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PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 12:27 am 
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Today's question, courtesy of The New York Times (hint: no, it's not but the article ends with an inane bromide on the subject):

Is It O.K. to Kill Cyclists?
By DANIEL DUANE


SAN FRANCISCO — EVERYBODY who knows me knows that I love cycling and that I’m also completely freaked out by it. I got into the sport for middle-aged reasons: fat; creaky knees; the delusional vanity of tight shorts. Registering for a triathlon, I took my first ride in decades. Wind in my hair, smile on my face, I decided instantly that I would bike everywhere like all those beautiful hipster kids on fixies. Within minutes, however, I watched an S.U.V. hit another cyclist, and then I got my own front wheel stuck in a streetcar track, sending me to the pavement.

I made it home alive and bought a stationary bike trainer and workout DVDs with the ex-pro Robbie Ventura guiding virtual rides on Wisconsin farm roads, so that I could sweat safely in my California basement. Then I called my buddy Russ, one of 13,500 daily bike commuters in Washington, D.C. Russ swore cycling was harmless but confessed to awakening recently in a Level 4 trauma center, having been hit by a car he could not remember. Still, Russ insisted I could avoid harm by assuming that every driver was “a mouth-breathing drug addict with a murderous hatred for cyclists.”

The anecdotes mounted: my wife’s childhood friend was cycling with Mom and Dad when a city truck killed her; two of my father’s law partners, maimed. I began noticing “cyclist killed” news articles, like one about Amelie Le Moullac, 24, pedaling inside a bike lane in San Francisco’s SOMA district when a truck turned right and killed her. In these articles, I found a recurring phrase: to quote from The San Francisco Chronicle story about Ms. Le Moullac, “The truck driver stayed at the scene and was not cited.”

In stories where the driver had been cited, the penalty’s meagerness defied belief, like the teenager in 2011 who drove into the 49-year-old cyclist John Przychodzen from behind on a road just outside Seattle, running over and killing him. The police issued only a $42 ticket for an “unsafe lane change” because the kid hadn’t been drunk and, as they saw it, had not been driving recklessly.

You don’t have to be a lefty pinko cycling activist to find something weird about that. But try a Google search for “cyclist + accident” and you will find countless similar stories: on Nov. 2, for example, on the two-lane coastal highway near Santa Cruz, Calif., a northbound driver lost control and veered clear across southbound traffic, killing Joshua Alper, a 40-year-old librarian cycling in the southbound bike lane. As usual: no charges, no citation. Most online comments fall into two camps: cyclists outraged at inattentive drivers and wondering why cops don’t care; drivers furious at cyclists for clogging roads and flouting traffic laws.

My own view is that everybody’s a little right and that we’re at a scary cultural crossroads on the whole car/bike thing. American cities are dense enough — and almost half of urban car trips short enough, under three miles — that cities from Denver to Miami are putting in bike-share programs. If there’s one thing New York City’s incoming and departing mayors agree on, it’s the need for more bike lanes.

The American Medical Association endorses National Bike to Work Day, and more than 850,000 people commute on a bicycle, according to the League of American Bicyclists. Nationwide, cycling is the second most popular outdoor activity after running, supporting a $6.1 billion industry that sold 18.7 million bikes last year.

But the social and legal culture of the American road, not to mention the road itself, hasn’t caught up. Laws in most states do give bicycles full access to the road, but very few roads are designed to accommodate bicycles, and the speed and mass differentials — bikes sometimes slow traffic, only cyclists have much to fear from a crash — make sharing the road difficult to absorb at an emotional level. Nor does it help that many cyclists do ignore traffic laws. Every time I drive my car through San Francisco, I see cyclists running stop signs like immortal, entitled fools. So I understand the impulse to see cyclists as recreational risk takers who deserve their fate.

But studies performed in Arizona, Minnesota and Hawaii suggest that drivers are at fault in more than half of cycling fatalities. And there is something undeniably screwy about a justice system that makes it de facto legal to kill people, even when it is clearly your fault, as long you’re driving a car and the victim is on a bike and you’re not obviously drunk and don’t flee the scene. When two cars crash, everybody agrees that one of the two drivers may well be to blame; cops consider it their job to gather evidence toward that determination. But when a car hits a bike, it’s like there’s a collective cultural impulse to say, “Oh, well, accidents happen.” If your 13-year-old daughter bikes to school tomorrow inside a freshly painted bike lane, and a driver runs a stop sign and kills her and then says to the cop, “Gee, I so totally did not mean to do that,” that will most likely be good enough.

“We do not know of a single case of a cyclist fatality in which the driver was prosecuted, except for D.U.I. or hit-and-run,” Leah Shahum, the executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, told me.

Laws do forbid reckless driving, gross negligence and vehicular manslaughter. The problem, according to Ray Thomas, a Portland, Ore., attorney who specializes in bike law, is that “jurors identify with drivers.” Convictions carry life-destroying penalties, up to six years in prison, Mr. Thomas pointed out, and jurors “just think, well, I could make the same mistake. So they don’t convict.” That’s why police officers and prosecutors don’t bother making arrests. Most cops spend their lives in cars, too, so that’s where their sympathies lie.

Take Sgt. Richard Ernst of the San Francisco Police Department, who confronted people holding a memorial at the scene of Ms. Le Moullac’s death. Parking his squad car in the bike lane, forcing other cyclists into the very traffic that killed Ms. Le Moullac, Sergeant Ernst berated those gathered, according to witnesses, and insisted that Ms. Le Moullac had been at fault. Days earlier, the department had told cycling activists that it had been unable to find surveillance footage of the crash.

Provoked by Sergeant Ernst, people at the memorial decided to look for themselves. It took them all of 10 minutes to find an auto shop nearby with a camera that had footage of the incident. The police eventually admitted that the truck driver was at fault, but they still have not pressed charges.

Smart people are working to change all this. Protected bike lanes are popping up in some cities, separated from car traffic. Several states have passed Vulnerable User Laws placing extra responsibility on drivers to avoid harming cyclists and pedestrians. Nobody wants to kill a cyclist, but the total absence of consequence does little to focus the mind. These laws seek to correct that with penalties soft enough for authorities to be willing to use them, but severe enough to make drivers pay attention. In the Oregon version, that means a license suspension and a maximum fine of $12,500 or up to 200 hours of community service and a traffic-safety course.

Cycling debates often break along predictable lines — rural-suburban conservatives opposed to spending a red cent on bike safety, urban liberals in favor. But cycling isn’t sky diving. It’s not just thrill-seeking, or self-indulgence. It’s a sensible response to a changing transportation environment, with a clear social upside in terms of better public health, less traffic and lower emissions. The world is going this way regardless, toward ever denser cities and resulting changes in law and infrastructure. But the most important changes, with the potential to save the most lives, are the ones we can make in our attitudes.

So here’s my proposal: Every time you get on a bike, from this moment forward, obey the letter of the law in every traffic exchange everywhere to help drivers (and police officers) view cyclists as predictable users of the road who deserve respect. And every time you get behind the wheel, remember that even the slightest inattention can maim or kill a human being enjoying a legitimate form of transportation. That alone will make the streets a little safer, although for now I’m sticking to the basement and maybe the occasional country road.


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Posted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 12:27 am 


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 4:59 am 
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What makes you think that last paragraph is inane? Serious question, I'd like to see your response, and I'm ready to debate you on it....
ie, BRING IT.

Every time I see someone run through a red light (especially when the rest of us are stopped and patiently waiting for the light to change), it makes ALL cyclists look like "assholes" in the eyes of most car/truck drivers.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 1:29 pm 
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I've been intentionally pushed off the road by a car, with two witnesses right behind me. After hitting a big rock and flying over the bars, the driver at least had the decency to stop. Despite being the driver being instigator of the incident (he was having a bit of an argument with one of my companions), and intentionally knocking me off, there was a palpable bias against me by the cop who came afterwards. In his own words, he would "outlaw biking on these roads", despite the fact that it's a quiet country road with not much traffic.

There is a bias against cyclists, for whatever reasons. The conclusion I drew from the experience was don't escalate interactions out of righteous indignation. You will not profit from it. Either leave it alone, or get very physical and take the driver's keys.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 1:41 pm 
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prendrefeu wrote:
What makes you think that last paragraph is inane? Serious question, I'd like to see your response, and I'm ready to debate you on it....
ie, BRING IT.

Every time I see someone run through a red light (especially when the rest of us are stopped and patiently waiting for the light to change), it makes ALL cyclists look like "assholes" in the eyes of most car/truck drivers.

There's no debating to be had. The last paragraph is perfectly reasonable.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 1:47 pm 
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Most bike accidents occur at intersections where a car is making a turn and the cyclist gets hit.
The cyclist is obeying traffic laws but is unaware that the vehicle has not seen them and gets hit in the process. Since a cyclist cannot win against a vehicle the burden of avoiding getting hit falls on the cyclist. Therefore the cyclist needs to be alert 100% of the time in avoiding cars even if it means breaking traffic laws.
The painted bike lane is not considered a safety zone for cyclists. Those lines on the road and any signal for that matter are really guide lines for drivers and cyclists. But when it comes to real life situations of car vs bike the bike has to avoid the car at all costs.
There are 3 ways to avoid vehicle collisions by bike: ride in the park where there are no cars, ride on a stationary bike inside your house, ride in a velodrome.
If you do not like those options and like to ride outside with vehicles then you will need to train yourself to be more self aware of your surroundings and ride in a matter that avoids vehicles.
They can put down all the signals, and safety lanes they want but someone will get hit regardless.
You can equip the bike with lights, bells, horns whatever to get a drivers attention but really it is up to the cyclist to get out of the way.
I would invest more money into getting cyclists to learn how to ride safe in traffic than anything else with the key topics being: self awareness and vehicle avoidance.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 6:54 pm 
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prendrefeu wrote:
What makes you think that last paragraph is inane? Serious question, I'd like to see your response, and I'm ready to debate you on it....
ie, BRING IT.

Every time I see someone run through a red light (especially when the rest of us are stopped and patiently waiting for the light to change), it makes ALL cyclists look like "assholes" in the eyes of most car/truck drivers.


I should have qualified my statement; it's a bit too categorical. Yes, his recommendation is entirely sound. So is your point. However, I don't think the author's conclusion is completely valid. In other words, following all the rules doesn't assure the wary cyclist that the driver will do the same. Naturally, it helps to do that and I also use daytime lights (two small Lezynes).

I've run a few lights myself and oftentimes wonder, Why did I do that? On the other hand, I virtually always follow traffic rules and, despite that, I've experienced so many near miss collisions with thoughtless drivers that I now think that it's not a matter of "if" but rather one of "when". On top of that, I live in a mostly rural area in the Pacific NW and there's plenty of room for cars to comfortably pass. There is also generally good visibility approaching intersections. Nonetheless, drivers here seem to adhere to the "damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead" mode.

Anyway, your comment is valid.

KAC


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 8:07 pm 
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i put a lot of mileage on empty and busy roads. despite trying to do the right thing...every once in awhile i get a few drivers trying to squeeze me against the curb. not cool and unnecessary...but i can imagine that those drivers are trying to send a message that they still own the road. its a way to tell me to keep it close to the curb...even though i am. a few times this has happened around 5:30am when there's no other cars around...so if they hit me...no one will see the hit and run, so they would assume that this is okay behavior. granted, i pay attention...and its not the occasional swerve because i didn't see you or i'm on the cell phone...its purposeful with every intent. and also, i pay attention to stop signs, and traffic lights...and do not wait for them to change if NO CARS are coming in either direction. i cross because the light won't change with me sitting there if there's a pressure sensitive or magnetic actuation switch. this morning, i've had 2 close calls with older folks who cut in front of me, one of which pulled out from a stop when i had the right of way...thinking that i couldn't be going faster than 5mph, so they thought they had the wiggle room to pull out. NO!!! i nearly collided even fish tailing with brakes full on. i ride with Lupine lights...for those that know, they are over 1,200 lumens with a Piko light...so there's no way they DIDN'T see me.

so yes, there is a bias against bikers...totally.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 9:28 pm 
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To some people, it doesn't matter if cyclists follow rule or not, for them seems OK to kill cyclist. This is a new from San Diego, one of popular cycling routes in east county. The area has low traffic so head on car collision is almost impossible unless drivers are blind. http://www.10news.com/news/controversia ... s-11062013

It is unfortunate that the writer was discouraged from riding outside. I commute all year long. It keeps me happy riding to work in the morning especially when work sucks. I have accepted that car vs bicycle are just part of it. I ride defensively and obey 100% of traffic rule because even I am right I will always lose, and the rest are debatable in civil court by my family member if I die.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 9:35 pm 
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Kode54, I have the same impression. It almost seems to be a new manifestation of the so-called, "culture wars" at least where I live. Ultra-conservative ideologues are up in arms about various local issues and they often-times (prompted by articles in the local news about car-vs-bike accidents) give vent to all sorts of bile about "liberals on bikes" and other idiocies.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 11:22 pm 
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nfecyle wrote:
. I ride defensively and obey 100% of traffic rule because even I am right I will always lose, and the rest are debatable in civil court by my family member if I die.


That's too bad you think that way. A very illogical way of thinking for riding your bike on the road.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 5:08 am 
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You wouldn't believe the bile spewed in our local media, not just anonymous comments on stories, but actual letters to editors with real names attached. The way I view it, it's the new racism. Some people just have a reptilian need to hate a group that is readily identified as "different", and to release their anger towards. Presumably because a cyclist slowed them down for 5 seconds last week or something. It's no longer politically correct to publicly do this to the old minorities, so we're the new minority. Not much I can do about it except call them on it whenever I see it in print, and just smile at them out on the road.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 8:10 pm 
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This was pretty much what I was thinking when I read it but I don't have the eloquence to put it down they way he did.

http://bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com/2013/11/shafted-again.html

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 9:33 pm 
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it would interesting if, every time someone brushed us back for no reason, or dive bombed a left turn in front of us, whatever, we could get a picture of the license plate. Then post that plate to a website called "homicidaldriver.com" or something like that. Start a ledger of repeat offenders.

The advantage motorists have over us is mass, and a legal system clearly biased in their favor. Our advantage is anonymity.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 11:02 pm 
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rmerka wrote:
This was pretty much what I was thinking when I read it but I don't have the eloquence to put it down they way he did.

http://bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com/2013/11/shafted-again.html

Very interesting commentary. Thanks for the link!


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Posted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 11:02 pm 


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 7:01 pm 
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stella-azzurra wrote:
Most bike accidents occur at intersections where a car is making a turn and the cyclist gets hit...
If you like to ride outside with vehicles then you will need to train yourself to be more self aware of your surroundings and ride in a matter that avoids vehicles.


If you ever browse some of the more newb cycling sites, you'll see a lot of riders report almost getting hit or actually getting hit. If you bother to inquire about the details and they tell you, it is almost most always caused by the cyclist doing something stupid. One of the most common is passing cars on the shoulder... while being oblivious to how dangerous that is. They think "ha ha, all the cars are in a traffic jamb, and I'm blowing buy them at 30 mph"... and then one of those cars they are passing pulls into a parking lot, or a car from the opposing lane turns left in front of them.

Another is simply not taking reasonable precautions to be seen. That black kit might be cool, but it also makes you invisible in some conditions... wear bright colors that show up. If you are riding towards the sun, then drivers overtaking you can't see you... always use a bright flashing tail light in those situations. And be *very* cautious about drivers ahead of you waiting to pull onto the road... don't assume they see you, and ride as though they won't.

Another is riding in the gutter... inviting cars to ignore you and "squeeze" by. If there is no shoulder, then half that right lane is mine... you can pass when it is clear, or if I decide it's safe and move over.

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