Bike commuter helps driver in distress

The Champaign-Urbana News Gazoo in Illinois reports that University of Illinois professor Steve LaValle was Just Riding Along when he ran across a diabetic man parked on the side of the road. LaValle is currently on a leave of absence from the U of I and is working in Irvine, California, where he rides his bike to and from work.

People who ride bikes frequently tout the improved opportunities for observation while traveling at a more human pace. In this case, the slower pace of travel and exposure to the elements gave LaValle, a computer science professor in Illinois, the opportunity to help another individual.

Biking home from work on a busy, dark street, University of Illinois Professor Steve LaValle noticed something odd.

On the shoulder was a car with the driver’s door standing open, and a man standing with one leg on the pavement and one on the brake.

The incident happened about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday near the University of California-Irvine campus. That particular stretch of the road runs through a nature preserve and is “pitch black,” LaValle said. “Cars were zipping by in the dark.”

[The car was less than 200 feet from a major intersection when LaValle] noticed the car starting to roll. The driver couldn’t figure out how to stop it, so LaValle jumped behind him and put it in park.

The driver apparently had a problem with his blood sugar while driving.

Full story at the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette: Faculty member on leave from UI answers driver’s request for help. H/T to Bryn.


  1. In my first year of riding my commute to work in San Jose I helped two different drivers push their cars through lights after their engines died at a stop. Both times it was someone making a left from Brokaw onto Oakland road, probably just a random coincidence but interesting to note.

    I definitely like the more human pace and lack of what I call “car blinders.” We put blinders on horses which greatly limit their vision, forcing it forward. The same mentality is taken into driving, “keep your eyes on the road;” not many drivers drive like they ride a bike, like I do, with full situational awareness of all angles. When I drive I am almost constantly panning my head around to observe my surroundings, it is a habit I have in all contexts of life. Situational awareness helps keep me and everyone else safe; my practice of situational awareness is why I saw those two distressed drivers.

  2. Something we should all have, acute awareness. But unfortunately, most don’t or do but fail to act…while working in SF years ago and having lunch in the cafeteria, a guy suddenly fell to the ground and started having a seizure…luckily, there were others around who knew how to detect it as diabetic and was able to help him recover quickly.

    After getting into cycling, I soon took a one day cycling skills class. No too long after, I decided to take a CPR class…thankfully, I’ve never had to use it…but then again, you just never know!

    Confession: this last weekend while driving along the Embarcadero, stopped at a light and looking out to the bay near the Ferry bldg. A homeless guy was laying on the sidewalk, shaking from head to toe…at first it was hard to tell, but then thought he might be having a seizure…not one person stopped to help him.

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