Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"A 24-year-old woman died for no good reason"

Photo by Will Tran

Every time a cyclist dies on city streets, the Bicycle Coalition and Streetsblog are outraged. The latest fatality provoked extra indignation at what was clearly a botched SFPD investigation into the accident that involved a truck hitting a cyclist while making a right turn.

C.W. Nevius writes about that accident:

There are some real issues with bike safety that need to be discussed. The protocol for a right turn, particularly by big trucks, is one of the most misunderstood issues on downtown streets...What drivers often don't know is that they should actually pull over into the right-hand bike lane when turning, so they are as close to the curb as possible. Skittish drivers may think they are supposed to stay out of the lane at all times. And bike riders may be under the impression that no drivers will enter their bike lanes and end up trying to pass a car or truck on the right side where they are hard to see.

Yes, of course understanding this sort of thing is important for both motorists and cyclists. But the reality is that when something goes wrong---ignorance of the law, reckless or drunk driving, poor visibility, etc.---it's the cyclist who gets hurt or killed, not the motorist.

What the Bicycle Coalition, Streetsblog, and City Hall are in denial about: riding a bike has intrinsic dangers, which is why encouraging people to ride bikes is irresponsible without informing potential cyclists about the real dangers involved. Instead, the Bicycle Coalition and City Hall act as if cycling is nothing but a fun, green transportation "mode," a win-win deal for everyone since, though it's only 3.4% of all trips in the city, cycling still helps ease traffic congestion.  

Most cycling accidents are in fact "solo falls" that don't involve another vehicle, but fatal accidents almost always involve a motor vehicle.

Nevius sums up:

We can debate bike lanes and intersections for days, but don't forget what's important: A 24-year-old woman died on a sunny San Francisco street for no good reason.

But she wouldn't have died if she hadn't been riding a bike. Nevius himself stopped riding his bike downtown last year because the danger became to obvious to ignore:

...I rode a bike, right in downtown San Francisco roughly three times a week for the last three years. But, I have to admit, about two months ago I quit. There were just too many close calls. Sooner or later I was going DOWN.

Nevius also wrote about the bike safety issue back in May.

What's galling about the Bicycle Coalition and City Hall is that they not only irresponsibly encourage people to use an inherently risky way to get around, they also encourage children to ride bikes in the city!

Morgan Fitzgibbons has another hysterical rant on the Wigg Party's website blaming Mayor Lee for Le Moullac's death: "The truth is Ed Lee does not care about bicycle or pedestrian safety." It's not at all clear that the city can do anything to prevent this kind of accident, which was caused by either the cyclist or the truck driver. But the city's bike people see themselves as victims in the country's traffic wars. (Earlier rants by Fitzgibbons here and here.)

A reality check for a NY Times reporter after she has her first serious cycling accident.

Women won't/don't ride bikes as much as men do. Why is that?

Riding a bike can be bad for women's sex life just like it can be for men.

Other cyclists killed on city streets this year here and here.

Morgan Fitzgibbons blames Mayor Lee

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26 Comments:

At 10:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to mention the SFPD won't investigate your death if you are on a bike....

 
At 10:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You blame her.

The SFPD blames the driver.

http://blog.sfgate.com/cwnevius/2013/08/28/sfpd-concludes-truck-driver-at-fault-in-fatal-soma-bike-collision/

 
At 8:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But she wouldn't have died if she hadn't been riding a bike.

And Judi Bari wouldn't have been bombed if she wasn't a pinko communist. What's your point?

 
At 10:00 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Judi Bari was bombed because she was leading opposition to the deforestation of the Northcoast.

My point on this accident: "She wouldn't have died if she hadn't been riding a bike."

I'll break it down some more: no bike, no death.

Riding a bike in SF is being oversold by an irresponsible City Hall, since it's an inherently risky way to get around. Except for the truck driver and the insurance companies, who was at fault is not really relevant. If you ride a bike in SF---or anywhere, for that matter---this kind of accident can and will happen.

 
At 10:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Walking is an incredibly dangerous way to get around. By walking, you put your life in your own hands!

Take this woman for example:

http://sf.streetsblog.org/2011/03/18/woman-dies-after-being-struck-by-crane-truck-driver-in-soma-crosswalk/

Basically by walking you are foolishly and recklessly endangering yourself and costing the city a lot of time and money that will be needed to scrape your body off the crosswalk. Please, I urge everyone, STOP WALKING in San Francisco. You are putting your life needlessly in danger. If you need to get somewhere in San Francisco, (or anywhere) DO NOT WALK. Take a cab, bus, or (here's a wild suggestion) drive your car, for crying out loud.

 
At 11:02 AM, Anonymous Gregski said...

Let's see. I'm traveling at speed over a hard surface on a flimsy, lightweight vehicle on thin-skinned high-pressure tires that can easily puncture and deflate catastrophically. My vehicle has protrusions and rapidly-rotating sharp metal parts inches from my body. My body is protected by no more than thin clothing, shoes, gloves and lightweight helmet.

What could possibly go wrong with that?

FYI..I'm an 8,500 mi/year cyclist.

 
At 11:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man critically injured in bike accident near Laguna Honda neighborhood
Examiner, 6 June 2011
A 38-year-old man is fighting for his life after a bicycle accident in the Laguna Honda neighborhood after midnight Monday. The man was cycling southbound on Pacheco Street around 12:15 a.m. when he struck the center median, crashing his bicycle, on the approach to Dewey Boulevard.

Cyclist fights for life after crashing with truck in downtown San Francisco
Examiner/Chronicle, 20 July 2011
A female bicyclist in her 20s suffered life-threatening injuries this morning in a collision with a Berkeley Farms food distribution truck at Mission and Fremont streets in San Francisco. The woman was headed east on Mission Street and was hit by the westbound truck as she turned left onto Fremont Street just after 8 a.m. Both the truck driver and the bicyclist had a green light, but the bicyclist was making an illegal left turn.

Bicyclist in critical condition after accident Sunday at Mission and 14th streets
Examiner May 31, 2011
A bicyclist is fighting for his life after being struck in the Mission district while running a red light early Sunday morning, police said Tuesday. The bicyclist, a 46-year-old man, was struck by a cabbie at the intersection of Mission and 14th streets just before 1 a.m. The cyclist was traveling eastbound on 14th Street and ran a red light when he was broadsided by the taxi

Bicyclist struck and injured in Mission
Examiner/ Bay City News 16 Jan 2011
A bicyclist was injured Sunday morning when he was hit by a vehicle in San Francisco's Mission District, police said. A preliminary investigation revealed the bicyclist entered the intersection against a red light.

Bicyclist suffers life-threatening injuries in downtown accident
Examiner, 12 April 2011
A bicyclist suffered life-threatening injuries when he fell off his bike and hit his head in San Francisco’s Financial District on Sunday afternoon. The accident was reported shortly before 4 p.m. near the intersection of Columbus Avenue and Montgomery Street. The 40-year-old man was riding his bike against the one-way traffic on nearby Washington Street prior to the fall. For an unknown reason, the man lost control of his bike, fell and hit his head on the ground.

 
At 11:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Part II (the system wouldn't take all of this as one comment):

Bicyclist struck by car on Haight Street in critical condition
Examiner, 7 Mar 2011
A bicyclist was fighting for her life after being struck by a car on Haight Street on Saturday. The 42-year-old cyclist was riding in the wrong direction westbound on Haight Street when she was struck by a car headed southbound on Masonic Avenue just past 6 p.m

Bicyclist runs into Muni vehicle in San Francisco, seriously injured
Examiner, 2 March 2011
A bicyclist was transported to the hospital after hitting a Muni bus Wednesday evening in the Inner Sunset neighborhood. The incident occurred around 5 p.m. at 8th Avenue and Judah Street.

Muni bus runs over bicyclist - critical condition
Chronicle, March 7, 2012
A bicyclist was seriously injured Tuesday after he caught his wheel on a Muni track and fell under a bus. The bus, an outbound 31 Balboa, rolled over the man at the intersection of Market and New Montgomery streets at about 4:41 p.m. Police said it appears the male bicyclist was riding parallel to the bus when one of his tires got caught in streetcar tracks.

And lastly this one:
A Bicycle Rider’s Crash on Valencia Street and a Failure of Design
Aaron Bialick, sf.streetsblog.org April 15, 2011
An unidentified man in his late twenties was rushed to San Francisco General Hospital after falling off his bike and being run over by a minivan in the Mission District Wednesday evening. San Francisco police confirmed the 7:30 pm crash on Valencia Street between 17th and 18th Streets. According to eyewitness Brooke DuBose, the rider was traveling in the bike lane when he appeared to lose control of his bicycle and fall in front of the passing vehicle, which apparently ran over his torso and head.

 
At 12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Besides MTA, SFPD, the Bicycle Coalition also shares blame for the tragic death of the cyclist.

The Bicycle Coalition would like to have a bike lane on every street in the city. Their revenues are $800K. What do they spend money on besides lobbying?

The Bicycle Coalition could have paid DPW to paint arrows on the road when approaching intersections informing drivers to merge into the bicycle lane before making a right turn. You see these arrows at 8th St & Mission, 8th & Howard,...

A little money could have made a huge difference.

 
At 12:18 PM, Blogger Michael Baehr said...

I heard that people died in car accidents, too. Some people even die walking. Can you confirm these phenomenona please, Rob?

I'd also like to know about the relative likelihood of dying from a bike accident or car accident. Pick per hour or per miles traveled. Either statistic should be edifying!

 
At 1:26 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

According to the city's annual Collision Report, only two or three cyclists die every year in SF, and almost all cycling accidents aren't fatal.

Once again my point: if this young woman hadn't been riding a bike, she would be alive today. Is that a false statement?

 
At 2:20 PM, Anonymous Gregski said...

The comment about the MTA and SFBC contributing to the right-hook phenomenon has much merit and I wish it would get more attention.

The way the bike lanes (and bus-stop lanes) are painted actually DISCOURAGES motorists from merging towards the right curb before turning.

If the bike lanes were to devolve into sharrows before the intersection it is likely that more motorists would make proper right turns from close to the curb.

Why can't this be tried and studied on some SOMA intersections? Because it presupposes that bikes and cars share the same road which is apostasy to current segregationist bike-lane religion.

The SFBC's demand to paint the bike lanes green on Folsom is madness. All that will do is over-emphasize the bike zone as a "forbidden" zone to misguided, ignorant motorists.

 
At 3:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Judi Bari was bombed because she was leading opposition to the deforestation of the Northcoast.

Exactly. It was her OWN FAULT.

 
At 3:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

if this young woman hadn't been riding a bike, she would be alive today. Is that a false statement?

What that is is a strawman.

 
At 5:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually think Leah Shahum feels guilty about all of these deaths. I would too!

It is like encouraging people to take up skateboarding and then finding out its dangerous but ONLY protesting the skateboard accidents that involve other vehicles.

 
At 11:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob, you've jumped the shark.

I'd love to hear you weigh in on this:

http://bikinginla.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/lapd-traffic-investigators-evidently-dont-believe-other-cops-who-witness-a-right-hook-bike-collision/

 
At 1:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, do I have this right, Rob? This attractive young woman was riding down the street and the truck driver just couldn't help himself? I mean, clearly -- the way she was riding... its pretty clear she was 'asking for it'... right?

 
At 10:41 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

No, she wasn't asking to die. But she was engaged in an activity---riding a bike in San Francisco---that is a lot more dangerous than she thought it was. And she was encouraged to do that by City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition because riding a bike is now the PC thing to do for a lot of young people, many of whom are ferocious conformists who want to be cool and with-it.

 
At 11:03 AM, Blogger John R. said...

What a screwy argument it is that bicycle riding is intrinsically dangerous, therefore trying to make it safer for people to bicycle is irresponsible. Does it even have to be said that increased bicycle infrastructure can mitigate many of the dangers involved, to a point where, for example, 50% of the people of Copenhagen (pop. 560,000) commute by bike. 1.2 million kilometers are cycled everyday in Copenhagen, and a cyclist will now on average cycle 4.4 million kilometres (2.7 million miles) before being involved in a serious accident.

 
At 12:31 PM, Blogger Michael Baehr said...

Or maybe she just thought it was a practical way to get to work?

It's like in your world, people aren't capable of making a reasoned decision to ride a bike on their own - they must be goaded into it by politicians or lobbyist groups or some un-spoken "pressure".

Amelie Le Moullac was an adult who died commuting to work in her preferred fashion. She died because a truck driver was grossly negligent in operation of his heavy vehicle.

SFBC, SFMTA, etc. are not responsibile for her death (though the city sure did a piss-poor job at first of finding her justice). The truck driver, who has not yet been named, is responsible.

 
At 2:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But she was engaged in an activity---riding a bike in San Francisco---that is a lot more dangerous than she thought it was, because nobody told her that truck drivers in this city are completely incompetent, having been trained at the Rob Anderson driving academy.

 
At 9:46 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"What a screwy argument it is that bicycle riding is intrinsically dangerous, therefore trying to make it safer for people to bicycle is irresponsible."

That's not my argument, John. What I'm saying is that riding a bike in SF---I don't know anything about Copenhagen---has intrinsic dangers that shouldn't be ignored or downplayed by City Hall.

Or maybe she just thought it was a practical way to get to work?

"It's like in your world, people aren't capable of making a reasoned decision to ride a bike on their own---they must be goaded into it by politicians or lobbyist groups or some un-spoken pressure."

You can't deny that riding a bike has a real cachet for many of your contemporaries. But City Hall both reflects fashion and exploits it by fostering the illusion that it's safer and more practical than it can possibly be. Of course encouraging cycling is a win-win deal for City Hall, which sees it as a cheap way to reduce traffic congestion, while downplaying the real dangers involved.

"Amelie Le Moullac was an adult who died commuting to work in her preferred fashion. She died because a truck driver was grossly negligent in operation of his heavy vehicle."

We don't really know yet who was responsible for the accident: it may be that he was making a legal right turn, and she was in the bike lane.

But the point is that such accidents can never be entirely prevented. All our goods are delivered by trucks, and cyclists have to share our streets with cars, buses, and trucks.

City Hall and the Bicycle Coalition are even encouraging the city's children to ride bikes to school. People are rightly upset at accidents that kill adults like Le Moullac; wait until the first ten-year-old is run over by a Muni bus on her way to school.

 
At 5:18 PM, Blogger Michael Baehr said...

Actually, Rob, we DO know who was responsible for the collision, since the city has found the truck driver at fault after reviewing the video that SFBC so kindly found for them.

 
At 11:29 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You mean what "the city" says is the last word on what happened? Maybe. We'll see.

 
At 11:37 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

By the way, the point of this post and my comments is that accidents like this are inevitable as long as cyclists share streets with motor vehicles, that is, forever. Who was really at fault here is irrelevant, except to the people directly involved and their families.

It's irresponsible of the SFBC and City Hall to suggest that somehow city streets can be really be made safe for cyclists.

 
At 12:11 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Judi Bari was bombed because she was leading opposition to the deforestation of the Northcoast. Exactly. It was her OWN FAULT."

The difference between the two women: Bari knew that what she was doing was dangerous, since she had had a number of death threats before the assassination attempt. I bet Le Moullac didn't think riding a bike in SF could cause her death.

 

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