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  1. #1
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    Another tragic death


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    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sfgate.com
    The driver told police that his attention had been diverted as he tried to read a roadway sign, and his car drifted into the bicycle lane, hitting Mazzei.
    Another friggin' drift into the bike lane? When I came up with my hypothesis about how bike lanes affect motorists - making them less aware of cyclists who are riding up ahead, and, thus making them more prone to drifting into them - I assumed it was a relatively rare phenomenon. Now I'm not so sure. It may seem like the negligence here is pretty blatant, but I bet there will be no prosecution. DA's don't like to take on "risky" cases - it's not good for their conviction record at reelection time. Convincing a jury of drivers that what this driver did - not notice a cyclist and accidentally drift into her - constitutes criminal negligence, would be very difficult. Most DAs probably would not want to take the risk.

    The only way I can think of to avoid this type of collision is, yes, by riding outside of the bike lane (to get the attention of motorists approaching from the rear), and to monitor the situation with a rear-view mirror, moving back to the side or into the bike lane to allow them to pass once they have provided evidence that they are aware of you, or once they are so close that an emergency ditch move must be made (this is the way I ride now, and I've never come close to having to do the emergency ditch).

    My heart goes out to the family, friends, colleagues and students of Michelle Mazzei.

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    Senior Member closetbiker's Avatar
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    Drifting is not a good thing but it happens. I reviewed a number of deaths of cyclists over a number of years and you can count on these happening. They happen to pedestrians and cars too.

    The important thing to remember is "tragic deaths" like these are very rare. Humans are imperfect and there will never be anything risk free.

    A concern would be if these types of deaths are on an increase over the expected amount.

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    All I know is that some form of "inadvertent drift" appears to be a factor in a surprisingly high percentage of cyclist deaths that have been reported on this forum in the last year or so. I've started a "bike lane deaths" thread to catalog them in one place, but haven't taken the time to search through the archives yet...

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    Senior Member closetbiker's Avatar
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    A lot of the reports in this forum are about cyclist deaths and the drift problem is a particular form that is alarming because you can do all the right things and still be hit with no warning.

    It's still a very rare occurance with seemingly little that can be done about them (aside from removing yourself from traffic - bike paths? -).

    Deaths happen to everyone and it would only be a concern to me if the trend is an upward one. It's been going down.
    Last edited by closetbiker; 10-05-05 at 11:03 AM.

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    Senior Member bullethead's Avatar
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    We don't have bike lanes in my area, are bicycles travelling in both directions in a designated lane, or are they simply in the same direction as traffic? Obviously makes a big difference in closure rate.. sorry if this is a SAQ (stupidly asked question)
    Quitting in an adverse situation leaves no alternative except death

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    Almost all bike lanes are same-direction, but some cyclists ride the wrong way in them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by closetbiker
    A lot of the reports in this forum are about cyclist deaths and the drift problem is a particular form that is alarming because you can do all the right things and still be hit with no warning.

    It's still a very rare occurance with seemingly little that can be done about them (aside from removing yourself from traffic - bike paths? -).
    I agree it's a very rare occurance, and it's not irrational to just ignore and hope for the best, but why not do something about it if you can?

    Do you include using John Franklin's (author of Cyclecraft) approach with your primary riding position being in the center of regular traffic lane, rather than off to the side or in the bike lane, as part of "all the right things" you can do and "still be hit with no warning"? Robert Hurst also recommends this approach in his book, The Art of Urban Cycling, on page 75: "Whatever your preference, consider a centralish position to be the default position of the urban cyclist."

    I disagree that there is little that can be done about the drift problem. I have been using the primary riding position approach, coupled with monitoring to the rear with a mirror, to reduce the possibility of falling victim to the "drift problem" (among other reasons), for about two years now with excellent results. Like I said earlier, while a "ditch to the side" is always my ultimate Plan B - to be used when someone is approaching from the rear and not indicating that they are aware of me despite my position right in their path - I have never had to use it. I attribute this to the high probability that motorists are very unlikely to be unaware of a something - especially a cyclist - up ahead in their path, and the high probability that motorist are going to be unaware of cyclists up ahead outside of their path (off to the side, in a bike lane).

    I believe the key to not falling victim to the drift problem is to ride in a manner that causes motorists from behind to be aware of your presence, using a "centralish position" as your primary riding position, which is markedly different from keeping to the side and/or in a bike lane as your primary riding position.

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    Senior Member closetbiker's Avatar
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    In the news this week in Vancouver is a story of a woman who was killed by a hit and run. There have been several of these over the last year, all to pedestrians and the circumstances are very similar to this case of drifting hitting the cyclist. I see no cause for alarm.

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    lws
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    The motorist was also elderly, and probably should not be driving. He didn't want to admit that his vision is impaired, or he'll lose his license. There is a larger picture issue involved -- when you get old and can't drive any longer, you become a virtual prisoner in your own home. A small proportion of Americans live in communities that are well-served by public transportation, and a 68 year-old man is unlikely to be able to walk or bicycle very far.

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    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head
    I believe the key to not falling victim to the drift problem is to ride in a manner that causes motorists from behind to be aware of your presence, using a "centralish position" as your primary riding position, which is markedly different from keeping to the side and/or in a bike lane as your primary riding position.
    But that too requires the motorist to be fully aware of you on the road... sorry but simply looking down to dial the cell phone, or pick a new CD or looking past you to read a road sign are all distractions that avert eyes from even the center of the road. Too often motorists take a quick look... see no CARS, and then do their little diversion. Just like the woman I saw yesterday reading some kind of company report while driving across an intersection hands free... no matter of "middle of the lane" would have made you more visible to her or her kind.

    Your primary and secondary position stuff works fine if you are seen , but if the motorist's vehicle is both at the middle and over the BL stripe (8 foot wide vehicle can cover both the middle and part of the BL) and the driver is distracted... you are still toast.

    I think the thing you keep missing in all your attempts to "increase visibility with lateral movement on the road" is that drivers have selective vision... they look for large objects in the road... they do not specifically look for cycles or dogs, or kids or balls... et. al.. A quick glance and no autos are seen... then the driver trys to dial 1 800 etc on their phone, and oh *****, there you are...

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    Quote Originally Posted by lws
    There is a larger picture issue involved -- when you get old and can't drive any longer, you become a virtual prisoner in your own home. A small proportion of Americans live in communities that are well-served by public transportation, and a 68 year-old man is unlikely to be able to walk or bicycle very far.
    True. My father, who just turned 70 in June, decided on his own about 3 years ago that he didn't have the ability to drive safely any more. He either has my mother drive or calls me or my sister when he needs something. He was always a very conscientious driver (never a ticket or an accident in over 50 years of driving), so when he couldn't, to his own high standard, be safe any more, he quit driving all together. Unfortunately, many people at his age won't make such a decision as he did because they either don't have any way to get around if they don't drive or just don't want to rely on someone else.

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    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lws
    The motorist was also elderly, and probably should not be driving. He didn't want to admit that his vision is impaired, or he'll lose his license. There is a larger picture issue involved -- when you get old and can't drive any longer, you become a virtual prisoner in your own home. A small proportion of Americans live in communities that are well-served by public transportation, and a 68 year-old man is unlikely to be able to walk or bicycle very far.
    Excuse me, 68 is not old feeble and almost dead. I've ridden with guys in their 60s whose rides of chouce were 70 plus hilly miles. One of the guys on my Rugby club played until he reached his early 70s. I'm not talking about playing for an over 40 side or even an over 30 side. I mean the clubs regular second side. My mother is pushing 80 and still has everything needed to drive and drive safely. Yes her reactions have decreased and she prefers not to drive after dark. There are plenty of older drivers out there that are excellent. Then there are older drivers out there that are in denial and dangerous.

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    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Just thought I'd add one thing. For those not already pushing 60 the odds are that to retire with full social security benefits you will have to be over 68 and still working.

    Just a thought.

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    Twincities MN kuan's Avatar
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    Teens are the worst drivers, not the elderly. Anyone who has been driving for 50 years and is still driving has to be doing something right.

  16. #16
    Huachuca Rider webist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lws
    The motorist was also elderly, and probably should not be driving. He didn't want to admit that his vision is impaired, or he'll lose his license.
    You must know the driver quite well. Or, are you his optometrist?
    Just Peddlin' Around

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    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec
    But that too requires the motorist to be fully aware of you on the road... sorry but simply looking down to dial the cell phone, or pick a new CD or looking past you to read a road sign are all distractions that avert eyes from even the center of the road. Too often motorists take a quick look... see no CARS, and then do their little diversion.
    I think you're mistaking "seeing no CARS" with "seeing no OBSTRUCTIONS". Often motorists do take a quick look... see NOTHING in their intended path up ahead, and then do their little diversion, which could cause them to drift into something or someone that was outside of their intended path when they looked. My experience of riding in the intended path of faster traffic approaching from the rear, and consistently observing them indicating awareness of my presence (e.g., seeing them adjust position or slow down in my mirror), leads me to believe that while not impossible, it is extremely unlikely for a motorist to not see a cyclist up ahead who is traveling in his intended path. And my habits are such that I'm automatically prepared for the extremely unlikely situation as well (Plan B is to ditch off to the side if they show no sign of being aware of me, and get within 4 or 5 seconds of hitting me - I've never had to execute Plan B).

    In contrast, a motorist taking a quick look and seeing NOTHING up ahead in his intended path, though there may be a cyclist off to the side and/or in a bike lane that they don't notice, seems to me happens constantly. I wouldn't be surprised if over 50% of all motorists passing cyclists who are off to the side and/or in the bike lane are basically unaware of their presence. By "basically unaware", I mean sufficiently unaware so as to not take care to inadvertently drift to the side due to a distraction.


    Just like the woman I saw yesterday reading some kind of company report while driving across an intersection hands free... no matter of "middle of the lane" would have made you more visible to her or her kind.
    You're assuming she hadn't looked ahead and verified her intended path was clear before she went back to her reading. Don't you see that if a cyclist or a slow moving motorcyclist had been traveling up ahead in the "middle of the lane", when she did her quick check "for CARS", she would have seen them and adjusted accordingly?


    Your primary and secondary position stuff works fine if you are seen , but if the motorist's vehicle is both at the middle and over the BL stripe (8 foot wide vehicle can cover both the middle and part of the BL) and the driver is distracted... you are still toast.
    What you are ignoring is that drivers plan on handling distractions. Before answering the cell phone, or changing the channel, or reading another sentence, they check their intended path to make sure they won't hit anything or anyone while looking away. That's basic human instinct. Ask a driver to close his eyes for 4 seconds and the first thing he will do, automatically, is look ahead and make sure it's clear in his intended path and safe to look away for 4 seconds. If he sees a cyclist there, he will not look away. That's instinctive too. Now, is it possible that he won't see the cyclist? Sure, in theory. But that goes back to the first paragraph of this post, how rare it is, and Plan B.


    I think the thing you keep missing in all your attempts to "increase visibility with lateral movement on the road" is that drivers have selective vision... they look for large objects in the road... they do not specifically look for cycles or dogs, or kids or balls... et. al.. A quick glance and no autos are seen... then the driver trys to dial 1 800 etc on their phone, and oh *****, there you are...
    While I will not deny that drivers are slightly more likely to not see a ped, cyclist, or motorcyclist than a car or bus, in general, this difference is much more relevant in situations where the appearance is sudden and from another direction. When there is someone or something traveling along in their path up ahead, that's very different from a kid darting out suddenly from in between two cars. In the latter case, if the driver is distracted at the moment the kid darts out, the kid is creamed. In the former case, the driver would have to not be aware of the cyclist up ahead in their path for a significant amount of time. Again, in my experience, that's highly unlikely.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    We may be missing the point. It may not matter whether the driver sees the cyclist. Put it this way: say the driver sees the cyclist in the BL, plots his path, looks away from the road for 4 seconds (ever done this before? 4 seconds is an eternity to look away from the road in a car). Car then drifts into cyclist because driver is not steering correctly. There is nothing about seeing the cyclist or not. Drivers don't drift because they think there is room enough to drift on the shoulder, they drift because they aren't steering in the direction they should be going.
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  19. #19
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head
    I think you're mistaking "seeing no CARS" with "seeing no OBSTRUCTIONS".
    The biggest problem with your theory is that too many vehicles are hit from behind also... so those drivers that do a quick glance are not seeing ANYTHING. They are looking for CARs. All it takes is the wrong shadow, the wrong light, the wrong background and something as skinny as a cyclist will go easily unseen... especially when the motorist is not looking for cyclists... they are looking for large boxy objects.

    My references to other "situations where the appearance is sudden and from another direction" is simply regarding the fact that many drivers do not maintain a total situational awareness... they are not considering the kids on the side of the road... etc.


    Your claims of 100% success do not ring true for me... as quite frankly everything you do is always right, while others are only human. So Serge, we know you will never die in a bike accident, and it will never be your fault, and motorists will always love to share the road with you.

    Meanwhile, the rest of us mere humans will have to come up with realistic solutions for our road cycling problems.

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    As always, the "VC" crowd will tell us that this was a case of suicide: if the cyclist had been using VC techniques, the murder would not have taken place. Always blame the murder victim...never blame the murderer...that is the VC motto.

  21. #21
    hill hater nova's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head
    Another friggin' drift into the bike lane? When I came up with my hypothesis about how bike lanes affect motorists - making them less aware of cyclists who are riding up ahead, and, thus making them more prone to drifting into them - I assumed it was a relatively rare phenomenon. Now I'm not so sure. It may seem like the negligence here is pretty blatant, but I bet there will be no prosecution. DA's don't like to take on "risky" cases - it's not good for their conviction record at reelection time. Convincing a jury of drivers that what this driver did - not notice a cyclist and accidentally drift into her - constitutes criminal negligence, would be very difficult. Most DAs probably would not want to take the risk.

    The only way I can think of to avoid this type of collision is, yes, by riding outside of the bike lane (to get the attention of motorists approaching from the rear), and to monitor the situation with a rear-view mirror, moving back to the side or into the bike lane to allow them to pass once they have provided evidence that they are aware of you, or once they are so close that an emergency ditch move must be made (this is the way I ride now, and I've never come close to having to do the emergency ditch).

    My heart goes out to the family, friends, colleagues and students of Michelle Mazzei.
    Ok so no bike lane and the driver simply plasters the cyclist from behind. Or cyclist is 2 foot from curb and driver drift in to him there. Or driver is driving nearly on the curb him self to start with cyclist on side walk and driver plasters him there. VC is a dangerous thing. I read up on it in the link in your sig. I have one thing to say and that is its a bunch of bs. Made by a few people in a few areas where it works. If i had a good job id pay for you to come to ohio pay for your hotel room and have you try this vc bs on my streets.

    You speak from personal experiance this is something i have no doubt of. But i do as well and im sure those who came up with the vc stuff do as well. What they dont do is take polls and do studies of the entire us. If they had they would have been here in my area or sent out letters and pamplets to ask about my area. With out a study useing good data and tons of it vc is just bs that happen to work in a few places in this country.

    You preach it like it will prevent all car v bike accidents but it wont. In fact it wont prevent many at all. What will prevent them is better drivers ed programs bike lanes . BLs that are well marked and well lit and out side of things such as door zones. Another way to help cyclists remain safe do away with all this on street parking crap on streets barly wide enough for 2 lanes of trafic. If i can ever get some batteries for my digital cam that last more than 4 or 5 pics ill take some shots for you of trouble areas.Areas where even motorist have trouble navigating. Place like 2nd and tusc (a designated bike route) where the trafic confusion is high do to construction.

    Ill also show you some of the best roads in my area that i ride where ive never even had a semi close call. What you will see is the bike friendly areas have very wide shoulders that are all but bike lanes but are nto marked a such.

    Heres how this one road is set up (cleve mass) 2 wide lanes 2 wide shoulders aproaching 5 foot or better in some places and a wide gravel houlder after the paved portion. The gravel area is where all the various junk ends up for the most part glass bits of metal etc. Rarly do i have to go around glass piles metal and other crap while on the shoulder. All i get is friendly nods waves and nice honks as they pass (short gentle tap on the horn)

  22. #22
    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff
    We may be missing the point. It may not matter whether the driver sees the cyclist. Put it this way: say the driver sees the cyclist in the BL, plots his path, looks away from the road for 4 seconds (ever done this before? 4 seconds is an eternity to look away from the road in a car). Car then drifts into cyclist because driver is not steering correctly. There is nothing about seeing the cyclist or not. Drivers don't drift because they think there is room enough to drift on the shoulder, they drift because they aren't steering in the direction they should be going.
    Thank you for coming up with a new point!

    I've thought of this, and may have addressed it only indirectly.

    I contend that a motorist is not going to look away if he is aware there is a cyclist up ahead. While you don't plan on drifting, there are times when you take more or less care to not drift. Being aware of a cyclist up ahead is a natural time to take more care... now if that cyclist is traveling in a separate lane, then the perceived need to take care is greatly reduced... and that, my friend, is the danger.

  23. #23
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hh
    now if that cyclist is traveling in a separate lane, then the perceived need to take care is greatly reduced...
    No less danger then having to avoid an auto in a similar parallel lane situation.

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    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    No less danger then having to avoid an auto in a similar parallel lane situation.
    Right, which is much less than when there are no stripes.
    Ever drive on a 6 lane road after a repaving but before the new stripes were painted? Do you drive with more or less care?

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    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec
    The biggest problem with your theory is that too many vehicles are hit from behind also...
    There is no problem that is not handled by Plan B.

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