Tuesday, April 20, 2010

'Tis a sad day for cyclists

A biker was killed yesterday biking on West Main. He was a math graduate student, and although I didn't personally know him I have friends who did.

I've heard a lot since then about people blaming the driver, blaming the cyclist, and also generally just bitching about driver/cyclists/pedestrians (generally whichever group or groups the complainer themself doesn't fall into). I don't know the specifics of this accident, but I know it was what's generally called a "right hook" (biker passing a car on the right when the car turns to the right), and I myself have been in that very type of accident on West Main.

In my case, I was passing a car on the right when it made an unsignaled right turn. Whose fault is that? It's not entirely clear. By Virginia state law, cyclists are allowed to pass on the left or right when the conditions are safe. If a driver doesn't signal a turn, can it be considered safe to pass them? If people drive safely, yes. However, that's not realistic. There will always be some drivers (and cyclists, and pedestrians) who behave in an unsafe manner, and regardless of which group you usually fall into, you have to realize that the responsibility of keeping roads safe is held by all.

Drivers, stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, signal turns well in advance (especially when there are bikers on the road), and generally be aware of pedestrians/cyclists in the area. Cyclists, also stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, follow the rules of the road (especially with regards to red lights and stoplights), and don't automatically assume drivers see you or are driving legally. Pedestrians, use crosswalks if there are any cars in the area, be mindful of cyclists even when cars are absent, and for heaven's sake, if the red sign says don't cross, don't cross.

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