The Modesto cyclist who died Tuesday in Santa Rosa was a physical education teacher for a charter school district that serves minority students in the Central Valley.
Ruben Hernandez, 37, had been a teacher for six years at Aspire Rosa Parks Academy and Aspire River Oaks Charter School in Stockton.
"He was an extraordinarily gifted teacher who inspired students to do their personal best," said Mary Welch, superintendent for the 13 Aspire Public Schools in the valley. "He was warm, kind and caring. He really had a crusade to improve children's lives."
Hernandez was in Santa Rosa to attend an Aspire schools conference and was staying at the Fountaingrove Inn, less than a mile from where the accident occurred.
An avid cyclist, Hernandez was riding west on Fountain Grove Parkway about 7 a.m. when a pickup driven by Adam Bigham, 22, of Sebastopol turned left in front of him.
Hernandez was riding at the speed of surrounding traffic and may have been going as fast as 40 mph, police said. He hit the pickup cab and died at the scene.
Preliminary indications from an autopsy Wednesday are that he died of head injuries, Sgt. Rich Celli said.
Celli said Bigham was on his way to work in construction when the crash happened. He described Bigham as cooperative and said there were no indications he was driving under the influence or distracted by a cell phone.
"He was not impaired, totally cooperative and has a valid driver's license," Celli said.
Bigham could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
No decision on whether charges will be filed will be made until after the district attorney's office receives the police report.
Aspire Public Schools is a network of 34 charter schools in the valley, the Bay Area and Los Angeles for youngsters in kindergarten through 12th grade. Most are minorities and from low-income families.
"We serve students in underserved communities," Welch said. "Our mission is to ensure that all children are ready to go to college. He was a role model for the children he served."
Hernandez taught physical education to children in kindergarten through fifth grade and in the after-school program.
"He was an avid cyclist. He often brought his bike to work and would go on rides after work. He was involved in biking and all kinds of sports," Welch said.
Hernandez is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and their 2-year-old daughter, Gianna.
Stanislaus County Bicycle Club President Susan Dion said Hernandez had been a member of the club for about five years and often participated in its Sunday rides to Valley Home and Monday rides to Ripon.
After Gianna was born, Dion said, Hernandez couldn't cycle as often, but recently he had started attending more rides. Hernandez affectionately called his daughter Gigi, and she was "the sunshine of his life," Dion said.
He was the fifth cyclist to die in Sonoma County in 10 weeks. As a memorial, the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition is holding a silent, two-mile ride at 5:30 p.m. today.
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy contributed to this report.