Update: 89-year old bike rider killed in San Diego; police blame the victim

Sadly, it couldn’t last.

After suffering just three bicycling fatalities in the first six weeks of the year, four Southern California bike riders have lost their lives in just the last week.

The latest, an 89-year old man who reportedly rode out into traffic on a busy San Diego street.

According to the Union-Tribune, the victim, who hasn’t been publicly identified, was leaving a parking lot on Imperial Avenue near Marketplace Avenue around 10 am Tuesday. The paper reports he rode straight out into the roadway, heading north, despite a right turn only sign.

He made it nearly all the way across the four lane avenue before he was struck by a pickup traveling west in the right lane.

No word on how fast the driver was going, or why he wasn’t able to stop in time. Despite the apparent victim blaming in the U-T report, and another from KUSI-TV suggesting he rode “directly” in front of the oncoming truck, he should have been visible to the driver after crossing three lanes of traffic.

The victim was taken to a hospital with a broken pelvis and major head injuries; he died there later the same day.

This is the seventh bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the second in San Diego County.

Note:I am not attempting to blame the driver in this collision. As billsd and Jennifer point out in the comments below, the victim appears to have broken the law in some way and may well bear at least some responsibility.

What I am questioning is how the collision could have occurred as it has been reported. A cyclist who manages to make it almost all the way across a four lane roadway cannot be described as riding out into traffic, let alone directly; it had to be clear at least part of the way for him to make it that far. So the question becomes why the driver was unable to see and avoid someone who presumably was riding slowly across the street, and why the victim thought he could make it across. 

Maybe the driver’s view was obstructed by another vehicle; maybe the victim couldn’t see the car coming or misjudged its speed. We simply don’t know based on the limited information available. 

Another possibility is that the police gave the wrong direction for which way the victim was traveling. If he was headed south out of the cemetery on the north side of the road, rather than north out of the shopping center parking lot to the south — where there is no exit, as billsd points out — then he might have ridden out in front of an oncoming car, and the driver may have been unable to stop in time.

All I know is that this story does not make sense as it has been reported.

And as Jennifer points out, I may have been overly critical of the press, as they appear to have relied on the information provided by the police.As a result, I have changed the headline which initially criticized the news sources for blaming the victim.

Update: A comment from Bill Jordan may clear up the confusion. He suggests the collision could have occurred further west at the parking lot drive identified as Edgefield Way, which does have a no right turn sign, and roughly correspond’s with the KUSI report, which placed the collision on the 4300 block of Imperial Ave.

He also says the site is just west of a hill, as well as trees in the median, both of which could have hidden the victim and the driver from one another until it was too late.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for the victim and his family. 

 

21 comments

  1. Jennifer says:

    I have a bit of a problem with the spin you are putting on this story. First, it is not the press blaming the cyclist, as the article was simply reporting the information given to them by the police. Second, I think we need to acknowledge that sometimes it actually is the fault of the cyclist. I see cyclists out there frequently in blatant violation of the law, and they are the ones who cause motorists to become so angry with cyclists as a group. If cyclists want to be treated like they belong on the road, then we need to follow the rules of the road. While my condolences go out to the victim’s family, it does sound from the report that he was not riding in accordance with the laws of the road, and was not practicing common sense in expecting traffic across four lanes to see him and stop for him when he clearly did not have the right-of-way. He would have been at fault if he had been in a car, so why should this change because he was on a bicycle? If cyclists have the same privileges as a vehicle on the road, they must also assume the same responsibilities.

    • bikinginla says:

      Jennifer, I agree with you that the stories seem to be repeating the information given to them by the police. However, it is the job of a reporter to question that information; saying a cyclist rode out into traffic when he was hit by a car on the far side of the road is sloppy reporting at best, unless the victim was weaving between cars the whole way, which does not appear to be the case.

      I have no problem placing the blame on the victim when appropriate, which I have done many times in the past. However, this collision does not make any sense as it has been reported. While the victim clearly broke the law by riding straight, rather than turning as required, he should have been visible to a driver o=approaching on the far side of the road, so the question becomes why the driver was unable to stop n time or take evasive action.

      As noted in my response to the comment below, the stories make more sense if the victim was exiting south from the cemetery, rather than north from the shopping area. In that case, he could have ridden out in front of traffic and been hit by a driver who did not have a chance to react in time.

      • billdsd says:

        He couldn’t really ride straight, since the road he was on ends at Imperial. He had to go either left or right. He was allowed to go left or right. That’s not the problem.

        Again, based upon the flawed information we have, he was at primary fault. One would like to think that the motorist could have avoided it but none of us was there and we don’t really know how it went down.

        • bikinginla says:

          Agreed. I’m not blaming the driver, just questioning why he couldn’t stop if the stories are accurate. There may have been a good reason for that, there may not have been. As you point out, we don’t really know what happened.

  2. billdsd says:

    There is no exit from that parking lot onto Imperial Ave. The bicyclist would have had to have been on Marketplace Ave to get to Imperial from that parking lot. Going from Marketplace Ave to Imperial Ave allows both left and right turns. There is a lane for each.

    Since he was hit by a car going west on Imperial, it sounds like he did not adequately judge the amount of time it would take him to get across or the speed of the pickup that hit him. There’s no traffic light there. Only drivers on Marketplace have a stop sign but the drivers on Imperial do not so people getting onto Imperial from Marketplace have to yield to all traffic on Imperial.

    • bikinginla says:

      Thanks, Bill. Looking at the map, I assumed that the victim exited the parking lot at Redworks Driveway, which appears to be the only crossing point other than Marketplace. However, you know the area better than I do, so I defer to your judgement.

      And I agree with you that he appears to have misjudged his ability to get across Imperial in time; I assume an 89-year old cyclist would ride slowly, though there are many who don’t.

      I wonder if maybe the stories got the direction he was traveling wrong? This collision would make more sense if he was exiting south from the cemetery and got hit by a westbound car as soon as he entered the roadway. Unfortunately, Google street view won’t let me zoom in to see if there is a right turn only sign at that exit.

      • billdsd says:

        It’s probably been 10 years or more since I’ve been to that intersection. I’m going off of street view. There is clearly a left turn lane there. Left turns are allowed.

        If he was crossing Imperial going north to go west as the article says, then it was his fault. Of course, that assumes that the article at least got that part of it right, which is somewhat in question given the stuff that they clearly got wrong.

        • bikinginla says:

          Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he wasn’t at fault; at the very least, it appears he misjudged his ability to cross the street in time. I’m just questioning why the driver couldn’t see someone crossing such a wide street in time to react.

  3. bikinginla says:

    Jennifer and Bill, I have changed the headline to reflect that the media appears to have based their reporting on the information provided by the police. And I have added a long note to the story to clarify that I am not blaming the driver, as we can’t know what really happened based on the limited, and apparently misleading, information contained in the stories.

    Thanks for keeping me honest.

    • Jennifer says:

      No worries. The article was pretty short and did not provide much clarification as you said. Perhaps in the next few days more information will be released on this story so that we will better understand what happened. It is always heartbreaking to hear about these accidents, regardless of who is to blame.

  4. JD says:

    Our earnest prayers go up for the family and friends of the victim.

  5. I think these discussions are sensible to have. It doesn’t need to be about pointing fingers (which I don’t feel that Ted did) but about figuring out what happened so that hopefully it can be avoided in the future. The fact is in every situation there’s fault to go around all parties involved, including those that build and design our roads. But I don’t think assigning a majority of the fault absolves discussing the fault that the other parties had in the collision.

    I got kind of “kicked around” for sharing my thoughts in an online discussion about a bicycle death that occurred a couple blocks from my house in an area I ride almost every day (and at night). The cyclist was allegedly riding the wrong way (and allegedly under the influence). A tourist driving a car hit the cyclist at the corner. It was so bad that the cyclist had to be physically extracted from the front wheel well. Horrible and seems cut and dry.

    But when I walked down to the scene while the investigation was going on, I was devastated. The cyclist was hit at the corner, where there is a four way stop. Maximum speed limit in the area is 15. The driver turned left and made impact with the cyclist at that point right at the corner. According to the painted investigation lines, the driver drove a full 30 feet from the corner, dragging the cyclist in the wheel well before stopping. To my thinking, this seemed incredibly odd and horrible. How can a driver who is paying attention make a complete stop, look both ways at a stop sign, hit someone (at very low speed), and drag them for that long before stopping driving? People said it was dark. Yes, it was dark..but there are lights…been through there a lot at night in my car.. Yes. the cyclist was driving the wrong way. But drivers are supposed to look in all directions before proceeding. I had the audacity to mention that in my experience the majority of drivers never stop at the four-way and roll right on through — and I got flamed for bringing that possibility up. Could that have happened? We’ll never know, since there were no witnesses.

    The point is that there are potentially behavior in all parties that can be changed for the better. Changing attitudes, behavior, and road design is how we’ll reduce cyclist and pedestrian fatalities. Yes. Don’t ride the wrong way down the street– that’s an obvious one. But you now what? I ride the wrong way on an ally-like street that has a 15mph speed limit in the area, since it’s incredibly safer than riding with traffic on Pacific. So while one shouldn’t ride the wrong way, maybe road design had an impact in this.

    Anyway — long story short, that’s why I think these are good discussions to have. Sorry if it was long-winded and served no purpose…

  6. Serge Issakov says:

    Without commenting on what exactly happened in this case, I think it’s critical to acknowledge the role that time plays in establishing right of way.

    When you’re crossing a road you’re in the road for only a few seconds. That’s not much time to be noticed, acknowledged and accounted for. That’s why you have to make sure you’re noticed by cross traffic, and that they’re yielding to you, before moving in front of it.

    The situation is very different when traveling along a roadway. Once a cyclist has been riding on a road for some time, every driver approaching from behind has much more time to notice, acknowledge and account for the cyclist.

  7. AbeL says:

    Like most I get some flack on my comments, but I do agree, regardless of Right of way, a driver should ALWAYS be looking and scanning ahead and being ready for anything coming into the roadway where you drive. It part of the basic rules in DMV handbook.

    • Serge Issakov says:

      Yes, drivers should always be doing that. But as long as drivers remain human (perhaps not much longer), we can’t have our lives depend on them to do that without fail, and they probably fail on this much more often than we’d like to know.

  8. Bill Jordan says:

    Looking at the area I think both billdsd and Ted have it wrong (although the reporting in the UT that suggested the accident occurred near Marketplace Ave was definitely partially to blame). Neither the Marketplace Ave. cross street, nor the Redworks Drive have any prohibition on left turns. However if you continue east on Imperial there is an exit on the east end of the shopping center (titled Edgefield Drive on Google Maps: https://www.google.com/maps/place/107+Edgefield+Way,+San+Diego,+CA+92113/@32.703957,-117.104406,3a,52.5y,352.06h,93.58t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1s1cjfvvCiLMFpMsky37RtnA!2e0!4m2!3m1!1s0x80d953bf6d5294d5:0xa9829f69e375dabf!6m1!1e1) that does have a “Right Turn Only” sign. Additionally, it’s just on the other side of the crest of the hill, so it’s more understandable that a cyclist (especially a slow moving one) might have started out from the driveway thinking he could make it all the way across while a car travelling at the 40mph speed limit might not be able to stop, as they weren’t expecting anyone to be entering their side of the roadway (the median trees just up from the non-intersection probably don’t help matters much either, although again, since the left turn wasn’t legal it’s probably hard to blame to foliage too much).

    • bikinginla says:

      Thanks, Bill. That might make sense. The KUSI story places the collision on the 4300 block of Imperial, which roughly corresponds with Edgefield Drive. Hopefully the press will followup with more details, including the name of the victim.

  9. David says:

    I am sure that you reported on this website at some point but it just came to my attention>>Close Call Database>>

    http://www.bicycling.com/news/advocacy/close-call-database-tracks-hostile-drivers?cid=socNews_20150225_40476996&adbid=570688559797178368&adbpl=tw&adbpr=17900130

    >>Database to report drivers that are aggressive with cyclists.

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