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Old 03-10-08, 08:28 AM   #1
'nother
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There was another accident on Sunday

Just found out that 4 teammates of mine (Webcor/Alto Velo) were also involved in a fairly serious accident on Sunday, up on Skyline. Fortunately nothing quite as serious as the incident on Stevens Canyon, but still involved ICU time for one of our guys. They were at Stanford and learned about what happened to Kristy & Matt while there.

Basically, they got left-crossed...they were traveling southbound on Skyline, near Alice's/4 corners/Skylonda, and a car was traveling northbound. The car made a left turn right in front of them. The cyclists were riding single-file, on the right side of the road, near the edge, wearing helmets.

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Old 03-10-08, 08:40 AM   #2
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Sheesh. You'd think there was a full moon out or something. Take care out there.
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Old 03-10-08, 10:12 AM   #3
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Blah. I'm liking my decision to train on the Mt. Hamilton side of the valley. Seems to be less vehicular homicide over there - at least I hope!
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Old 03-10-08, 10:28 AM   #4
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Blah. I'm liking my decision to train on the Mt. Hamilton side of the valley. Seems to be less vehicular homicide over there - at least I hope!
Only because there are simply fewer vehicles over there.

Both Skyline and Stevens Canyon see hundreds, maybe thousands of cyclists every weekend without incident. I think the most recent fatality on Stevens Canyon happened in 1996(?).

Neither of these incidents will stop me from riding in these places, but I think both should be brought to the attention of those who drive vehicles of any sort, as reminders that people need to exercise great care when they get behind the wheel of a vehicle.
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Old 03-10-08, 10:47 AM   #5
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I wish more drivers were aware of how fast a bicycle can travel. I would hope that any driver would be able to judge oncoming speed no matter what it is moving on wheels.
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Old 03-10-08, 10:49 AM   #6
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I wish more drivers were aware of how fast a bicycle can travel. I would hope that any driver would be able to judge oncoming speed no matter what it is moving on wheels.
Or at least err on the side of "gee, maybe I should wait a few more seconds to let them pass," rather than try to beat whatever is approaching.
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Old 03-10-08, 11:22 AM   #7
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I wish more drivers were aware of how fast a bicycle can travel. I would hope that any driver would be able to judge oncoming speed no matter what it is moving on wheels.
Unfortunately our small size on bicycles makes it more difficult for drivers to judge our speed. Motorcycles have similar issues. Someone from my local Ducati group was killed last week in a horrible, similar accident on Ralston in Belmont.

It's best to assume that we are invisible to cars. Be safe everyone!
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Old 03-10-08, 11:36 AM   #8
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Unfortunately our small size on bicycles makes it more difficult for drivers to judge our speed. Motorcycles have similar issues. Someone from my local Ducati group was killed last week in a horrible, similar accident on Ralston in Belmont.

It's best to assume that we are invisible to cars. Be safe everyone!
I agree that there are some special circumstances relating to bicycles and motorcycles, but I don't agree that it's best to assume that we are invisible...at least, I don't think it's wise to promote this idea as public policy, because it takes responsibility off the shoulders of drivers. The "assume we are invisible" approach is a slippery slope that leads to rights being taken away.

Riders in both this incident and the one on Stevens Canyon were "being safe". It was the drivers of the vehicles who were not. Let's not forget that.
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Old 03-10-08, 11:37 AM   #9
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I think that Driver's Ed should be a mandatory course to graduate high school (at least we can look to the future generations).

In this course, there should be a whole section on bikes/peds. They should be tested and everything, just like English or Math class. You fail, then no diploma.

At least at that age, their thoughts/ideas are more easily shaped. It would be very hard to get the point across to the yuppies that think they are the greatest thing in the world.
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Old 03-10-08, 11:45 AM   #10
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I wish more drivers were aware of how fast a bicycle can travel. I would hope that any driver would be able to judge oncoming speed no matter what it is moving on wheels.
The problem is, at least in a more urban setting, drivers think they do know how fast a bicycle travels. In a lot of areas, the most common cyclist is the one on a decrepit department store mountain bike, travelling at a low rate of speed, and usually on the sidewalk or very close to it. Based on that, it can be easy to make assumptions. Also...

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Unfortunately our small size on bicycles makes it more difficult for drivers to judge our speed.
...there's the size issue. Bicycles and motorcycles are a much smaller target to pick out of the noise (at all, let alone judging speed), especially in quick glances over one's shoulder or glances in the mirror. Bicycles have the added downside of tending to be in a place where drivers are less likely to look.

It all adds up to being a fairly to very dangerous situation, and not due to any inherent fault in [bi|motor]cycling, but because of inattentive, inexperienced, or just plain bad drivers.

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It's best to assume that we are invisible to cars.
In addition, as sad as it is to think this way, assume that every car, bus, truck, and really, anything larger or faster than you, is actively trying to kill you. Act and prepare accordingly.
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Old 03-10-08, 11:47 AM   #11
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I agree that there are some special circumstances relating to bicycles and motorcycles, but I don't agree that it's best to assume that we are invisible...at least, I don't think it's wise to promote this idea as public policy, because it takes responsibility off the shoulders of drivers. The "assume we are invisible" approach is a slippery slope that leads to rights being taken away.
Sorry, that wasn't my intention, I should have been more clear.

I ride either type of bike within my rights. I am not shy about taking the lane.

However, I am prepared for emergency braking when I see oncoming cars that might be turning, or cars pulling out of driveways. I also sometimes do things like weave a bit back and forth to increase my effective width and hence visibility.

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Riders in both this incident and the one on Stevens Canyon were "being safe". It was the drivers of the vehicles who were not. Let's not forget that.
I didn't mean to imply otherwise.

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Old 03-10-08, 11:50 AM   #12
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It's best to assume that we are invisible to cars. Be safe everyone!
Problem is they do see you and they pull in front of us any way, its rarely that we are not seen.
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Old 03-10-08, 12:05 PM   #13
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Problem is they do see you and they pull in front of us any way, its rarely that we are not seen.
Whether they don't see you at all, or see you and act like jackholes anyway, the result is the same, for the most part.
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Old 03-10-08, 12:33 PM   #14
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Whether they don't see you at all, or see you and act like jackholes anyway, the result is the same, for the most part.
But the answer is NOT to assume we are invisible, nor to assume that everyone is actively out to kill us. The former is an attempt to reduce driver responsibility, while the latter is an extreme distortion of reality. Both serve to polarize the situation and generate animosity which ultimately hurt cycling.

We need to continue to promote the fact that getting behind the wheel of a vehicle carries a great responsibility, whether on a wide-open freeway or on a twisty mountain road that may or may not have cyclists, pedestrians, or other vehicles on it. It is all part of the deal of driving a vehicle.
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Old 03-10-08, 12:52 PM   #15
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But the answer is NOT to assume we are invisible, nor to assume that everyone is actively out to kill us. The former is an attempt to reduce driver responsibility, while the latter is an extreme distortion of reality. Both serve to polarize the situation and generate animosity which ultimately hurt cycling.
Perhaps "assume" is too strong of a word. You're right in that such an attitude could give drivers thoughts of "Oh, they're watching out for me."

I'm thinking more along the lines of awareness. As a cyclist (and when I say "cyclist", I mean "anything smaller than other things on/near the road," be it a small car, motorcycle, scooter, bicycle, or pedestrian), the worst thing you can be is invisible, and the worst-case scenario when invisible is that a vehicle with an un-knowing or un-caring pilot could end your life. An unpleasant thought, for sure, but an unfortunate reality. As a cyclist, then, one should do their best to be visible, first and foremost. One must also be aware of their surroundings, but on top of that, be an active part of their surroundings to the extent to which they are comfortable.

So assuming one is invisible and assuming one has a target painted on their ass is likely too strong and/or too passive, but they are definitely things to work against.

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We need to continue to promote the fact that getting behind the wheel of a vehicle carries a great responsibility, whether on a wide-open freeway or on a twisty mountain road that may or may not have cyclists, pedestrians, or other vehicles on it. It is all part of the deal of driving a vehicle.
Oh, I agree, definitely. Drivers and cyclists need to be very aware of each other, but poorly-piloted automobiles being so deadly to everyone around requires that drivers be more aware and careful.
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Old 03-10-08, 01:36 PM   #16
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Yikes, people are getting on each other's cases for not writing richly detailed position papers on all the issues involved. I think everyone's right: cyclists are hard to see, but drivers often do they see them and still do the wrong thing; cyclists should do everything they can to be visible, but drivers still need to avoid distractions and be more aware of their surroundings, etc. Perhaps the only real disagreement is which issues are more important when trying to figure out how to keep everyone alive. The bottom line is all these points are worth bringing up.

I know a lot cyclists will disagree with me, but I assume the American car culture, where everyone assumes an inalienable right to drive, cannot be fixed. Look at slap on the wrist that comes with DUIs. While we can try to legislate our way to better drivers, as an individual cyclist I do assume I am invisible to cars and try to position myself accordingly in traffic. I also use a bright (but not bright enough) LED flasher in daylight so I might be seen when I pass under the shadow of a tree on a mountain road.

In the common case of a car turning left in front of a bike or motorcycle, I believe the driver most commonly states that he never saw the other vehicle. You can be as indignant as you want, I'm gonna do the practical thing and try to figure out how to be more visible when I'm on my bike.
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Old 03-10-08, 01:47 PM   #17
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The riders on Stevens Canyon could have had a freaking LIGHTHOUSE attached to their bikes; it would not have helped make them any more visible to a driver who was asleep at the wheel.

It is hard to say whether visibility was an issue with the guys up on Skyline but I would have a hard time believing someone who said they "couldn't see" a group of 4 guys with multi-colored outfits on moving at 30+ MPH. It is a lot easier to believe that they thought they could make the turn ahead of the riders, but misjudged the approaching cyclists' speed and failed to yield to them.
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Old 03-10-08, 05:06 PM   #18
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It is hard to say whether visibility was an issue with the guys up on Skyline but I would have a hard time believing someone who said they "couldn't see" a group of 4 guys with multi-colored outfits on moving at 30+ MPH. It is a lot easier to believe that they thought they could make the turn ahead of the riders, but misjudged the approaching cyclists' speed and failed to yield to them.
I live in those mountains, and can attest that bicyclists when in the shadows created by the trees can be hard to see - especially from cars that happen to be in a clearing of sunlight. While riding on Skyline on a silver bike and wearing a red jersey with "reflective accents", my own wife walking towards me didn't see me until I was quite close, surprising her. Since then I've always use front and rear lights, even in daylight.

In shadows on the side of the road, bicyclists are hard to see.

And yes, even if seen, many drivers will not properly judge the speed of a two-wheeler. The left hand turn in front of oncoming two-wheelers is the most common motorcycle accident as well, btw (and they always have their very bright - compared to any bicycle - headlight on). The MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation, what most people in CA take to get their license) class teaches about riding defensively, when to suspect you might not be being seen, etc.
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Old 03-10-08, 05:11 PM   #19
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The riders on Stevens Canyon could have had a freaking LIGHTHOUSE attached to their bikes; it would not have helped make them any more visible to a driver who was asleep at the wheel.

It is hard to say whether visibility was an issue with the guys up on Skyline but I would have a hard time believing someone who said they "couldn't see" a group of 4 guys with multi-colored outfits on moving at 30+ MPH. It is a lot easier to believe that they thought they could make the turn ahead of the riders, but misjudged the approaching cyclists' speed and failed to yield to them.
It's probably too hard to fit all that in a single lie, so they just say "I didn't see 'em."
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Old 03-10-08, 05:24 PM   #20
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I live in those mountains, and can attest that bicyclists when in the shadows created by the trees can be hard to see - especially from cars that happen to be in a clearing of sunlight. While riding on Skyline on a silver bike and wearing a red jersey with "reflective accents", my own wife walking towards me didn't see me until I was quite close, surprising her. Since then I've always use front and rear lights, even in daylight.

In shadows on the side of the road, bicyclists are hard to see.

And yes, even if seen, many drivers will not properly judge the speed of a two-wheeler. The left hand turn in front of oncoming two-wheelers is the most common motorcycle accident as well, btw (and they always have their very bright - compared to any bicycle - headlight on). The MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation, what most people in CA take to get their license) class teaches about riding defensively, when to suspect you might not be being seen, etc.
+1 Especially when the driver (or anyone) is coming in and out of shadows and your eyes have to constantly adjust. That's why I always wear my amber-colored sunglasses and a hat with a visor in those situations.
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Old 03-10-08, 07:19 PM   #21
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It's probably too hard to fit all that in a single lie, so they just say "I didn't see 'em."
I have some updated information directly from one of the guys, my friend and teammate, who was involved in the crash. As it turns out, the driver didn't see the cyclists. But it was not because they were difficult to see, in the shadows or whatever other excuse you want to offer. She, by her own admission, simply did not look before executing her left turn. Had it been a truck instead of 4 cyclists coming down the road, we would probably have been reading the driver's obituary.

Edit:
So yes, I guess I am forced to agree that "cyclists are hard to see"...they really, truly are, when you are not looking.
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Old 03-10-08, 07:25 PM   #22
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As I've seen quoted before, "'I didn't see him/her/them' is not an excuse, it's an admission of guilt."
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Old 03-10-08, 08:18 PM   #23
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As it turns out, the driver didn't see the cyclists. But it was not because they were difficult to see, in the shadows or whatever other excuse you want to offer. She, by her own admission, simply did not look before executing her left turn.
There are three levels of concern here:

1. For the victims, their families, and their friends, there is a need to assign blame and pursue justice for insurance reasons and possible criminal or civil litigation.

2. For the cycling community, there is the need to assign blame and monitor the pursuit of justice, to help raise awareness of the consequences of irresponsible driving, as well as for pursuing legislative solutions.

3. For each of us on a personal level, it brings up the question of "what can I do on my next ride to help me stay alive?"

I choose to focus on #3, my personal safety and what I can do immediately to help me stay alive. Your focus is on #1 and #2. But #2, while a noble pursuit, is a more difficult task with a long time frame. I know this incident is more emotional for you because these are your friends, but don't belittle the opinions of those focusing on #3. No one is making an excuse for this particular incident, we are just sharing information on how to increase our personal safety. Smorgasbord42 provided anecdotal information that is helpful to all cyclists who read it. And there's nothing wrong with what msincredible or x136 said. It's all useful information and something for all of us to think about and digest.

I just don't want to see people get all snippy and defensive with each other, because we're all in this together!
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Old 03-10-08, 11:58 PM   #24
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I think it is useful to point out that being an advocate for cycling by promoting driver responsibility is not mutually exclusive of taking steps to improve one's visibility.

I would also point out that it is easy to misinterpret heartfelt and emotional responses as "snippy" or "defensive" in extreme circumstances such as these.

We may all be in it together, but that does not require that we come to an agreement once and for all about how to help improve the situation. Heck, we don't even all agree on what the problem is.

I have chosen to highlight the issue of driver responsibility, because that (or the apparent lack of it) played a significant role in both of these specific incidents. That doesn't mean I think we as cyclists should ignore our own responsibilities, and I don't think that will make everything better.

But I also don't think it means we should roll over and accept second-class status. We have a right to the road, and other road users have a responsibility to not hurt or kill us.
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Old 03-11-08, 08:35 AM   #25
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I think it is useful to point out that being an advocate for cycling by promoting driver responsibility is not mutually exclusive of taking steps to improve one's visibility.

I would also point out that it is easy to misinterpret heartfelt and emotional responses as "snippy" or "defensive" in extreme circumstances such as these.

We may all be in it together, but that does not require that we come to an agreement once and for all about how to help improve the situation. Heck, we don't even all agree on what the problem is.

I have chosen to highlight the issue of driver responsibility, because that (or the apparent lack of it) played a significant role in both of these specific incidents. That doesn't mean I think we as cyclists should ignore our own responsibilities, and I don't think that will make everything better.

But I also don't think it means we should roll over and accept second-class status. We have a right to the road, and other road users have a responsibility to not hurt or kill us.
Very well said.
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