Hit by a car (again) in Downtown St. Paul, or why we need the bike plan

Courtesy of streets.mn
Dana, Quinn, and Daphne.

My six-year old son and I got hit by a car in downtown Saint Paul last night. We’re fine, except for a good scrape on my leg, a busted fender, and a nervous little boy. It could have been worse. Before leaving work on 10thStreet and Cedar Street I carefully studied the routes I could take from Harriet Island, where Quinn was participating in a Saint Paul Parks and Recreation day camp, to an errand we had to run off Summit Avenue on our way home to Hamline-Midway. There were no stellar options. Aside from no bike lanes, Wabasha Avenue and Kellogg Boulevard are under construction (neither of these projects include bike infrastructure). I decided to take Wabasha Bridge into downtown and then decided to take the sidewalk on Kellogg Boulevard up to College Avenue, across from the Minnesota History Center to get to Summit Avenue.

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I have been bike commuting for a decade and am an extremely experienced rider. I teach bike commuting and safety as part of our employee development seminar at my place of employment. I previously served on the board of directors of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota and was a co-chair of the Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition. In other words, I know my business. I knew that biking on the sidewalk was more dangerous than taking a lane on Kellogg Boulevard. I have counselled countless new riders against biking on the sidewalk. Nevertheless, I felt it would be safer to bike slowly on the sidewalk given the construction, the rush hour traffic, the hill up Kellogg Boulevard, and my son on the back of my bike. I stopped at every intersection because bicycles on the sidewalk should act like pedestrians.

We came to the intersection of Kellogg Boulevard and the I35 Northbound exit ramp. I stopped and waited for the walk signal. We started across the intersection when the person driving the SUV, waiting to make a right turn, started forward. He had looked left for traffic coming down the hill eastbound, but did not look right for pedestrians on the sidewalk (or a mother on a cargo bike). He hit us. We fell. My first instinct was rage, but also awareness that he still might not know we were there. I ran over to his driver side window and let loose a torrent of obscenities. My son and the bike were still lying in the street and I calmed down (a little) when I saw that my son’s eyes were as big as saucers. I stopped and got my son onto the sidewalk. I realized that he was more scared of my reaction than what happened so I tried my best to calm down.

The intersection

A nurse from Children’s Hospital was in the car behind the man who hit us and she helped comfort my son and made sure he was not injured. The man who hit us got out of his car, which surprised me because last time I was hit a decade ago on Saint Peter and Fourth Street my bike and I went over a car’s windshield and they did not stop. This is sadly typical from many stories I hear from friends who have been hit. The homeless people begging on the corner ran over and helped bring my bike on the sidewalk. One of them stood in front of the man’s SUV, making sure he was not going to drive off. The driver and I exchanged information. He was very concerned.

Once I knew we were okay and the bike was rideable, all the people left. I sat down on the sidewalk with my son. He was surprisingly calm and never cried. He quietly told me that he remembered to keep his legs in like I had taught him. I asked if he felt okay biking home or whether we should call his father to come and get us in the car. He said he wanted daddy. We walked down to the Liffey, called my husband, and had lemonade at the bar while we waited.

Courtesy of streets.mn
Riding in winter

Maybe I should not have been on the sidewalk. The man who hit us should have looked both ways, even if it was one-way automobile traffic. I know some people would say I should not be biking with my children, should just take our car, that I am taking unnecessary risks by riding a cargo bike in rush hour traffic downtown. Believe me, my children are my life. If Quinn would have been injured or killed, I do not know how I would continue living. He and his sister are the center of my universe. I took every precaution I thought reasonable. If there were a single bike lane in downtown Saint Paul, I would have taken it.

Others insist streets are for cars. That building bike and pedestrian infrastructure is just catering to a left-wing minority, wasting tax dollars on the fringe. It does not matter what choices I or the man who hit us made – cars are legitimate road users because most people drive cars. I drive, too. We called my husband who came to pick us up in our family’s car. I am thankful we have one.

But, that’s not the vision I want for our city. Not only is that corner of Kellogg Boulevard dangerous, it is ugly and barren. It’s not a place I want to walk or bike. I want it to be normal for mothers to pick their children up from Parks and Recreation day camps on a bike, especially when that ride is only about five miles and it is a sunny summer day. I want it to be normal for people of who do not identify as A-level, experienced cyclists to decide it is easier to bike the three miles to the grocery store or the park. I want a vibrant, busy downtown that is also welcoming and comfortable for people arriving in cars, on foot, by public transit, or by bike.

Let’s stop dithering over parking. Saint Paul’s parking study clearly shows that downtown is not at capacity parking. The bike loop and other improvements will not end the economy of downtown Saint Paul. Make it a nicer, more welcoming place where people want to be, not just drive through. Make it safer for all road users. Give a mother on a bike at least one safe choice to get through downtown so the sidewalk seems like the best choice when it is not.

The man who hit us called me last night. I did not feel like talking so I let my voice mail pick it up. He said he was very sorry about our “incident” and wanted to see if we were okay. That was nice, but I still don’t know if I feel like calling him back.

Courtesy of streets.mn
Irony

This post was written by Dana DeMaster and originally published on streets.mn. Follow streets.mn on Twitter: @streetsmn.

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Comments (42)

  1. Submitted by Richard Callahan on 07/29/2015 - 09:53 am.

    I commute by bike all the time

    and have the sense to avoid the downtown route DeMaster took as much as possible. It’s dangerous for an lone adult on constant lookout, but to carry a child is foolish and reckless.

    • Submitted by Ken Paulman on 07/30/2015 - 07:30 am.

      I’m happy for you

      But in this case for the rider it was the least terrible of multiple terrible options, and she acknowledges the risk. The point of the column was that bad infrastructure forces these kinds of decisions, that maybe we should be the kind of city where a person *can* bike downtown with a kid and not have to worry about getting killed.

  2. Submitted by Andrew Lewis on 07/29/2015 - 10:27 am.

    One precaution

    “I took every precaution I thought reasonable”

    I’ve put in several (tens?) thousand hours road running in 4 snowy, busy, cities, so I speak from experience to say that the most critical precaution to take is to see the driver see you. It is impossible (excluding accelerator malfunction) to get hit by a stopped car if you know that you’ve been spotted. I don’t say this to place blame, I really want people to stop getting hit by cars and I know the secret.

    • Submitted by Martha Garcés on 07/30/2015 - 07:49 am.

      You know the secret?

      It’s true that it’s a good idea to look for driver’s eyeballs. I do the same after having once been in an accident myself (I will add that I was IN a bikelane IN a crosswalk WITH a green light). I object, however, to your calling this “the secret.” Even if we (people on bikes) do everything right, others on bikes, in cars, etc. may still fail to take their own precautions. Seeing a drivers eyes may make you think they’ve seen you when in fact they haven’t. Riding defensively is certainly a start, but until kids, families, young people, old people, men, and women feel safe on our streets we can’t say that we have arrived. We can’t say that we have secrets. We are all just doing our best. As Dana sets out to say here in sharing her experience, we need better street design that makes everyone know exactly where they ought to be and everyone easily able to see where everybody else is.

  3. Submitted by Dana DeMaster on 07/29/2015 - 10:32 am.

    What is your route?

    I’d be curious about your route. Typically, I would take from Wabasha Bridge, Wabasha to 10th and cut over by St. Joseph’s Hospital to the MN History Center Ramp and then cross Kellogg to College Ave. Maybe I should have gone a mile out of my way to avoid four blocks on Kellogg? I considered taking Ohio from Harriet Island to Smith and then from Grand Ave to Irving, but felt Ohio was too much of a challenge going uphill.

    BTW – if I had been a pedestrian the outcome would have been exactly the same. I just happened to be on a bike. If the road really is that dangerous that a pedestrian needs to be “on constant lookout” or be “foolish and reckless” then maybe that street’s design should be reconsidered.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 07/29/2015 - 01:02 pm.

      Exactly, you were hit as a pedestrian

      This accident wasn’t a car/bike accident, it was a car/pedestrian accident. The driver should have been ticketed. The street and sidewalk designs probably also need to be reviewed. But…that being said, an SUV is often a needlessly large vehicle and I see lots of people who drive them and shouldn’t because they are low-awareness drivers with a particularly dangerous wheeled weapon. Many of these people shouldn’t be driving at all, and probably choose an SUV because they are not confident enough in their abilities (rightly so) to be safe driving a vehicle, and so they justify the large size by claiming it makes them FEEL safer.

  4. Submitted by Dan Berg on 07/29/2015 - 10:52 am.

    Pedestrian or vehicle?

    People expect pedestrians in crosswalks, not cyclists. If cyclists want to be respected on the roads then they need to follow the rules of the road including not passing on the right. If someone with a bike wants to be treated as a pedestrian and use crosswalks they need to get off their bike and walk it. Being unpredictable is a major reason for conflict and accidents.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 07/29/2015 - 11:54 am.

      Accident

      It didn’t matter if the person hit was a pedestrian or a bike rider–the driver simply wasn’t looking and would have hit a brick wall if that had been in the crosswalk.

      I would argue that the author was being perfectly predictable. She used the sidewalk, which is permissible in some areas, and had been doing everything correct. The driver is at fault for not checking if there was someone who was waiting to use the crosswalk.

      And bikes are not required to dismount to use a crosswalk–they’re within the law to ride across.

      Being predictable is indeed important when you’re driving or riding–I emphasize that to my kids, nieces, and nephews all the time. But just as importantly, you want to check your surroundings and see how the situation is changing. The driver did not do that.

      • Submitted by Dan Berg on 07/29/2015 - 06:51 pm.

        It does matter

        It is difficult for a driver, even one paying attention, to know if a cyclist is riding on a sidewalk or the street side of the curb. While cyclists are not legally required to dismount while using a crosswalk doing so would make the situation more predictable. The fact that there is no way to know which sidewalks are or aren’t available to cyclists (especially in downtown areas) is another point of unpredictability. A cyclist in the street near the curb shouldn’t pass a car on the right for the same reasons given for other cars or motorcycles. Being 10 inches to the right on the sidewalk is a distinction without a difference. The speed of a pedestrian verses a cyclist on a sidewalk make the two incompatible, especially when entering intersections.

        By the way, I believe the area of the accident is zoned B4 or B5 both of which are central business district which typically make riding bikes on the sidewalk against the law.

        • Submitted by Ken Paulman on 07/30/2015 - 08:42 am.

          She was *stopped*

          Stopped at the corner, waiting for the walk signal. Speed wasn’t a factor here, or even the legality of being on the sidewalk. The driver was supposed to look, and didn’t.

        • Submitted by Pat Berg on 07/30/2015 - 02:09 pm.

          The driver had a red

          The fact that she had a walk signal and the driver hit her while making a right turn means he had a red light. He was supposed to stop and make sure conditions were clear before proceeding with his right turn.

          Too many people treat “Right turn on red” as a “Yield” rather than as a “Stop”.

          I have a hard time envisioning any scenario here where he was not at fault.

          • Submitted by Dan Berg on 07/30/2015 - 03:36 pm.

            Full picture

            I don’t disagree that the driver was likely primarily at fault but the fact she was seemingly riding illegal on the sidewalk and doesn’t even realize it despite being an expert cyclist illustrates part of the problem. It all goes back to predictability and how that then allows us to hold people accountable. Cars too often treat stop signals as yields and cyclists often ignore them completely or like in the case of the bike lanes on Hennepin and 1st ave downtown no concept of the rules at all. I would love to see more cycling lanes and more prosecution of drivers and cyclists that don’t follow the rules of the road.

        • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 07/31/2015 - 12:10 pm.

          DIS-Mount!

          Just curious, but would you also require drivers to dismount from their cars before making a turn? It would be safer for everyone as then they could get a good look at the traffic situation around them. That would make them MUCH more predictable.

  5. Submitted by Phil Dech on 07/29/2015 - 12:10 pm.

    This is a classic

    setup that I specifically look out for. The driver wanting to make a RIGHT turn, staring intently LEFT for an opening in the traffic in order to pull out. They often do not look right again until after they have started the turn. Doesn’t matter if you are walking, running, or biking, got the “walk” light or not, because the driver is looking the other way until the very last moment. I encounter it running and bike commuting regularly. Ideally as a cyclist I’d be on the right turning car’s left side, but that can’t always happen. I am with Andrew on this, doesn’t matter whether I legally have right of way, I do not get out in front of that car until I’ve made eye contact with the driver.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 07/29/2015 - 01:08 pm.

      Making eye contact

      That is a very smart thing to do, no matter what. Whenever I see a pedestrian at an intersection when I’m driving, I look for eye contact from them, too. The reason for this is because there are pedestrians who do not clearly show their intentions. Is that person waiting to cross in this direction or that direction? Is that person just standing there playing with their phone? Is that person waiting for a bus? Is that person not paying attention at all? Oh, and I love the ones that wait until there is a car coming and then saunter as slowly as possible across the street. While I might have felt bad that those individuals have so little power over their own lives that they need to be a jerk to a complete stranger, all sympathy flies out the window as my temper rises and I have to resist intentionally running them over.

      • Submitted by Ken Paulman on 07/30/2015 - 11:14 am.

        What if there is more than one driver? Then what?

        • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 07/30/2015 - 12:42 pm.

          Control the things you can control

          I can only control the things I control. It is up to everyone to be aware of their surroundings, regardless of their mode of transportation.

          There have only ever been three times where I have come even close to having an accident while driving. Each of those incidents were with individuals that were traveling on wheels, but not in cars. The first one was at night as I turned down a dark street to come nearly face to bumper with a young male (older teenager to younger 20’s) on a skateboard, near the center of the street (but still in my lane) coming toward me. He had no reflective clothing and it was a very dark night in a neighborhood with mature trees and no nearby street lights. The second time was a woman (early to mid 20’s) on in-line skates running her dog–or rather, her dog was pulling her–around a corner in the street. The dog was on an 8 ft or so lead and guiding the direction of the young woman. They cut the corner of an intersection that has only a yield, and which has limited visibility to the cross street until you are nearly IN the intersection. The third time was a teenage boy on a bike that came flying off of a poorly placed and unmarked trail that is completely non-visible to a driver on the side I was coming from and does not clearly continue beyond the curb. In every case, the pedestrians on wheels had no clue of their surroundings, and my reflexes and good brakes saved their hides.

          Otherwise, I am happy to endure impatient drivers who might honk at me if I wait for a pedestrian who has the right of way. I can’t control what they do, but I can be suitably cautious and control the situation as much as I possibly can.

        • Submitted by Phil Dech on 07/31/2015 - 12:02 am.

          Not sure I understand the question.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 07/30/2015 - 03:14 pm.

      Spot on, Phil.

      The moral of the story is don’t assume anything. Just because the other person is supposed to do something, doesn’t mean they will. I’ve tried to dispense that advice to my kids from early on. At some point, we’re all responsible for seeing to our own safety.

  6. Submitted by William Lindeke on 07/29/2015 - 12:47 pm.

    blaming the victim?

    I’m kinda surprised / not surprised about the tone here. The real question we should be asking is how to make our off-ramps safer when they run into the hearts of walkable cities like DT saint paul (or anywhere else, e.g. 35W by the U of MN in Minneapolis). These are the #1 spots for dangerous driving conditions, and it’s because people are coming off high-speed roads and not used to looking for slow moving people.

    Saint Paul has plans for creating a safe bike route / loop along Kellogg connecting Summit Ave to downtown, and running all the way through downtown. The project still needs funding and support from the mayor and the public. Dana’s story should inspire us to change the city for the better, not to blame people trying to get around.

    • Submitted by Phil Dech on 07/29/2015 - 01:38 pm.

      Didn’t mean to

      blame the author, just sharing my experience. I agree with you that we can go a long way toward making our transit infrastructure safer for all of us.

    • Submitted by Dan Berg on 07/29/2015 - 07:28 pm.

      Part of the solution

      All the answers don’t need to be focused on simply building more of stuff that reinforce the current standards. A more important aspect is understanding the why these things happen and creating new standards for which supporting rules and infrastructure can be created.

      We need to integrate cycling so that it is safer and easier but part of that is going to be cyclists realizing that the investment comes with commensorate responsibilities. Not riding on sidewalks, especially against traffic as this author was apparently doing, not passing traffic on the right even in slow traffic, , coming to full stops at stop signs, and paying a fee or tax to support their share of the infrastructure. Cycling advocates need to be open to thoughtful criticism if we are going to find the best possible solutions.

      • Submitted by Matthew Steele on 07/30/2015 - 11:20 am.

        Responsibility?

        What about the responsibility for motorists to not collide their cars into people? Doubly so when they must yield the right of way, such as on a right turn on red?

        If there’s responsibility being shirked, it’s the responsibility of people operating fast and high powered multi-thousand-pound steel cages through our urban environments.

        • Submitted by Dan Berg on 07/30/2015 - 03:44 pm.

          Not all or nothing

          Yes, of course drivers need to follow the rules set before them and avoid hitting people. Nobody has said otherwise. But that doesn’t mean cyclists have zero responsibility either. My idea that bicycles on sidewalks shouldn’t be allowed (it already wasn’t in the area of this incident) would be a part of additional bike lanes and better signage as well as a complete review of how we can have automotive and bicycle traffic interact. But in the end everybody needs to follow the rules that are in place. Speed limits, no passing on the right, coming to complete stops need to apply to everybody equally if we are to have a civil society.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/30/2015 - 09:33 am.

      It’s not about “blame”

      Fault isn’t the issue. Safety is about taking precautions and precautions aren’t about taking responsibility for accidents transferring liability from one party to the other. Sometimes accident’s defeat all precautions but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use them.

      Whenever we have these discussions some people just get hung up on who’s at “fault” and when someone suggests some precautions they accused of “blaming” the wrong person. Fault has nothing to do with safety or accident prevention. Fault is a liability issue AFTER the fact. This isn’t about cars vs. cyclists or pedestrians, or “Rights” or territory, it’s about safety. I don’t see anyone trying to transfer blame, I see people suggesting additional precautions, there’s a difference.

  7. Submitted by Russell Booth on 07/29/2015 - 04:25 pm.

    Is it a crime?

    I waited for the light to cross Lake Street at Cedar Avenue as a pedestrian. The light turned green for me with Walk showing. A driver who was turning right never looked right. He was only looking left to see if he would hit or be hit by another motor vehicle. I waited, not being a fool and unable to make eye contact with the driver who was unconcerned about my right to walk across the street. A crowd of pedestrians formed. We all waited. The driver never looked to his right even after he started making his turn.

    Why wouldn’t the driver be guilty of:

    “609.224 ASSAULT IN THE FIFTH DEGREE.
    Subdivision 1.Misdemeanor.

    Whoever does any of the following commits an assault and is guilty of a misdemeanor:

    (1) commits an act with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death; or

    (2) intentionally inflicts or attempts to inflict bodily harm upon another.”?

    Was the driver driving his car “unintentionally”? Sounds like a pretty poor defense.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/30/2015 - 09:36 am.

      No, it’s not a crime

      Simply put, this was an accident, there was no “intent”, or at least there’s no way to prove “intent”. Driving a car is not illegal unless you don’t have a license etc. Driving intentionally isn’t a crime, although driving unintentionally might be.

      • Submitted by Matthew Steele on 07/30/2015 - 11:27 am.

        Assault with a deadly weapon?

        Yes, it should be.

        Also, Paul, the “A” word is hardly accurate or truthful when it comes to collisions on our public streets. Not only are motorists often at fault for the carnage they cause (40,000 deaths a year in America. Literally the equivalent of a plane crash a day) but our streets and roads are also deadly by design.

        The “A” word diminishes this carnage and pretends that it’s an unavoidable byproduct of a normal transportation and land use regime. It is avoidable. If we’re going to recognize that this is indeed the largest public health crisis of our time, we need to stop using loaded and factually disingenous words like “accident” to describe events like this.

        • Submitted by jason myron on 07/30/2015 - 03:21 pm.

          What?

          Accidents happen..simple as that. Based on the current legal definition, how can claim assault?

          “the act of creating apprehension of an imminent harmful or offensive contact with a person. An assault is carried out by a threat of bodily harm coupled with an apparent, present ability to cause the harm.”

        • Submitted by Scott Wood on 07/31/2015 - 03:33 am.

          The word “accident” is entirely accurate, and does not imply a lack of culpability or that the roads don’t have design problems. What it does imply, is that the driver wasn’t intending to cause the harm, and thus is not “assault” — *there’s* your “loaded and factually disingenuous word”. The right word for this particular type of misbehavior is “negligence”.

          You seem to be trying to redefine “accident” to mean something that couldn’t have been foreseen or prevented, and that’s just not what the word means in English (or at least, not the definition that is relevant here). E.g. see definition 2a at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/accident “an unfortunate event resulting especially from carelessness or ignorance”

          • Submitted by Matthew Steele on 07/31/2015 - 09:40 am.

            Words have meaning

            Which is why the Star Tribune, New York Times, NYPD, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Highway Administration and dozens of other public agencies and news outlets have made the conscious decision no longer use “accident” to describe crashes, collisions, and other incidents.

            “Accident is the transportation equivalent of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ” – Gizmodo http://gizmodo.com/there-are-no-accidents-1717997041

            • Submitted by Scott Wood on 07/31/2015 - 11:36 am.

              Messaging versus accuracy

              Words have meaning, and the meaning of “accident” applies here (and “assault” doesn’t). If you want to use a different word such as “crash” or “collision”, because you expect a different emotional response to those words, or want to avoid the possibility that the word is interpreted in the “chance” sense, that’s fine — but when you accuse people who don’t make that same choice of saying something other than what was meant and how the word is typically understood, and replace it with “A-word” as if it were an expletive, it comes off as silly and does not help advance your argument.

              • Submitted by Jeff Christenson on 08/04/2015 - 12:57 pm.

                Accident vs. Crash

                I agree that assault doesn’t apply here, since assault requires a level of intent not apparent from the facts. However, I take issue with your dismissiveness in responding to the suggestion that “crash” is a better word than “accident.” You even understand that with the word “accident” there is a possibility of interpreting it “in the ‘chance’ sense” so you must see how people would prefer using “crash” since there is no possibility of inferring any level of intent or lack thereof with that term; it simply describes the thing that happened. Shouldn’t media take pains to keep non-editorial content focused on facts and not subject to interpretation? And doesn’t using “crash” versus “accident” go a long way in accomplishing that when the subject of the article is a car crash?

                • Submitted by Scott Wood on 08/05/2015 - 10:33 pm.

                  Sure.

                  I don’t have a problem with the idea of preferring “crash” or “collision” as the primary word to describe such incidents, but advocating that idea is not the same as saying that the usage of “accident” is “hardly accurate or truthful”. Please note that the context in which the word “accident” was used, that Matthew Steele complained about, was to rebut the notion that it was assault. It’s completely clear which sense of “accident” was used in that context, and “crash” wouldn’t have worked there because it doesn’t carry the “unintentional” meaning.

      • Submitted by Russell Booth on 09/03/2015 - 04:20 pm.

        It was in fact a crime

        except it happened prior to Aug 1 2015 when the following statute took effect:

        “Subdivision 1. Reckless driving.

        (a) A person who drives a motor vehicle while aware of and consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the driving may result in harm to another or another’s property is guilty of reckless driving. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that disregard of it constitutes a significant deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.

        ([b) refers to racing on streets]

        A person who violates paragraph (a) or (b) is guilty of a misdemeanor. A person who violates paragraph (a) or (b) and causes great bodily harm or death to another is guilty of a gross misdemeanor. new text end

        For purposes of this section, “great bodily harm” has the meaning given in section 609.02, subdivision 8.

        This section is effective August 1, 2015, and applies to crimes committed on or after that date.

  8. Submitted by Suzanne Rhees on 07/29/2015 - 09:00 pm.

    Blaming the victim

    All these lectures about avoiding the sidewalks seem misguided – an experienced cyclist may still prefer the sidewalk when children are involved. I ride 5th and 6th streets in St. Paul every day on my commute, but only as a relatively fearless adult. Can’t wait for some decent bike lanes in this town!

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/30/2015 - 09:21 am.

    The only question or suggestion I’d make…

    Did you see the SUV and realize he was going to make a right turn, i.e. was he signalling? What was his “Body” language? Or did you just go when the light changed?

    I always assume a driver doesn’t see me until I know that they see me, when I’m in those situations whether on foot or on a bike I always wait until I know the driver sees me before I enter the crosswalk. I’ll actually make eye contact with the driver if possible. And I check my 8 to see if a driver is approaching from behind the intersect to make a right a turn.

    Now please understand, there’s no observation anyone can make that can in any way transfer the fault for this accident from the SUV to the cyclists, so THAT’S not the point. The driver should have looked and seen the bike regardless of sidewalk riding etc. I’m just suggesting a little additional measure of caution since these right-hook accidents are so common and dangerous. Sometimes accidents defeat all precautions, and maybe that’s what happened here.

    I also think that riding on a sidewalk now and then is safer option so I wouldn’t blame sidewalk riding, this guy just didn’t see the cyclist and that can happen anywhere. A few weeks ago a cyclist got hit and run in the middle of the street. These right hook accidents are a problem for everyone, pedestrians get run over the same way and we don’t tell pedestrians to stop using the sidewalks or crosswalks. And cyclists get run over in right hooks accidents regardless of where they’re riding.

    • Submitted by Matthew Steele on 07/30/2015 - 11:32 am.

      This wouldn’t be classified as a right hook. That’s usually when a bicycle driver and motor vehicle driver are both driving in the same direction, and the motor vehicle operator hooks them while attempting a turn. This is more of a t-bone due to failure to yied.

      Also, not sure why you use the word “accident” in the third paragraph. Like the vast majority of motor vehicle collisions, there’s nothing accidental about what happened here: A motorist failed to yield, this time during a right turn on red.

      Though I agree with your main point at the end, that we shouldn’t have a double standard that improperly pins blame on bicyclists compared to what would happen to pedestrians in a crosswalk.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/31/2015 - 09:16 am.

        This was an accident

        I use the word “accident” because that’s what this was. Some people seem to think that the word “accident” means that no one is at fault, or everyone involved is equally responsible, but that’s a failure to comprehend the concept. The term: “accident” simply connotes a lack of intention or deliberate action. For instance a driver cannot “yield” to someone they don’t see, therefore hitting someone you didn’t see isn’t a failure to yield, it’s simply a collision. The responsibility for any given collision may weigh differently on those involved but as long as neither party intended to collide, it’s an accident.

        Society has concepts like “accidents” for practical reasons. We have “no-fault” insurance not because no one is ever responsible for an accident, but because our courts were tied up with unnecessary litigation or prosecution. In terms of day to day to society the concept of accidents decreases tensions and reduces conflict. Without the concept of an accident every minor insult or infraction could escalate into irresolvable conflict. The notion of accidents lets us set aside the issue of blame and focus on restitution and recovery.

        You can see clearly in comment threads like this what happens when people reject the notion of “accidents.” The conversation devolves into endless, unproductive, and circular recrimination. Without the concept of accidents apologies can’t be sufficient, we have to escalate to punishment and that creates conflict because while people may willingly apologize and move forward, most people will not meekly accept punishment.

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/31/2015 - 08:36 am.

    Couple things

    I guess I’m not clear what direction the cyclist was traveling in relation to the traffic (for or against). She says she was going North if I remember correction by I don’t how that orients her regarding the traffic flow. It doesn’t really matter as far as the comment go it wouldn’t change anything although in theory it should be easier for the cyclist and the driver to see each other if they were approaching from opposite directions.

    Someone said the driver must have had a red light so long as the pedestrian signal was “go”, that’s simply not true, you have green light running parallel to crosswalks.

    Getting back to the sidewalk thing, someone claimed that the cyclist was riding illegally on the sidewalk. It’s not illegal to ride on sidewalk, regardless of direction unless you in a business/downtown district or there’s some kind of signage prohibiting bikes.

    As to whether or not this cyclist should have been riding on the sidewalk, I trust her judgement in that regard. In the absence of ubiquitous cycling infrastructure we have to utilize the best available options in any given circumstance. Better infrastructure will provide better options. Riding on a sidewalk requires different precautions than riding on a street or dedicated trail, but it can be done safely in appropriate locations. This doesn’t look like an inappropriate location to me, the driver just see this cyclist.

    Finally, criminalizing all traffic accidents would be a really bad idea. For one thing it would clog our courts with tens of thousands of unnecessary prosecutions and citations. It wouldn’t prevent a single accident, and it would encourage more hit and run behavior. We want people to stop, investigate, and render assistance. We also want insurance coverage for repairing or replacing damaged bicycles, and medical expenses. If people face some kind of prosecution they’ll be less inclined to stop.

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