Picture this: A pedestrian is standing on the curb, waiting for the light to change. The light changes, and the pedestrian steps out into the crosswalk and begins crossing the street. Before the pedestrian can reach he other side, a motorist runs the red light and hits the pedestrian. The pedestrian survives, but has sustained some injuries, and is transported to the hospital.
Police report that the pedestrian had been walking “too fast,” and hit the car.
The media dutifully reports this fact. Outraged by this incident, an op-ed column suggests that “the only solution” to this problem is to require pedestrians to be licensed and insured.
Does that sound far-fetched? Of course it does. That would never happen.
But suppose that, instead of a pedestrian, we are talking about a collision between a motorist and a cyclist. Does that sound so far-fetched now?
Unfortunately, no—and it does happen.
For examples, consider two recent collisions. On August 8, a news storyreported on a collision in Kelowna, BC. According to police, a cyclist traveling in the bicycle lane “hit” an SUV as the driver was making a turn. The media dutifully reported that the cyclist suffered “non-life threatening injuries after riding her bicycle into an SUV.”
It was a classic right hook—the cyclist was riding lawfully, and the driver turned across the cyclist’s path. Eyewitnesses reported that the cyclist was “traveling too fast in the bike lane and almost hit another car before she struck the Black SUV that was turning right.” In other words, another driver nearly struck a lawfully riding cyclist, before she was right-hooked.
Oh, but wait—she was “traveling too fast.” Or not. Unless the witnesses are saying that she was violating the speed limit—a circumstance that is highly unlikely—she wasn’t “traveling too fast.” She has a lawful right to travel on the road at the lawful speed of other traffic. But that reference to speed does tell us something—if the SUV driver who right hooked her even noticed the cyclist, then “traveling too fast” probably means that the driver underestimated the cyclist’s speed and turned across her path.
That wasn’t the only recent incident in which lawfully-riding cyclists were blamed for collisions with drivers who break the law. In Portland, Oregon, former NFL quarterback Joey Harrington was hit from behind while riding his bike. The driver was cited for “following too close.”
And then an outraged reader wrote a Guest Op-Ed for the local paper. “In light of Joey Harrington’s recent accident, I think the time has come to resolve a worsening problem in the Portland metro area,” the op-ed began. Ah, a call for safety. And yes, the concerned reader was calling for more safety on the road—by requiring cyclists to be licensed and insured.
Get it? A driver breaks the law, injuring a law-abiding cyclist, and the “worsening problem”—as evidenced by the collision that injured Joey Harrington—that needs to be addressed is “that many Portland cyclists take no responsibility.” And according to this writer’s analysis, “There is only one solution”—crack down on cyclists. Round up the usual suspects.
That skewed perception of reality—a reality that is apparent right in front of their unseeing eyes—is the underlying basis for how too many people process information. No matter how egregious the driver’s actions, observers are sure that the law-abiding cyclist was in the wrong. Regardless of the facts, observers can be counted on to remember that some other cyclist somewhere broke a law.
And thus, by this skewed perception of reality under girding faulty logic, the motorist is always right, the cyclist is always wrong, and the victim always gets the blame.
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I was struck by an 82yr. Old woman in March 2006. I was riding as far right as possible next to the curb. She came across the road from the opposite dirction & struck my left side. Her & her lawyers came up with a story that the sun was in her eyes & also another vehicle waived her on & told her it was all right to proceed.After 3 lawyers who all tried to minimize the damages like they were on her side & not working for me, all had stories like the jury would feel sorry for the lady because she was elderly the 2 lawyers made a settlement the day before jury selection for $21,500 enough to barely pay the medical bills. Oh also the settlement was made without my permission. This occurred in NH.
Yes, there is lot’s of anti-cyclist bias out there. But I’m not sure this is the best example. It’s hard to tell from the very brief news item, but it seems likely that the cyclist was going too fast *for someone overtaking slower traffic on the right.* British Columbia (the relevant jurisdiction) traffic law, like most, says that a driver (including a cyclist) overtaking on the right may not do so “when the movement cannot be made safely.” Now, I think that most would agree that passing on the right of a vehicle signaling a right turn is unsafe. I would extend that to passing on the right anywhere near an intersection.
But the bicyclist was in a separate (bike) lane, you will of course say. Well, the motorist should then have merged into the bike lane in advance of turning right, as the traffic law requires for any lane. But most do not do this when the right-most lane is a bike lane.
The bike lane makes the legal situation murkier, and the physical situation worse (or at best, no better). Yes, bicyclists pass on the right where there are no bike lanes all the time, but the bike lane makes this behavior almost irresistible, and insures there will be room to do so.
When turning right a motorist has only two requirements:
* signal in advance of turning
* move as far right as practicable on the roadway.
The second requirement means move into the bike lane (California makes this explicit, but it is the law everywhere.) The only U.S. exception is Oregon, which requires that motorists stay out of the bike lane but yield to bikes approaching from behind. This yielding is very difficult to do (because of blind spots and the need to look backwards and forwards at the same time) and impossible to do on many large vehicles.
Except witnesses didn’t say that she tried to pass a vehicle that was attempting to make a turn. They said she was “traveling too fast.” There is nothing in this article to suggest that the cyclist was passing a slower-moving vehicle on the right, and nothing to indicate that the driver was signaling a turn.
However, “traveling too fast” is entirely consistent with the scenario where a driver passes a cyclist and then makes a quick turn in front of the cyclist. When drivers admit to having seen the cyclist, they will often say they thought they had time to make the turn. Some drivers are even operating under the belief that the cyclist is supposed to stop so the driver can turn, because they believe the driver has the right of way.
Incidentally, “looking backwards and forwards at the same time” is not exactly how Oregon drivers turn, nor is it as difficult as vehicular cyclists imagine it to be. Think “lane change” (instead of “right turn across a bicycle lane where the cyclist has the right of way”) and you get the idea. If it was as difficult as the vehicular cycling propaganda makes it sound, right-hook collisions would be happening at every intersection, all day long, every single day. In fact, most Portland drivers have no problem yielding to cyclists before turning.
Well we don’t really know what happened. But the article does say “Witnesses says the cyclist was traveling too fast in the bike lane and almost hit another car before she struck the Black SUV that was turning right onto McClure from the north bound lane off of Lakeshore.”
This sounds to me like she was passing slower or stopped traffic (the SUV and ‘another car’). Any reasonable witness (and evidently there was more than one) would have said “the SUV passed the cyclist and cut her off” if that had been the case — it seems to me, anyway.
She “almost hit another car.”
This is from the same report that says she hit the SUV that right-hooked her.
How exactly does a cyclist “almost hit a car” if the cyclist is in the bike lane and the car is in a different lane? SOMEBODY wasn’t in their lane, were they? And since we know that she was in the bike lane, who could that somebody have been?
Or, alternatively, it’s possible that she was *almost* right-hooked at one intersection– what the newspaper reported as the cyclist almost hitting another car– and then was *actually* right-hooked at the next intersection.
The problem with this “she was traveling too fast” line of thinking is that it assumes that the cyclist must always travel slower than other traffic; drivers may always pass the cyclist, but if motorized traffic is backed up while the bike lane is clear, the cyclist must still slow down to wait for motor vehicle traffic to start moving again. Otherwise, the cyclist is “traveling too fast.”
This is, of course, not the law. The law contemplates that bicycles and motor vehicles will be sharing the roadway side-by-side. Implicit in that arrangement is the understanding that vehicles will be traveling at different rates of speed. Sometimes, those vehicles will be motor vehicles. Sometimes those vehicles will be bicycles. There’s nothing in the law that says motorists may always pass cyclists but cyclists may never pass motorists.
Of course, when a driver is signaling an intent to turn, and the cyclist is not so close as to present an immediate danger of collision, the cyclist is supposed to slow and yield to the turning driver (example: the cyclist is 100+ feet away and sees a motorist signaling a turn, the cyclist should not drop the hammer and attempt to pass on the right).
On the other hand, the motorist has a duty to make a safe turn, and with cyclists on the road, that means the motorist must look before turning. Even if the motorist merges into the bicycle lane to make a turn, the motorist still has a duty to merge safely. Sooner or later, the motorist is going to have to look in the mirrors and do a shoulder check for the blind spot. It’s not enough to turn without looking (let alone without signaling) and excuse that by saying “I didn’t see her” or “she was traveling too fast.”
If police and the media want to report that she dropped the hammer and attempted to pass a vehicle that was stopped and signaling its intent to turn, they know how to do that. But they haven’t made that claim, and I’m not about to fill in that blank for them. From what has actually been reported by the police and media, it appears that she was right-hooked while traveling lawfully in the bike lane.
Drivers are less likely to make yielding errors when yielding requires a smaller arc of vigilance. Merging into the rightmost lane requires an arc of vigilance of about 180 degrees in order to yield to traffic that may be overtaking in the right lane as well as traffic that may be slowing ahead. Once in the rightmost lane, the right turn may be made safely using an arc of vigilance of 180 degrees, looking left, ahead, and right.
If a driver attempts a right turn without first entering the rightmost lane, then the possibility of traffic overtaking on the right expands the required arc of vigilance to 270 degrees. This is much more difficult for human drivers to survey reliably than 180 degrees, resulting in a much higher error rate for drivers. Consequently, the traffic laws were written to mandate that right-turning drivers merge into the rightmost lane before reaching the intersection, converting an unreliable 270 degree survey into two separate and more manageable 180 degree surveys.
Why don’t some drivers merge into striped bike lanes prior to turning right? There are a number of reasons, including the belief that they are prohibited from doing so, the disbelief that collision hazards will appear there during their turn, laziness, or, in the case of large trucks, kinematic limitations. Some of these reasons can be addressed by education and enforcement and others cannot; there will always be some vehicles turning right from a position a few feet or more from the curb without scanning back. This is why many bicyclist safety advocates encourage thru cyclists to avoid riding curbside when approaching an intersection. The dilemma is, how do advocates promote such defensive driving without appearing to blame the victim who is duped by curbside bike lanes into riding into right hook conflicts? The advocates naturally turn their criticism toward the government who marked the lanes that encourage the conflict, and in turn, members of the public who request such designs. Sadly, this creates conflicts between different groups of cyclist advocates who all want to promote cyclist safety and enjoyment, but have reached different conclusions about what operational and legal strategies should be pursued.
I had an arc of vigilance once, but some penicillin cleared it right up.
Picture this: A pedestrian is standing on the curb, waiting for the light to change. The light changes, and the pedestrian steps out into the crosswalk and begins crossing the street. Before the pedestrian can reach the other side, a bicyclist runs the red light and hits the pedestrian. The pedestrian survives, but has sustained some injuries, and is transported to the hospital, where she dies one month later.
The bicyclist was not charged.
Does that sound far-fetched?
Contrary to what some people, this is not a problem of motorists not looking out for bicyclists and bicyclists not looking out for pedestrians – it’s about drivers (including bicyclists) not obeying the rules of the road. In the case I just cited, it’s about running a red light.
In the case above, it’s about the cyclist passing on the right. Even if the motorist passed the cyclist and then turned right in front of the cyclist, the motorist had to have slowed down prior to make the turn. If the motorist was going faster than the cyclist, that’s too fast to make a 90 degree turn – thus slowing is necessary. As the motorist slow to and below the cyclist’s speed, the cyclist began to catch up with the slowing motorist. We don’t know if the cyclist started to overtake the motorist quite yet by the motorist turned, but it was obviously pretty close.
Don’t run red lights.
Don’t pass on the right, especially where they can and might turn right.
QUOTE: “Picture this: A pedestrian is standing on the curb, waiting for the light to change. The light changes, and the pedestrian steps out into the crosswalk and begins crossing the street. Before the pedestrian can reach the other side, a bicyclist runs the red light and hits the pedestrian. The pedestrian survives, but has sustained some injuries, and is transported to the hospital, where she dies one month later.
The bicyclist was not charged.
Does that sound far-fetched?”
That was an unfortunate (for the deceased) incident, and the cyclist should be prosecuted for vehicular homicide.
It’s also unfortunate that you would use that incident to make a specious analogy. If you had made the correct analogy (to my article), you would have blamed the deceased pedestrian.
What’s even more unfortunate, however, is the absolute certainty that a when a law-abiding cyclist is the victim of a driver who broke the law, a vehicular cyclist will still blame the victim. The only group that even comes close to the zeal for victim-blaming that vehicular cyclists exhibit and regularly engage in is those motorists with a “the road is for cars” mentality.
“What’s even more unfortunate, however, is the absolute certainty that a when a law-abiding cyclist is the victim of a driver who broke the law, a vehicular cyclist will still blame the victim. ” -RB
I believe you are conflating “make suggestions for how the victim may have avoided the crash” with “blame the victim”.
For example, the driver who opens his door without looking first and injures or kills a cyclist riding in the door zone is clearly 100% at fault. But that doesn’t mean every such tragedy is not a good opportunity to remind other cyclists to ride outside of the door zone, and such reminding is not blaming the victim.
It’s not imagination or ideology, Rick. It’s physics. A vehicle going in one direction and then turning 90 degrees necessarily slows from its initial speed to 0 in the direction in which the cyclist is traveling. For example, if they’re both going north at 20 mph and the vehicle turns east, after it completes the turn it is moving 0 mph in the north direction… it slowed from 20 mph to 0 mph in that direction. Hence, “the motorist had to have slowed down” and “as the motorist slowed to and below the cyclist’s speed [in the initial/cyclist’s direction], the cyclist began to catch up to the slowing motorist.” The only supposition is basic physics, reinforced by personal experience. I know how to avoid right hooks, do you?
And, again, you’re conflating being at fault with being able to avoid.
It is not my believe that the cyclist was at fault. It is my belief that cyclists can easily avoid right hooks. I know it.
You couldn’t imagine a scenario in which the cyclist was not to blame, so you manufactured a set of facts to support your ideology:
“…the motorist had to have slowed down…”
“…if the motorist was going faster than the cyclist…”
“…as the motorist slow [sic] to and below the cyclist’s speed, the cyclist began to catch up to the slowing motorist…”
“…it was obviously pretty close…”
All supposition created by you in support of your ideological belief that the cyclist had to have been at fault.
Calling your imaginary scenario “physics” doesn’t change the fact that it’s a scenario you concocted in your imagination.
And if you weren’t intent on blaming the victim, you wouldn’t have needed to concoct an imaginary scenario in which the cyclist was at fault. But you did concoct an imaginary scenario to support your contention that the cyclist is at fault, and therefore, you are blaming the victim. Not “conflation.” Fact.
As I said before, “…when a law-abiding cyclist is the victim of a driver who broke the law, a vehicular cyclist will still blame the victim. The only group that even comes close to the zeal for victim-blaming that vehicular cyclists exhibit and regularly engage in is those motorists with a “the road is for cars” mentality.”
The right-hooked cyclist is not at fault. But, right hooks, like doorings, are easy for cyclists to avoid.
I recommend you read Robert Hurst’s book (and Hurst is hardly a VC advocate, LOL), The Art of Urban Cycling, especially the sections on blame and responsibility. There is insufficient space here to explain what he does in a few succinct pages. But the key is context. Looking for legal blame after-the-fact is one thing, which is understably your concern, but it’s not very relevant to learning, including from analyzing and discussing the crashes of others, how to stay safe and avoid crashes in the first place, which is my concern, Hurst’s concern, and, arguably, should be the concern of all cyclists.
The cyclist was riding lawfully. There is no such thing as “too fast,” unless the cyclist was violating the speed limit, or was not slowing down for a vehicle that was making a lawful right turn.
The cyclist is not legally at fault (unless the cyclist attempted to pass a vehicle making a lawful right turn), and the cyclist is not “to blame” or “responsible” for failing to avoid a right hook in your imaginary scenario.
“… relevant to learning, including from analyzing and discussing the crashes of others, how to stay safe and avoid crashes in the first place, which is my concern, Hurst’s concern, and, arguably, should be the concern of all cyclists.”
I think you can leave “cyclists” out of that statement and make it much more accurate.
I can’t agree with your position because in fact, while our own safety is ultimately the responsibility of each of us individually, the danger caused on the roadways of the US is by people driving heavy dangerous machines with practical impunity, not by cyclists failing to be vigilant.
Yes, Rick, the cyclist was riding lawfully. Legally, he was not riding “too fast”. Legally, he was not riding too far right. Yes, the cyclist is not “to blame” nor is he “responsible” for the crash. That’s my point. What’s yours?
Jenni, of course cyclists have very little to do with the general danger on the roadways. But in terms of just bike-car crashes, multiple studies indicate cyclists are primarily responsible for about half. And of course they’re almost always solely responsible for the much more common solo bike crashes.
But my point is regarding the half of those bike-car crashes for which cyclists are not responsible (like doorings, right hooks, left crosses, etc.) – I’m convinced that prudent practices allow cyclists to avoid almost all of them too.
Let me put it this way. Any cyclist interested in her own safety should be concerned with putting these practices into play.
The real point is you created an imaginary scenario in which the cyclist violated the law and did something foolish (passing to the right of a right-turning vehicle), and you presented your imaginary scenario as a factual account of what caused the crash. You even called your imaginary scenario “physics.”
The real point is that you could not imagine an alternate scenario in which the cyclist did nothing wrong. In your mind, the crash must have been due to something the cyclist did “wrong.”
And you are still arguing that point.
That is your point. Everything else is obfuscation.
Rick, nothing I actually wrote means that the cyclist violated the law or did something “foolish” (your word, not mine) or did anything “wrong” (again, your word, not mine). You’re the one doing all the imagining here.
Let’s review what you’ve said then:
Your imaginary “facts”: “…the motorist had to have slowed down…”
Your imaginary “facts”: “…if the motorist was going faster than the cyclist…”
Your imaginary “facts”:…as the motorist slow [sic] to and below the cyclist’s speed, the cyclist began to catch up to the slowing motorist…”
Your imaginary “facts”:…it was obviously pretty close…”
Your actual words ascribing blame to the cyclist: “it’s about drivers (including bicyclists) not obeying the rules of the road…In the case above, it’s about the cyclist passing on the right.”
Yes, as far as I know passing on the right is not illegal.
However, it is a basic “rule of the road” to avoid passing on the right. That’s what I was taught in driving school.
You still have not explained how a driver can make a 90 degree turning without reducing velocity to 0 in the original direction – it’s physically impossible to turn without slowing with respect to the original. In fact, without this slowing, it wouldn’t be a turn. I don’t understand why you’re taking me to task for such a basic point.
Serge: “…I don’t understand…”
You are correct.
Re “Passing on the right”: Riding in a bicycle lane is not the same thing as “passing on the right.”
Re “Making a right turn”:
A: No right turn is literally an immediate 90 degree change of direction. That is a ridiculous assertion. A turning radius is involved.
B: Common right hook scenarios that don’t involve a cyclist passing to the right of a right-turning motor vehicle:
Right hook #1: Cyclist is riding lawfully in the bicycle lane, and is passed by a motorist who makes a sudden right turn, without signaling, and while the cyclist is still adjacent to the turning motor vehicle, violating the cyclist’s right of way.
Right hook #2: Cyclist is riding lawfully in the bicycle lane, when a motorist who is sitting in backed up traffic makes a sudden right turn, without looking and without signaling, violating the cyclist’s right of way.
Passing on the right is passing on the right whether one is in a bike lane or not.
Nothing I wrote means or implies “an immediate degree change of direction” without a turning radius. As the vehicle change from one direction (say north) to another (say east) along that radius, it slows to 0 mph in the original (north) direction. During that process it’s very easy for a north bound cyclist originally traveling to the right of the vehicle’s path to start catching up and passing on the right that slowing vehicle.
As to your two common scenarios…
#1 Since the cyclist is passed by the motorist, the motorist is moving faster than the cyclist, and the cyclist is safely behind the motorist, unless the cyclist does not slow to avoid passing on the right as the motorist slows (in the cyclist’s direction). But I think you meant to say the motorist is still in the process of passing the cyclist who is right next to him when he reaches the intersection (or driveway) and starts turning right. Not to imply that the cyclist is doing anything unlawful or wrong, but this is easily avoided by not being to the right of space normally used by right turners when approaching any intersection.
#2 has happened to me before I learned about car-bike crashes and how to avoid them. I was in a bike lane going downhill about 20 mph passing stopped traffic and approaching an intersection with a minor residential side street when suddenly a minivan pulled out of the traffic right in front of me to turn into that street. Somehow I managed to turn along with it and avoid crashing, though my left shoulder hit the side of the van. That was a few months before I started reading books on the topic. Now I know to “never pass on the right someone who can and might turn right”. Yes, it’s not illegal or wrong to pass on the right in that situation, but taking due care can avoid that type of crash.
SERGE WROTE: “Passing on the right is passing on the right whether one is in a bike lane or not.”
MY RESPONSE: That is not correct. Under the law, cyclists are allowed to pass other vehicles while traveling in the bike lane. This same maneuver may or may not be legal outside of the bike lane context, depending on the particular situation and particular state law. They are not the same thing.
SERGE WROTE: “Nothing I wrote means or implies “an immediate degree change of direction” without a turning radius. As the vehicle change from one direction (say north) to another (say east) along that radius, it slows to 0 mph in the original (north) direction.”
MY RESPONSE: That is only true after the turning radius has been completed. before the turning radius is completed, the driver is still making some movement in the original direction of travel.
SERGE WROTE: “During that process it’s very easy for a north bound cyclist originally traveling to the right of the vehicle’s path to start catching up and passing on the right that slowing vehicle.”
MY RESPONSE: You’re still attempting to sell your imaginary scenario which shifts the fault from the driver to the cyclist.
SERGE WROTE: “As to your two common scenarios…
#1 Since the cyclist is passed by the motorist, the motorist is moving faster than the cyclist, and the cyclist is safely behind the motorist,”
MY RESPONSE: Wrong. The cyclist is not “safely behind the motorist.” I said “the cyclist is still adjacent to the motorist.” But you had to change that to “the cyclist is safely behind the motorist s you could shift the blame from the driver to the cyclist.
SERGE WROTE: “But I think you meant to say the motorist is still in the process of passing the cyclist who is right next to him when he reaches the intersection (or driveway) and starts turning right.”
MY RESPONSE: That is not what I “meant to say,” that is what I did say.
SERGE WROTE: “Not to imply that the cyclist is doing anything unlawful or wrong, but this is easily avoided by not being to the right of space normally used by right turners when approaching any intersection.”
MY RESPONSE: You’re still saying its the cyclist’s fault. For the umpteenth time.
SERGE WROTE: “taking due care can avoid that type of crash.”
MY RESPONSE: So you’re still saying it’s the cyclist’s fault….
Look, there’s nothing wrong with helping cyclists to learn to anticipate problems, and to take precautions to avoid them. But there is something wrong with *assuming* that the cyclist made an error, and concocting imaginary scenarios to support that assumption (even going so far as to give those imaginary scenarios the gloss of “physics”)– particularly, I might add, in response to an article about police and the media shifting the blame from the law-breaking driver to the law-abiding cyclist.
Quote “And then an outraged reader wrote a Guest Op-Ed for the local paper. In light of Joey Harrington’s recent accident, I think the time has come to resolve a worsening problem in the Portland metro area,”…..
What you fail to point out in your response is that WE – BICYCLISTS are are own worst enemies. What that author was stating is the fact that we all know: There are continuously cyclists out there that regularly ignore the laws and ride however they feel like. Being car free, I whole heartedly support the idea of ‘license plates’ to be able to identify the law breakers and have them issued tickets. I’d love to be able to buy bike insurance – which isn’t available here in the U.S. And maybe, cagers would start treating us a bit better if we, you know, obeyed the traffic LAWS more.
Right hook? Seems to me the driver failed to yield to the cyclist’s right of way. Doesn’t someone turning have to stop first? The driver’s inability to judge speed should not have been a factor. The driver’s inability to stop for a moment and wait for other traffic to be cleared was. What if the cyclist was a UPS truck that had just started off from a delivery?