Why you shouldn't ride through crosswalks

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ErinK
Participant
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Cyclists riding in crosswalks has always freaked me out, but just before Christmas I got a good example of what mayhem can happen if you do.

No cyclists were injured in the making of this story, but my beau (also a rider) did $2000 in damage to his car when he hit the car in front of him. The car in front of him panic-stopped to avoid plastering a cyclist who rode into a crosswalk in front of him. Everyone was happy about not killing the cyclist, though I’m making an assumption on the part of the rider, who didn’t stop after the accident.

Both the cars were driving on Fifth Avenue. The first car was turning right onto a side street and my beau was planning to drive past it. The cyclist was riding on the right sidewalk heading toward them and continued on into the crosswalk at a standard bike travel speed.

The problem with bikes driving through crosswalks is that they move a lot faster than people. Car drivers aren’t used to looking more than a few feet outside the intersection when judging if it’s safe to drive across a crosswalk.

My beau had been out Christmas shopping. Luckily the tequila he’d just bought was okay.

So if you choose to ride in crosswalks, please take a good look around for traffic before you start into the street, and slow down so that you’re close to a pace that car drivers will be anticipating. You’ll thank me later (and maybe some car drivers will too).


salty
Participant
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Sorry to hear about the crash, but why isn’t this post titled “Why you shouldn’t drive too closely behind the car ahead of you”?

It’s not clear that the cyclist even did anything wrong here.


Vannevar
Participant
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Another alternative title might be, “Why we should ride in the street and not on the sidewalk”.

There is a good point, though, I never thought about the comparative speed of a cyclist vs the expected speed of a pedestrian.


salty
Participant
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I agree that people should (almost) always ride their bikes on the street, but that’s a separate issue – and unless this happened in a “business district” it’s just an opinion and not a law.

There is a law requiring drivers to be able to “bring his vehicle to a stop within the assured clear distance ahead.” (75 Pa.C.S.A. ยง3361, also see 3310)


quizbot
Participant
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dwillen
Participant
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What if the cyclist was a pedestrian the driver saw at the last minute? A kid running out after a ball? A dog running into the street? Seems you/your friend would have still rear-ended the car. I can’t really see how the accident you describe is any fault of a cyclist.

While unrelated, your point of not riding on the sidewalk/zebra crossing is generally good advice.


rsprake
Participant
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Sorry to hear about the crash, but why isn’t this post titled “Why you shouldn’t drive too closely behind the car ahead of you”?

Crashes like this are one of the big arguments against red light cameras.


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe
Participant
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@ErinK: How dare you even suggest a cyclist may have been at fault. Shame on you.


Benzo
Participant
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I’ve seen the same scenario play out in oakland, except the car completed the turn, and a cyclist hit in to the side of the car.

In this case the cyclist seemed no worse for wear, but immediately took off. There were some big scratches in that vehicle.

I think it’s generally a bad idea to ride on the sidewalks. While it’s legal, it’s confusing for drivers, who expect sidewalk traffic to be traveling very slowly. Even a slow cyclist can be twice as fast than a typical jogger.


edmonds59
Participant
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Even pedestrians in crosswalks need to be aware of everything happening in traffic around them, right-of-way or not, and this applies to this cyclist as well. I’d be dead many times over if I relied on my “right-of-way” rights to keep me alive.

Peds who step out into traffic without so much as looking up from their shoes, well, I only assume they will meet their just fate.


reddan
Keymaster
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One other consideration, from a legal standpoint: being in a crosswalk while riding does not make you a pedestrian, so any right-of-way grants to pedestrians do not apply. A cyclist is still a vehicle operator, and bound by those laws unless otherwise specified, even in a crosswalk.

I did some cursory research in the PA vehicle code, and didn’t see anything directly applicable. I’d suspect that the closest operational analogy for purposes of legal responsibility of the cyclist would be that of a vehicle entering traffic from a side street, driveway, or on-street parking space.

But I Am Not A Lawyer, so this armchair theorizing is worth every penny you paid for it.


Steven
Participant
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It sounds like the cyclist was going straight, so he would have had the right of way. Perhaps he also would have had the right of way by virtue of being in the crosswalk (as a pedestrian would have).

It sounds like the cyclist’s main offense, as far as the accident, was failing to practice defensive cycling. The first car tried to turn when it didn’t have the right of way, or failed to judge the cyclist’s speed correctly, and had to stop suddenly as a result. The second car was following too close and caused the damage.

[Edited: Though Reddan could well be right about the law. I haven’t done the careful reading needed to figure out how it applies to this unusual situation. Another reason for cyclists to avoid sidewalks in general.]


salty
Participant
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OK, ALMKLM, explain to us all how the cyclist was at fault here. You know, I read the laws and i must have missed that one about how the car in front is allowed to violate the right-of-way of someone in a crosswalk when there is a car following too close behind.

I understand the urge to find someone else to blame, and of course those damn cyclists are always convenient targets. Like Dan pointed out, there are a million reasons the car in front may have had to stop, and like the law I cited says it’s the driver’s responsibility to ensure they have enough distance to stop.

What edmonds said is true from a practical standpoint but I for one think that is a terrible situation and I take objection to the “just fate” part. If you have the right -of-way and get hit by someone in a car who violates it, how the hell is that “just”?


BradQ
Participant
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This is all fine and good, but even if in this case the cyclist is completely in the wrong, being that the first turning vehicle was able to stop in time to avoid a collision with the in-the-wrong cyclist (which might as well be a basketball bouncing across the street, a bunny rabbit crossing or a child coming out between cars) isn’t the onus on the following car to stop in time to avoid a rear end collision? There wasn’t an accident until the driver of the rear car hit the one in front of it, the one that had safely stopped to allow an unexpected person to cross. The car stopping wasn’t in an accident until the one following too closely hit it.

I can understand it being a frustrating experience but it sounds like your beau needs to give a bit more following distance while driving his car. And I’m not saying it couldn’t happen to me while driving, we all find ourselves following too closely to stop at some point. Scolding cyclists in general over this is ridiculous.


ejwme
Participant
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I’m not saying this was or wasn’t the particular case here, but i’m sure all of us can think of instances where one person, perhaps even very alert and with the best of intentions, does something totally perfectly legal, that, in hind sight, perhaps was still Not A Good Idea.

I think the caution is a valid one, independent of the following circumstances. I have learned to listen to that tiny voice inside that squeaks “OMG this is dangerous be very careful!” and that voice has squeaked on the rare times I’ve ridden in a crosswalk. Usually it’s because I generally don’t know where I’m going and I’m moving slower than a pedestrian and feel like a complete jackass and shortly dismount. But it seems like sage advice.

Be Predictable. Be defensive. Be legal. The three are not mutually inclusive, but all are a good idea when you can swing them. Sometimes, good people miss one or two.

And I didn’t read it as scolding, more as a “hey, we saw this and it had lousy consequences and is easily avoided by doing something totally easy to do…” I may be wrong, but that’s the way I read it.


ajbooth
Participant
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Was the cyclist traveling in the same direction as your beau, or coming towards him from the opposite direction? If traveling with traffic, the same thing could have happened regardless of where the cyclist was–in the crosswalk, or along the curb. If the cyclist was coming the opposite way, against the flow of traffic, they were wrong, also regardless of where they were (sidewalk/crosswalk or street)

In any event, I have to agree that following too closely was the cause of the only accident that happened here. If the first driver was not just happy to avoid the cyclist, and wanted to pursue legal action, the car that rear-ended the first driver would most likely be found at fault.


Mick
Participant
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I will often ride on sidewalk on Friday or Saturday night – to avoid drunken drivers. When I do, I’ll always extra vigilant at crosswalks- typically taking them at pedestrian speeds.

I’m rarely on the sidewalks in Oakland, though. I would be a hazard to pedestrians and particularly drunk pedestrians and I wholehearted support the right of pedestrians on the sidewalk to revel in intoxication.

That being said, tailgating cars are a pet peeve of mine.

I think like Brad does on this. The first car stopped in time. If the second car were driven right, the only issue would be possible minor (and justified) irritation at the unsafe cyclist.

The typical reader here could probably guess how I feel about BAD DRIVERS blaming their UNSAFE BAD DRIVING on cyclists (even illegal, unsafe cyclists.)

If case you can’t guess:

IT PISSES ME OFF FOR A F*CKING TAILGATER TO BLAME A CYCLIST FOR THE PREDICTABLE RESULTS OF THEIR OWN INCOMPETENT DRIVING.

apologies for shouting


Dan33
Participant
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Well said Mick


WillB
Participant
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The person who should be mad here is the driver of the first car, who had to brake suddenly to avoid a cyclist doing something dangerous (and probably illegal), and then was hit by a car doing something dangerous (and probably illegal).

As a bicycler, the lesson I take from this is, as Mick basically pointed out: don’t ride on the sidewalk unless there’s a really good reason, and if you do, slow WAAAY down to cross at intersections.


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe
Participant
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@salty: I find your predictability comforting.

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