Archive for category driving

don’t be that guy

There’s this guy. You might know one too. He’s a lot like you or I. He rides his bike on the same streets. He gets overtaken by impatient F-150s. He’s a cyclist. There’s one major difference, though. Unlike you or I, he tends to get hit by cars; frequently. Most of the time, he comes away without any serious injuries (which is more than I can say for his bikes – carbon fiber, it turns out is the real victim here).

When I first started riding I thought maybe this guy spent more time on busy roads than I did. But slowly, I began to think there might be something else, something that didn’t have anything to do with where he was riding or what he was wearing (more garish colors than I). It was when he told me about his 4th crash involving a car that I began to wonder if, perhaps, it was the way he rode.

It turns out, I might have been on the right track. Last month the City of Minneapolis published a study that examined 2,973 bicycle-motorist crashes that took place over a 10 year period and one of the many interesting bits of data they uncovered was that the cyclist involved is, at least partially, at fault in 59% of all crashes (motorists were, at least partially, at fault in 63.9%*).

Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 6.10.01 AM

If you’d asked me a few weeks ago I’d probably have guessed that cyclists were at fault in about 30% of all accidents. I’ve seen a lot of motorists do a lot of dumb things (I’ll even admit to being a motorist doing a dumb thing once or twice) and it’s easy to assume, because they’re the more vulnerable of the two groups, cyclists are always the victims. But, you have to admit, it sort of makes sense.

I consider myself a careful cyclist 95% percent of the time. During my commute, I’m alert and cautious and often yield even when I have the right of way. I check driveways and think about how to react when the unexpected happens. These things don’t make me invincible, I know that. It is nice to know, perhaps, they do make me a little safer.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming that guy who gets hit by a car once a year for everything. Some of it is bad luck and some if it is bad driving and, maybe, some of it is bad cycling. It is nice to know, as I’m riding my 25 pound bike next to a 2 ton truck, what I do makes a difference.

* Adds up to more than 100% as in some crashes both motorist and cyclist share fault.


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posted from the safety of my car

Last night I had a dream that I was vilified on local news for jaywalking with my daughter. In the dream, my daughter and I appeared on the local news, first waiting to cross a street at a stoplight. On the news, the image was of my daughter and I and apparently came from one of those traffic cameras they use to spy on citizens. The voice over on the TV was about negligent parents. I knew that my family was with us as the news cut to another spy traffic camera of my daughter and I walking, diagonally across an empty street and the legs of my wife, mom and brother just at the edge of the frame. There was a sound of a horn and a squeal of over inflated tires which, I knew, had been added to the video by the news station. The voice over told viewers about the dangers of walking and crossing streets in particular.

This morning I woke up and found this in my Google Reader Feed:

Also, I read this (from an article about a high school student who was killed last Thursday when she was struck by a car walking to a bus stop):

“You really have to wave the flag at the bull, so to speak,” he said, “because drivers are really self-consumed, and it is hard to get them to stop.”

A superstitious person would lock himself in his house for a few weeks and wait for the bad omens to be forgotten. Perhaps, give up walking and cycling all together. Sleep in his car. Because, as we know from all evidence that is available, your car is the safest place you could ever be. I mean that with absolute sincerity.

Really. Using my advanced graphing skills, I’ve drawn a bar graph* of my own to demonstrate:

As you can see, cars are not dangerous at all which is why it makes sense to compare walking on a public street to the safest and most sane of all sports: bull fighting.

*Information based entirely on the data above making many assumptions about the data that are probably inaccurate and shortsighted.

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Worth a read

Okay I’m going to link straight to another dude’s blog here because everyone who drives a motor vehicle ought to read this post, and please pass it on especially to non cyclist friends & acquaintances…

Click below then read the entry for December 30, I can’t link directly to it for some reason.

Institutional Cyclist’s Christmas Lecture

– Sera

Update: Below is the bit I’ve found most moving, I wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on it because of the inability to direct link to the post  (but really, go read the entire thing). -Michael

The point is this: behind the statistics, lie people. Each of the hundreds of cyclists killed every year, each of the thousands of other deaths and injuries on the roads each year are real people that have families and friends. Each death is a family devastated. Each death affects a hundred friends. For a hundred deaths, read ten thousand people grieving. A small town’s worth of grief.

The point is this: This is not a war. This is not genocide. This is not a disease. These people are no one’s enemies. Their deaths are not meant as a warning to others. Their deaths are pointless and banal. They are not killed out of spite but out of ignorance, out of foolishness, out of incompetence. They die because others send text messages. They die because others misjudge speed and distance.

The point is this: The people that kill these people do not want to kill them. We must never forget to spare a little pity for them. They are only there because the gamble that paid off on all the other times failed to do so on this occasion and the video game reality through the windscreen suddenly became horrifyingly real. They are, after all, only acting in that way because the society that we live in allows them to and only suffers to penalize their actions when people die.

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We got a small amount of grief last night regarding Heather’s post I’m talking about you @SchwankyTown. So, I thought I’d expand on the comment I made in response to the post and pull it out here for all to read.

I’ve rolled through stop signs. Both on my bike and in a car. Intentionally and because I wasn’t paying appropriate attention while driving or riding. Same with stop lights. Also, I’ve been pulled over, both in a car and on a bike.

Of course, there are a few laws I think could be improved. I’m a big fan of the Idaho Stop Law and wish we could implement something similar here in California, and, with a few exceptions, red turn arrows have always seemed pointless to me (I won’t go into detail, let’s just say they only add value if there at an intersection with a blind approach). None of that gives me license to break the laws I disagree with and not expect consequences.

What I mean here is that I’m not trying to defend cyclists who break the law. They shouldn’t do it.

But, even if a driver sees ME blow through a red light, he doesn’t earn the right to knock me down with his car door (which, I’m sure, isn’t what Heather was saying) and he certainly doesn’t earn the right to knock some other cyclist down with his car door. That driver also doesn’t have the right pass closely, honk, drive in the bike lane, or yell at every cyclist he passes (again, not what Heather was saying).

Cyclists, too, need to get over it. Some Lycra clad roadies will run red lights and some skinny jean wearing hipsters will ride the wrong way down one-way streets. We should be encouraging not criticizing. So, scofflaw or not, get out and RIDE.



motorist tip of the week, 17

While driving, do as few other things as possible.

Put the phone down and leave whatever it is you’re reaching for on the floor of the passenger side. Put away the make-up, save the paper for when you get home.

Look at the road. Please.

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Bikes will save us

Biking And Health
Created by: Healthcare Management Degree –


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motorist tip of the week, 15

Roll down your windows.

Ok, this doesn’t really have anything to do with making the road safer for cyclists, but it’s a good idea. I found myself in the car alone the other day. It was a little brisk outside but sunny and dry. So, I rolled the windows down. It really made the entire experience much more enjoyable.

Give it a go.

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Motorist Tip of the Week, 12

Read this car blog.

A car blog giving sane and sensible advice about how to share the road with cyclists, it seems like fiction, but it’s not.

I particularly liked this bit:

90% of cyclist casualties in recent years were caused by careless inattention, firstly by drivers, secondly by cyclists. It’s your responsibility to avoid hitting the cyclist, not the responsibility of the cyclist to avoid getting hit by you.

That’s advice written for people who drive cars by people who drive cars…yay!


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Motorist tip of the week, 11

Be visible and predictable.

Most often this is one of those tips given to cyclists as means of protecting themselves from motorists. And, though I define “visible” a little differently than others, I’m on board with both of those things as they apply to cyclists.

Motorists need to meet the same standards. Visibility is easy. I’m not suggesting you run out and paint your civic Hi-Vis yellow (so please don’t suggest I wear one of those vests) just turn your headlights on when it’s difficult to see (and make sure they both work). A lot of newer cars take care of this for you, so it shouldn’t be difficult.

Predictability is also pretty easy. Drive in your lane (use two hands if you’re having trouble with this). Signal when you’re going to turn. Start braking for a stop earlier rather than later (bikes can rear-end you too). Stop at stop signs. Etc. It really helps cyclists out because, believe it or not, we watch what you guys are doing in those cars and we try to avoid getting run over.

Update: I just noticed this was our 500th post. Surely that deserves a celebration of some kind…

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from the O’Conner Family

Sam has previously written about the hit-and-run death of 27-year-old, Patrick O’Conner. As cycling advocates and citizens of Northern California, stories like this one hit close to home.

This morning we received this press release from the family of Patrick O’Connor. The O’Connor Family is reaching out to the community for letters that might be used by the judge as he determines sentencing for Vanessa Carrillo.

I don’t want to comment on the character of Ms. Carrillo nor do I offer judgment on the O’Connor Family’s claim that Ms. Carrillo’s relationship with law enforcement has had significant impact to the handling of the case. Instead, I want to reiterate my opinion that negligent, illegal behavior that results in the death of a cyclist, pedestrian or other motorist should be treated seriously by law enforcement. As a cyclist, I do not see a significant difference between a death caused by a drunk driver and death caused by driving over the speed limit while using a cell phone. It is my hope that the judge considers how Vanessa Carrillo’s illegal driving behavior and her flight from the scene contributed to the death of this cyclist and sentences accordingly.

Press Release:

November 6, 2011

PLEASE write a letter to the Judge for Patrick O’Connor!
Stanislaus Superior Court
Judge Thomas D. Zeff, Court #5
Case # 1426693
800 11th Street
Modesto, California 95354

On November 1, 2011, the Stanislaus District Attorney decided to Plea Bargain this case instead of going to trial. As a major part of this process, the DA recommendation to the Stanislaus County Probation Dept. is to file a Pre-Probation report. This report will be submitted to the Judge Thomas D. Zeff, Stanislaus County Superior Court with a recommendation for sentencing. The Probation Department has requested we send the letters within the week so as to collect and file them in the court documents, to ultimately be read and reviewed by the Judge. If you send your letter to the judge, please email me a copy at this address ( that we may ensure your letter reaches the probation department.

We as victims of this tragedy have an opportunity to express how you feel about the Death of Patrick O’Connor. How has it affected your personal life, your family, your friends, either emotionally, mentally, physically in any way or aspect or outlook of you or your family’s lives. The tragedy in the lost of Patrick cannot ever be justified in our court system; however, this is our opportunity to tell the judge and make an impact on the legal process.

You may feel free to express your thoughts about this 22-year-old woman, Vanessa Carrillo, who hit, killed Patrick, and left the scene leaving him to die in the middle of the road. She has four prior “at Fault” vehicles accidents, four major traffic violations, two for high speeding. She was on her phone while traveling over 65 mph and had just sent a text message prior to killing Patrick, then fleeing the scene. Her phone behavior is an openly defiant choice she made knowing, it took Patrick’s life. She has a very cavalier attitude and feels that she is not responsible for this murderous act! Additionally, she has lied and given false information to the police as a means to prolong and avoid the repercussions of her actions. In the past several years Vanessa Carrillo has built up a relationship with local, law enforcement officers, specifically an intimate relationship with a deputy sergeant of the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Dept. She has been on numerous all night ride-alongs with this local law enforcement department. This has been verified by the elected Stanislaus County Sheriff who openly admitted that his officers have “manipulated and interfered” with this case.

This is our chance to be heard and have an impact on this case. This is our opportunity to persuade our justice system to strike forth with the fullest extent against Vanessa Carrillo, whose incompetence and malicious behavior has cost us someone very dear to our hearts. She must be held accountable for her actions. We appeal to your moral principles of social responsibility, justice, and accountability as we humbly urge you to write a letter to the Judge expressing how you feel about Vanessa’s behavior and how Patrick’s death has affected you.

The DA has accepted a plea bargain in order to avoid a trial.

Please write your letter with a heading to Judge Zeff at the above address ref: case # 1426693 and sign your letter with your job title.

*Please share this with interested friends or loved ones.

With deep appreciation and thanks,
The O’Connor Family

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