Local News

Rickshaw drivers band together to support injured cyclist

Posted November 17, 2010 5:49 p.m. EST
Updated November 17, 2010 7:08 p.m. EST

— 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.

"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."