Bicyclist fatally run over was new to Minneapolis, careful about bike safety

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 5, 2014 - 1:02 PM
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A bicyclist was struck by a van and killed Tuesday morning near W. Franklin and Garfield Avenues in Minneapolis.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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Marcus Nalls came to Minnesota as an experienced bicyclist, commuting to and from work in bustling downtown Atlanta for the past few years without incident. So when his superiors at the Hyatt Regency said he was being promoted and transferred to their hotel in downtown Minneapolis, Nalls made sure he found just the right place to live for riding his bike to work.

But despite paying attention to that detail and using the proper safety equipment, the 26-year-old professionally trained sous chef was run over on his way home from work and killed Monday night on well-traveled W. Franklin Avenue in south Minneapolis by a van allegedly driven by a drunken driver.

Police spokesman John Elder said the bicyclist “was wearing a helmet. He had an illuminated front lamp and a rear lamp. This was a bicyclist who was doing what he was supposed to be doing.”

Nalls looked at three apartments in Minneapolis before moving on Jan. 4 with his fiancée to a place about 2 miles away, said his mother, Nicole Sweigart.

“He did the traffic homework,” Sweigart said, choking back tears at the prospect of burying one of her three grown children. “He researched all of that.”

The van’s 49-year-old driver, who lives four blocks east of the crash scene, was arrested and remains jailed without bail on suspicion of criminal vehicular homicide. Charges could come Wednesday.

The motorist “obviously was impaired,” said Elder, noting that the driver “had an odor of alcohol emitting from his breath,” along with slurred speech, and bloodshot and watery eyes.

Initial crash reconstruction work led police to determine that Nalls was riding on the street — two people who saw the crash said Nalls was riding on the shoulder.

Police say the van was heading west on Franklin near Harriet Avenue S. about 9:50 p.m. when it came over a hill and hit Nalls. At some point, police added, the van also hit a parked vehicle.

Elders said Nalls was pinned under the van and fire department personnel used equipment to lift the van off him, but he died at the scene.

State records show that the van driver has one minor traffic violation on his record along with convictions for disorderly conduct and ­unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

Ben Peterson said he was driving east on Franklin and saw Nalls riding toward him in an opposite lane of traffic. That’s when “the van came over the hill,” Peterson said. “I didn’t see him hit the brakes.”

The van “was going pretty fast,” he said. “I knew right away when he came over the hill that he was going to hit the bike. I can’t imagine the van [driver] could not have seen him.”

Peterson, a student at Dunwoody Institute who drives that stretch every day, looked out his side window a second or two later, saw the van hit the bicycle and turned around “to see if he was OK.”

“The cops were there already, and there were ­people on their cellphones calling 911,” he said.

Jordan Lyseng said he and his wife were heading west on Franklin when the van “passed on the left pretty fast and moved back in front of us.”

Lyseng said he saw the van hit the bicycle — its red light flashing on the back and a headlight illuminated on the front — as it rolled along on the shoulder. The bike ended up in the street, Lyseng said, and he moved it to the sidewalk next to the victim’s backpack.

The driver then started ­getting out of his vehicle, but several people “were telling him to stay in the van,” Lyseng said. “He was pretty startled.”

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  • Marcus Nalls was killed while riding a bicycle in Minneapolis.

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