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Old 07-03-02, 07:15 AM   #1
hyperdrive
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Cycling Death In Cambridge, Mass

CAMBRIDGE - A bicyclist was killed yesterday after she struck an opening car door on Massachusetts Avenue and was run over by a passing MBTA bus, the Cambridge Police Department said.
The woman, 36, whose identity was not released last night, was biking north near 485 Massachusetts Ave. at about 3:45 p.m. when the driver of a parked SUV opened his door, said Frank Pasquarello, spokesman for the Cambridge Police Department.

The woman tried to swerve, but hit the door and fell underneath the passing northbound bus. The bus's rear wheels ran over her, said Brian Pedro, spokesman for the MBTA. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

''I felt a little vibration, I just heard something hit the side of the bus,'' said Dan Cole, 19, of Dorchester, a passenger on the bus who said he and others did not immediately realize what happened.

At about 6 p.m., officers issued a ticket to the driver of the black SUV, who choked back tears and declined to comment or be identified. The man's lawyer, John Salsberg, arrived after the man called from the scene of the accident.

''This was a tragic accident,'' Salsberg said. ''He has not committed any crime.''

This story ran on page B3 of the Boston Globe on 7/3/2002. Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.
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Old 07-03-02, 07:28 AM   #2
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Seems to me he opened his door without due care and attention.
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Old 07-03-02, 07:54 AM   #3
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That is terrible. Truly sad.
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Old 07-03-02, 08:00 AM   #4
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There seems to be a rash of ccyclists getting killed by motorists without being charged. Since when is negligent homicide or involuntary manslaughter acceptable?
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Old 07-03-02, 08:02 AM   #5
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This is really a shame. At 36, the lady probably has a family as well, which would only make things worse.

I feel sorry for the guy who opened the door. He'll have to bear that burden from now on.

I bike-commute constantly and never EVER ride without my NiteRider digital strobe light turned on. This unit has two lights, and the strobe setting makes one of the lights blink steadily, about 3-4 blinks per second. I set it straight out so it blares right in people's rear view mirrors. You simply wouldn't believe the attention this draws, even in broad daylight.

You never can say that this would make a difference in the case above, but I have witnessed people do a double-take and not open that door when otherwise they would.

Be safe out there.
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Old 07-03-02, 08:34 AM   #6
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There seems to be a rash of ccyclists getting killed by motorists without being charged. Since when is negligent homicide or involuntary manslaughter acceptable?
Hey, he got a ticket - argh.

Yup, while I have some compasion for the gentleman who opened up his door as he will have to deal with this deadly incident for the rest of his life, laws need to be applied and enforced. This is the only way to @ least limit this type of tradegy.

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Old 07-03-02, 08:57 AM   #7
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Originally posted by bac


Hey, he got a ticket - argh.

Yup, while I have some compasion for the gentleman who opened up his door as he will have to deal with this deadly incident for the rest of his life, laws need to be applied and enforced. This is the only way to @ least limit this type of tradegy.


Yes, there should be more laws about this sort of negligence. New drivers should constantly be thought that they should look very carefully before opening their doors, just as much as they are repeatedly told about shoulder checking.

But we are humans after all, the poor guy that opened the door may have just forgotten to look before hand as he was probably thinking about where he was going or what was going to do...
This kind of mistake happens all the time, but this guy's ended with such drastic consequences.

The ticket means nothing even if it is for a million dollars. The guy has to live with the guilt of being the cause of someone else's death for the rest of his life. Imagine the images that are stuck in his head and the nightmares he will have.

Then again he was quick to call his lawyer... so you never know
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Old 07-03-02, 09:06 AM   #8
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Was it something like this? Gee, I hope he had energy absorbing door padding. Schmuck.

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Old 07-03-02, 09:15 AM   #9
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That pic is the image most courts have of getting doored. The real deal is that a door opens when you are much closer and by the time your response delay kicks in you have hit it. In a New Hampshire court, the cyclist was found to be in the wrong for riding into an open door, like we aim for them.
The only answer is to ride so wide that doors wont reach you.

Its sometimes difficult when there are large vehicles and buses bearing down on you, but those are the times to be assertive.

May I suggest that you keep this sad incident as a reference to pass to cops and drivers who accuse you of taking up too much road.
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Old 07-03-02, 09:16 AM   #10
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Without having seen the accident, it's impossible to know who was more negligent. Drivers often open doors without looking, it's true. It's also true that cyclists often weave around parked cars, riding closer to the curb when there aren't any. If the cyclist was directly behind the car at the moment he looked back for oncoming traffic, he couldn't be expected to see her.

There is indeed a lesson here for us, but it isn't "hang the SUV drivers."

It's never never never NEVER ride in the door zone. Ride in a straight, predictable line far enough to the left that opening doors will miss you, and stay there even when there are no parked cars.

There was a bus coming from behind her. She was about to get squeezed between a bus and a parked car. To an experienced commuter, this situation sets off deafening alarm bells. There is only one appropriate course here:

Take the lane.

Be assertive. Be a vehicle. Don't be a second-class road user. Riding defensively isn't the same thing as riding scared.

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Last edited by Rich Clark; 07-03-02 at 11:00 AM.
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Old 07-03-02, 09:29 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by Rich Clark
There is indeed a lesson here for us, but it isn't "hang the SUV drivers."

It's never never never NEVER ride in the door zone. Ride in a straight, predictable line far enough to the left that opening doors will miss you, and stay there even when there are no parked cars.

There was a bus coming from behind her. She was about to get squeezed between a bus and a parked car. To an experienced commuter, this situation sets off deafening alarm bells. There is only one appropriate course here:

Take the lane.

Be assertive. Be a vehicle. Don't be a second-class road user. Riding defensifely isn't the same thing as riding scared.
Good post, Rich. The person most responsible for our safety being the one we see in the mirror, I think your analysis is right-on and your solution the only prudent one. A terrible tragedy to be sure, but I agree the lesson here is the primary issue....not assessing blame.
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Old 07-03-02, 10:37 AM   #12
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Rich, RIGHT ON. We all simply don't know enough about the situation, making it thoroughly irresponsible, in my view, for the "hang the SUV drivers" gang to immediately seek murder charges (or the like). Totally irresponsible.

Yes, a "squeeze" situation calls for a take-the-lane approach. But it is also true, and I think you'd acknowledge, that we don't know the exact circumstances and can only speculate that the poor lady could have done this or anything else differently.

With the blame-the-driver-always crowd, is it any wonder why this guy contacted his lawyer at the scene?

To the poster who questioned why it seemed no (or few) drivers have been charged with serious felonies like involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide, two things: (1) please provide data to support the conclusion that there are fewer such cases pressed and (2) can we acknowledge that, perhaps, there is such a thing as an accident, an event that has serious consequences yet involves no malicious intent or felonious behavior?

To the poor lady, I wish her family well. To the poor guy in the SUV, take cover: the hang-the-SUV-driver crowd is out for you.
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Old 07-03-02, 10:58 AM   #13
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Yes, the point is not to infer blame. Insufficient data. It could have been the driver's fault. It could have been the cyclist's fault. It could have been the bus driver's fault. It likely was some combination of the above, along with other factors not reported by the press.

If there's real blame, lay it at the feet of parents who never teach their children how to be safe cyclists. Assign it to "school bike safety days" that focus entirely on helmets, and never even discuss basic principles like not riding against traffic and obeying traffic lights. Point the finger at driver education and testing programs that never even mention how to handle the interaction between motor vehicles and bicycles.

Too many -- perhaps most -- problems between bikes and other vehicles are caused by the simple fact that almost nobody understands the rules -- or even that there ARE rules.

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Old 07-03-02, 11:06 AM   #14
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I don't think we should hang him, possibly we could just throw him under the wheels of a passing bus.

Part of the problem is that most automobile drivers don't know or in some cases even care about the consequences of their actions.

"Gee officer, I just didn't see him". He was only wearing a bright yellow jersey, with flashing strobe lights on the bike.

"I didn't realize" is not an acceptable response. People die from this sort of inattention.

Most of my experience with this sort of idiocy comes from over 20 years spent on a motorcycle (rather than a bicycle). More than one of my friends has been killed by drivers who just didn't see, know, or care.

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Old 07-03-02, 11:38 AM   #15
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Firstly, you have a needless death, which is just the beginning. Long after people have forgotten, this lady's loved ones will remember, and weep. If she had children, their lives will be forever changed. I feel for the man whose door hit the cyclist (may I say it that way?) but I feel more symapthy for the cyclist, who will not see another day.

Secondly, the person who opened his car door in her path, though not yet proven to be negligent in court, was issued a ticket. This is the first sign of fault in a collision, as police reports carry a great deal of weight. However, unless malicious intent or extreme negligence is proven to a jury, that jury will more than likely sympathize with the driver, since they will all reason, "it could so easily happen to any of us."

Thirdly, avoiding car doors is something we all need to learn to do, as has been stated here abundantly. But if the cyclist was cycling responsibly, even if she may have been a bit too close to the parked cars ("it could so easily happen to any of us,")
she had the right-of-way, which forms the basis for determining fault (the issued ticket adding weight.) Would I appear to be part of the "hang-the-SUV-driver crowd" if I suggested the party at fault is given a stiffer penalty than a ticket?

What if the car door had swung open in the path of a car, which then swerved and hit a bus, killing the driver?
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Old 07-03-02, 11:38 AM   #16
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Originally posted by DanFromDetroit
<snip>
"I didn't realize" is not an acceptable response. People die from this sort of inattention.
</snip>
Well, until the world is rid of inattentive drivers and we're left with nothing but perfect drivers, and until someone invents a car where the driver is deposited on the curb-side of the car (never requiring a door to be opened on the street side), I'll follow Rich Clark's advice.
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Old 07-03-02, 11:40 AM   #17
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Originally posted by LittleBigMan
Would I appear to be part of the "hang-the-SUV-driver crowd" if I suggested the party at fault is given a stiffer penalty than a ticket?

What if the car door had swung open in the path of a car, which then swerved and hit a bus, killing the driver?
Please, what would be the charges you level in either case?
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Old 07-03-02, 11:51 AM   #18
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Insufficient data, insufficient data, insufficient data.

Was there a white line separating the parking lane from the traffic lane? If so, which side of that line was the bike on? Bikes don't have the right-of-way if they're not riding legally.

Where was the bus in relation to the other two vehicles?

Was the bike moving parallel to traffic, or was she angling in toward the parked cars because of the overtaking bus?

If the driver did a reasonable survey behind him before opening the door, was the bike in a position where he could have/should have seen it?

I don't know any of these answers. None of us do. None of us knows enough to blame anybody. The cop issued a ticket because... who knows? How many police officers really understand the traffic code's application to bicycles? Perhaps issuing the ticket was simply the best way to make sure the case entered the judicial process, given that there was a fatality involved, in a situation where the issuing officer really had no idea how to handle things.

Insufficient data.

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Old 07-03-02, 11:56 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally posted by Andy Dreisch


Well, until the world is rid of inattentive drivers and we're left with nothing but perfect drivers, and until someone invents a car where the driver is deposited on the curb-side of the car (never requiring a door to be opened on the street side), I'll follow Rich Clark's advice.
The solution does not call for perfect drivers or never opening a door. It simply calls for drivers to pay attention to what is going on around them.

The way that you can start to get drivers to pay more attention is to dramatically increase the penalties for inattention. Witness the change in attitude about drunken driving over the last 30 years in the USA.

These incidents should be treated as negligent homicides (at least).

Heavier fines an penalties for ordinary traffic violations would help as well (speeding, running red lights, etc).

Strict enforcement of speed limits would also be a benefit. A post ed limit of 45mph would mean 45mph not 55 or 65mph.

As driving is not a basic right, I also favor on the spot revocation of driving licenses by police officers for serious or repeat offenders. You can get it back if you can convince a judge you deserve it.

The bottom line is that if you kill someone with your car you should expect more than a traffic ticket.

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Old 07-03-02, 12:26 PM   #20
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A couple of thoughts:

a) Blame does not help. The cyclist, the bus driver and the SUV driver all share responsiblity. It was a human error with a human consequence. I am both a cyclist and a driver. I have almost run into people opening their car doors and I have come close to hitting people while opening my door. I am aware as I can be in both situations. But never am I perfect.

b) This is not a case of a driver intentionally trying to hurt or scare someone on a bike. There was no malicious intent. Prosecuting the driver will not stop people from opening their doors or not seeing every detail of what is around them.

c) It is illegal to open your door into traffic (hence the ticket) but so is jaywalking and it is Boston--both laws must be broken.
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Old 07-03-02, 01:37 PM   #21
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This is from MSNBC's affiliate, WHDH 7 News Boston
( url http://www.whdh.com/news/articles/local/H1321/ )

"...Cambridge and MBTA police say the woman was riding in the bike lane of Massachusetts Avenue near Central Square when a car door opened..."

The driver wasn't paying attention. It's his/her fault. I hope they throw the book at this person. People need to realize that their actions have consequences. I'm not saying that the cyclists shouldn't pay attention. When I'm riding down a road like this I make it a point to know which cars are empty and which cars aren't. However, having the larger vehicle means having the larger responsibility. The driver shirked it and now someone is dead. I don't feel sorry for the motorist at all.
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Old 07-03-02, 01:49 PM   #22
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I don't think that the bus was at fault based on the information here. What did the bus driver do wrong? We do not know that the bus didn't leave the cyclist 5 feet worth of space or not. It seems to me that since she was in a cycle lane, the responsibility falls entirely on the SUV motorist who carelessly opened the door.
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Old 07-03-02, 02:38 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally posted by DanFromDetroit

These incidents should be treated as negligent homicides (at least).
So, inattentiveness leading to death is tantamount to negligent homicide. :confused:

A flight controller who inadvertently causes an accident through inattentiveness -- guilty of negligent homicide?

A window washer, through sheer inattentiveness, accidentally drops a squegee (sp?) from the 30th floor and kills an old lady walking on the sidewalk below. Guilty of negligent homicide?

An SUV driver opens his door and steps out into the roadway -- and is smashed by an oncoming bus. Is this suicide?
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Old 07-03-02, 03:02 PM   #24
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In response to Spire, I was not talking about the bus driver. I was talking about the SUV driver. I'm going to start on a rant here, so if you don't want to be ranted at you probably should skip on to the next post. Here goes:
People in cars don't know nor care to find out what bike lanes are for. They think they're extended parking areas, passing lanes, turn lanes, or a convenient area to throw their garbage. I couldn't even count the number of times that I've almost been run over or cut off by some yahoo who gets in front of me in a bike lane to make a right hand turn. When people are on a 2 lane road and the person in front of them stops to make a left-hand turn, rather than wait a minute the driver will more often than not pull into a bike lane (if available) to pass the turner in front of him/her. Was there a bike there? I doubt they even checked. On a scale of respect, to most motorists bike lanes rank in the same category as a urinal. Most of us on bikes are careful to avoid potential obstacles. All of the sudden, one person goes too far, is in the wrong place at the wrong time, and someone else gets killed. That cyclist would not have been killled had the SUV-er had a healthy amount of respect for the bike lane in the first place. They didn't. As I said earlier, cars are a bigger and heavier than us. They're more sturdy than us. They're higher on the food chain and thus they have a lot more responsibility.
-So there's the end of my rant. Sorry about that. I tend to get a bit excited about these sorts of things.

Oh, by the way, I would be mad at this person whether they drove an SUV or a Yugo. It doesn't matter. They're still irresponsible.
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Old 07-03-02, 03:03 PM   #25
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something I learned early on--hog the damned lane whenever you can get away with it. "As far to the right as possible" should translate to the length (radius?) of the longest automotive drivers' door. This being America, it might also be the case that if a few killer drivers were lynched by armed bicycle gangs, they might be more careful around us. No, I am not kidding in the least little bit.
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