Cyclist Breaks Imaginary Law, Durango Police Let Him (And The Driver Who Hit Him) Off The Hook

After a skidding jeep slammed into 21 year-old Joshua Clark, sending him to the hospital with a possible head injury, the Durango, Colorado police indicated that they would probably not issue a ticket to Clark, who they determined to be at fault, explaining that “he’s going to have some tremendous hospital bills.”

Without a doubt, the Durango Police thought they were doing the injured cyclist a favor. And if Clark had been breaking the law, they would undoubtedly be doing him a favor. But was he breaking the law?

I have my doubts.

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Shifting The Blame, and Justice Denied, Again

It’s the issue that just won’t go away—and cyclists are continuing to get stung by it. I’m talking about contraflow riding on the sidewalk—in plain English, riding on the sidewalk against the direction of vehicular traffic. Now, many cycling safety advocates strongly recommend against riding on the sidewalk. Others take a more nuanced approach. Personally, I occasionally ride on the sidewalk myself—even against the flow of traffic. So does Bob. I’m aware of exactly what the danger areas are (for those who don’t know, you need to be careful where driveways cross the sidewalk, because drivers aren’t looking for you. You also need to be careful when leaving the sidewalk to enter a crosswalk), so I’m cautious when riding on the sidewalk (it is the domain of the pedestrian, after all, and it’s only polite to be cautious when riding near pedestrians), and extra cautious when approaching driveways.

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Crosswalk Collision

I went for a cup of coffee this morning. I walked down to the corner crosswalk, and waited for the light to change so I could cross. It would have been a shorter trip to just jaywalk across the street, but it seemed safer to use the crosswalk. So I waited for the light to change, and it did, but not before one last motorist rushed to get through before the light changed. And then another motorist blew through the red light—blew, not rolled, through the red light—and turned right. This motorist probably never even saw me waiting to step into the crosswalk, because although she was turning right, she was looking left, over her shoulder, for oncoming traffic. I waited for her to finish her illegal move, said “nice stop” to no one in particular, and stepped into the crosswalk.

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Improving Your Odds

A car-on-bike collision is probably the greatest fear of cyclists. And that’s not surprising, because the repercussions can be so serious. In fact, it turns out that many drivers have the same fear of car-on-bike collisions, and that fear is a motivating factor in much of the bias against cyclists. Strange, but true.

Although the consequences of a car-on-bike collision can be catastrophic, most bike accidents are solo crashes, and most of those are just crashes involving kids learning how to ride. Serious crashes, particularly serious crashes involving cars, are a relatively rare event. However, the near-misses that every cyclist is familiar with are reminders of just how quickly things can go from good to bad.

The good news is there’s a lot you can do to keep your rides safe. Taking some safety precautions won’t guarantee your safety, but it will significantly improve your odds.

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Frederick, Maryland Hit and Run

Recently, BicycleLaw.com was contacted by a woman who lives near Frederick, Maryland. She was seeking advice about how to track down a hit and run driver who had seriously injured her husband, Keith Krombel, a long-distance cyclist and Race Across America veteran. The police had downplayed the extent of Krombel's injuries to the press, and a year later, seem to be uninterested in finding the driver, so Mary and Keith have created their own website, Yellow Springs Hit and Run, to publicize the incident, and hopefully generate some tips. They believe that the original news report may have led people who might know something about the hit and run to believe that the incident was not serious, and that if friends or acquaintances of the driver knew how seriously Keith had been injured, somebody might come forward with a tip.

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Scottsdale cyclist fights for her life

In Arizona, drivers are required to leave a minimum safe passing distance of three feet between their vehicle and a cyclist when passing. This law has been on the books since 2000—in other words, drivers have had ten years to familiarize themselves with the law, and adjust their behavior accordingly.

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