Survivor of 'random, drunken violence' that killed cyclist calls for change

'Our story doesn't just belong to us. We were not the only cyclists hit this year.'
Natalie Rainer
Posted at 7:25 PM, Nov 13, 2022

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Three months since two cyclists were hit by a drunk driver in Henrico County, the survivor and other athletes in the Richmond area are speaking alongside policy makers about their concerns over safety on the roads.

Jonah Holland and Natalie Rainer
Jonah Holland and Natalie Rainer were struck while cycling in eastern Henrico on Saturday, August 13, 2022.

Natalie Rainer and Carla "Jonah" Holland were cycling along Osborne Turnpike on the morning of Saturday, Aug. 13 when they were hit.

Holland was killed. Rainer suffered numerous injuries.

"I suffered broken ribs, damaged organs, broken and horribly displaced collarbone, extensive road rash on the front of my body, and both sides of my pelvis were broken, right in my hip sockets," Rainer said. "I laid in the Trauma Center at VCU for almost a month, breaking through intense life-altering pain and questioning, just kind of over and over, would my world ever be the same again? Would I ever walk again? Would I ever ride a bike again? Would I ever feel confident enough in my strength to adventure and to play again?"

Natalie Rainer
Natalie Rainer

Both she and Holland were wearing protective gear and were following the rules of the road.

"What happened to us the morning of the crash was unpredictable. It was random, drunken violence. And we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time," Rainer said. "But our story doesn't just belong to us. We were not the only cyclists hit this year."

On Sunday afternoon, Bike Walk RVA and policymakers from the region gathered at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden to hear Rainer's message and listen to their concerns.

Natalie Rainer and Carla "Jonah" Holland
Osborne Turnpike fatal crash

Del. Rodney Willett (HD-73), who represents the district where Holland lived, is a cyclist who once rode alongside Holland in a fundraising event. He affirmed Sunday that he would work to secure funds for infrastructure projects that protect bikers and pedestrians.

"This is more than taking matters into our own and trying to provide our own safety" Willett said. "This is laws that have to be passed, this is infrastructure that has to be developed."

Del. Rodney Willett
Del. Rodney Willett

Brantley Tyndall, the director of Bike Walk RVA, said Henrico County is including a shared-use path parallel to Osborne Turnpike in its draft master plan, noting its popularity among cyclists across the commonwealth. The county also lowered the speed limit from 55 to 45mph and is looking for other improvements.

Del. Schuler vanValkenburg (HD-72) spoke about education and incentives, saying the culture of biking and walking has become more popular in a county that was not designed with that kind of transportation in mind.

Richmond City Council's Katherine Jordan
Richmond City Council's Katherine Jordan

In Richmond, 108 speed tables are planned to be installed across the city. Council member Katherine Jordan said following a fatality involving a pedestrian in the Fan district on November 7, the city decides to add another 85 more.

Jordan said she'd like to see a 20mph speed limit along local roads, as well as other increased safety measures.

"We need to change drivers' behavior, and one way you do that is making them scared they're going to get a hefty ticket," she said.

The policy makers said they will likely bring up concerns and suggestions before the General Assembly in the new year.

Carla "Jonah" Holland
Carla "Jonah" Holland

"Jonah's death is an absolute tragedy and she is not dying in vain. We're going to find inspiration from this and do something about it," Willett said.

Advocacy about street safety, Rainer said, is her way of keeping Jonah's legacy alive.

"I had no memory of the crash," Rainer said. "And that's when they told me what happened to Jonah. At that moment, I said I would live the rest of my life making her proud."

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email to send a tip.



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