Paul Andrews

Posts Tagged ‘bike accidents’

Ride and Prejudice: Causalities and casualties in cycling accidents

In Rider Down on August 28, 2009 at 2:37 am

Not a good week for two–wheelers on the road. First off, we all know Ozzies are nuts, but running down a fellow cyclist and leaving the scene? If cyclists become just like other drivers once they get behind the wheel — and let’s face it, there is a certain psychology involved in being encased in two tons of steel — we really have lost hope in the traffic wars.

Another Seattle rider hit by car; life-threatening injuries. This has been a well-above-average year for cycling fatalities in the Seattle area.

In North Dakota, a semi trailer turning left ran over a woman on a bike. “Possible criminal charges” in the incident.

In Portland, man on a bike is killed by hit-and-run.

Bike building legend Dave Moulton blogs some intriguing statistics on bike v. pedestrian deaths over recent decades and concludes… well, nothing really specific. The problem is that although deaths can be statistically quantified, their context cannot. There’s no way to determine if the fault was the cyclist or the driver (at least, not tied to Moulton’s charts), or even a fatality-per-mile-ridden ratio that would lend some perspective. So we’re left guessing — and Dave’s guesses are as good as if not better than anyone else’s.

On a less global, but still pertinent, scale, a Toronto study found that, contrary to police prejudice and public perception, cyclists are seldom at fault in bike-care accidents:

While there is a public perception that cyclists are usually the cause of accidents between cars and bikes, an analysis of Toronto police collision reports shows otherwise: The most common type of crash in this study involved a motorist entering an intersection and either failing to stop properly or proceeding before it was safe to do so. The second most common crash type involved a motorist overtaking unsafely. The third involved a motorist opening a door onto an oncoming cyclist. The study concluded that cyclists are the cause of less than 10 per cent of bike-car accidents in this study. The available evidence suggests that collisions have far more to do with aggressive driving than aggressive cycling

Note a correction on the post that it is actually “several studies conducted by the Charles Komanoff and member of the Right of Way organization in New York that concluded that concluded that cyclists were strictly culpable for less than 10 per cent of bike-car accidents.” But the point is still clear.

We leave you with an inspirational story you have to like: In small town Cle Elum, Washington, a rider who got hit by a pickup’s side mirror chased down the motorist, who’s been jailed for hit-and-run.

As they say Down Under, Good on ya!


Carnage on the roadways: Ride carefully out there!

In Bicycle advocacy, Bicycling on June 4, 2009 at 10:07 am

As the riding season heats up, the roadway interface between bikes and vehicles is getting dicier. Drivers unused to seeing so many bikes on the road make decisions as though bikes didn’t exist. And there are riders either new to the pursuit or rusty from a winter-long layoff who need to keep in mind that any encounter with two tons of steel really “weights” the odds against them.

That said, we stand by our position that there are too many bike accidents where the rider is doing precisely what he or she needs to do to ride safely, but the driver is careless or, worse yet, uncaring.

An 18-wheeler mowed down a South Carolina cyclist on Monday.

A Michigan cyclist got hit while talking with a motorist. This one sounds like the cyclist may not have been in the right place, given the circumstances.

Fixed Bicycle Gear: “I got hit by a car last night.”

Get out ‘n ride, but please, ride safe!

A friend could be dead

In Bicycle advocacy, Bicycling on May 13, 2009 at 10:43 am

Riding his bike in Seattle’s U District, my friend Chuck Taylor got hit by a car. It looks like he’s OK — shaken up and a couple of minor injuries, but nothing worse (as it appears now). His blog post, “I could be dead,” is a fascinating account of the accident “process.” It’s been more than 25 years since I was hit by a car, but it’s an experience that never leaves you.

I know that intersection well, since it’s smack in the middle of a 10-mile ride I do several times a week. By rights it should be a bike-friendly intersection, since the Burke-Gilman Trail crosses directly through it and it’s in the bicycle-saturated U District. But it’s not, for several reasons. First, it’s a busy pedestrian intersection. So for drivers it sets up the dynamic of watching for foot, rather than cycling, traffic. Foot traffic is slow. Cycling traffic off the BGT is, comparatively, fast. A driver naturally watches for pedestrian traffic to clear, then assumes it’s OK to go ahead. Just at that moment, though, a cyclist could be zipping along from the trail and enter the intersection at just the wrong time. I haven’t had a chance to talk to Chuck and don’t know if any of this applies to his situation. But it’s one reason for cyclists to be abundantly careful there.

The problem, as Chuck does discuss, is that a pedestrian signal gives clear sailing to cyclists coming along on the trail. So a cyclist naturally is going to conclude clear sailing when a driver may not even be aware of cycling traffic coming through.

Driver sightlines also are less than desirable there. There’s a fairly steep incline coming up Pacific from the west that provides little sight clearance for the intersection till you’re there. If you’re coming from the east, the corner is sharp enough, and the trail is elevated enough, for bikes not to be noticed. Remember that a bike on the trail can be going almost as fast as a car, especially at that point, heavily trafficked by bikes.

Nothing in this description should absolve the driver from responsibility, nor implicate Chuck in the accident. As proven by the citation issued, the driver was at fault. (It’s good that a citation was issued, in fact; hopefully an indication of raised awareness by “cops on bikes” of bicycle rights.) But the law is not always safe, particularly when it comes to cycling.

Two other factors were at work here. First, the young age of the driver (20). Kids don’t always understand the vast number of permutations in bike-car traffic scenarios. And the younger generation tends to be trigger-happy with the gas pedal. Not only do they think themselves invincible (as youth tend to), today’s cars provide ABS and air bags and all other manner of insulation from the true risks of driving a ton of metal and glass around on city streets. I’m always on the alert for “darters” in the U District, too, since kids tend to treat risk as something you accelerate out of rather than slow down for.

Second, you’ve got the confluence of heavy bike and heavy car traffic. Of all the close calls and accidents I’ve witnessed over the years in Seattle, I’d have to say anecdotally that the U District has the largest percentage of any neighborhood, even downtown. It’s just a tough environment, because the drivers are young and inexperienced, and bike traffic is of course quite a bit higher than elsewhere in the city. The City of Seattle, which is in the process of upgrading and marking new intersections with bike signage, could help here by making the BGT connection clearer to drivers (and the dangers of the intersection clearer to cyclists).

So yes, Chuck, you got lucky man. Take it easy and hopefully we’ll see you on the bike again soon!