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#1 2009-02-25 18:42:02

chuckthomas
Member
From: Far NW Austin
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 74

Bicyclist hit by red light runner Feb 25 - MLK & Congress

Today about 3pm I was riding my bike in front of the Texas History Museum at MLK and Congress when I heard an impact and car tires screech.  I looked behind me and saw that an auto/bicycle collision had occurred in the intersection.  The car was badly damaged with a smashed in passenger side windshield and bent metal on the roof.  Amazingly, the bicyclist, a 30yr old man on a red fixie, walked away from the crash.  His arm was bleeding badly and his shoulder was broken and/or dislodged.  He was taken away in an ambulance; I suspect that he may have incurred internal injuries.  He was badly shaken but coherent and did not appear to have incurred any head injuries.  He was not wearing a helmet.

Eye witnesses reported to police that the auto driver, a Hispanic woman that looked to be in her late 20 and spoke very little English, ran thru a stale red light going east on MLK.  She was driving a green late 90s Nissan Altima. Witnesses reported that she did not hit her brakes until after hitting the cyclist.  She stayed at the accident scene and did not appear to be impaired, but she too was badly shaken.

When police asked for her driver's license, she produced some type of license or ID card that was not a Texas issued card.  I didn't see it closely enough to see exactly what it was.  Upon request for proof of insurance, she told some story about just getting the car and produced no documents for the officer.  The interaction between the officer and driver was facilitated by a bystander who translated.  The officer shook his head in apparent frustration at the end of this interaction.   I told the driver in Spanish to 'Stop driving'.
When I left, the officer was conducting some observations of the intersection and the driver had not been arrested but was still present.

I stayed on the scene and tried to ensure that all the eyewitness gave a statement to the police.  When I returned to my bicycle, I found that someone had left a small bouquet of little flowers on my handlebar with a nice note.  Those little flowers and the note strengthened my faith in humanity.  They are still in my saddlebag.   -chuck-

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#2 2009-02-25 20:03:20

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 923
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Re: Bicyclist hit by red light runner Feb 25 - MLK & Congress

Eye witnesses reported to police that the auto driver...ran thru a stale red light going east on MLK.

I don't think this could be true.  Mike Dahmus says that sort of thing never happens.

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#3 2009-02-25 22:38:58

chuckthomas
Member
From: Far NW Austin
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 74

Re: Bicyclist hit by red light runner Feb 25 - MLK & Congress

MichaelBluejay wrote:

I don't think this could be true.  Mike Dahmus says that sort of thing never happens.

I was thinking the same thing.  Not only was this the case, but she flew past stopped traffic in the right lane.  (She was in the left lane)

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#4 2009-02-25 23:02:31

dougmc
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Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 500

Re: Bicyclist hit by red light runner Feb 25 - MLK & Congress

So, what did the note on your bike say? :)

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#5 2009-02-26 08:57:51

chuckthomas
Member
From: Far NW Austin
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 74

Re: Bicyclist hit by red light runner Feb 25 - MLK & Congress

The note reads:
"Bless the Bicyclists - They shall inherit the earth"  and it has three little hearts drawn on the side.

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#6 2009-02-26 11:51:12

Jason
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-31
Posts: 48
Website

Re: Bicyclist hit by red light runner Feb 25 - MLK & Congress

A local blogger also came upon this scene and posted a picture of the car. Check it out:

http://cyclebum.blogspot.com/2009/02/no-bueno.html

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#7 2009-02-26 14:15:08

m1ek
Member
Registered: 2008-06-02
Posts: 153

Re: Bicyclist hit by red light runner Feb 25 - MLK & Congress

No, geniuses, I said that I've never SEEN it happen in Austin (running a stale red light). It obviously happens once in a while - but those of us who live in RealityLand know that cyclists run red lights so much more often than do drivers that you ought to be embarassed to even mention both in the same sentence.

Now, imagine that this driver had just decided to go through the red light because "nobody was coming" rather than apparently just being a nutjob who didn't know how to drive. If you juvenile anarchists defend cyclists running red lights loudly and often enough, sooner or later drivers will get the message that there's no obligation to stop if you don't think anybody's coming the other way.

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#8 2009-02-28 21:29:31

chuckthomas
Member
From: Far NW Austin
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 74

Re: Bicyclist hit by red light runner Feb 25 - MLK & Congress

My cousin Cos asked me to clarify a few things:

The light had been red for several seconds when she entered the intersection.  There was quite a bit of traffic, so the cyclist had to wait until his light turned green.  He was going from UT towards the Capitol on Congress.  He started when his light turned green and made it across both lanes of west bound MLK and was hit in the first East bound lane that he crossed.  The MLK light had been red long enough for several cars to back up in the lane next to the red light runner.  All these eyewitnesses reported that the red light runner made no attempt to stop at the light and did not brake until after the collision.  The weather at the time was sunny, dry and about 80f

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#9 2009-03-06 00:20:57

chuckthomas
Member
From: Far NW Austin
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 74

Re: Bicyclist hit by red light runner Feb 25 - MLK & Congress

A couple of days ago, I was riding my bicycle down Oak Knoll near 183.  There was some road construction and a cop watching over traffic.  I recognized the officer as the same guy that worked the above accident.  Things were slow and I wasn't in a hurry so I pulled over to talk to him about this accident.  After some friendly and respectful discussion, I was able to get past the tightlipped police facade and got him to open up about this case.  He did tell me that the woman driver was in fact not licensed nor insured.   I asked why she was not arrested and he told me that since she did not leave the scene and she produced an identification document (a Mexican ID card), he did not have the basis for an arrest.  He told me that she was cited.  He also told me that running a red light was not sufficient to constitute a charge of reckless endangerment in spite of how much damage she caused.  As the conversation progressed, he began to reveal some anti-bicyclist sentiment.  He complained about bicyclists violating laws downtown and suggested that bicyclists should know that the streets are dangerous and not become indigent when we get hit by motorists violating the law.  I told him that we bicyclist encounter situations everyday where we must make a decision between what is legal and what is safe.  I gave the example of when we need to turn left within a block or so and are stopped at a red light near the right curb. The safe thing to do, if there is no cross traffic, is to blow the light, get left and get out of the way before traffic starts moving.  He didn't argue the point and seemed to understand the practicalness of this.  Another thing that disturbed me about his assessment of the accident was that he seemed to make a big deal out of the apparent fact that the bicyclist that got hit did not have a valid driver's license in spite of having auto insurance.  The implication was that the cyclist had his license suspended for some offense.  I told the officer that I did not understand how that had any relevancy to the case since a license was not required to operate a bicycle and even if his license had been suspended, he was doing the right thing by taking his bike instead of his car.  The officer seemed to think about it and ultimately said 'yeah, that's true.'  Our discussed ended on a friendly note, in spite of some disagreements and I'd like to think I gave him a little insight into our world.

Toward the end of our conversation, he told me that if the woman were caught driving again before being licensed and insured that she could be arrested.  With that in mind, if any of you ride around the area of Reinli street in North Austin (where the woman told the officer she lived), please keep an eye out for a dark green late 90s Nissan Altima with a smashed in passenger side windshield, crumpled roof and a red paint ding on the front bumper.  If you see this car being driven by a small, slightly chubby Hispanic woman in her late 20's call the police and request that she be stopped.

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#10 2009-03-06 00:24:43

chuckthomas
Member
From: Far NW Austin
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 74

Re: Bicyclist hit by red light runner Feb 25 - MLK & Congress

A clear picture of this car with license number is at the above link.  Here it is again:

http://cyclebum.blogspot.com/2009/02/no-bueno.html

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#11 2009-03-06 12:48:15

dougmc
Administrator
Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 500

Re: Bicyclist hit by red light runner Feb 25 - MLK & Congress

chuckthomas wrote:

and not become indigent when we get hit by motorists violating the law.

Well, when you get hit by a car, especially by somebody who has no insurance, the medical bills pile up and you often can't work.  So it shouldn't surprise the officer when people become indigent as a result of this! :)

More seriously, good job.  You probably did more to advance cycling advocacy with that cop right there than a dozen charity rides ...

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#12 2009-03-09 09:07:59

m1ek
Member
Registered: 2008-06-02
Posts: 153

Re: Bicyclist hit by red light runner Feb 25 - MLK & Congress

I gave the example of when we need to turn left within a block or so and are stopped at a red light near the right curb. The safe thing to do, if there is no cross traffic, is to blow the light, get left and get out of the way before traffic starts moving.

This is, of course, a load of crap - it's not safer for you individually (at least I don't think so), and it's definitely less safe overall if a lot of people make that individual decision. And, again, the same exact justification can be used when driving a car. ("I'm over here in the right lane since I was driving slower than the speed of traffic! But I have to turn left at the next block! Guess I'll run the red light!")

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#13 2009-03-24 11:03:30

chuckthomas
Member
From: Far NW Austin
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 74

Re: Bicyclist hit by red light runner Feb 25 - MLK & Congress

..... the same exact justification can be used when driving a car. ("I'm over here in the right lane since I was driving slower than the speed of traffic! But I have to turn left at the next block! Guess I'll run the red light!")

Motorists can drive down the middle of the fast left lane for several blocks before the turn without endangering their lives; this is not always the case for bicyclists.  Bicyclists are often stuck on the far right a block or so before a left turn not due to lack of planning but due to reasonable vigilance while operating in an infrastructure that is too often not designed to accommodate them.

Another example of the safety vs legality decision that I make almost daily is my ride down a section of road that is posted "No thru traffic" By violating this law and riding thru this quiet section, I can save myself half a mile of the ugly part of 620.  I'm sure that many readers will find this objectionable as well since I am violating the law in order to avoid a section of road with a speed limit of 60mph and no shoulders.  But frankly, I don't care.

Different rules for different types of road users is not unprecedented in Texas,  Notice signs with lower speed limits for trucks and laws that prohibit them from certain lanes.  These are rules that favor cars because cars possess less potential destructive power than trucks.  Is it too much to ask for a similar set of rules favoring bicyclists who possess much, much less destructive power than cars?

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#14 2009-03-25 11:15:46

chuckthomas
Member
From: Far NW Austin
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 74

Re: Bicyclist hit by red light runner Feb 25 - MLK & Congress

dougmc wrote:

Well, when you get hit by a car, especially by somebody who has no insurance, the medical bills pile up and you often can't work.  So it shouldn't surprise the officer when people become indigent as a result of this! :)......

Dooooph.  My spell checker is running amuck.  That should read "indignant" although sadly, as you point out, in too many cases "indigent" also applies.

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#15 2009-03-26 10:01:46

m1ek
Member
Registered: 2008-06-02
Posts: 153

Re: Bicyclist hit by red light runner Feb 25 - MLK & Congress

chuckthomas wrote:

..... the same exact justification can be used when driving a car. ("I'm over here in the right lane since I was driving slower than the speed of traffic! But I have to turn left at the next block! Guess I'll run the red light!")

Motorists can drive down the middle of the fast left lane for several blocks before the turn without endangering their lives; this is not always the case for bicyclists.  Bicyclists are often stuck on the far right a block or so before a left turn not due to lack of planning but due to reasonable vigilance while operating in an infrastructure that is too often not designed to accommodate them.

You ignored part of the premise. Slow-moving car. Not normal car. Slow-moving car.

Slow-moving traffic has certain rules associated with it, whether the traffic is on a bicycle or in a car or driving a horse. Yes, it's far more likely to be the first and last cases, but not always. I moved some tall furniture around in my old convertible and was trying to keep the speed around 20 going up Lamar one time - and guess what? Had to stay in the right lane and figure out when it was safest to get in the left lane prior to a turn.

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#16 2009-03-31 21:57:44

chuckthomas
Member
From: Far NW Austin
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 74

Re: Bicyclist hit by red light runner Feb 25 - MLK & Congress

m1ek wrote:

.....
You ignored part of the premise. Slow-moving car. Not normal car. Slow-moving car.

In slow moving traffic, I move over to the left lane well before the turn.  In these cases, I don't feel compelled to use the traffic light to block motorists as I get over and get gone.

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#17 2009-04-01 08:17:37

m1ek
Member
Registered: 2008-06-02
Posts: 153

Re: Bicyclist hit by red light runner Feb 25 - MLK & Congress

If you're that petrified of inducing road rage on your bike, you should probably stick to the trails. Seriously.

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#18 2009-04-27 23:50:07

chuckthomas
Member
From: Far NW Austin
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 74

Re: Bicyclist hit by red light runner Feb 25 - MLK & Congress

m1ek wrote:

If you're that petrified of inducing road rage on your bike, you should probably stick to the trails. Seriously.

Based on your reply, I've obviously failed miserably in making my point.  It's not road rage that concerns me, it's driver distraction/inattention (garden variety Cranium Rectalitus).  I try to ride in such a way that even if a driver does not see me, I won't get hit.  And no, I'm not getting off the road.  I've been bicycle commuting for over 30 years and not stopping now

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