A Hit-and-Run Driver Killed 5 People on Bikes, So the Press Lectured Cyclists

The five victims of a hit-and-run driver Tuesday in Kalamazoo. Photo retrieved from Mlive.com
The five victims of hit-and-run driver Charlie Pickett. Photos: Mlive.com

A hit-and-run driver killed five people on a group bike ride in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Tuesday. Four others were seriously injured in the horrifying crash, caused when a driver hit their training group — known as “the Chain Gang” — from behind.

Charlie Pickett, whose Facebook page proclaims his love of stiff liquor, was arrested in the death of five cyclists outside Kalamazoo. Photo: Facebook
Charlie Pickett, whose Facebook page is emblazoned with a logo that says “100 Proof,” was arrested for killing five cyclists outside Kalamazoo. Photo: Facebook

Police arrested 50-year-old Charlie Pickett (right), according to Mlive.com, and charged him with five counts of second-degree murder.

The incident resembles a fatal collision that happened in the Akron area in September, when an SUV driver crashed into five cyclists on a training ride, killing two. The driver, 42-year-old Timothy Wolf, initially refused a breathalyzer and was eventually acquitted of vehicular homicide in February. (In this case the driver turned left into the group of cyclists. Wolf blamed sun glare.)

At the very least, you would expect that horrific cases like these would hammer home what an enormous responsibility drivers bear and how careful we should be when we get behind the wheel of a car. But even when the circumstances overwhelmingly point to negligence on the part of the driver, the impulse to lecture cyclists remains strong.

Following the Kalamazoo tragedy, the Grand Rapids’ ABC affiliate took the opportunity to air a segment about “bike safety,” warning cyclists to ride single file, stay close to the white line, and signal when they are turning. The piece eventually notes that there is no indication the Kalamazoo cyclists were doing anything wrong. Meanwhile, the Detroit Free Press warned cyclists to wear helmets — because helmets are magical objects that protect your whole body when a driver hits you from behind at high speed.

The same tacit victim blaming was on display after the Akron crash as well. Cleveland’s ABC affiliate also made the case for helmets, even though the people who were killed were wearing helmets.

At least the coverage never stooped to dehumanizing the victims, but I kept hoping some reporter would remind drivers to be attentive, considerate, and sober — the seemingly obvious lesson. Nobody ever did.

So until they do, we’ll do it right here: Drive carefully, because other people’s lives depend on it.

70 thoughts on A Hit-and-Run Driver Killed 5 People on Bikes, So the Press Lectured Cyclists

  1. Look, I get it. Reporters feel like they know how to drive, but cyclists are somewhat foreign and bike safety isn’t something they learned in high school. So it seems like the obvious thing to discuss. Hopefully, the more they cover street safety in general, the more they’ll focus on the actual dangers instead of simply focusing on the unknown.

  2. It was reported that “Three law enforcement agencies received calls about a pickup truck driving erratically about 30 minutes before the crash.” WHAT?

  3. This is like deja vu all over again…and over again….and over again. Several months ago a Tucson driver plowed into a bunch of bicyclists who were riding correctly and stopped for a red light. One of the victims was one of our Seniors on Bikes from Santa Fe.

    Not sure where that case stands. The 28 year old driver was facing two manslaughter and other felony level charges.

    Self preservation is job #1. That’s why the popular bike training programs teach evasive actions, situational awareness, “what if” thinking and emergency maneuvers. I put a huge emphasis on maintaining situational awareness when I teach bike stuff,

    I once was on my motorcycle headed home from errands and saw in my mirrors one of our county garbage trucks gaining on me from way up the street behind me. Truck got closer and closer and I finally dumped it from 4th to 2nd and accelerated up the street. I then saw the guy in the truck brake hard and he kept a major league distance between us. I suspect he was
    daydreaming or on the phone, and he came around when I put the BMW into Warp Drive.

    But riding safely doesn’t mean anyone else is relieved of their responsibilities, especially those in two ton speeding bullets. This guy deserves a long stay in a jail cell. The rest of us have to stay alive out there.

  4. To ‘Drive’ the victim blame point home – I took a recent report of a rape (also a common victim blame but that’s changing) and substituted hit and run….what do you think?

    “After reports began to circulate last week of a gruesome hit and run in the Fill in the Blank neighborhood of Blank City, Maryland, people started asking the usual questions about the cyclist at the center of the attack: Was she drunk? Was she running red lights? Did she say or do anything to provoke the attack? Does she have a history of “aggressive riding”? Maybe she got what she deserved for slowing drivers down….
    As Baltimore City Councilwoman Tell Itlikeitis sees it, all of these questions are code for ‘How can we blame this cyclist for the act of violence committed against her?’ So in a recent appearance on CNN, Tell Itlikeitis didn’t just call out the victim-blaming language people are using to describe the case — she completely shut it down.
    Speaking live with anchor Pamela Brown on Wednesday, the councilwoman highlighted the public’s tendency to respond to hit and run assault cases with questions about victims’ behavior, calling the typical reaction to violence against cyclists “not appropriate.”
    “There needs to be legislation, there needs to be strategy, there needs to be implementation as well as enforcement,” Cumbo said. “Every cyclist in the city of Baltimore should feel safe, whether they are coming home late at night, early in the morning, coming from a party or going to work extremely late.”
    Like clockwork, Brown immediately fell into the trap of blaming the victim, asking Tell Itlikeitis for more information about the cyclist’s behavior the night of the alleged attack. “Law enforcement sources have told CNN that this alleged victim in this case was riding in the middle of the lane, slowing traffic and yelling at cars that came too close,” Brown said. “What can you tell us about that?”
    Tell Itlikeitis responded, without missing a beat:
    “I would say that that’s typical of just what I spoke about — that individuals often talk about the cyclist; they rarely talk about the individuals who actually committed the crime. Those are the individuals that need to be focused on right now.” She continued:
    We shouldn’t talk about whether she should have been even riding a bike, we shouldn’t talk about whether she was properly dressed, we shouldn’t talk about the time in the evening that it happened. That is too typical of the situation of how we discuss hit and runs in the city, the nation and, really, the world. We need to focus in this situation on those individuals that committed this heinous crime, and what were the bad decisions that they made all throughout the day.
    Tell Itlikeitis response reiterates what anti-cyclist assault activists have been saying for a long time, evidently to no avail: The only people responsible for hit and runs are drivers, not victims. Regardless of what they wear or how much they ride, where they were riding or how many others ride with them, cyclists are never “asking for it.” Victims of hit and runs are called “victims” because perpetrators commit criminal acts of violence against them, the same reason victims of burglary, battery and murder are called the same thing.
    As Tell Itlikeitis went on to tell Brown, victim-blaming tends to go hand-in-hand with other cultural ills — specifically, institutional racism, anonymity and classism — in giving perpetrators the sense that they can act with impunity.
    “A lot of it is neglect,” she said. “[The alleged hit and runners are] thinking that because they’re anonymous in their car, that no one really cares what they do in this community. There will be no repercussions.”
    But classism, arrogance of might-is-right, and cultural neglect aren’t the only types of ignorance that contribute to our right to drive culture. Our willingness to blame victims and protect car drivers also allows affluent college students and star athletes to commit assault with the sense that they might just get away with it.
    Tell Itlikeitis is saying otherwise. Before signing off, she made one final point about violence against cyclists, a guide to change the way we think and talk about hit and runs.
    “We’re discussing this matter,” she said, “because we want to let individuals know: Whether you are on the bridge to East or West Baltimore or Downtown or wherever, all people on bikes matter — and we’re here to make sure that message is sent loud and clear.”

  5. “Stay close to the white line”? No no no no no! %$#@ no! What kind of “safety advice” is that? More like “sacrifice your safety to appease my bigotry” advice.

    It’s much safer to either be fully in the center of the travel lane, so you’re optimally visible and so it’s clear that motorists must change lanes to pass, or be fully out of the travel lane on a wide shoulder or bike lane, so it’s clear that motorists don’t need to alter their lane position to pass. Being near the white line is not recommended by safety experts unless the lane is extraordinarily wide (15’+, highly unusual).

    But anyway, this is like if the ABC affiliate took advantage of a second-degree murder by a hunter to remind everyone to wear brown when hiking during hunting season. LOL NOPE. First, that’s the opposite of correct safety advice, and second, can we please get more focus on gun responsibility instead, because it’s 100% the shooter’s fault?

  6. Without being a jerk, allow me to push back. I totally agree that riding in the center of the lane allows a rider to be seen more easily, but bear in mind that this is also what drives non-cyclists batshit crazy. They sit behind the rider and stew about how we should be on the sidewalk. I believe that every driver needs to be taught that bicycles do belong on the road and also the correct way to overtake a bicycle. I’ve been clipped by more than a few rearview mirrors.

  7. I wonder how many cyclists have to die before the press starts lecturing the driving public to SLOW THE F+++ DOWN!

    My heart goes out to fatalities there. Being that they were in legit bike riding group and were of age, I’m betting they were doing everything right.

    RIP

  8. It’s also illegal for a cyclist to take the entire lane or keep left unless they are moving at the speed of traffic, which is unusual outside of crowded city streets.

    As a driver, I understand that “bicycles do belong on the road” but hogging the center line, specially in a group, is seen as both provocative and un-necessary by many drivers.

    Also, if a vehicle coming the other way crosses the center median, and I have to swerve right to avoid it, then the further right a cyclist is relative to me, the more likely it is that my evasive move won’t side-swipe him.

    I am convinced riding in single file and keeping right is key to improving safety for cyclists

    Not that I think this case is an example of any of this. This driver is a moron.

  9. > It’s also illegal for a cyclist to take the entire lane
    > or keep left unless they are moving at the speed
    > of traffic

    Untrue. The law only specifies as close as practicable to the kerb and allows cyclists to hog the lane ‘where necessary for safety’, which is entirely a subjective criterion. Discouraging sharing in a narrow lane is a valid reason to take the lane.

    > Also, if a vehicle coming the other way crosses
    > the center median, and I have to swerve right to avoid
    > it …

    then the best place for the cyclist is to be in the middle of the lane and hence either ahead of or behind you, not in a position where they’re likely to being swiped by your evasive move. Incidentally your so called ‘evasive move’ would be illegal – it amounts to failure to control your vehicle and maintain lanes. The law only allows you to brake and brace for impact, until an actual collision pushes you off-line. If you instead choose to change your line and collide with someone/something, then you are liable.

  10. This is why on the worst of roads I generally stick to the area roughly where the right tire of cars goes. Its far enough right that I appear to be “to the side” to people driving behind me, and far enough left that I’m effectively controlling the lane.

  11. To follow up on faraz’s comment, Rich,

    You should check out 21202 (a) (3) of the California Vehicle Code, regarding taking the lane, and specifically lane width. Many two lane roads have substandard width lanes, i.e. a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

    The average US travel lane is 12′ wide.
    The average US car is ~6′ wide,
    Allowing for the required 3′ passing distance, and
    ~2″ for the width of a bike

    That comes to roughly 11′ give or take. Assuming that I am riding within a foot of the right edge of the roadway, that does not leave of a lot of room to legally pass without entering the oncoming traffic lane.

    Seems like the smarter thing for everyone involved would be to take the lane.

    ARTICLE 4. Operation of Bicycles [21200 – 21213] ( Article 4 added by Stats. 1963, Ch. 479. )

    21202.
    (a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:
    (1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
    (2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
    (3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a “substandard width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
    (4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.
    (b) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway of a highway, which highway carries traffic in one direction only and has two or more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of that roadway as practicable.
    (Amended by Stats. 1996, Ch. 674, Sec. 4. Effective January 1, 1997.)

  12. but hogging the center line, specially in a group, is seen as both provocative and un-necessary by many drivers.

    If it is, that’s a sign we need to strengthen our driver’s ed and require ongoing education instead of our current practice of automatic renewals.

  13. Maybe the murderers facebook history needs to be examined for comments on anticyclist memes. I’m sure he is a hero to many people based on comments I’ve read by countless posters advocating doing just what he did to those cyclists, maybe he made such comments himself. It is clear he is a truly vile individual.

  14. A few things I want to say: It is unfair to attack the media for admonishing cyclists to wear helmets. I am both a cyclist and a motorist, and I will not set my foot to pedals without a helmet, but far too many cyclists ride without helmets, lights, any kind of a horn of some sort, and without any regard to traffic laws. The media needs to pump the helmet thing up! This article comes off a little reactionary to me. The media warning cyclists to wear helmets is NOT “victim blaming,” as Ms. Schmitt is trying to assert. Nor is ANYONE from the media purporting that helmets have magical powers of safety, particularly in a mass butchering like this. However, helmets save lives, and even though I rode without one for decades (because I was honestly too reckless and stupid to know better) they are vital to cyclists.

    Here in NY City they have installed a massive number of speed cameras to enforce the new 25 MPH speed limit, and let me tell you, as a cyclist and a motorist, while people still blow the law off, they are making a huge difference. I can see that most motorists while I am out cycling are massively paranoid at the hundreds of red light and speed cameras (lol not many of them care one iota for my safety as a cyclist) and are slowing down.

    There are still many idiots out there, in a rush to get to that red light 50 feet in front of them or to get right up to the guy’s bumper just ahead, and they pose a danger. Too many motorists are parking or driving in cycling only lanes, and that’s bad.

    However, I have to agree with the sentiments expressed by some about “not taking the entire lane.” I will NOT debate that from a legal standpoint, because in some places, cyclists are allowed to “take the lane,” but someone very wisely mentioned that if you indiscriminately take the lane “just because you can” then you are going to seriously piss off every single motorist behind you. And the question you need to ask yourself is, do you really want to cultivate road-rage against you while you are on a bicycle, and ride your righteous indignation right to your early grave?

    There are times cyclists HAVE TO take the lane, and I do it all the time when necessary when I cycle, even in Manhattan or the outer boroughs. BUT I cycle to the right whenever I can, allowing cars to pass me in the lane. I want traffic to flow, and motorists to feel good about sharing the road with me, and I try to accomplish this with constant communication while I am riding. If I have to take the lane for instance when cars are illegally double parked, parked in a bike lane, or there are road hazards such as debris or construction in the extreme right of the lane, then I carefully signal, make sure the cars behind me are aware I am about to “take the lane,” and perhaps most important, the second I can get over to the right of the lane, I immediately do so! And while doing so, I use my left hand to wave the cars past me, so they see that I see them and want them to pass. Often I wave and call out “thank you!” and often they wave back and everyone is happy!

    This assertion that cyclists should ALWAYS take the lane may or may not be legal, but it is absurdly dangerous in most places, because there is already so much damned road rage out there, do you really want to cause more?

    Think about it!

  15. If every cycling death is answered in the media with “see, wear your helmet”, then the public can blow off the biggest reasons for cyclist fatalities which is reckless driving and poor infrastructure.

    In Los Angeles, the roads are in terrible shape and cyclists often need to take the lane for safety. Most motorists don’t notice potholes that are a danger to cyclists, so to them bikes taking the lane is always bullshit. I can keep people from getting pissed at me when I’m trying to stay safe. I’m not concerned with angering assholes. I’m riding safe. Hell, a lot of the time cars are slowing ME down.

  16. “If every cycling death is answered in the media with “see, wear your helmet”

    That is an absurd misrepresentation of how this tragedy was answered. If that was the ONLY thing the media reporting this said, then I would agree. But to take that one admonishment out of all context and couch it as victim blaming is exactly the kind of thing that people rightfully get angry at the press for doing. Everyone gets furious at reporters who misrepresent the positions of the people they are interviewing by snipping out one out-of-context statement and disparaging the person they got the quote from in order to make a story sizzle more.

  17. They weren’t taken people out of context, but the Detroit Free Press seemed to only speak with people who said stay away from cars and wear a helmet. Zero about the systematic killing and animosity towards people trying to go somewhere safely. They are ignorant enough to think this is the way towards safety and report only these quotes. It’s not an absurd representation.

  18. I would assume that ALL evidence, including this low-life’s social media is being examined. There is simply no way that a motorist can “unintentionally” mow down 9 riders on bicycles, who all witnesses say were cycling on the extreme right of the road. The damage that all those bicycles caused to the vehicle was massive, and if this Pickett maniac had not intended to kill them, he would have stopped at some point and not ran all of them through. Witnesses stated that they were riding in tandem, single file, and so with the resistance that the felled bikes and the cyclists imparted to the vehicle, the only rational way that this maniac could have continued his rampage would have been to IGNORE any sane reflex to slam on his brakes and he would have had to hit the gas hard to run them through. Not enough alcohol in the world could even charitably call this a drunken accident. This had to have been intentional on the part of this sociopath.

  19. What you are failing to realize is that news pieces from large agencies are highly specialized. The article that you and this author are “reacting” so negative to was specifically a piece about bicycle safety. That was the topic!

    Aside from everything else, that is only ONE of the many reports from the station in question, WZZM.

    This report from the same station is about the tragedy and a local church service:

    http://www.wzzm13.com/news/local/prayer-service-held-for-cyclists-killed-in-kalamazoo/238585601

    This article from this news agency talked about mourners in a church:

    http://www.wzzm13.com/news/local/community/hundreds-pedal-through-kalamazoo-to-mourn-bicyclists-killed-in-crash/237788179

    This one offers a report on the surviving cyclists:

    http://www.wzzm13.com/news/local/kalamazoo/injured-kalamazoo-bike-crash-victims-improving/238883689

    And there are plenty more from this station.

    Every one of these reports FROM THE SAME AGENCY you guys are complaining about, are sober, sympathetic toward the cyclists and their families, and are reporting the news without ANY shred of blame toward the cyclist. They clearly refer to the cyclists as victims in every single article!

    You have to realize that this ONE report was about bicycle safety and ONLY safety. The other reports are more “human interest.” You are overreacting to a safety-piece as if this was ALL the station had to say about this! No. That was the topic of the piece, bicycle safety.

  20. No, it is not “entirely subjective” A court will decide and may disregard your conveniently “subjective” assessment of what is safe.

    To your second point, if you are in front of me and a vehicle coming the other way crosses the line, then you will be hit before I do anything. On the right, you stand a chance.

    And a driver is absolutely allowed to take evasive action to avoid an ongoing vehicle. I’ve no idea why you think otherwise

  21. How legal it is to ride 15 mph and take the whole lane when traffic is moving at 50 mph is something reasonable people can debate. Although I doubt that a cop would debate it.

    As an experienced driver and someone who used to ride a bike, I absolutely believe that the risks are higher if a cyclist presents himself as more of an obstruction to traffic. 21202(a) expresses that succinctly. Keeping to the right-most 3 feet or so is safer than not doing so.

  22. How legal it is to ride 15 mph and take the whole lane when traffic
    is moving at 50 mph is something reasonable people can debate.

    Not at all. There are only a select few streets with minimum speeds.There is almost never room for “debate” about what is legal.

  23. Rich,

    That is simply not the law, and I would be happy to debate it with a cop. Although I am curious if they would be just as willing to pull over that Winnebago driving 25 mph driving up Hwy 50 on the way to South Lake Tahoe. You are only required to pull out if there are five or more cars backed up behind you.

    Did you read the entire CVC section? There are 4 exceptions to 21202 (a), one of which is substandard lane width. If a car cannot pass within the same lane as the bike that they are passing it is illegal to pass.

    It is illegal to pass within 3 feet of a bicycle. To reiterate my original post:

    The average US travel lane is 12′ wide.
    The average US car is ~6′ wide,
    Allowing for the required 3′ passing distance, and
    ~2″ for the width of a bike

    That comes to roughly 11′ give or take. Assuming that I am riding within a foot of the right edge of the roadway, that leaves 1 foot to pass without crossing into oncoming traffic lane.

    There is a common misconception that automobiles should be passing a cyclist while staying in their lane. There simply is not enough room in most cases to pass legally. Whether I am riding to the right of the lane or in the middle of the lane a car approaching from behind is required to slow and only pass when it is safe to do so.

    That being said I usually ride on the right half of the rode and travel single file when there is traffic, but I find automobile congestion to be a much bigger traffic issue than bicycles.

  24. It all comes down to cyclists’ inability and lack of gumption to challenge the Government on the most inequitable use of transportation and abuse of civil rights. A Letter to the Editor regarding the ignorant and prejudiced sermon to cyclists, would also be a step in the right direction.

  25. > A court will decide and may disregard your conveniently
    > “subjective” assessment of what is safe.
    Subjective means it varies on a case by case basis according to specific circumstances, contrary to your blanket pronouncements – a judge may agree or disagree, a driver has no place expressing their opinion. OTOH, your evasive move causing collision is necessarily and objectively illegal in every situation.

    > That is utter nonsense. if you are in front of me and a
    > vehicle coming the other way crosses the line, then you
    > will be hit before I do anything.
    Not necessarily. I would be much narrower 🙂
    Anyway, it is the law, irrespective of whether or not you like it.

    > And a driver is absolutely allowed to take evasive action
    > to avoid an ongoing vehicle

    … provided it is safe. If that evasive action results in a collision, then it was not safe and hence illegal. Ignorant and indignant – you are quite representative of all the ‘experienced’ drivers out there.

    > instinct takes over in such a situation.
    Is not a valid defense. There is no insanity or ‘state of mind’ defense to driving infractions. If you dont have a suitable state of mind and temperament to be able to control your vehicle, then don’t drive.

  26. “If that evasive action results in a collision, then it was not safe and hence illegal.”

    Again, that is 100% wrong. A maneuver does not have to be safe but merely safer than the alternative.

    So in the example given, the driver has a choice between hitting an oncoming vehicle (potentially (say) 4 fatalities and dies-swiping a cyclist (say 1 fatality) then the evasive swerve is the safer of the two.

    ” ‘instinct takes over in such a situation”‘ Is not a valid defense”

    Whether it is a valid defense or not is a decision that a jury would make based on the circumstances. Most jurors would understand the role of instinct when otherwise death is imminent. Being “dead and in the right” is in any event over-rated.

    “Subjective means it varies on a case by case basis ”

    No, subjective” means reasonable people can take different views of the same incident.

  27. The issue has nothing to do with there being a minimum speed limit. If you are going slower than prevailing traffic then you are an obstruction and must keep right. In CA you must pull over if there are 5 or more vehicles stuck behind you

    It’s the speed differential that is crucial, not the actual speeds.

  28. I disagree with you on the legality issue but, ultimately, I am talking about what is safer and not what is technically allowed.

  29. A 12 foot wide road allows for a car in the left-most 6 feet, a bike in the right-most 3 feet, and a 3-feet gap between the two.

    If the bike keeps right and the car passes as far to the left as is safe and reasonable, then there is no problem.

    The problems start when a slower bike is in a position that compels the car to cross the center median in order to pass with a reasonable distance between the car and the bike.

    Hence my statement that, regardless of the law, if you are way over to the left, you are increasing your risk, even if it feels to you that you are safer.

  30. Rich,

    In many instances even if as you say the bike keeps right and the car passes as far to the left as is safe and reasonable there is still not enough room to safely and legally pass. This is one reason why it is sfaer for a bicyclist to take rhe lane. Taking the lane compels the passing motorist to slow down and pass when it is safe to pass, rather then trying to squeeze by. Taking the lane also makes a cyclist much more visible. On many roads, staying to the right regardless of road conditions makes cyclists less visible and encourages automobiles to try to pass unsafely and often illegally. Hence my statement, that it is often safer for a cyclist to take the lane.

    The problem begins long before a car encounters a bicycle on the road. Automobile drivers have become desensitized to the pain that they cause themselves and others. Automibles kill 30,000+ people per year and injury tens of thousands more, and we accept this as unavoidable. It is not unavoidable and until we look at this critically and refuse to accept that a few seconds of inconvenience are less important than someone’s life, it will continue to happen.

  31. I disagree with you on the legality issue but, ultimately, I am talking about what is safer and not what is technically allowed.

    You weren’t talking about what is “technically allowed”? Your exact words were :

    How legal it is to ride 15 mph and take the whole lane when traffic is moving at 50 mph is something reasonable people can debate. Although I doubt that a cop would debate it.

    Why are you changing your tune now?

  32. Again, the fact that something “feels” safer to you does not mean that it really is safer. Deliberately obstructing traffic because you have a personally theory that it is safer is not only selfish and inconsiderate, it’s also more dangerous because, inevitably, drivers will take risks to pass you rather than sit behind you for an hour at 15 mph – that isn’t going to happen.

    It’s really the same argument that it is dangerous for cars to black bike lanes because the cyclist has to pull out into traffic. Why can’t the bike just stop and wait instead? But I doubt you see that as the same, somehow.

    Drivers may indeed be “desensitized” to cyclists. But the more cyclists behave selfishly and aggressively, the more at the margin other road users may feel less empathy with them. So psychologically, you deciding that dozens of vehicle behind you are condemned to ride at a third of their normal speed may work against you.

    Want to know who I NEVER see on a bike hogging the lane and delaying traffic? Parents with a small kid on board. Maybe they know something you don’t?

  33. The “legal” point you made was that a minimum speed limit was needed for my point to be correct. It’s not, so the rest of your argument is moot.

    So I repeat – it is not legal to obstruct traffic from travelling at its normal speed just because you have a personal theory that it makes you feel safer.

    Such behavior is illegal, its inconsiderate and its less safe – the perfect trifecta of delusion. And deliberately frustrating other road users is not the attitude of someone who wishes to avoid confrontation, resentment and risk.

  34. > Again, that is 100% wrong. A maneuver does not have to
    > be safe but merely safer than the alternative.
    There you go creating false dilemmas. Buy a safer car and watch your speed, if you don’t want to be in that position. Or stay at home!

    > So in the example given, the driver has a choice between
    > hitting an oncoming vehicle (potentially (say) 4 fatalities
    > and dies-swiping a cyclist (say 1 fatality) then the evasive
    > swerve is the safer of the two.
    Unless the driver is clairvoyant, they have no way of knowing what is going to happen in a collision.The law only requires you to control the actions that you can, so that you do not cause a collision. For all you know, the oncoming vehicle might’ve managed to swerve back at the last moment and a poor cyclist got squished for no good reason. It is not incumbent upon you to save lives endangered by someone else’s action, but you are liable for lives lost due to your actions. It is not a numbers game!

    > Whether it is a valid defense or not is a decision that a
    > jury would make based on the circumstances. Most jurors
    > would understand the role of instinct when otherwise death
    > is imminent.
    In most states, there is no trial by jury where there is no possibility of prison sentence. I think you are equating traffic infractions with murder cases in TV dramas. The Vehicle Code is clear cut in terms of what it means to control your vehicle – maintain sufficient distance from the vehicle in front or you and maintain your lane, until such time when it is safe to change, so as to not cause a collision. Regardless of instinct, you would be legally liable and morally at fault for failure to do so.

  35. Rich,

    The aggressive and selfish behavior that I typically see on the road comes from automobile drivers. Are automobiles really condemned to anything by cyclists. That seems a tad melodramatic.

    I never said dozens of cars were backing up behind me. In fact, I was the one who referenced the need to pull out for faster moving cars if 5 or more cars are backed up. Your argument that cyclists are holding up traffic all over the place just doesn’t ring true, and if you are so concerned with traffic you should be happy to have more bicycles on the road, since they take up far less room than cars and ultimately reduce congestion.

    I am not sure where you live, but I see cyclists with children take the lane all the time. Please stop blaming others for the bad behavior of car drivers.

  36. > There are times cyclists HAVE TO take the lane, and I do it
    > all the time when necessary
    The problem is that you and the driver behind you have very different definitions of necessity. No one is advocating indiscriminately taking the lane. The person who is complaining about it is the one person who claims that cyclists should not take the lane unless they’re travelling at the speed of traffic.

    Quoting: “It’s also illegal for a cyclist to take the entire lane or keep left unless they are moving at the speed of traffic”
    Would you seriously agree with ^this persons^ nonsense?

  37. Your earlier claim was that, when faced with an oncoming vehicle dead ahead, and a near certain death, I should just “brace” when in fact I could avoid the crash by veering to the side.

    I don’t think you really understand how utterly ridiculous that advice sounds, and I can only assume that you don’t drive.

    Now, in a way you have a point. If A takes evasive action to avoid hitting B and, by doing that, hits C, then A may end up with some liability towards C. And that is especially true if B just drives off and so A and C are the only parties to the accident who are still around.

    So in a low speed accident, where the only likely effect is some bodywork damage, it might make more sense to hit the vehicle whose fault it is. However I’m talking about a split-second instinctive life-or-death decision, and you can bet I will swerve. I’ll deal with any other issues later – it still beats being dead.

    To your other point, in every state I have lived in, the parties to a civil action have a right to a jury trial. And I guarantee you that most jurors would understand why a driver would swerve to avoid a head-on impact with a 12-wheeler

  38. By and large cyclists do keep right. It’s the safer choice, the legal choice and the most considerate choice. My comments were directed to an aggressive minority of cyclists who appear to take it on themselves to be a “one bike traffic calming entity” and who hog the lane, thereby delaying others.

    As for what is safer, you are entitled to an opinion. Everyone is. However, if I am in a car and you are in a bike, then how safe you are depends on what I think and do, and not on what you think or do. The idiot driver in this case would have got you whatever you did.

    But in my case I can assure you that you are safer from the effects of my driving, and any mishap deriving from my driving, if you are laterally as far away from me as possible. If I have to swerve to avoid another vehicle, or have a mechanical failure, or have a medical emergency, or get shunted by another by vehicle, you don’t want to be in the middle of the lane. You want to be as far to the right as possible.

    I can’t make you do that. But I can certainly explain why your behavior is more risky, even though you can’t see it. Your safety is defined by my behavior, not yours.

  39. Rich,

    Fair enough. I can appreciate your opinion, and will continue to ride as far right as practical. I hope that in your dealings with cyclists in the future that you will keep in mind all of the safety and legal reasons why a cyclists may not be riding as far right as you feel they should before you race to judgement, or race to pass them. Everyone is someone’s friend, or son or daughter, and a few seconds of inconvenience does not justify putting their life at risk.

    I hope that they prosecute the individual that caused this tragedy to the full extent of the law. He deserves to spend a considerable amount of time in jail.

  40. You can veer all you want if there is no cyclist to your right! This whole scenario arises only because you insist on a cyclist riding to the right and splitting lanes with your car. If the cyclist has taken the lane and is either ahead of or behind you, then this dangerous scenario does not arise – you are free to veer.

    You want to put the cyclist in a dangerous position on the extreme right of a narrow lane, then put your self next to them in a position to be a danger to them and your self (by leaving no room for your evasive action) and then have the audacity to claim innocence when your negligence cause them harm? You can’t claim exigent circumstances if you are partially responsible for conjuring them.

  41. No, again, if you are ahead of me then the oncoming vehicle has already killed you. What I do no longer matters to you.

    I am not putting “the cyclist in a dangerous position”. The cyclist is doing that. I’m just explaining why that is.

    And what exactly am I supposed to do if a vehicle coming the other way suddenly crosses the center line and heads for me? “Bracing” isn’t an option.

    In that case, technically I might be held liable for your death. But the real blame would be the other vehicle that forced me to swerve. And I really can’t see a jury blaming me when I acted in a split second to save the life of my family. And honestly, if you said otherwise during voir dire you would not be selected for the jury

  42. Regarding the last paragraph, I fully agree.

    To the other, I understand why a cyclist may sometimes ride way over to the left. What I can’t understand is why a cyclist would do that as a matter of course. I see it as a less safe option. But I guess everyone has to do what they think is best.

  43. > if you are ahead of me then the oncoming
    > vehicle has already killed you. What I
    > do no longer matters to you.
    Exactly! You finally got it. Watch out for your actions so that you don’t kill me through your negligence. I take my chances with an oncoming vehicle every time I ride, whether or not you are around to protect me with your generous and unsolicited side-swipe.

    > And what exactly am I supposed to do if a vehicle
    > coming the other way suddenly crosses the center
    > line and heads for me? “Bracing” isn’t an option.
    Give up your license and stay at home or swerve wildly without looking and accept responsibility for your negligence.

    For all your weird hypotheticals, you may as well be pre-emptively sacrificing 2 cyclists every fortnight to ward of the gods of road accidents. Your assessment of cycling safety is incorrect, driving safety is even worse.

  44. The real danger you face is a total misunderstanding of the reality of being on the road. And that is scary. I hope you stay lucky.

  45. Welcome to the land of Streetsblog SF’s resident troll.

    Step 1: He makes a false claim
    Step 2: You show that claim is false, with evidence
    Step 3: He claims he was talking about something else and that his real point is … some other false claim

    Lather, rinse, repeat

  46. The “sit behind you for an hour at 15 mph” is a complete strawman argument. Many cyclists don’t even ride for that long. And even fewer stay on the same road for an hour or more when they do. Assuming both of these are untrue, most cyclists will let vehicles behind them pass when it’s safe to do so. That’s generally at the next intersection, perhaps sooner if the road has a usable shoulder before that. I find it hard to envision any scenario where the combined lane/shoulder is too narrow for a cyclist to let a motor vehicle pass for 15 miles. If there is such a road like that, it’s generally a very narrow back road which most drivers are only using for a short time. And as such, chances are good they might not be driving much more than 15 mph themselves on account of the narrowness of the road.

    It’s really the same argument that it is dangerous for cars to black bike lanes because the cyclist has to pull out into traffic. Why can’t the bike just stop and wait instead?

    Because blocking the bike lane is illegal while a bike taking the center of a moving lane isn’t. Should the cyclist just sit there behind a vehicle blocking a bike lane for 30 minutes or an hour until the vehicle owner gets back? There’s no equivalency between this versus being forced to go slow for a block or two or three behind a cyclist until there’s room for them to let you safely pass. Three blocks at 15 mph takes 36 seconds. At 50 mph it takes 11 seconds. So wow, you lost a lousy 25 seconds being behind a cyclist in a typical situation. That’s usually all it is—a matter of a few seconds, and yet drivers fume about being behind cyclists. These same drivers don’t fume when some idiot double parks, then the ensuing merging backs up traffic, perhaps causes them to miss a few light cycles. The fact is if you use public roads, it’s reasonable to leave a few minutes early if you need to be someplace on time to account for normal delays. It could be a cyclist, or a school bus loading, or being stuck behind a loaded 18-wheeler going uphill. I don’t see why only delays caused by cyclists should enrage drivers like they do.

  47. No, it’s fair to attack the media for admonishing cyclists to wear helmets. For starters do they suggest cyclists wear blue shoes, or green jerseys, or orange gloves? It’s irrelevant whether or not cyclists wear helmets, especially in the context of motor vehicle collisions. Enough studies have been done to show helmets are virtually ineffective overall in many types of bike-only incidents. No studies are needed to show they’re just about 100% ineffective in bike-motor vehicle incidents. Advising cyclists to wear helmets plays into the meme that cycling is dangerous. Statistically it isn’t. What little danger there is exists almost entirely due to motor vehicles from which a helmet offers no protection whatsoever. If the media wanted to spend time dishing out advice to cyclists which is actually useful, it would be to learn defensive cycling. Cycling advocacy organizations could give classes. We should be teaching cyclists to avoid incidents, not to accept them as inevitable and admonish them to wear nearly useless “protection”. Of course, since the media is in the business of attracting readers with sensationalism, it resorts to giving out useless advice like “wear a helmet”.

    However, helmets save lives, and even though I rode without one for decades (because I was honestly too reckless and stupid to know better) they are vital to cyclists.

    It’s debatable whether or not helmets actually save lives, and at best the number would be vanishingly small. Here are the traumatic brain injury deaths by cause in the USA:

    All causes 53014 100%
    Motorists 7955 15%
    Pedestrians 1825 3.4%
    Motorcyclists 1361 2.6%
    Cyclists 325 0.6%

    If we assume in the case of cyclists that TBI was the sole cause of death, the cyclist who died wasn’t wearing a helmet, and helmet would have been 100% effective preventing TBI, then at most you could save 325 lives per year if everyone wore helmets.

    Now let’s dissect things further. Roughly 90% of cyclist deaths in the US are caused by collision with a motor vehicle. In just about ALL of these cases either there were additional causes of death, such as blunt force trauma to major organs, or the impact to the head was too severe for a helmet to protect against. Or in layman’s terms, in these cases wearing a helmet wouldn’t have affected the outcome. That brings us down to 30 or so lives we might save annually which didn’t involve collision with a motor vehicle. However, we don’t know how many of these 30 were in fact wearing helmets but died anyway. If the number is the same percentage as in the general cycling population, then only 15 could have potentially been saved. If not, then perhaps 30. Both of these assumptions still assume helmets would be 100% effective preventing TBI. They’re not.

    Bottom line—when you look at everything, at best some tens of cyclists could be saved if everyone wore a helmet. However, if we made helmet use mandatory, as some in the media would like, it would discourage millions from riding, probably resulting in tens or hundreds of thousands eventually dying from heart disease. And then you also have safety in numbers. With fewer people riding, the risk of getting hit by a motor vehicle goes up for the remaining helmeted cyclists. That might actually increase the number of cyclist TBIs.

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