19 May 2010

Not again - witnessing another car/bike accident

I was on my commute run home yesterday, and heading through the nastiest section around Joyce/Boundary that always has my spidey-senses tingling. This section is always a problem, and I don't mind generalising and saying that the people who live and drive in this area are the most ignorant IDIOTS I have seen on a road. I'm not only talking about drivers, but pedestrians coming and going from the Skytrain station at Joyce. Either way, they have blinders on and drive/walk wherever they please without looking for oncoming traffic, bikes, or runners (although I'm used to the last one - who ever looks out for runners?) I have had too many close calls in this area; fortunately traffic is generally slow, so while risk is high, the potential severity of injuries is relatively low. 

Such was the case yesterday, when I was running along the bike path alongside Vanness, approaching Boundary. I saw the light turn green in my direction, and a bike approaching on the road on the opposite side. I caught my breath as a car turned left in front of the oncoming bike, then choked as a second car followed it, causing the cyclist to slow down to prevent a crash. But holy fricken crap - a THIRD car also turned left in front of the cyclist. It was one of those things that happens so fast, but sort of in slow motion as you watch it unfold and your mind processes what it is seeing while simultaneously calculating the inevitability of what is going to occur. The cyclist quite skillfully veered to his right to avoid T-boning the car, but the SUV driver, obviously in absolute oblivion to anything around him, kept on going and hit the cyclist broadside, knocking him down. 

I approached the cyclist, who was quite shaken but on his feet shortly after getting struck and knocked down. As I alluded to above, this accident was at relatively slow speed, so the superficial injuries appeared minor. Both rider and driver went over to the side of the road and exchanged info, while I took pictures of the area with my phone's camera. (for the bike geeks, the very nice Cervelo he was riding also superficially appeared to have come out relatively unscathed - of course, that was my second concern after dealing with the cyclist himself  :-)

While I absolutely hate seeing something like this happen in general, I am also glad that I, personally, was on the scene to witness what happened in order to explain the incident to the insurance company and/or investigators in order to get an accurate outcome to the case. 

Unfortunately, this was the third accident I have directly witnessed. One was another driver/cyclist incident in front of the Emergency ward of the hospital I work at, and the last was a really bad one where a driver nailed a pedestrian head-on and rag-dolled her over the car hood and windshield. Some things you can't get out of your mind (shudder).

I commute by bike or foot regularly in this particular area, and am always on guard. The cyclist in this case was a very experienced road rider, which only goes to show that no matter how smart and skilled you are as a rider, you have no defense against a vehicle being driven by some ignorant POS who has no sense of responsibility when driving.

This photo was my viewpoint of the scene of the crime. I guess I'm not exactly independent and objective in my perspective, but really, if you were in the black car turning left, how could you possibly not see an oncoming cyclist wearing red and orange (same as the dude on the far sidewalk) who was already across 2 of the 3 northbound lanes on the far side? Assclown...this kind of stuff just makes me angry.


Sanducci said...

Thanks for your comments adn your witness, Bruce. I have witnessed several accidents and seen countless close calls in my years of commuting. I was once thrown over someone's trunk after he crossed two lanes to make a turn-off he missed.
What to do, though? I wear yellow, use the road like a car, treat motorists as hostile. Like you said, even a prepared, experienced rider is still just meat to somebody who's texting his lawyer or pressing 'skip' on his iPod. I'm for guerrilla cycling, Bruce -- use the road, the sidewalk, the park paths. Ride hard and fast. Wear yellow, use lights. Make yourself more compelling to look at than whatever else the driver can see.

Turtlepace said...

Take care out there! I witness close calls on almost all of my bike commutes. Sad and scary. So far I have been lucky to avoid being hit, but as you pointed out, even experienced riders get hit.

This morning I could have pushed through an intersection at a "late" green light, but seeing a car speeding from the opposite direction with his left turn signal on, I decided that it's not worth to find out if he would see me and stop for me in his haste...

lonerunman said...

Thanks for the comments, guys.

Sanducci - I'm generally with you in that when cycling, I try and make myself as visible as possible with bright clothing and lit up like an Xmas tree at night. From legal case descriptions I have seen, dressing the part like that is significant in demonstrating that you are making the right effort to be seen, and having judgment go your way (hope to never end up in court like that, though).

That said, I do ride aggressively as well, and assert my place on the road in order to be seen. I also hate stopping and slowing my flow :-) Sybille indicated, you have to rely on intuition and a sixth sense to know when to hold back and yield even when you have the right of way, because as my original post said, it doesn't matter if you have the right of way when a driver isn't paying attention. We lose - in a big way.



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