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  1. #1
    Senior Member Coloradopenguin's Avatar
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    How accidents happen

    I run a community weekly newspaper, and this letter just came in --

    How accidents happen

    As I waited at the stop sign on Crawford at the bottom of the hill on Cedar, I watched a small girl on a bicycle heading west on Crawford. She was probably about 5 and was on right edge of the street, as she should have been. A car approached her from the rear, probably going about 25 MPH or maybe 30, but well below the speed limit. As the car drew close to the little girl, the driver honked her horn as an alert, an action our common sense might tell us all to do.

    But there were unintended consequences, or rather predictable reactions. When the little girl heard the horn, she responded normally. She looked over her left shoulder because the sound was on her left. As she looked, she instinctively turned her bicycle to the left directly into the path of the car. Her natural reaction could have cost her life.

    Fortunately the car was able to brake and swerve to miss the little girl, but it could have been a tragedy. The police report would probably not have found any fault. The horn was sounded. Speed limits were observed. The little girl was on the edge of the street. But it could have been a death of a darling little child. It would have been called an “accident.’

    How could the incident be avoided? First, there must be some concern about why a little girl would be allowed to ride her bicycle alone along a busy street. Second, there must be some awareness about a probable reaction to an unanticipated noise, or horn. Third, the driver should have giving the little girl more room. It was possible for her to move into the oncoming lane as she passed the bicycle as there was no traffic heading east at that moment. Yes, both the driver and the rider were doing the proper things, but catastrophe was lurking. Sometimes just doing the ‘right thing’ is not enough.

    Be aware out there and think. If the horn had not been sounded, the little girl would have continued on her path as the car passed safely. Fortunately, there was no accident, but it might have been different.
    -------------

    Food for thought! And a good object lesson for my readers.
    "Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body,
    but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming --
    WOW!!! What a ride!"

  2. #2
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Interesting...my first question is where were the parents? My 5 year old(s) were only allowed to ride in the street if dad was riding with her/him. If sidewalks were present she probably should have been there rather than in the street. Five year olds don't have the necessary skills to interact with traffic as shown by the reaction. All "accidents" can be prevented.

    Aaron
    Webshots is bailing out, if you find any of my posts with corrupt picture files and want to see them corrected please let me know. :(

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  3. #3
    Last one to the top... Little Darwin's Avatar
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    This should be in the Advocacy forum if you want more heated discussion.

    I agree that a 5 year old shouldn't generally be on a street alone, but she could have been on a route that she had been specifically "trained" and monitored on. The child may be allowed to ride on the road only between two specific points, following very speific rules instead of having to interpret the more general rules of the road.

    But, that is all hypothetical.

    Thanks for the food for thought.
    Slow Ride Cyclists of NEPA

    People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.
    - Ralph Waldo Emerson

  4. #4
    Gone DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Looking back and pulling to the left is ALWAYS the reaction of kids (walking or bicycling) to a warning. On MUPS, sometimes I debate if I should ring my bell or not.

    What I end up doing is going VERY slowly, and gently talking my way through the pass, keeping my eye on the kid. At times I stop. Sometimes the kid makes it even more interesting by deciding he/she is going to race me as I try to pass.

    Kids do the darndest things!
    Gone >> Gone >> Gone >> Gone >> Gone >> Gone >> Gone

  5. #5
    Senior Member OH306's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Little Darwin
    This should be in the Advocacy forum if you want more heated discussion.

    .
    Yes, the childrens zoo. A great place to visit if it's raining and you still want to get your heart rate up.

  6. #6
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    Good observations - and I agree that a young child has no business on the street without parents to supervise. The thread might well have been written from the viewpoint of 'how accidents are avoided' as it appears that, although the driver might have spared honking the horn, he/she also exercised enough caution to avoid a collision.

    In general, however, I am always amazed at drivers who treat the center line as though it were a brick wall when overtaking a cyclist. The opposite extreme is a driver that gives you wide clearance even in the face of on coming traffic. I've watched a couple near misses as opposing traffic becomes confused as to the reason a car is approaching in their lane.

    If only drivers could rediscover their brakes and just slow down until their path is clear.

    Good post.

    Caruso

  7. #7
    OnTheRoad or AtTheBeach stonecrd's Avatar
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    I think that part of this story is relevent to all drivers and all bikers and that is the fact that using your horn has the affect of startling someone rather than warning them. This was a 5 yo but could have been a 55 yo. This happens all of the time. I will be riding in the bike lane or on the right side of the road and a driver for some reason thinks they have to let me know they are coming up behind me by hitting the horn. I almost always jump and I get p***ed off and will give them a yell. Do drivers honk at other drivers when they approach them no, so don't do it to bikes.
    The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard and the shallow end is much too large

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  8. #8
    Last one to the top... Little Darwin's Avatar
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    If a driver is trying to warn of their presence, they should obviously do it before they are on my wheel... I have never had anyone honk from a hundred yards back, and few honking at all, so I wonder if they are really trying to warn me or startle me.

    From a cyclist's perspective, I have found that a ring of my bell a while before I get to a ped is also more useful than waiting. If I don't ring early, I assume that I have to take the lead and maneuver around the peds or slower cyclists.

    I just read a message in the road forum about a pile-up on a NY path... The poster mentioned a blind corner after a steep descent and mentioned that he has had several close calls with the pedestrians who don't respond to the cyclists blasting through at 25 mph... And the tone semed to indicate that the pedestrian is the problem... much the same way a driver sometimes sees a cyclist as the probem for not riding above the sped limit.

    Can't we all just get along?
    Slow Ride Cyclists of NEPA

    People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.
    - Ralph Waldo Emerson

  9. #9
    Senior Curmudgeon
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    I often ride a highway with lots of high-speed truck traffic. The highway is also posted as a bicycle training route. The truck drivers, having lots of experience with bikes on that highway, are courteous enough to toot their horns while still a long ways back. This not only reduces the decibel count and startle-factor, but also gives the cyclist a long lead time to respond by moving over and waving the truck by.

    It's one of the most courteous and pleasant places I've ever ridden that has that much heavy truck traffic! I'm so grateful to have the route with the courteous truck drivers. I usually wave at them when they're oncoming, and they almost always smile & wave back. What fun!

    That highway is one of the few places that I'd be fully comfortable riding my recumbent trike with traffic around. I may gain more comfort factor with the trike once I ride it enough, but I'm still wary of its low form factor and questionable visibility in traffic.

  10. #10
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Some driving instructors actually advocated (advocate?) warning cyclists of one's presence with a brief tap on the horn. I believe this practice is dying a well-deserved death.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
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  11. #11
    Senior Member Dchiefransom's Avatar
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    If I look over my left shoulder, I also go left. It's common among riders. Grabbing the back of my seat with two fingers as I look keeps me from doing this "most" of the time. Why do car drivers think their vehicles are silent, and they need to honk to let us know they are there? That practice should be stopped.
    Silver Eagle Pilot

  12. #12
    Senior Member oilfreeandhappy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coloradopenguin

    But there were unintended consequences, or rather predictable reactions. When the little girl heard the horn, she responded normally. She looked over her left shoulder because the sound was on her left. As she looked, she instinctively turned her bicycle to the left directly into the path of the car. Her natural reaction could have cost her life.

    -------------

    Food for thought! And a good object lesson for my readers.
    Years ago, a teenage cyclist was killed on the "Ride the Rockies" ride, doing exactly what you describe. A friend of mine witnessed the accident, and said he veered into the lane when looking over his shoulder. A dump truck hit him.
    Jim
    Make a BOLD Statement While Cycling!

  13. #13
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dchiefransom
    If I look over my left shoulder, I also go left. It's common among riders. Grabbing the back of my seat with two fingers as I look keeps me from doing this "most" of the time. Why do car drivers think their vehicles are silent, and they need to honk to let us know they are there? That practice should be stopped.
    I hate to say it but most of the modern cars in Europe are silent. You cannot hear them over the noise of your riding and wind noise. I have had a car 10ft behind me before I heard it. When in the car, I always try and give warning to Horse riders and Cyclists on the road- but well beforehand, about 100yards. On the trails- Horses need a lot of warning. I have had a horse spook from about 100yards away. Shocked me that a horse could hear a bike from that distance and the rider was most apoligetic. She knew she had a nervous horse but did not realise how nervous either.

    I have only just started on a road bike, and I can see the sense in mirrors- but there is a such a thing as defensive riding on the road. My LBS has just started doing evening rides to teach riders this technique. If it would help a real youngster though- I have my doubts.
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