Inevitably, when a bicyclist death by a car is in the news, asshole comments will try to figure out why the bicyclist is at fault. And maybe the bicyclist was acting stupidly. Maybe they were riding poorly, making themselves tough to see, etc. But the thing those comments miss is that drivers have a responsibility not to kill people.
And it’s not just cars and bikes. Anyone that’s a step up on size and safety has a special obligation not to hit something that’s a step down. I have friends who ride their motorcycles pretty dangerously. They ride ridiculously above the speed limit and ride between the lanes. They sometimes don’t wear helmets. Stupid, stupid; don’t do that. Still, if you’re a driver, have the wherewithal to not hit one, for Christ sake. Be aware of motorcycles long before they get to you, and check your fucking blind spots. Even if a motorcycle was driving poorly, if you want to be on the road, be a good enough driver that you don’t hit one.
Motorcycles and cars similarly have an obligation to be extra careful of bikes. Ideally, they’ll wear bright colors, have lights, and drive defensively. But even if they’re ninja riding the wrong way, you should be able to avoid them. Slow goddamn down, and chill the fuck out when you’re near one. If you hit one, after all, there’s a good chance they’ll die. And they aren’t even coming particularly fast.
And finally, cars, motorcycles, and bicycles have an obligation to avoid hitting pedestrians. While a car-pedestrian collision is more likely fatal than a bike-pedestrian one, in both cases, the driver and the bicyclist are moving faster than the pedestrian and will hit them with a hunk of metal. If you can’t avoid hitting a pedestrian, even one who’s jaywalking poorly. Even one obsessed with their phone, and not paying attention at all.
None of this is to say that motorcycles, bikes, and pedestrians shouldn’t look out for their safety, of course. Only that we’re sharing the space, and the larger modes have an obligation to the safety of the rest of the road.
You missed one. Cars need to respect large vehicles like trucks (and RVs). Cutting them off, not merging onto freeways properly, and hanging out in blind spots is DANGEROUS and the loser in the collision is going to be the car every time.
Seattle's naive spews:
Oh how fresh…more “poor bicyclist” drivel.
Poster Child, formerly Another Lawyer, sometimes Bicycle Nazi and reigning Bird's Eye View Champ (wooo!) spews:
drool’s not wrong. I think it’s hard to have super simplistic sets of rules for how to treat people
(and this is what it’s all about in traffic – everybody is a person; how sad that it’s so easy to forget that)
It would be nice if Big-And-Powerful yields to Small-And-Less-Powerful worked every time, but it can’t. Just as a cyclist can’t maintain the posted arterial speed limit (not for very long anyway), a semi driver can’t stop his (or her) rig on a dime.
Do-Unto-Others can’t work on the roadways if we don’t take into account the capabilities of others – drive/pedal/walk(/hop, Roger) a mile in their shoes (paws), so to speak.
Unfortunately traffic kind of rewards solipsistic self-maximizing behavior. (I almost said “just like America”, I’m so glad I didn’t…)
As Bill and Ted said: Be excellent to each other.
Poster Child spews:
[Deleted — see HA Comment Policy]
The first rule of the road is to go safely and not crash into anyone else. Which is all that Carl’s saying. My first rule of thumb as a cyclist is that everyone will ignore the first rule.
That’s more or less my rule of thumb too, as I hope I made clear at the end.
Roger Rabbit spews:
“While a car-pedestrian collision is more likely fatal than a bike-pedestrian one …”
I don’t see how you’re any better off on a bicycle than on foot in a collision with a car.
Roger Rabbit spews:
@5 For starters, let’s not have drivers running other drivers off the road and then pounding their chests like gorillas.
Deliberate rundowns aside, here are a few simple rules of thumb:
1. A car is larger and heavier, therefore has more mass, and consequently can’t turn as sharply or stop as abruptly as a bicycle or motorcycle.
2. The operator of a moving car generally needs to look forward and therefore can’t be watching blind spots behind him all the time.
3. Older drivers may not be able to turn their heads far enough to see the blind spots at all, due to previous neck injuries and/or stiffness that comes with age.
4. It is not only possible, but common, for car drivers to look straight at a bicycle or motorcycle and not see it, because their eyes are trained to see car-sized objects, and smaller objects don’t register in the brain. This explains why so many drivers tell investigators “I didn’t see him” after hitting a cyclist or pedestrian.
Chris Stefan spews:
Another rule: never get in front of a vehicle on rails. It can’t turn, it can’t stop quickly, and it weighs more than you do so you will lose in any collision.
My closest call with a biker was in Coronado years ago. I was in a clearly marked right-hand turn lane with my signal on to turn right. There was no designated bike lane. A biker came flying inside me as I was about to turn. The poor bastard hit the curb and went flying ass over tea kettle. He was beat up badly. The cops came. Fortunately I had 2 witnesses and I demanded this dumbass be ticketed as they loaded him into the ambulance…which they did. It’s important to make certain these incidents are documented and a ticket is issued to the biker. Remember that. I never heard about the incident again. I’m certain had I not done what I did, some leftist ambulance chaser like pathetic John Edwards would be plundering my bank account.
Poster Child spews:
Hey, my first deleted post. I’m so proud. (I chastised poster 2 in nasty personal terms…)
Roger, sometimes when a car hits you on your bike you fly over the hood and merely get really bruised where a pedestrian would have gotten their legs broken… Okay it’s a rare scenario, but it does happen.
As for drivers eyes being “trained to see car sized objects”, I agree that this is the case, but it’s absolute crap that we continue to allow so many disengaged thoughtless ill-trained road users piloting their vehicles amongst us. Why do we let this happen? economic necessity? laziness?
Boo to that.
Carl’s proposal is similar to the maritime rules: a power boat has to give way to a sailboat, etc.
But generally, I’m in favor of the proposal given by Roger Rabbit previously: license bicycle riders and make them carry liability insurance. If they don’t want to do this, they can ride somewhere off public roads. In an urban city environment, the simplistic notion that bicycle riders are simply “pedestrians” of another sort is an exercise in futility.
Finally, I’ve noticed a lot more bicycle riders recently wearing high-visibility vests. That’s such a good idea, I can’t imagine why everyone isn’t required to do it. Heck, they only cost $10.00 at any of the local Carhart or Work N’ More stores. With the northwestern “fashion” of wearing dark clothes all the time, and with our gloomy/rainy/dark weather conditions, a bicyclist, jogger, or pedestrian is pretty much invisible to drivers without some artificial visibility aids of some sort.
If only the world worked they way you wanted it to. This article is almost conservative in the way it ignores the real world.
In the real world people in cars don’t see bikes and motorcycles. I’ve ridden a motorcycle for 30 years, and it’s a rare day when I don’t have to maneuver to avoid a car that didn’t see me. But you know what — I don’t get bent out of shape about it.
First, I also drive cars, and I know how easy it is to miss a motorcycle. I’ve pulled out in front of them, I’ve merged into them. I can’t really blame others for things that I do myself. And since I’m aware that it’s possible, even likely, that a driver hasn’t seen me, I try to avoid being where they can hit me.
Second, I obey the rule of tonnage. It’s one that I learned as a small boat sailor — no matter who has the right of way, in any collision involving a freighter and 22-foot sailboat, the survivors will tend to be on the freighter.
In the same way, I ride my motorcycle to stay out of the way of cars and trucks. I don’t ride in blind spots. I don’t pass on the right if there’s no lane. I don’t weave through traffic or split lanes. Not because I can’t do those things, but because if a person in a car makes a mistake — the survivors are going to be in the car no matter what the laws say about who had the right of way.
Does this mean that I put the blame for any accident on the smaller vehicle — not by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve known for a long time that when I get hit by a person in a car I will have done everything that I can do do stay stay out of the way and that they’re going to stand next to my body and say “I didn’t see him.”
But it also means that I’m not going to put my trust in trying to change what 30 years of experience tells me.
Ride like everyone else out there — drivers, pedestrians, other bike riders — are actively trying to kill you, and you’ll have a better chance of making it home to ride again.
Roger Rabbit spews:
@11 “we continue to allow so many disengaged thoughtless ill-trained road users piloting their vehicles amongst us. Why do we let this happen? economic necessity? laziness?”
It’s against the law to hold a cellphone to your head while driving. That doesn’t stop half the drivers from doing it. Driving-and-texting is just plain crazy but how many people do it anyway? The prevalent attitude in our society today is selfish, me-oriented, and heedless of others. You can’t legislate it out of existence. It’s there and we all live with it.
That said, I would argue that enforcement of existing laws is lax, and our state’s Department of Licensing is so reluctant to suspend or revoke driver’s licenses that it appears they assume people are going to drive anyway so they prefer to license even very bad drivers so they know where they are.
the umpire spews:
Its time to license and tax all bike riders who use public roads. If you are going to use a public road, you know the rules of theroad and pay to use it, just like the car drivers do. Tbey should also be required to carry insurance.
Time for bike riders to finally pay their fair share.
Most of the roads I ride my bike on are mostly maintained by sales and property taxes. I don’t get a tax break for those by riding my bike. ;-)
Motorcycles aren’t required to have insurance, why should bicycles?
In the unlikely event that I do damage to someone or something while riding my bicycle that I can’t pay for by writing a check the general liability clause of my homeowners insurance will pick up the tab (that’s according my insurance agent, btw). When I tried to buy liability insurance for my bicycle I was informed that State Farm doesn’t sell such a thing.
Insurance wise, the bigger issue for cyclist comes from theft of their bikes and getting creamed by uninsured motorists.
It wouldn’t be that hard to come up with a low cost cycling insurance that covered theft, liability, and uninsured motorists. I’d love to see such a thing. As too requiring it, I’m not sure the problem is big enough that it would be worth while.
Poster Child spews:
Michael sums it up pretty succintly, but people tend to ignore data that doesn’t confirm their pre-existing notions, therefore bikes are freloaders and they should have giant license plates so we can call the cops and report their rampant infractions.
It always surprises me that people I perceive as espousing the generally “conservative” viewpoint on this topic are the first to call for taxing and licensing regulations. I doubt they see this as a contradiction.
Spencer Neal spews:
It is my understanding that motorcycle riders in Washington State have to have insurance just like automobile drivers. When I lived in Washington, I had to have that insurance just like any other motorist.
As a motorcylclist and a pedestrian, I must say that I get irritated with bicyclists who ride like they own the road and refuse to yield, let alone stop at traffic lights. I have no more patience for those scofflaws.
the umpire spews:
And I doubt you see then contradiction of progressives who complain aout everyone paying ther fair share, while letting bike riders freeload the public roads.
And michael, roads are also payed for with the gas tax, veficle licensing fees, and probably drivers license fees(although I’m not ure bout that one)
Seems like n untapped revnue stream to me, and we all know how the democrats love revenue streams
Answer me this: do bike riders use public roads or not. Yes they do, so the need to step up and help pay for them.
And yes they sould have insurance…a peddle bike can easily hundreds if not thousands of dollars of damage to a car
Time for the freloaders to pay up.
the umpire spews:
Easy solution: get the bikes off the road. Problem solved.
Ah, but cyclists do pay for the use of public roads through sales taxes and property taxes… So, they’re already not free loading.
A big part of the taxes car drivers pay go to pay for the damage they do to the roads and since cyclists do no damage, they pay less.
Gas would be a lot more expensive if we stopped subsidizing the use of the automobile, btw. So, why should cyclist pay their full cost when automobiles don’t come anywhere near paying their full cost?
I’d be perfectly cool with adding a small sales tax or surcharge to the sale of adult sized bicycles to help pay for bike stuff. I’m also fine with bike licenses, tabs and the like. What I’m not OK with are complete bullshit arguments from people that are really just a bunch off assholes who want to shut cyclists out.There’s really no contradiction on my part.
It would be pretty hard to do more than $500 bucks worth of scratch removal work with a bike. The real issue is a bike/ped collision which could easily break bones and again I’m covered under my homeowner and couldn’t buy liability insurance when I tried. The reason these things don’t exist is because there’s really not much of an issue there.
New York has a population of 19,378,102
Not so easy when you consider that bicycles were defined as vehicles and guaranteed a place on U.S. roads by U.S. laws before there were cars on the roads.
Take a look at the price of recreational road racing bikes! If you can afford a $3K bike you can afford to pony up $100 bucks to help pay for bike infrastructure.
Poster Child spews:
Michael @ 21,22,23
Michael @ 24 – your proposal doesn’t rein in all that revenue we’re failing to collect from poor people who ride around on used bikes and fixies ineptly cobbled together in covert coop workspaces, and it certainly doesn’t address the lack of large identifiable numbers with which cranky Producers can narc on wiley Looters who hurt their feelings in traffic.
Please folks, use lights on your bicycles during the day time. Those little flashing LED lights can be seen blocks away, giving auto drivers plenty of notice that you are there. Reflective clothes are helpful, but nothing like the flashing LED.
Dodge Performance spews:
I’m sure many of you will have your own opinions,and I’m always eager to hear them but this article got my attention.
“And I doubt you see then contradiction of progressives who complain aout everyone paying ther fair share, while letting bike riders freeload the public roads.
And michael, roads are also payed for with the gas tax, veficle licensing fees, and probably drivers license fees(although I’m not ure bout that one)”
I am not a freeeloader. Cyclists pay the same sales and property taxes as everyone else. The maintenance of local roads is largely funded by these taxes. Gas taxes are used to help fund major highways, many of which are off-limits to cyclists for safety reasons.
Many cyclists also own cars. I ride my bike to work and have regularly since 2006. I also own a car — in fact, just yesterday I spent $44 to fill up the tank.
You’re ignorant. You hate bikes because you hate bikes, and your arguments are illogical attempts to justify your irrational opinions.
Shit, I’ll get right on that!
Yes, the LED lights are great and they’re pretty cheap to. No reason to ride without them.