Tag Archive for liability insurance

Cyclists v. drivers — who’s to bless and who’s to blame

So let’s pick up where we left off the other day.

I ended on Monday by saying, if I may be allowed to briefly quote myself:

…While it is in everyone’s best interest to encourage everyone to ride safely, as cyclists, we bear no more collective responsibility for the two-wheeled jerks, than other drivers do for the four-wheeled ones who are undoubtedly speeding down the 101 or 405 at this very moment.

Which is to say, none at all.

Later that day, I was flipping through the March issue of Bicycling, and found an excerpt from a truly devastating article by David Feherty, the bike riding CBS golf analyst who was nearly killed last year in a collision with a truck:

…I am sick up to my coin purse of hearing cyclists apologize for the behavior of a tiny minority of morons on two wheels. Sure, they give the rest of us a bad name. Get over it. This problem is caused by careless and inattentive drivers, period.

Read the article. Seriously.

But read it on an empty stomach. Because his description of the accident and its aftermath will make whatever you have in there want to come back out — the hard way.

I can’t agree with his contention that drivers are the only ones responsible for bicycling accidents. I’ve seen riders do some damn stupid things. Myself included.

But he’s absolutely right that it’s time to stop apologizing for the actions of a small minority of riders.

I am not responsible for the jerk I saw drafting on a Big Blue Bus through Santa Monica traffic last year. Neither are you. Unless you happen to be that jerk, in which case I’d really like to have a serious conversation with you.

No more than I am responsible for the driver who followed a city bus through a stop sign in Westwood yesterday, without even pausing. And nearly hit my car in the process.

We see it every day, whether we’re in the saddle or behind the wheel, crossing the street or riding the bus. Drivers speeding and weaving, running red lights and stop signs, making U-turns in traffic, reading behind the wheel, chatting on their cell phones or putting on makeup.

Yet no one would suggest that drivers are responsible for the careless and irresponsible actions of other drivers.

Frankly, I’m tired of being blamed for things I didn’t do. And having my life endangered by drivers who can’t be bothered to observe their legal responsibility to drive safely and attentively.

The problem is, we live in a society where most drivers aren’t held accountable for their actions. The legal requirement that all drivers carry liability insurance means that there is no financial penalty for having an accident — except in the most extreme cases — other than a possible increase in insurance rates.

And drivers are seldom held legally responsible for their actions, simply because we as a society insist on believing that most collisions are simply “accidents,” rather than the result of carelessness or a failure to drive safely and maintain control of the vehicle, as required by law.

Meanwhile, as noted by Bob Mionske, we face an institutional bias against cyclists, both in law enforcement and in the media, and an attitude of blame bicyclists first.

It’s not going to change.

Not unless we demand that it does. Demand that our elected officials enact laws that protect our right to the road, and place the burden of responsibility on the operator of the more dangerous vehicle. And support candidates who support cycling.

Demand educated and unbiased law enforcement, knowledgeable in the rights, as well as the responsibilities, of cyclists. And insist that the press report cycling incidents fairly and objectively, rather than just parroting police reports.

 

A Santa Barbara writer insists on her right to be irritated when a cyclist impedes the progress of her Suburban, while another writer encourages bikers to increase their chances of survival by riding responsibly. An Austin cyclists befriends other riders — and steals their bikes. CityWatch’s Stephen Box notes that LADOT’s bikeway successes remain works in progress. And Fox News discovers four of the country’s deadliest highways are right here in Southern California.

The nail that stands out, pt. 2

 

Feel free to copy and use this image. Or make a better one, and I'll post it here.

Feel free to copy & use this image. Or make a better one, and I'll post it here.

After I put yesterday’s post online, I went out for a nice, long ride down the coast to Hermosa Beach, enjoying the ride, the sunshine and the bikinis. And those wearing them, of course.

But then, as I was nearing my home, I started kicking myself — mentally anyway; doing it physically would be kind of difficult with my feet locked into my pedals. And after 46 miles on the bike, I’m not sure I would have had the energy, anyway.

Because it occurred to me that in my response to Mr. Rowe’s letter to Rupert Murdoch’s latest acquisition, I failed to address a key point. Consider the penultimate line of his screed:

“…Bicycles should be required to have a fee-paid license plate and be ticketed for infractions….”

It’s a variation on the same old canard you’ll find on virtually any message board or letters column discussing cycling. Sooner or later, someone will suggest that all cyclists should a) have to study and pass a test, b) have a license, such as a driver’s license, c) have license plates, as Mr. Rowe suggests, and/or d) carry liability insurance.

The catch is, we already do.

You see, in today’s auto-centric society, most cyclists are also drivers. In fact, while I’m sure there must be some, I don’t personally know of a single cyclist over the age of 16 who does not have a driver’s license.

Which means that we have studied the rules of the road, so there is no excuse for any bicyclist not knowing the rules of the road — just as there is no excuse for any driver being unfamiliar with the traffic laws and regulations, including laws regarding cyclists’ right to the road.

We can also be ticketed, just like the operator of any other vehicle — legitimately or not. And while I have no personal knowledge of the subject, I would assume that any ticket received while cycling can result in points against the recipient’s driver’s license, under the provisions of section 21200 of the California Vehicle Code, just as they would for a driver who receives a similar citation.

And as I discovered when I was struck by a car several years ago, car insurance in this state covers the driver, not the vehicle — which means that the driver is covered when operating his or her car, or any other vehicle. Including a bicycle.

In fact, State Farm paid my entire medical bill under the uninsured driver section of my policy. And as my agent explained at the time, any other section of my policy — including liability coverage — would be equally valid, whether I was in my car, driving someone else’s car, or on my bike.

So the problem isn’t one of licensing or liability coverage. It’s just that some cyclists, like some drivers, are jerks. In fact, I’m convinced that people ride their bikes the same way they drive. If someone is a safe driver, he or she will undoubtedly be a safe cyclist, while those who drive like jerks will undoubtedly ride the same way. Just like drivers, they usually get away with it simply because there’s seldom anyone around to enforce the law.

And here in L.A., the cops usually have more important things to do than worry about whether a cyclist blew through a stop sign.

 

Will uses my new favorite word in an attempt to track down the indignorant Mr. Rowe, and sacrifices a chunk of flesh to a man-eating chainring. Next weekend’s Brentwood Gand Prix will reward competitors with a special prize for the Sex and the City crowdA lone cyclist takes to the freeway; as Richard Pryor would say, that _______’s crazy!  A town in Arkansas weighs becoming a LAB-approved bike friendly city. If only our own local cared that much; we’re still waiting for action on the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights.

 

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