A hit-and-run driver killed a 50-year-old man riding a bicycle on Appleton Avenue in Germantown about 8:15 Sunday night, and police reported an arrest in the case late Monday.
Police Chief Peter Hoell identified the victim as Keith Habenicht, 50, a father of two, who was biking home from the store. He died less than a mile from his house.
According to Hoell, Habenicht was southbound on Appleton Avenue with lights operating on his bike when the motorist hit him from behind and fled. Police reported they arrested a suspect and located the car about 10:30 Monday night. Investigators continue to seek help from witnesses.
The crash is similar to the one that killed James Schafer, a 56-year-old grandfather, who was biking near his home in Redgranite on Feb. 14. Eric Banaszak, who had three drunken driving convictions, hit Shafer from behind, fled, then turned himself into police about 18 hours later.
He was convicted of the fatal hit-and-run and is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 2.
The victim in Germantown is the ninth person on a bike to be killed in a crash with a motor vehicle on Wisconsin roads this year. Victims include students, grandparents, business executives and an 11-year-old boy. The number is more than double the total in 2014 and approaching the annual average of 10.
In six of the fatalities, the bicycles were hit from behind, a rare , but often fatal, scenario overall in bike crashes. Roughly 12 of the crashes that involved people on bikes occurred in that fashion in 2011, 2012 and 2013, according to an analysis by Robert Schneider, a traffic safety researcher at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee.
The spike in fatal crashes this year is terrible, but it is important to remember that bicycling is a very safe activity and continues to get safer as more people ride and more bicycle facilities are built. Schneider also found that the overall rate of crashes involving people on bikes has decreased from 2004 to 2013 and the number of cyclists seriously injured on the road has dropped 40 percent in that time span.
Still, the number of crashes in 2015 and the nine fatalities show the need for everyone to be more diligent while driving and watch for people bicycling and walking. The Bike Fed’s Share & Be Aware Program offers free education for all road users to make people walking and riding bikes safer.
Schneider’s message is simple: “Be aware that bicyclists might be out on any roadway, even at night. As a driver, it’s really important to look out for your neighbor who is on a bicycle or is a pedestrian.”