Reversing its original finding, the Charleston Police Department said Friday that bicycling advocate Edwin Gardner was not to blame for the collision last month that cost him his life.
Gardner, 64, was struck by a Jeep Cherokee on July 21 while he was riding his bicycle on Montagu Street near Lockwood Boulevard. He was dragged about 15 feet and became lodged under the sport utility vehicle. He was rushed to Medical University Hospital, where he died of his injuries a little more than 48 hours later. Friends said he never regained consciousness.
The initial police incident report placed the blame for the collision entirely on Gardner and police said the driver of the Jeep would not be charged.
According to a press release issued Friday, a review of the fatal collision was conducted by the department's Fatal Collision Team. That investigation determined that Gardner "was not in fact a contributor to this collision," the release said.
Investigators reinterviewed the driver of the Jeep and the original witness. They also located and spoke with several additional witnesses, according to the release.
"After careful consideration of the additional evidence obtained, the facts now reveal that Mr. Gardner was not in fact a contributor to the collision," the release said.
Investigators determined the sole contributor was the driver of the Jeep, 21-year-old Charlotte White of Sumter. White will be charged with following too closely, the release said.
Peter Wilborn, an attorney and cycling enthusiast who knew Gardner through their mutual involvement in fighting for bicycle and pedestrian safety in the city, said the police department deserved credit for having reconsidered its position.
"In my experience, it is extremely rare that police officers change their opinion, however flawed," he said. "And here they did that. We all ought to feel good about that."
But the city still has a long way to go to make its streets safer for cyclists, Wilborn said. "This does not mean all is well," he said. "All is not well. It just underscores the unnecessary vulnerabilities of bicyclists in Charleston."
If Charleston is to become a truly livable city, Wilborn said, it needs to make the streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Gardner was also a rowing enthusiast and president of the Harleston Village Neighborhood Association. He served on a task force looking into downtown transportation issues.
On July 31, about 500 cyclists rode through downtown Charleston streets in a tribute to Gardner's life and his contributions to the community.
Reach David W. MacDougall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-5655.