Ex- police officer says gate that killed White Earth bicyclist a hazard at night
Former Fargo police officer Kyle Olson said he struck the same gate involved in a fatal biking accident Thursday and warned park officials in 2004 that the area needed lighting.
Fargo Park Board President Joel Vettel, a police lieutenant, said he told Olson the same thing he told a reporter Thursday: Fargo's parks are designed for use from dawn until dusk.
"We don't have any intentions of lighting those areas in the future," Vettel said. "We feel it's probably more of a hazard to encourage people to take that risk to bicycle after dark in areas that just aren't conducive to doing so."
Police said Gordon Clyde Fineday, 48, died after he apparently struck a gate that blocks vehicles from driving on a bike path along the Red River at the Dike East recreational area.
Fineday had recently listed an Osage address, police Sgt. Jeff Skuza said. A funeral home notice listed Fineday as being from White Earth,.
Skuza said it appears Fineday was northbound toward downtown when he hit the gate. A passer-by found him and called police at 1:11 a.m. from the nearby Fryn' Pan restaurant.
"He wasn't there that long," Skuza said of the victim. "The officers attempted CPR but weren't able to revive him."
Fineday was declared dead at the scene.
Fineday was not wearing a helmet, and his blue 10-speed bicycle didn't have a headlight or taillight, Skuza said.
Alcohol and failing brakes may have been factors in the accident, he said.
An autopsy will be performed within the next couple of days, he said, adding toxicology results could be a week to several weeks away.
Skuza said Fineday's reasons for being in Fargo were unclear, but downtown officers were familiar with him. Vettel said Fineday wasn't homeless, but he lived "a transient lifestyle."
Olson said he and another officer were on bike patrol the night of July 4, 2004, when the gate's crossbar caught him across the forearms. The bicycle came out from under him, and his head snapped back when he landed on the paved path, he said.
Doctors eventually determined that Olson ruptured his fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae, he said.
"I've got permanent spasms in my legs. I can't run," he said.
Olson was fired from the Fargo Police Department on Feb. 15, 2006, for paying for off-sale beer while in uniform and for administering a Breathalyzer test to a bar patron while off duty. He said he is now receiving worker's compensation benefits.
Vettel said Olson's accident "was his own fault" because he wasn't using the headlight on his bicycle. The officer riding with Olson didn't hit the gate, Vettel noted. The gate has reflective tape on it.
Olson said his headlight was off because officers were operating covertly to catch people doing graffiti. He said the other officer probably would have hit the gate had he not hit it first.
"It's so easy to miss them," he said.
While calling Thursday's accident "tragic," Vettel said there are signs stating that city parks aren't for use after dark or certain set hours.
"The bike path system is not designed for riding at night," he said.
Lingering in parks after-hours can land violators with a $100 infraction or a trespass warning or citation, he said.
Vettel said park officials on Thursday discussed making the green gates more visible by painting them a brighter color or adding more reflective stickers.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528