid bicyclists...