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Cyclist killed in Friday’s deadly crash had texted father earlier that week about a new, safer bike helmet

Bill and Diggy Pagels said their son Jim Pagels died Friday in a crash on Massachusetts Avenue.

WASHINGTON — The cyclist killed in Friday’s deadly crash had texted his father earlier that week about a new, safer bike helmet to wear. He had also tweeted hours before his death about how dangerous D.C. roads could be for cyclists.

Bill and Diggy Pagels said their 29-year-old son Jim Pagels died in a Friday evening crash as he was riding a bike down Massachusetts Ave.

The last text Pagels had sent his father was earlier in the week about a new bike helmet.

“He sent me a picture of the bike helmet and asked me you know is this worth getting,” Bill Pagels said. “And I told him he should get it because you want to be safe out there on your bike, so go ahead and get that helmet, and that's the last text we had.”

D.C. Police said they are investigating the Northwest D.C. crash that involved five vehicles.

“Jim was phenomenal. He would have offered a ton to the world, that’s what everybody says. Somebody who had this incredible potential, so hardworking,” Diggy Pagels said of her son.

She said she had talked to her son earlier Friday who had plans to see friends later that evening.

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Credit: Bill Pagels
Bill Pagels said the family of four was always very close.

Jim Pagels is originally from Dallas, Texas, and had a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University, a master’s from Georgetown. He was also working on obtaining his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Michigan, his family said.

Due to the pandemic and online learning, Pagels moved back to D.C., a city his parents said he loved and had many friends in.

Credit: Finn Vigeland

One of his friends, Finn Vigeland, said Pagels loved biking and the city’s Capital BikeShare. He also said Pagels was a proponent of advocating for safer streets in the District.

“His last tweet on Friday, not six hours before he was hit fatally by a car, was about the dangerous route he had to take to go get his second COVID vaccine,” Vigeland said. “He would want people to be furious about his death, and the physical conditions that led to it and also the culture of driving that lets people feel like they can speed down wide-open streets like Mass Ave.”

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Vigeland said Pagel’s death is leading to a renewed push for bicycle safety, and the city’s vision zero needs to truly become zero.

“This was somebody that entrusted his life to the city and to drivers, and they did not obey that trust,” Vigeland said. “So I certainly hope that this combined with just the epidemic of traffic deaths we've seen in particular in these last two weeks will change some hearts and minds and prompt people to take bold action.”

Credit: Finn Vigeland
Jim Pagels, seen holding the camera, was killed in a multi-vehicle crash Friday, his parents said.

“We shouldn't have to think that saying goodbye to a friend when they leave your house to go bike home, is, you know your final goodbye,” Vigeland said.

Pagels’ family said he loved Texas sports, board games, and living and riding his bike in urban D.C. He is described by his family and friends as brilliant, witty, and hardworking.

His parents said he was the type of elementary student that got bumped up a grade because of his smarts. And that he was extremely close with his only sibling, Laura, who was 15 months older than him.

“I was really lucky to have him as a brother and I loved him so much,” Laura Menendez said. “I see him and me every day in my kids, every day I see our relationship in my children. I loved him a lot, I will always love him. He’s my brother. Even though he’s gone he’s always my brother.”

“He won’t get married, have his own family, that’s all been robbed from him,” Diggy Pagels said. “There’s all this joy that’s been taken out of his life and out of our life from watching him.”

Credit: Laura Menendez
Laura Menendez said she and her brother were so close this is the photo she submitted her senior year for the yearbook.

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