Wednesday, November 2

No Motorist at Fault

Harwood Road, a Bit East of the "Sidewalk Ride"
Today, I had somewhat of a close call on the way home from work. I was stopped at a stop sign, preparing to turn right onto Harwood Road in Bedford. As is my usual practice in such situations, I first scanned to the left, to see what oncoming traffic was on the arterial. I then scanned to the right, to see what might possibly be coming from the unexpected direction. Finally I scanned to the left once more and began my turn.

That is when it happened.

Down the sidewalk, from the wrong direction, a person on a bike shot off the sidewalk and directly into my path. Fortunately, my bike was a lot narrower than the typical SUV and so I was able to avoid the person without too much drama. I was, however, too startled to even yell out any inappropriate remarks in the direction of the sidewalk rider. In any event, I suspect that talking to such a person would NOT represent a "teachable moment."

Still, if you read this, and ride on sidewalks, PLEASE ride on the sidewalk where traffic is going in the same direction as you are. That at least gives people riding or driving on the road a fair shot at seeing you before a conflict situation arises.

Had I, instead have been driving an automobile and had we collided, it might well have been tagged as the motorist's fault, since I was beginning a right turn from a stop sign - "Motorist pullout." You might not care for your own life, but MY motorists deserve better. They ought not be tagged as scofflaws simply because of your ignorance. There are more than enough careless motorists to go around. Heck, even if you don't care a whit about MY motorists, show a little consideration for CYCLISTS that operate in a predictable and lawful fashion. Thanks, in advance. For those NOT reading this, well I've avoided inappropriate remarks so far and you aren't reading anyway.

PS: And PLEASE use lights in the dark, while you're at it! I'm running out of cheap lights to give to people who feel their life is worth less than the cost of one. Even riding WITH traffic down a sidewalk in the dark is a pretty questionable practice. Even a cyclist who is more careful on his commute than most will have trouble picking you up in the dark. Car-Free PVD has some good recommendations but even the ones NOT liked give me a shot at seeing you. Just sayin'.

PPS: Maybe I'll chill out a little next week when DST FINALLY ends. Right now, I'm feeling a little threatened by people on bikes...


cycler said...

What if he was a jogger running on the sidewalk, would you have expected him to cross the road to be running "with traffic" ?

You asked about the MA proposed vulnerable user law and how it would apply. I'm not 100% certain that I understand this particular situation, but I assume he was riding parallel to Harwood ?

For one thing, this law would apply to civil suits, so if the two of you collided and there was a lawsuit for property damage, which seems unlikely as you were both riding low speed, low mass vehicles, it might apply.

The thought is that motorists, since they are driving larger and more deadly vehicles, should be held to a higher standard- scanning for pedestrians- including fast moving runners on both sides of the sidewalk as well as for cyclists, rollerbladers, runaway baby carriages etc. It's possible that in very dense urban areas when peds and bikes and kids on scooters are coming every which way, that the cars might have to slow down to ensure that they had time to scan more carefully and stop more quickly if they mis-scanned.

I know that this is a high standard to hold people to- some, and probably you, will say that it's unreasonably high, given that this guy who rode into your path was acting like an idiot, and can drivers be expected to compensate for idiocy in all other road users.

Although I suspect we'll disagree about this- possibly because of the different urban natures of Boston and Dallas, I think that to those who much destructive power is given, much should be expected, and cars should have to bear the burden of proof that they could not have reasonably predicted the idiot, and that the standard of "reasonable care" should go beyond "I was only looking for cars"

John Romeo Alpha said...

Steve, the cyclist riding against traffic on the sidewalk who tangles with ANY crossing people in any shape form or conveyance is in the wrong. However, as a cyclist, I have adopted the self-protective strategy of approaching and crossing every intersection with the expectation that someone is going to make a boneheaded move that I have to watch out for. Unfortunately my expectations are met more often than I would prefer, but there it is. At least when they are not, I am pleasantly surprised. In the specific example of "cyclist ignoring yield crossing intersection on sidewalk against traffic" I've adopted my best "dude, really??" sarcastic taunt, accompanied by The Glance of Solidarity with any motorists who happen to be around. I've also been known to wave frantically at those same motorists to try to alert them to boneheaded crossing traffic, although that has happened more with cars blowing red lights than cyclists doing this.

Steve A said...

I appreciate Cycler's points, some of which I hadn't considered. First, a jogger SHOULD run against traffic - the jogger, not being on wheels has swerve/stop options unavailable to anyone on a bike. That is a fundamental difference between peds and any wheeled transport including wheelchairs. Second, I conclude I COULD get sued since the dweeb was riding down the sidewalk of the arterial while I was starting from a stop sign - however, the guy wouldn't have collected much since my bike would not have inflicted the life altering injuries and damage a Hummer might have. Well, THAT at least is a relief. Fourth, does the proposed law LIMIT the presumption of guilt to MOTOR vehicles? I notice that clarification is lacking. I DO drive my bike and I AM careful. If most of my motorists were not also careful, I would be dead.

I do not think we disagree that drivers of deadly weapons should be held to a higher standards. What makes me nervous is that I have seen lots of unintended consequences of legislation with the best of intent. I have seen cyclists I have ridden with convicted under laws never intended for the purpose. Call me paranoid if you will, but just because a cyclist is paranoid doesn't mean the police are not spoiling for a reason to persecute him/her.

Steve A said...

JRA, my expectations mirror yours, which makes the remaining surprises all the more notable. It sounds like you have a lot of your own motorists to look out for. Take good care of them and forgive the ones that have not learned about what the proper and improper uses of horns and inappropriate comments are. Fortunately, they are few.

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