Bicyclist, car collide on Main Street
Original post made
on Apr 20, 2009
Pleasanton police are investigating a collision between a bicyclist and a car that happened at 8 a.m. Monday in front of the Rose Hotel.
Read the full story here Web Link
posted Monday, April 20, 2009, 5:03 PM
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Posted by Steve Rosefield
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Apr 21, 2009 at 11:22 pm
Re: "I certainly hope that the group that you lead is not the same one that rides double and triple wide down First St, failing to stop and the lights because they want their entire group to stay together. I see a large group every week doing just that. I ride as well, but would never, ever disregard a traffic light, a stop sign or ride more than single file on a road. It is not smart, it is not legal and it is not sharing the road."
Thank you for your response. While I appreciate your comments regarding the safe and legal way to ride as a group, it further demonstrates some of the least well understood aspects of the law as it relates to cyclists and motorists. And that lack of understanding of the law by cyclists and motorists alike seems to be the most consistent source of aggravation on either side of the Lycra barrier.
I am going to break down a few of your points and respond with my best understanding of the issue. In at least a couple of cases I should be able to include a web link that will explore these subjects in more definitive detail than I could possibly produce on my own.
Edited quote -- "I certainly hope that the group that you lead is not the same one that rides double and triple wide down First St … I ride as well, but would never, ever disregard a traffic light, a stop sign or ride more than single file on a road. It is not smart, it is not legal and it is not sharing the road."
As a practical point he Saturday group has not used First Street as a town exit precisely to avoid this traffic conflict. So far I have deemed this exit to be unwise for larger groups. However it is certainly not illegal to do so. The group generally rides "two up" (two side by side single file lines) or single file depending on the road, bike lane, available shoulder, traffic, and other road conditions. It is also possible that a rider will pass, or allow the group to pass, which may effectively cause riders to be three, and occasionally four abreast momentarily. This is a safe and legal practice. Below are links to some ridiculously detailed studies regarding this scenario. They are a worthwhile read, but if you don't have the patience to sift through the voluminous information, here is the best summary excerpt from the VeloNews column by Bob Mionske:
<<< A large group of cyclists is riding on the road completely legal in every state, including Arizona (and California). The road is two lanes, one in each direction, with a double yellow line dividing the roadway. In accordance with Arizona (and California) law, the cyclists are taking the entire lane, and are riding two-abreast. A motorist approaches from behind.
Who has what rights and duties?
The cyclists have the right to take the lane, for at least one, and possibly two reasons. First, they are riding at the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing, and thus, are entitled to take the lane. Second, assuming the lane is too narrow to safely share, the cyclists are entitled to take the lane, even if they are not riding at the normal speed of traffic.
In contrast, the motorist has the duty not to cross the double yellow line to pass the cyclists. And assuming that the lane is too narrow to safely share, the motorist cannot legally use the lane to pass the cyclists, because Arizona has a statute requiring motorists to pass cyclists with a minimum of a three-foot safe distance. Therefore, the motorist has the duty to wait until it is safe to pass the cyclists.
Now, from the average motorist's perspective, the cyclists are illegally taking up the entire lane, preventing the motorist from exercising his right to the lane … and it's got him so mad, he's going to call the Sheriff and complain about it! But from the law's perspective, the cyclists are riding legally and within their rights. They, and not the motorist, have the right to the lane. Of course, there's nothing in the law that prohibits the cyclists from allowing the motorist past, and if it's safe to do so, common courtesy would indicate that the cyclists should single up and allow the motorist to pass. However, that determination of when it is safe to single up and share the lane must be made by the cyclists, not the motorist.>>>
As a practical point our group makes every effort to be courteous to motorists and allow them to pass in as uninhibited manner as possible. However lack of understanding and general impatience often lead to a few terse looks on the road. I have always advised my fellow cyclists to approach riding on the road as if you are driving a farm vehicle. You have every right to be there, but planning to occupy your space on the road in the safest and most courteous manner is usually the best course.
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Posted by Traffic Cycling Instructor
a resident of another community
on Apr 28, 2009 at 10:53 am
Steve, you've written a lot of good stuff here, and I agree with most of what you say, but I think you haven't really addressed one of the fundamental points being made. Many of the posters here, like The Jackal for instance, seem to believe that it is fundamentally and inherently too dangerous for bicyclists to share the road with cars, and, therefore, those who do are morally responsible for what happens to them. That last part is implied, but I really think that that is what they believe. That's just plain wrong, of course, but we need to address this root misconception before we can make any progress. The sad thing is that even many bicyclists agree with this basic sentiment, like spacini for example: "I like to ride also, but I'd rather ride on the sidewalk occassionally to avoid near misses (provided there are no pedestrians on the sidewalk) than to take my chances with cars on the road."
Of course it is true that if a bicyclist and vehicle try to occupy the same space at the same time, the result is never good for the bicyclist. From that one may conclude that by not sharing space, but remaining in totally physically separated space, is the only safe thing to do. And even if you point out that it is practically impossible to achieve that (there is not enough space or money to have grade separation at every intersection of every street, alley and driveway), it may seem reasonable to conclude that at least risk can be mitigated by limiting how much time one rides in space used by vehicular traffic... so that should be the goal. Sadly, that is the goal of many bicyclists, and they end up getting killed because of it.
They end up getting killed because of their goal to not share space with motor vehicles as much as possible mostly because they overestimate the very low risk from overtaking faster same-direction traffic behind them, and underestimate the relatively high risk from cross traffic ahead of them. The particular crash discussed here is very typical - it happened at an intersection, and has nothing to do with what most bicyclists seem to fear: being hit from behind.
Whether the driver or bicyclist ran the red light is only relevant to the question of who is legally responsible, but it is irrelevant to the issue discussed here: traffic cycling safety. Regardless of the color of the light, no defensive driver, motorcycle or bicyclist has any business entering an intersection prior to "clearing" it. That's the lesson here, not that bicyclists and motorists don't belong on the same roads.
I mean, if you're going to blindly believe that all motorists are going to always drive legally and never overlook you, and all you have to do is stay out of their way, yeah, you probably don't belong on the road. But if you learn and follow the rules yourself, and remain vigilant for those who are not (include the inevitable red-light runners), you will be safe by any reasonable measure.
Speaking of learning and following the rules, CVC 21202 and 21208, the laws that allegedly require cyclists to "keep right" and "in bike lanes" respectively, have so many exceptions that they, in practice, arguably mostly do not apply in most urban and suburban environments. Not only are cyclists not required to ride as far right as practicable (or in bike lanes) when riding the speed of other traffic, or to avoid hazards like door zones, or when preparing to turn left, but also whenever approaching ANY PLACE where a right turn is authorized. That means any time you're merely approaching any intersection, alley, mall entrance or driveway, you have no obligation to keep to the right side, or in the bike lane when applicable. Think about that.
I also want to address this one comment from "The Jackal":
"Cyclists can argue this point forever but they will never be safer when travelling next to cars."
Traveling next to cars is actually relatively safe, but often (more often than almost all cyclists realize) traveling IN FRONT of cars is often much safer, especially when approaching "any place where a right turn is authorized." (which is exactly why those exceptions are in 21202 and 21208).
What you don't want to do is appear out of seemingly nowhere in an intersection, which is exactly what happens when bicyclists are traveling in space not used for vehicular travel as they approach an intersection, and the enter vehicular space only suddenly and momentarily in the intersection itself. Even riding in bike lanes arguably makes bicyclists more likely to be overlooked and hit, because bike lanes make it easier for motorists to ignore bicyclists.
In short, bicycling safety is almost exclusively about bicyclist behavior, and has almost nothing to do with whether the space used by a bicyclist at any given moment is shared by motorists or not. To not be hit, you need to try to be as visible and predictable as you can (while remaining vigilant for rule-breakers), and that often means riding in vehicular space where drivers are paying the most attention, and riding according to the vehicular rules of the road, which are designed specifically to avoid crashes.