Legally Speaking- Turning with a blind eye
Ghost bike: A memorial in honor of Tracey Sparling.
Eleven days later, Brett Jarolimek was riding in the bike lane when he was passed by a garbage truck; the truck stopped at the bottom of the hill, it’s right turn signal on. Because Jarolimek was in the bike lane, he had the right of way, and it must have seemed obvious to him that the truck was yielding the right of way. What Jarolimek didn’t know was that the truck driver’s side-view mirror was broken, and the driver couldn’t see Jarolimek approaching. As Jarolimek closed on the truck, the driver turned right, across Jarolimek’s path, killing him instantly.
Occurring within less than two weeks of each other, these tragic deaths shocked Portland, Oregon to its core. In response, Portland began installing green-painted bike boxes at intersections, with green-painted bicycle lanes continuing across the intersection. The bike boxes are designed to place cyclists ahead of motor vehicle traffic at intersections, rather than next to those motor vehicles. The City also began installing safety guards under its trucks; these guards are designed to prevent a cyclist or pedestrian from falling under the truck. While they’re no guarantee that a cyclist won’t be injured or killed — Tracey Sparling was knocked away from the cement truck, after all — they are an improvement over trucks without the guards.
Portland also initiated a series of community events intended to educate cyclists about the dangers of truck blind spots, at which cyclists were invited to sit on the cabs of large trucks and observe what happens when a bicycle is placed in a truck’s blind spots. These events were intended to address one of the problems in the Sparling and Jarolimek crashes — a cyclist in the truck’s blind spot.
But there’s another way of looking at some of these responses. The London Bicycle Activist reports that Truck and bus drivers working for the London Borough of Lambeth “are receiving training sessions in cycling road safety in a bid to prevent collisions involving cyclists and HGVs [Heavy Goods Vehicle].” The program involves classroom training and signs in trucks and buses warning drivers about the danger their vehicles pose to cyclists. The training program doesn’t stop there — with the assistance of Cycle Training UK, drivers are also receiving on-road training on bicycles “to give them greater understanding about cycling.”
While the training program for Lambeth truck and bus drivers is mandatory, training is not required for Lambeth cyclists. Nevertheless, Cycle training is also available to any resident of Lambeth who wants it, again in partnership between the Borough and Cycle Training UK.
The contrasts between European and American approaches to cycling safety are interesting:
While it’s been heartening to see some of the positive changes that have taken place in Portland as a result of the tragic and needless deaths of two Portland cyclists, it’s also obvious, when compared to what our counterparts in the UK and Europe are doing, that there’s so much more we could be doing to protect cyclists in this country. The Borough of Lambeth provides one innovative example — when drivers know what the road is like from our perspective, they’re likely to be more careful with our lives.
(Research and drafting provided by Rick Bernardi, J.D.)
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