Archive for Monday, October 19, 2009

Bicyclist’s influence was felt by many

October 19, 2009, 12:00 a.m. Updated October 26, 2009, 11:21 a.m.


Investigation continues in cyclist's death

The investigation into a 20-year-old woman's death during the weekend is ongoing. No new information regarding the hit-and-run driver or the suspect vehicle has been released. Enlarge video

At Wheatfields Bakery on Saturday morning, business continued as usual during the breakfast shift at the popular Lawrence restaurant.

But the mood for both employees and regular customers was understandably somber, said chef Phillip Toevs, as they mourned the death of 20-year-old Rachel Leek, who had worked at the bakery at Ninth and Vermont streets for the past two years.

“We’re hanging in as best we can,” said Toevs. “(But) it makes everything less important.”

Leek died Friday at a Topeka hospital, where she had been taken following an apparent hit-and-run accident that occurred early that morning as Leek rode her bicycle in the 1000 block of Tennessee Street.

Toevs said Leek was known at the store by customers for her easy-going demeanor.

“She was one of the most considerate, genuinely friendly people I came across,” he said. “To see her, there was just something right in the world.”

The Leek family is well-known at Wheatfields, as two of her sisters, including Lawrence resident Mary Leek-Stolz, have also worked at the bakery.

Leek-Stolz said that when one of the sisters would go into the bakery, people would say, ‘Oh, it’s a Leek.’

“When we’d go in there together, it’d be fun,” she said.

Leek was from a large family in Olathe – she had five brothers and five sisters – and had lived in Lawrence for the past two years after graduating from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park.

Leek-Stolz described her sister as a spirited young woman who was trying to figure out what she wanted to do with her life.

Leek had taken classes at both Kansas University and Johnson County Community College, and she had recently discovered a talent and love for photography, her sister said.

“She really got into that (photography). She was a natural at it,” said Leek-Stolz, who said her sister, who was 11 years younger, was her “teacher.”

But figuring out her path in life was something she was allowing to happen, not forcing, said Leek-Stolz.

“She didn’t waste any of her life on worrying,” she said.

It was that relaxed approach to life that made her instantly likable, said her boyfriend, KU student Sam Goodell.

“She just knocked everybody’s socks off,” he said.

Goodell said Leek was on her way to a friend's house early Friday to spend time with friends after dancing – one of her other passions – at a downtown club. She was hit just two houses away from her destination.

Goodell said he was grateful for the outpouring of support from Leek’s friends, and that there have been initial discussions about creating a memorial for Leek near where she was hit.

A previous version of this story incorrectly said where Leek was riding too when she was hit.


kubmg 8 years, 3 months ago

This is very unfortunate. Question is, when is the city going to recognize the growing cycling population and put in bike lanes? Check out the various college towns that have done this successfully - Davis, CA; Boulder, CO and Austin, TX.

1029 8 years, 3 months ago

I don't know that a bike lane would protect a bicyclist from a drunk driver--especially if that driver is a student who doesn't have that many years of drunk driving experience.

I think it's about time that the driver turned himself or herself in. Initially I just figured that the driver was an LJ-W reader, and had long ago learned that it is best to leave the scene of the crime if you kill someone with your vehicle in Lawrence. It's been several days so the driver has to be sober/cleaned-out by now. If he/she turned himself/herself in, the penalty would probably be like a $25 fine and 6 months of diversion.

blackwalnut 8 years, 3 months ago

I will miss her smiling face at Wheatfields. She was unfailingly friendly and kind. It is a great loss. My heart goes out to her family, friends and colleagues at the restaurant.

blackwalnut 8 years, 3 months ago

kubmg: Bike lanes, yes. We need those much more than yet another rec center or an ice rink.

readit 8 years, 3 months ago

Just returned from Boulder. Was so impressed with their bike-friendliness on and around campus. I am so sorry to return and read about this horrible event. Prayers with the Leek family.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 3 months ago

A safe off street cyclist/pedestrian transportation commuter walk could be created on one side of Kentucky and Tennessee. With plenty of lighting.

Using the existing walk/right of way could be a relatively inexpensive choice. Yes there is substantial cycling/pedestrian traffic from 6th to 19th aka justification.

This safer off street concept will require a substantial lobbying effort.

gccs14r 8 years, 3 months ago

Unfortunately, KY and TN aren't safe for anything. One look at the bashed-in cars along the curb will tell you that. If you live along there, it's not a question of if, but rather when, you'll be hit. The only way to open it up enough for a bike lane would be to post it all as no parking from 6th to 19th. That won't be possible unless all the property owners along there create enough off-street parking for their residents and potential guests. It should be done, but chances are slim that it will be done.

lounger 8 years, 3 months ago

Why was she sent to Topeka? It surely would be that LMH had the goods to help. I hope that wasn't precious time wasted on the way to Topeka. Either way a tragedy.

preebo 8 years, 3 months ago

As a former resident, Boulder is, in deed, a more bike friendly community than Lawrence, the difference; Boulder makes it so that there is infrastructure to make it safer for those who use an alternate form of transport. I agree with the calls for Bike Lanes in Lawrence, it is disheartening that a tragedy like this must occur before something is to be done about it.

justforfun 8 years, 3 months ago

Bike lanes won't do crap untill bike riders follow the laws of the road like they should. i.e. stop at stop signs, stop lights, stay in the line of traffic and not cut to the front cuz they can, etc... This comment is not saying that Rachel was doing any of this. It is just a response to all the comments about bike lanes. My prayers go out to this family!

llama726 8 years, 3 months ago

I was in Austin, justforfun, and honestly, the cycling lanes cut down on all of that. With a real lane, I think it brings some awareness that you're driving a vehicle. Plus, in Austin, the cops aren't afraid to ticket cyclists, so there's that too.

Tootieonskates35 8 years, 3 months ago

This is so sad, and hopefully more awareness will come from this. For one thing Lawrence streets are overcrowded with vehicles when school is in session. The city has so many streets tore up for (example 27th street) and detours are not cyclist friendly. My prayers go out to the family and friends.

KEITHMILES05 8 years, 3 months ago

Any time wasted at LMH would have been wrong. This woman was gravely injured. She needed top notch care with specialists which LMH doesn't have.

4goodnesssake 8 years, 3 months ago

The reason she was sent to Topeka was because they are a level 2 trauma center and Lawrence is a level 4 I think, and she needed a neurosurgeon. Stormont has a excellent reputation for head injuries, and she was airflighted, so she was being cared for during the flight in to Topeka.

anonyhouse 8 years, 3 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

RKLOG 8 years, 3 months ago

Agree about the bike lanes and the memorial should be put up as well.

Bob Forer 8 years, 3 months ago

So tragic. An apparently delightful young lady robbed or her life before she had a real chance to begin living it to its fullest. We should all grieve.

anonyhouse 8 years, 2 months ago

i want to know why my comment was deleted???

i didn't say anything much different than the person who posted above me, just more accurate details.

why the censorship of honest information???

i didn't violate the usage agreement in ANY way!

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