Unexplained Rider Down: What killed Jan Lipson?

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A 59-year-old cyclist died — according to the San Jose Mercury News — “after losing control of his bicycle and colliding into a tree on Highway 9.”

We wonder if the adjective “apparently” might be judiciously added here.

The truth is that, without eyewitness accounts, it’s impossible to say so glibly and quickly what might have happened here. Mechanical problems (bike frame failure, flat tire, equipment lockup)? Swerving to avoid an errant motorist? Pavement issues (pothole, oil)?

Why bother to ask? Because the victim was an experienced cyclist described as a “brilliant” and inventive high-energy physicist. At the time of his death, Lipson was chairman and chief technical officer of C8 MediSensors in San Jose (which a Google search reveals to be something of a mystery itself).

Normally in a transportation fatality, a situation like this would be ripe for forensics investigation. Since it’s a lone cyclist, however, we wonder if there will be any investigation at all.

UPDATE: “As of Monday, authorities did not know what caused Lipson to lose control of his road bicycle. Lipson was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, according to CHP Officer Brandie Dressel.”


Tour de France 2010, Stage 16: Rest day before the rest day

Another Nod to Jill Kintner: US national downhill champion!


5 thoughts on “Unexplained Rider Down: What killed Jan Lipson?”

  1. I knew Jan since 1998. We worked together for many years and yes, Jan was a brillant scientist and more importantly one of the most ethical and honest people I have known.
    Asides….Jan was an exceptionally cautious individual in those activites such as biking that he enjoyed so much. I shall miss him. //dave

    “Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well”

  2. I knew Jan too. Went to his funeral today. On Monday, I went up to the tree on the road. The tree is kind of sticking out into the road. There is a pull off area for cars just begfore that . It’s gravelly and loose dirt. He could have slid on that and he was coming down hill. But it’s true, it might have been caused by a car somehow. But I don’t see how the cops can do anything without significant evidence. There probably wouid have been evidence on his body if he was struck and they would have labelled it hit and run.

  3. I bicycle up nine frequently and descend it occasionally. I can’t think of any potholes on the road that could of caused this. Oil on the road should have been pretty obvious to a perfunctionary investigation.

    Because of the accident’s location, I’m beginning to think a car was involved. Either exiting Redwood Gulch on to Nine or entering Redwood Gulch from nine. The bicyclist may have been forced into a desperate evasive maneuver to try to avoid a collision.

    Unfortunately if this is what happened, there would be little incentive for a car driver to stick around and give an explanation.

    Poor Jan Lipson. I’m so upset about this happening.

  4. when I read that the bike was broken up, I immediately though of a carbon fiber frame failure. A rare but catastrophic event. An experienced and cautious cyclist coming down a smooth and fast known road is unlikely to misread a curve and run off the road. It had to have been another vehicle or some kind of catastrophic equipment failure.

  5. I am Michael Lipson, Jan Lipson’s devastated and bereaved brother in Florida. Needless to say I was present at his funeral and burial, with our 85 year old father, and family, colleagues and friends. Jan was all the glowing things that have been said about him and there is nothing for me to add, in that vein.However, I will tell you that Jan was one of the most careful and cautious individuals I have ever met. He approached his cycling as he did his life , professionally. I have watched with great joy and amazement his expert and savvy, bicycle riding for many years, and there is no place that he loved to be more then on the seat of his bleoved Trek Custom Made bicycle. He purchased a beautiful Trek Mountain bike for me which I will use for it’s intention when I can leave Florida and treasure forever. I believe he paid over $7000.00 for the bike he road. Had thee have been ANY reason for additional caution or hesitancy, when he approached the parcel that took his life, he would have done the most careful, and prudent thing possible. Perhaps stop long in advance, if he was able to see the danger, (20/20 vision) or laid his bike down with his lightning fast reflexes safely. The speed limit is 35 MPH post on that road. How one could calculate accurately that Jan was “doing” 35mph is miraculous. I’m sure a statement by law enforcement had to be made, but was this arbitray and capricious? Actually, at the age of 59, Jan was in the most remarkable physical condition, that a man could be in, and as solid as a rock. A man in good shape half his age would have had a diificult cycling competitor. My brother had dreams of actually “running” in the next Tour de France, as he believed anything was possible and had proved the most amazing possibilties in his own life. His ability on a bike simply was flawless. I am still deeply mourning for my brother e4very day, and it is a loss not just to his family but the entire world, for what he accomplished and what his was capable of. It should be mentioneed that Jan was wearing a device that feeds back heart rate, blood pressure and a few essentials including vital signs. I do not comprehend, why more information was not ascertained from that instrument, as it certainly would have given clues, particularly to an impending disaster. Much of his success was channeled in an altruistic, and humanitarian way, beyond some’s conception. He was my best friend and I will miss him until we meet again. I love you Jan, Michael

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