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Old 03-22-08, 12:08 PM   #1
shatdow
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SF Chronicle bike accident analysis

It appears this article was written as a general analysis to follow-up on the Cupertino tragedy. I am quite surprised at the statistics they mention: for the last 10 years of Bay Area accident reports,
Quote:
...bicyclists were deemed at fault in 1,165, or nearly 60 percent, of the 1,997 accidents that killed or severely injured cyclists; drivers were blamed only 520 times, or 26 percent. In most other cases, no one was listed as being at fault.
I'll save my thoughts on this for later in the thread.
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Bicyclists blamed twice as often as drivers
Erin McCormick, Chronicle Staff Writer

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Bicyclists were twice as likely as drivers to be at fault in the nearly 2,000 collisions that killed or severely injured Bay Area bike riders in the past decade, an analysis by The Chronicle shows.

Bicycle and safety advocates say the deaths two weeks ago of two cyclists hit by a Santa Clara sheriff's deputy's cruiser should serve as a call to improve relations between cars and bikes on the roadways.

The advocates say large numbers of cyclists fail to follow the rules of the road, running stop signs and red lights, and drivers are becoming more aggressive.

"There is a juggernaut out there - the tension between the cyclists and the drivers is so high that it's become a war," said triathlon coach Marc Evans, who is starting a campaign to get the cycling community, drivers and motorcyclists to put more focus on avoiding deadly collisions on the roads.

The Chronicle's analysis of the 33,000 Bay Area collisions involving bicyclists since 1997 shows that, in the most serious accidents, the driving behaviors of bicyclists often were blamed for the crashes. Data collected by the California Highway Patrol show that bicyclists were deemed at fault in 1,165, or nearly 60 percent, of the 1,997 accidents that killed or severely injured cyclists; drivers were blamed only 520 times, or 26 percent. In most other cases, no one was listed as being at fault.
Suspicion of bias

Bicycling advocates said the statistics might in part reflect a bias among police officers, who they say often "blame the victims," especially because cyclists might not get to tell their side of the story as they are being carried off on stretchers.

"There is a prevalent perception among police officers that bikes don't belong on the road," said Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

Yet even the most staunch cycling advocates acknowledge that some cyclists give others a bad name by failing to obey traffic laws.

"When I see a rider run a red light, I cringe," Shahum said. "Not only is it totally unsafe, it makes me and all other cyclists look bad."

As for drivers, the data suggest their behavior is getting worse by the year.
Serious crashes

The number of serious Bay Area crashes in which cyclists were at fault has hovered at about 100 per year for the past decade, but the number in which motorists were blamed has steadily risen - from 38 in 1997 to 61 in 2006, the last full year for which data were available.

In addition, the number of accidents involving drivers hitting cyclists and then fleeing has spiked in recent years. Hit-and-run drivers killed four cyclists and severely injured 26 others in 2006 - significantly more than any other year in the past decade.

"There seems to be a natural tension between bicyclists and motorists," said Susan George, town manager of Woodside, who finds the streets in and around her hilly San Mateo County community swarming with cyclists, motorcycle riders, equestrians and drivers out for a good time on weekends and lunch hours.

Groups of dozens or even hundreds of bicyclists sometimes take over the roads, blowing through stoplights and disobeying signs, she said. At the same time, some motorists retaliate aggressively, tailgating the bicyclists, honking at them and trying to force them off the road.

"The majority of cyclists obey the rules, and the motorists, too, but then you get these outlaws," George said. "It's an ongoing battle, and in recent years the tensions have gotten worse."

Berkeley police Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said that in the past two years, her department has noticed an increase in all types of road-rage incidents.

"We get about six calls a month of road-rage cases, of people getting into screaming matches or drivers getting out of their cars and throwing their arms up," she said. "It's not just motorists and cyclists. It can be motorists and pedestrians or motorists and motorists."
Yelling at motorists

Kusmiss said the cases involving bikers can be exacerbated by the fact that in Berkeley, "some cyclists are very political about their cycling: They yell at the motorists to 'Just stop driving.' "

According to the data, when drivers were at fault in an accident, the most common type of violation cited was not giving cyclists the right of way. For bike riders, unsafe speed was the most dangerous violation, followed by riding on the wrong side of the road.

Male cyclists were almost five times more likely to be killed or severely injured than women. Fatalities and severe injury accidents affected all age groups, but riders in their 30s and 40s faired worse than others. Most common fatalities were 48-year-old males.

No one has suggested that cyclists Kristy Gough, 30, of San Leandro and Matt Peterson, 29, of San Francisco who were killed in the March 9 accident on Stevens Canyon Road in Cupertino, were at fault.

Evans, the triathlon coach who regularly trains riders in the hills of San Mateo County and was Gough's coach, said it is often the serious athletic bikers who take the most risks. He said he sees whole clubs of riders zipping through stop signs and failing to slow down.

"You get these guys who think they are Lance Armstrong or something, then they turn around and get themselves killed," Evans said.

Armstrong raised awareness about his fight against cancer with his yellow arm bracelet, and Evans hopes to start a similar bracelet campaign to promote safety among bicyclists, drivers and pedestrians.
Black-and-red armband

Evans has made the prototype of a black-and-red armband that he hopes he and others can distribute to cyclists and motorists in exchange for their promise that they will obey all traffic safety rules. George said she hopes Woodside can be a sponsor for the program.

"On the bracelets, the black is to signify our mourning for those who have been killed, and the red is to signify that you will obey all the traffic laws," said Evans, who said he believes some of the tensions on the roadway arise out of motorists' confusion about not knowing what bicyclists will do at an intersection.

"This is a huge, huge problem, and it is very out of control," he said. "What I want to do is influence cyclists, drivers and motorcyclists to obey the rules of the road."
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Old 03-22-08, 12:10 PM   #2
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bias in the police reports

'The only good cyclist'

There's also a lot of good information on police and legal system bias against cyclists in Bob Mionske's book, Bicycling and the Law
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Old 03-22-08, 12:16 PM   #3
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unsafe speeds the most siginifcant factor in cyclists at fault in the accident?

clear evidence to me of police bias against bicyclists- I have never, except on ice or in very rare occasions, felt i was exceeding a safe speed on my bicycle.

"unsafe speed of bicyclist" is cop speak for 'motorist failed to yield."
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Old 03-22-08, 12:24 PM   #4
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The final police report on Brett Jarolimek's fatal right hook accident exonerated the garbage truck driver with the lousy driving record and the broken mirror for right-hooking Brett, claiming that Brett was riding 'too fast for conditions' at 21 mph in a 30 mph zone.
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Old 03-22-08, 12:48 PM   #5
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agreed

Unsafe speed WTF?

if that is the case then we need to slow the cars down. Because they go faster than the cyclist. Unless they're trying to suggest bad brakes on the bicycle.

by the way I told a wrong way rider with no hands on the handlebar to F**** off as she said good morning.. I need to control myself.
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Old 03-22-08, 01:55 PM   #6
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My experience with the local cops is that they do not like, and do not understand fast bikes.
I got pulled over for going 30 in a 35, just because the cop was sure that was it was impossible for a bike to go 30 on flat ground. He then informed me I should license my bike.
Most of these accidents could just be listed as the riders fault for R.O.R. (riding on road)
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Old 03-22-08, 02:39 PM   #7
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What troubles me is the reported 60% increase in bicycle injuries or fatalities for which the motorist was at fault. Those of us who ride legally, visibly, and defensively can rationally, albeit smugly, ignore the 100 incidents per year in which bicyclists were deemed to be at fault, but if the reported trend continues, the number of motorist-at-fault incidents per year will be as large.

I fret about motorist inattention, isolation, distraction, frustration, boredom, and fatigue as much as I worry about the two traditional scourges, drunk and drugged drivers.
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Old 03-22-08, 02:44 PM   #8
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so that Santa Clara deputy clearly f*cked up and killed two cyclists, and the Bay Area's paper of record responds with an article blaming cyclists, WTF is up with that????
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Old 03-22-08, 04:02 PM   #9
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"Unsafe speed" probably means the cop couldn't come up with a real reason to blame the cyclist, so he made something up that's difficult to verify or refute. How many motorists complain, "Those cyclists, they go so darn fast, they really should slow down"?
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Old 03-22-08, 04:45 PM   #10
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so that Santa Clara deputy clearly f*cked up and killed two cyclists, and the Bay Area's paper of record responds with an article blaming cyclists, WTF is up with that????
There seems to be a huge bias against cyclists in Bay Area Media. As for cops, depends on a cop. When I was hit by a car in Santa Clara (seems to be a pattern here) the driver was found at fault (and she was). Police didn't do the "was traveling too fast" B.S. The report said I had the right of way, even listed all the safety stuff I had on like lights, vest, etc, and she failed to yield. Went a long way in helping me to deal with insurance.
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Old 03-22-08, 07:30 PM   #11
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Talk about lazy journalist, 95% of this article was in the paper or a local ABC story before. The author simply added the latest killing of cyclist story and maybe the idea of the arm bands is new. BF discussed the previous article as well, particularly noting the "For bike riders, unsafe speed was the most dangerous violation" BS.

Edit: It may have been this thread, on a local ABC story that is no longer available, but was based on and referenced the almost one year old analysis by The Chronicle.
ABC7 news, report on bicycles

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Old 03-22-08, 08:11 PM   #12
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Unsafe speed WTF?

If a car pulls in front of you and you hit it, you were going too fast to be safe.

If a car comes up behind you and runs you over, you were going too slow to be safe.

If we'd just all learn to ride at a safe speed, there would be no problems....

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Old 03-22-08, 09:18 PM   #13
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I agree that the "unsafe speed" on a bike line is dubious, and I think it should raise more questions than it answers when it appears on an accident report. I can see few situations (dooring or other impacts by the cyclist on peds/stopped objects) where this would be appropriate. If the accident is between a car and a cyclist, unsafe speed should almost never apply, I think.

Randya, thanks for those links, the "Only Good Cyclist" report was particularly intriguing. It confirmed some thoughts I had about possible accident causes and how a cyclist can be at fault. My list included:

* Pulling out suddenly onto the road from a driveway or side street
* Unsafe lane changes, "Swerving" into traffic (though I doubt the second, more on that later)
* Breaking traffic laws (running stops/lights, wrong way riding, drunk riding)
* No lights at night (low visibility)

The only time "unsafe speed" should come into it is when the cyclist has hit a pedestrian or say, a stopped car in the traffic lane; times when a car driver would be held at fault as well for not being able to stop in time. Even then, doorings and hitting a car pulling out into the road suddenly shouldn't be the cyclists fault, because, just like in a car, these type of accidents can be almost unavoidable at anything faster than a crawl.

Now, I strongly agree with that "good cyclist" article about the liklihood of the driver having the only say in the report, especially if there are no witnesses. I can easily see a driver's excuse "I didn't see him! He appeared suddenly out of nowhere!" ballooning into "Unsafe lane change/ Swerving into traffic" on the police report, or something similar. I almost got hit at a 4-way stop once, when I thought a driver to my right saw me (I was there first), but just started going after I entered the intersection. I avoided it, but if I had been hit and injured, taken away from the scene, or too disoriented to remember what happened, what would that lady have said to the officer? She may remember it as she was there first, and I ran the stop sign!

Since bike-car accidents are so lopsided, and the driver usually comes out uninjured while the cyclist is injured or killed, I predict this situation is very comon.

It's a tough scenario to deal with, since most times it's just a he-said she-said story. My feelings are that the car should, from the start, have a greater likihood of fault. If the driver is attentive (ie, not largely at fault), it should be difficult to hit a cyclist in the first place. Maybe not fair; but I feel it's too easy to walk away from than to be held accountable for a bike-car accident. If you're being an attentive driver, you should be able to point out exactly what point they swerved in front of you, or pulled out of a specific driveway, or where you were when they ran that stop. If you can't, you weren't paying attention and are probably covering.

Sorry for the length.
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Old 03-23-08, 03:52 AM   #14
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. . .Sorry for the length.
I don't think you need to apologize for thinking in paragraphs instead of sound bites.
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Old 03-23-08, 07:53 AM   #15
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Regarding "unsafe speeds" for cyclists, I think it is self-evident that a prudent and safe speed in a main travel lane is generally higher than in the adjacent narrow bike lane. For those familiar with La Costa Av. west of Rancho Santa Fe Rd., I find myself staying in the bike lane on the (slow) ascent, but feeling much safer out of the bike lane on the (fast) descent, where I want to be seen by potential right-hookers, right-crossers, left-crossers, et al. I guess that makes me a bike lane fan going up and a hard core vehicular cyclist coming down.
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Old 03-23-08, 08:13 AM   #16
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The article is about fault in death or severe injury collissions between cars and bicycles. The implication is that in ALL bike/car accidents, the cyclists are more often at fault.

Are there any studies that track ALL bike/car collissions? I seam to remember seeing a statistic that cars are at fault in a much larger percentage than cyclists when you look at ALL collissions.
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Old 03-23-08, 12:53 PM   #17
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Are there any studies that track ALL bike/car collissions? I seam to remember seeing a statistic that cars are at fault in a much larger percentage than cyclists when you look at ALL collissions.
Never going to happen, because many collisions aren't reported (how many people do you know that were doored or right-hooked but not injured; no cops called, no report of any sort filed, not even the standard DMV accident report) and police reports aren't written / filed in many jurisdictions unless the severity of the injuries suffered is quite high. Plus, police bias would also still need to be factored in / out of any such analysis.
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Old 03-23-08, 12:56 PM   #18
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Regarding "unsafe speeds" for cyclists, I think it is self-evident that a prudent and safe speed in a main travel lane is generally higher than in the adjacent narrow bike lane. For those familiar with La Costa Av. west of Rancho Santa Fe Rd., I find myself staying in the bike lane on the (slow) ascent, but feeling much safer out of the bike lane on the (fast) descent, where I want to be seen by potential right-hookers, right-crossers, left-crossers, et al. I guess that makes me a bike lane fan going up and a hard core vehicular cyclist coming down.
There's a lot to be said for bicycle climbing lanes in the slower uphill direction and the deliberate lack of bicycle lanes in the faster downhill direction. A design that's not common but deserves to be applied more frequently.
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Old 03-23-08, 01:00 PM   #19
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The final police report on Brett Jarolimek's fatal right hook accident exonerated the garbage truck driver with the lousy driving record and the broken mirror for right-hooking Brett, claiming that Brett was riding 'too fast for conditions' at 21 mph in a 30 mph zone.
Passing on the right near the curb at an intersection approach is unsafe, and especially so at 21 mph, even if the speed limit is 30 mph.

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Regarding "unsafe speeds" for cyclists, I think it is self-evident that a prudent and safe speed in a main travel lane is generally higher than in the adjacent narrow bike lane. For those familiar with La Costa Av. west of Rancho Santa Fe Rd., I find myself staying in the bike lane on the (slow) ascent, but feeling much safer out of the bike lane on the (fast) descent, where I want to be seen by potential right-hookers, right-crossers, left-crossers, et al. I guess that makes me a bike lane fan going up and a hard core vehicular cyclist coming down.
That's right, John. The conditions in "too fast for conditions" includes lateral position. I see bicyclists often riding too fast considering how close they are to the edge of the road, given all the potential hazards that lurk there, and the limited vantage, conspicuousness and maneuvering space that comes from riding there. Of course, bike lanes like the downhill one on La Costa invite cyclists to do exactly that, and they get accustomed to doing it, and so many seem to develop a lack of sensitivity about the safety compromises inherent in riding like that (much like riding in door zones doesn't necessarily feel unsafe to many cyclists).

I know a guy who was riding about 20 mph in the bike lane on Miramar Road, a 45 mph road, and was hit, arguably because he was going too fast for conditions. He was passing three lanes of stopped motor traffic on his left unaware that they were stopped in order to allow an oncoming van to turn left from the center turn lane across their path into a midblock commercial driveway. The van crossed the traffic lanes and was crossing the bike lane when the guy smashed into the side of the van. There was no way he could have avoided it, given his speed and the shortened sight lines.
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Old 03-23-08, 01:06 PM   #20
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There's a lot to be said for bicycle climbing lanes in the slower uphill direction and the deliberate lack of bicycle lanes in the faster downhill direction. A design that's not common but deserves to be applied more frequently.
I agree. But such designs are often opposed on the justifiable grounds that they invite wrong way downhill cycling in the one and only bike lane, despite signs and markings discouraging such behavior. That's one of the reasons I support a WOL (*) on the uphill side and a NOL (**) on the downhill side, perhaps with sharrows (***) in the center of the NOL and the margin of the WOL.

(*) WOL = Wide Outside Lane, more than 14 feet wide, preferably 15 or 16 feet.
(**) NOL = Narrow Outside Lane, typically 9-12 feet wide.
(***) sharrow = Shared Lane Marking - a painted/stenciled marking on the pavement that depicts a bicyclists and a chevron/arrow that suggests approximately where a cyclist should ride.
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Old 03-23-08, 02:20 PM   #21
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Passing on the right near the curb at an intersection approach is unsafe, and especially so at 21 mph, even if the speed limit is 30 mph.
nevertheless, that's the way you're supposed to do it under Oregon law.
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Old 03-23-08, 02:27 PM   #22
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As a practical matter of personal safety, one could reasonably argue that it's unwise to pass (a right-turning vehicle) on the right.

As a legal matter, Brett was not in violation of the speed law, and was otherwise riding within the law; the driver, who was legally required to yield the right of way to Brett, did not yield the right of way. The driver was in violation of the law, despite the bending-over-backwards-to-exonerate-the driver blame-shifting nonsense the Portland Police Bureau engaged in.
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Old 03-23-08, 02:32 PM   #23
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Oh good I see the media is continuing on their marry cycling smear campaign. I guess that cop who ran down two cyclists has some good connections.
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Old 03-23-08, 02:32 PM   #24
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HH should read the final police report, linked above; I'm sure he can find half a dozen ways to blame Brett in that report.

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Old 03-23-08, 09:07 PM   #25
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This is biased reporting at it's best.

It begins with the statement:

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Chronicle
Bicyclists were twice as likely as drivers to be at fault in the nearly 2,000 collisions that killed or severely injured Bay Area bike riders in the past decade, an analysis by The Chronicle shows.
Was the same staff reporter who wrote the article the same one who did the "analysis"? I'd double check these figures for real accuracy. They may not be all that they seem.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Chronicle
Bicycle and safety advocates say the deaths two weeks ago of two cyclists hit by a Santa Clara sheriff's deputy's cruiser should serve as a call to improve relations between cars and bikes on the roadways.
The implication in the above statement is that the cyclists who were killed must have been part of that 60% of cyclists at fault.

And yet buried in the end of the article after we read about how bad cyclists are we get this little tid-bit:

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Chronicle
No one has suggested that cyclists Kristy Gough, 30, of San Leandro and Matt Peterson, 29, of San Francisco who were killed in the March 9 accident on Stevens Canyon Road in Cupertino, were at fault.
Since there is no evidence the cyclists were at fault in this particular situation why is it referenced specifically for this article?- what's the correlation?

Anybody else get the idea a little local pressure to keep the cops looking good in an accident that, by the reports of the collision I read, looked like a pretty 100% driver error incident.

In fairness I'd say it's time to do an analysis of accidents involving police cruisers to see how many times they are in violation law and policy when such incidents occur.
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