Let’s say you’re driving your car.
I know, but just go with me here, even if you’re of the car-free persuasion.
You’re approaching an intersection and have the green light. Suddenly, a car blows through the red light on the cross street, forcing you to jam on the brakes and swerve to avoid it, only to collide with the car next to you.
So who’s at fault?
Is it your fault? The car you hit? Or the one who broke the law and caused you both to take evasive action?
I think most reasonable people would conclude that the red light-runner should be held responsible, even though he wasn’t directly involved in the collision. And based on previous cases I’ve been aware of, I think most police officers would agree.
Now consider a similar situation, in which a driver darts out of a driveway directly in front of you, causing you to collide with another car as you react to avoid it. But fortunately, someone was able to chase the driver down and urge him to return to the scene of the accident he caused.
Again, most people would conclude that the driver who broke the law by cutting you off would be responsible for causing the collision. But is it hit-and-run if he didn’t actually hit anyone?
Now let’s use your imagination one more time.
Let’s say you’re on your bike, riding in the bike lane, when that car darts out in front of you. So you try to make a panic stop, and end up flipping over your handlebars and crashing to the street with a broken collarbone, while the driver who caused it calmly drives off.
Fortunately, a witness sees it happen and chases the driver down. But the driver refuses to return to the scene, insisting that it’s not hit-and-run because she didn’t hit anyone.
That’s exactly what happened on Sunset Boulevard in Silverlake yesterday.
As Stephen Box tells the story, the witness flagged down a passing police car, and the driver ultimately returned to the scene. But the police inexplicably concluded that not only did the driver not flee the scene, but that no violation occurred. No report, no crime.
This, despite a clear violation of CVC 21804, as Box points out —
21804. (a) The driver of any vehicle about to enter or cross a highway from any public or private property, or from an alley, shall yield the right-of-way to all traffic, as defined in Section 620, approaching on the highway close enough to constitute an immediate hazard, and shall continue to yield the right-of-way to that traffic until he or she can proceed with reasonable safety.
And yes, a bicycle is traffic.
As he explains —
1) The motorist violated the cyclist’s right of way.
2) The violation of the cyclist’s right of way caused the cyclist to take evasive action resulting in injury.
3) The motorist left the scene of an “incident” that was her responsibility.
Of course, any cyclist could tell you that the driver was responsible. But two police officers, the division Watch Commander and a traffic division Watch Commander concluded otherwise.
Which is why police officers need better training, not only in bike rights and law, but in bicycle accident investigation. Because a driver making a panic stop without hitting anyone isn’t likely to result in any injuries. But a cyclist responding to a careless, law-breaking driver can.
It’s also one more reason why we need to change the law in California to ensure that any cyclist riding legally in a bike lane enjoys the same level of liability protection as a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
Because the mere presence of a bike lane — or sharrows, for that matter — should be adequate notice to any driver to anticipate cyclists, just as a crosswalk suggests the presence of pedestrians.
And you should have a right to be safe when you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, exactly where you’re supposed to be.
This time, a drunken hit-and-run driver kills a teenage pedestrian and seriously injures her friend.
Josef Bray-Ali writes in the Los Angeles Business Journal that L.A. needs to change its parking policies to allow bike parking instead of cars.Will hears, and witnesses the aftermath, of a dooring (even though the cyclist didn’t want to involve the police, the driver could still face hit-and-run charges later if she fails to report it). Altadenablog covers the Mt. Wilson Bicycling Association’s pancake breakfast over the weekend. Courtesy of The Source, Grist’s look at what a car-free metro L.A. could look like; as The Source says, “The point is to show how much space is taken up by roadways and how little that leaves behind for those things known as pedestrians and cyclists.” A 57-year old cyclist dies of a heart attack in San Jose during the Mt. Hamilton Challenge. It seems pretty obvious that if you hit a cyclist, you didn’t observe the three-foot passing law. A Miami cyclist rear-ends a bus parked in the bike lane. A 70-year old Indiana driver turns directly into two cyclists, and swears she didn’t hit anyone. After people in a passing car throw a full drink at him, a South Bend cyclist thanks all those drivers who don’t, Experienced cyclists need to encourage less experienced riders. An Arizona woman says local drivers — and the police — just don’t understand cyclists. Tucson hands out free lights to ninja cyclists. A DC court rules it’s still drunk driving, even if you’re on a bike. The NY Times looks at the two-wheeled tribes of New York. Master framebuilder Dave Moulton writes about a 1940 Campy derailleur — which required reaching backwards and ratcheting the rear wheel. Vinokourov bounces back from a two-year doping ban with victory in the Liège-Bastogne-Liège; evidently, not everyone is pleased. Evidently, there are no fixie-riding hipsters in China. Brit bike thieves may just be joyriding, which could be why bike theft is up 8% while other crimes are down. London’s Guardian defends a new bike lane, noting that it’s standard width even if the resulting vehicle lane isn’t. An Ottawa rider gets goosed on the bike trail, literally. A Canadian widow wants to know why no ticket was written for the parked truck that killed her husband. A Vancouver cyclist turns outlaw by defying the mandatory helmet law.
Finally, after a cyclist is killed during his first bike race, his heart lives on in another rider, while a cyclist rides to promote blood donations three decades after receiving 110 pints to save his life. A reminder that, with a little forethought, some good can come from even the worst situations.