Greater Greater Washington

Ask GGW: Who's at fault for causing a swerve?

Reader David G. wonders what happens if someone causes a crash, but doesn't actually hit anyone. He writes:


Photo by bondidwhat on Flickr.
This morning [Tuesday] at approximately 8:30AM, I was riding south in the bicycle lane on 14th Street, NW. Almost immediately upon crossing P Street, a cab driver who had just picked up a fare, pulled suddenly into the bicycle lane, causing me to veer sharply in order to avoid being hit. Another cyclist, who was immediately behind me also veered to avoid being hit by the cab.

As we attempted to avoid the collision with the automobile, I and the other cyclist collided. I was able to stay upright, but the other cyclist fell to the ground, scraping her side and knee and damaging her bicycle. The cab driver attempted to pull away. Fortunately, another cyclist who witnessed the incident placed her bicycle in front of the cab to prevent the driver from doing so.

The police were called to the scene and, after interviewing the parties involved, informed us that there is no violation unless there is contact between the cab and the cyclist. As there was no contact in this case, he was unable to issue any sort of ticket to the driver of the cab. Respectfully, I informed him that I did not believe that that was the correct interpretation of the law and I asked that his sergeant be called to the scene. The sergeant arrived, interviewed us again and then informed us that the first officer on the scene was correct and that there was no violation.

Is this, in fact, the law? Is nobody liable for damage in this case?

The husband of the cyclist who blocked the cab from leaving, "jrenault," posted on the BikeArlington forum about this. He said,
They're arguing that surely "failure to yield" covers what the cabbie did, but not getting anywhere. ... Apparently, according to the police officer, failure to yield must be witnessed by the officer or he can't write a ticket.
Other posters on BikeArlington suggest it might not be worth pursuing, not because the driver necessarily is blameless, but since nobody was seriously hurt, and it would be too much trouble to get the police to take action. It's also possible there is no clear answer here, and no law that speaks to this situation clearly enough.

Shane Farthing from WABA said he couldn't judge this specific incident without hearing more details, but had a broader comment about whether cyclists should want police to write tickets:

In many cases there will be some need for the officer to exercise discretion, such as whether an action was reckless or whether someone was passing too close under the circumstances. These elements are not all objectively defined. So while we want the roadways and laws to be predictable, there isn't always an objective yes/no answer to whether an action is lawful, and it's not always best for cyclists or anyone for officers to always default to issuing a citation.
We've seen several times in the past when an officer feels compelled to write a ticket, but doesn't understand the law well enough, the default ends up being to cite the cyclist, rightly or wrongly. If police always write tickets after crashes, that might mean they learn more about the laws, or it might just mean cyclists get blamed more often even when not warranted.

Still, taxis need to watch for cyclists when pulling out across a bike lane. Near-misses happen every day. Small collisions happen occasionally. The fewer of those, the less likely a serious injury or worse.

David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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Tough to make a call without all the details, but based only on the details given, it sounds like the bicyclist who crashed is at fault.

Lets say this had been three cars. Car in front does something unexpected, and the two cars following closely behind quickly swerve and one crashes. I'd say the collision is the result of following too closely or not properly reacting to the unexpected traffic condition (why not stop, instead of swerving without regard?).

In another example, a car slams on its brakes or enters a lane unexpectedly, and a car rear-ends it. Even in this case, it's the second car's fault in the eyes of the law.

I'm a cyclist, but it doesn't sound like the blame for the crash is on the cab (as much as I love to hate cabs). It's a crappy situation, but one that should be taken as a good lesson to be cautious and scan for potential obstacles ahead.

by SadHatter on Feb 6, 2013 10:23 am • linkreport

I'd say it was a combination of the second cyclist following too closely (or not paying enough attention) and the cab failing to yield. However, I'd place a larger portion of the blame on the cab since he was the one who put himself somewhere he didn't belong (the bike lane).

by Colleen on Feb 6, 2013 10:37 am • linkreport

I am not sure about the legal question, but here's how I see it.

1: The cabbie failed to yield properly. When pulling out, you should yield. Always. To everyone. Even a limping rat.

2: The bikers should have anticipated a move from the cab, and each other. You know cabbies pay little regard to traffic laws. Everybody, including bikers, should move in traffic in a way anticipating trouble and being able to avoid it.

3: In the end, this was a rear-end crash, and in rear-end crashes, the person in the back is at fault. So, it was the biker that crashed. He was not biking in a way that allowed him to avoid a crash.

At fault: crashing biker. Cause: law-breaking cabbie.

by Jasper on Feb 6, 2013 10:38 am • linkreport

Someone must know if there are there any special driving test requirements to drive a cab in DC? I mean, sure, cab drivers are awful everywhere, but usually it is because they are aggressive. In DC, it seems many drivers just simply lack driving skill altogether. Have you ever been anywhere where the cabs often drive SLOWER than traffic like many do here (while still drifting out of lanes, looking down for change, etc.).

I remember seeing something years ago about London cab drivers needing to pass a battery of tests before they get a license to drive a cab, but I suspect maybe just a regular driving license is enough in DC to drive one?

by Boris on Feb 6, 2013 10:41 am • linkreport

Others have explained it well, but I too would fault the cyclist who fell. It doesn't appear to be the response David wants, but there wouldn't be much of a question if the vehicles were cars instead of bikes. Of course the cab driver was wrong, but that doesn't make the second cyclist right.

by selxic on Feb 6, 2013 10:47 am • linkreport

A cab illegaly stops in the bike lane and one of the cyclists is at fault? Surely, you jest.

by aaa on Feb 6, 2013 10:52 am • linkreport

The cyclist who ran into the other one is at fault. It's your responsibility to keep control of your vehicle.

But this is a nice highlight of how people generally don't watch out for cyclists (and peds) when they should and assume they can do what they feel. The officer could issue a ticket to the cabbie assuming he saw it like it was mentioned. That doesn't mean that the law as-is is the best way of deciding this issue wrt to cyclists vs. cars.

by drumz on Feb 6, 2013 10:53 am • linkreport

Normally, I'd say that whoever is in back is responsible for not hitting whomever is in front, regardless of whether we're talking about bikes or cars.

That said, was it legal for the cab to be in the bike lane to begin with? If not, that changes things substantially. I mean if a cab drives onto the sidewalk and a pedestrian hits the cab from behind, clearly the cab is at fault for driving on the sidewalk.

by Falls Church on Feb 6, 2013 10:58 am • linkreport

Also, shouldn't the cabbie be issued a ticket (or worse) for attempting to leave the scene of an accident he was involved in? Not exactly hit-and-run but I imagine you can't just drive away from the situation like he attempted to do.

by Falls Church on Feb 6, 2013 11:01 am • linkreport

Falls Church,
If the cab was turning right then it should have merged into the bike lane before turning right to avoid the right hook. The question is: was the merge unsafe and created an uavoidable collision? That's hard to prove without an officer's judgement call.

by drumz on Feb 6, 2013 11:01 am • linkreport

@Boris-Indeed, London cabbies have extensive training. They call it "The Knowledge" and it's rigorous. From Wikipedia: "During training, would-be cabbies, known as Knowledge boys (or girls), usually follow these routes around London on a motor scooter, and can be identified by the clipboard fixed to the handlebars and showing details of the streets to be learned that day. Taxi-driver applicants must be 'of good character', meeting strict requirements regarding any criminal record,[8] then first pass a written test which qualifies them to make an 'appearance'. At appearances, Knowledge boys and girls must, without looking at a map, identify the quickest and most sensible route between any two points in metropolitan London that their examiner chooses. For each route, the applicants must recite the names of the roads used, when they cross junctions, use roundabouts, make turns, and what is 'alongside' them at each point."
Metropolitan Police (London) also have the "Road Safe" program which allows people to file complaints. Video evidence (often from bicyclists or motorcyclists) is often introduced and points and fines can be assessed.

by thump on Feb 6, 2013 11:03 am • linkreport

In another example, a car slams on its brakes or enters a lane unexpectedly, and a car rear-ends it. Even in this case, it's the second car's fault in the eyes of the law.

In the case of a car entering a lane unexpectedly, it is definitely the ENTERING car's fault for failing to yield. It is not your duty to always give a car in another lane the room to unexpectedly cut you off. Slamming on the brakes is different as you should be following with enough space to stop.

And yes, it would appear in this case the 2nd cyclist is at fault for not leaving enough space to safely stop if the first cyclist has to unexpectedly stop. That doesn't mean the cab didn't do something WRONG, it's just that they are not the one legally at fault this time. If David G had had to take evasive action due to the cab cutting him off and had then been injured (by hitting the cab, or hitting a parked car, or being hit by another car while avoiding the cab) the cab driver would be at fault.

by MLD on Feb 6, 2013 11:04 am • linkreport

The person doesn't say if the cabbie signaled. That's one ticket at least. Failure to yield is another. Failure to exercise due caution a third.
I'm not sure how we can blame the cyclist, at least not the one who first swerves to avoid the cab. It sounds like it's both the cab driver and the 2nd cyclist's fault.
@Jasper + SadHatter-We don't know if it was a rear-end collision. It seems more likely that the first cyclist was at least even with the back bumper of the cab, possibly past. If someone comes into your lane while your driving (abreast of them), it's not your fault.

by thump on Feb 6, 2013 11:16 am • linkreport

In Bethesda the bike lane is the valet parking lane.

by Capt. Hilts on Feb 6, 2013 11:29 am • linkreport

@Boris, don't know the answer, but also curious. Driving as if lane markings mean nothing, no signals, weird u-turns and poorly executed 3 point turns -- driving slowly but with sudden accelerations and lurches.

It's as if many DC cabbies were selected precisely because they're so bad at operating a vehicle!

by Greenbelt on Feb 6, 2013 11:39 am • linkreport

This is absurd, like trying to cite the sun for causing a glare that makes you crash into something.

by Ron on Feb 6, 2013 11:45 am • linkreport

The best way to judge this is replace "cyclist" w/"driver." Using that, it's safe to say that the cyclist bears responsibility here.

by HogWash on Feb 6, 2013 11:45 am • linkreport

if someone slams on the brakes, with no good reason, on a freeway, and someone in back crashes. Is the person in back "responsible" Perhaps legally so (as they are supposed to be driving so that they COULD stop).

But would most drivers around here not put ethical responsibility on the driver who slammed on the brakes as well? And would they not be subject to ticketing for their action?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 6, 2013 11:50 am • linkreport

"This is absurd, like trying to cite the sun for causing a glare that makes you crash into something. "

last I heard, we do not consider the sun responsible for its actions.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 6, 2013 11:51 am • linkreport

"The police were called to the scene and, after interviewing the parties involved, informed us that there is no violation unless there is contact between the cab and the cyclist. As there was no contact in this case, he was unable to issue any sort of ticket to the driver of the cab. (...) The sergeant arrived, interviewed us again and then informed us that the first officer on the scene was correct and that there was no violation."

"Apparently, according to the police officer, failure to yield must be witnessed by the officer or he can't write a ticket."

I'm not a Sergeant, however I think their logic is faulty:

1) MPDC General Order 303.1 Part I Section C states, "In addition to those offenses requiring summary arrests [...] an NOI shall be issued for any offense which in the prudent judgement of the issuing member exhibited a flagrant disregard for the law and was likely to cause an accident or endanger the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists, or other motorists."

2) MPDC General Order 401.03 (Traffic Crash Reports) Part V.A.2.C. that in accidents involving a public transportation vehicle (i.e. Taxis) shall be prepared regardless of the amount of damage sustained. Additionally, Part V.A.2.E states, "The investigating member issues a Notice of Infraction (NOI) or summarily arrests one (1) or more motor vehicle operator(s). NOTE: An NOI shall be issued whenever one (1) of the parties is found to be at fault. Furthermore that order states in Part V.C.2.M that officers shall, "Take appropriate enforcement action when there is sufficient evidence of one (1) or more traffic law violations."

Judging by the circumstances described and our General Orders, I would think that the Sergeant and the Officer are mistaken. You can write a citation if you have sufficient cause to believe a violation occurred. If observing the violation was a requirement to write a ticket in a traffic accident, I wouldn't be able to ticket 99% of the time. Maybe GGW or the writers can take this post and the citations above and send it to someone higher up the food chain who makes these decisions. Judging by the descriptions offered here, it appears that the taxi driver, at the minimum, committed the violation of Failing to Give Attention to Operation of Vehicle (18 DCMR 2213.4). If he didn't signal, then he engaged in Failure to Give Hand or Mechanical Signal (18 DCMR 2204.3, 2205). Although Failure to Yield Right of Way to Another Vehicle (18 DCMR 2207, 2208) sounds like it would fit, I can't find a provision in my copy of DCMR that specifically covers this situation. In the case of the cyclist in the back, they'd be eligible to be issued either Failure to Control Speed to Avoid Colliding (18 DCMR 2200.4) or Following Vehicle too Closely (18 DCMR 2201.9).

by MPD Officer Friendly on Feb 6, 2013 11:57 am • linkreport

@MPD Officer Friendly-Don't the last two codes (18 DCMR 2200.4 and 18 DCMR 2201.9) apply specifically to motor vehicles?

by thump on Feb 6, 2013 12:07 pm • linkreport

I don't believe so because 18 DCMR 201.01 states, "Every person who propels a vehicle by human power or rides a bicycle on a highway shall have the same duties as any other vehicle operator under this title, except as otherwise expressly provided in this chapter, and except for those duties imposed by this title which, by their nature or wording, can have no reasonable application to a bicycle operator.". 18 DCMR 1201.02 staes, "A person shall operate a bicycle, sidewalk bicycle or personal mobility device in a safe and nonhazardous manner so as not to endanger himself or herself or any other person.". Unless I missed an exception in my reading of DCMR, Failure to Control Speed and Following can reasonably be construed as reasonably applying to a cyclist.

by MPD Officer Friendly on Feb 6, 2013 12:13 pm • linkreport

Agree that second cyclist is at fault. Change "cyclist" to "driver" and you get the situation of following too closely, or failure to maintain control. You need to anticipate that any driver in front of you will stop at any moment, and you should also be able to stop.

As for the cab, I think he bears some contributory negligence due to the fact he entered a bicycle lane, which, last time I checked, is not legal for motorised vehicles. Isn't there a regulation on that?

by Jack Love on Feb 6, 2013 12:23 pm • linkreport

Cab drivers in this city are definitely some of the worst I've experienced, though there has been a wide range from great to awful.

I think it's a combination of two things. A lot of cab drivers don't seem to know the city well and possibly don't live here so they don't navigate instinctively. There also seems to be a low barrier to entry compared to many cities which means that you can become a cab driver with little/no forethought or training.

Additionally it may be that the police just don't ticket them aggresively? I had a cab driver tell me they were starting to crack down on illegal U turns though just last week.

by Alan B. on Feb 6, 2013 12:28 pm • linkreport

Also, just as an FYI/shout-out to other cyclists here, I'd be careful about blocking any vehicle with my bike. I realise that here, the parties were trying to preserve a possible accident scene, and that cabbies have a lot more to lose in an accident situation (thus prompting them to stick around waiting for the law), but if this were a Maryland commuter headed home on 15th Street? Forget it.

by Jack Love on Feb 6, 2013 12:30 pm • linkreport

"As for the cab, I think he bears some contributory negligence due to the fact he entered a bicycle lane, which, last time I checked, is not legal for motorised vehicles. Isn't there a regulation on that?"

Cabs are required to pull to the curb or the nearest edge of the roadway in order to pick up or discharge passengers (31 DCMR 822.17). If he's pulling off, he'd have to cross the lane at some point.

Now if you're asking if there are citations for scooters/motorcycles driving in bike lanes, parking in bike lanes, etc., there aren't really. Parking in bike lanes is sometimes covered by existing citations, however which ones I can't recall because I generally avoid issuing parking tickets except for things like hydrants, bus lanes, etc. IMHO it would be a good idea for the Council and/or DDOT to do some legislating/rulemaking and make citations specifically for bike-lane related infractions.

by MPD Officer Friendly on Feb 6, 2013 12:33 pm • linkreport

a cab driver who had just picked up a fare, pulled suddenly into the bicycle lane, causing me to veer sharply in order to avoid being hit.

Cabbie's fault. Sorry, if a taxicab runs up on the sidewalk and a pedestrian is injured jumping out of the way, it's the cabbies fault, regardless of whether the pedestrian could have jumped higher, dodged more quickly, or what have you.

by oboe on Feb 6, 2013 12:40 pm • linkreport

what really gets me about cabs is pulling to the crosswalk to drop off passengers . Blocks turning cars and pedestrians. I understand that on some streets you dont' have a choice - double parking would essentialy block all traffic -- but it is something that could be handled better.

by charlie on Feb 6, 2013 12:40 pm • linkreport

I'm jrenaut from the BikeArlington forum mentioned above. The cab was at the curb, picking up passengers, as he should have been. He then crossed through the bike lane to re-enter the right hand traffic lane.

It's my understanding that he and other drivers may enter the bike lane to park or turn, so that part of what he did was legal. He failed to yield to cyclists who were already there, and that part is not legal.

by Jon Renaut on Feb 6, 2013 12:44 pm • linkreport

If the cyclist's account is accurate, then the taxi driver is at fault and the police officer did the right thing by not issuing a ticket.

A police officer must have probable cause to believe that the driver was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, before issuing the ticket. Not having seen what occurred, the officer believed he lacked probable cause of the violation.

But while the taxi driver may not be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, he appears to have breached his duty of care, which is to ensure that it is safe to pull into a lane before doing so. Additional investigations might reveal that one or both cyclists also were contributorily negligent as well, but that would be up to the driver to prove and nothing offerred here suggests that they were.

by JimT on Feb 6, 2013 1:11 pm • linkreport

@charlie "what really gets me about cabs is pulling to the crosswalk to drop off passengers . Blocks turning cars and pedestrians...."

Not much of a fan of that either, but consider that each cab trip is one more trip where a driver isn't circling a block or hovering waiting for a parking space. Cabs serve a vital role in transportation mgmt in a city by reducing the demand for automobile facilities.

If you want to consider reopening DC's prohibition on capital crimes, look at the drivers sitting in the rush-hour lanes on almost every street downtown from 4pm onwards. Now there is some special hell to be dished out.

by Jack Love on Feb 6, 2013 1:14 pm • linkreport

@MPD Officer Friendly .... Thanks, and stick around. Like hearing your take on things.

by Jack Love on Feb 6, 2013 1:16 pm • linkreport

Sounds like MPD Officer Friendly has summed it up pretty clearly.

On a side note, I find it interesting that so many cyclists were in the bike lane at this location considering the amount of intermittent construction blocking the lane along this strip. You couldn't pay me to ride in that bike lane. Much better off just taking the lane to prevent having to swerve in and out of traffic.

by UrbanEngineer on Feb 6, 2013 1:30 pm • linkreport

David G. here.

"Lets say this had been three cars. Car in front does something unexpected, and the two cars following closely behind quickly swerve and one crashes. I'd say the collision is the result of following too closely or not properly reacting to the unexpected traffic condition (why not stop, instead of swerving without regard?)."

To be clear, the cab was not moving as I approached and I saw no sign that the driver was preparing to enter traffic. I can't possibly ride a bicycle in this city if I have to operate under the assumption that any car that is pulled to the side of the road may suddenly enter traffic, cutting me off. This situation is entirely different from a situation in which a driver is following a moving car too closely.

by David G. on Feb 6, 2013 2:06 pm • linkreport

Maybe I'm reading the situation wrong, but if approaching from the rear, wouldn't brake lights likely be visible if the cab was not moving?

by selxic on Feb 6, 2013 2:31 pm • linkreport

Maybe I'm reading the situation wrong, but if approaching from the rear, wouldn't brake lights likely be visible if the cab was not moving?

So? All the more reason to think the cab isn't going to suddenly be in your path.

by MLD on Feb 6, 2013 2:34 pm • linkreport

But would most drivers around here not put ethical responsibility on the driver who slammed on the brakes as well?

Likely so but as you already stated, the legal infraction is against the one who rear-ended.

I can't possibly ride a bicycle in this city if I have to operate under the assumption that any car that is pulled to the side of the road may suddenly enter traffic, cutting me off.

I get this argument but don't cars have to drive and operate under the assumption that just because there was no one beside you when you parked, you do need to be on the lookout for cyclists in order to prevent "dooring" (at least I think that's what it's called)

by HogWash on Feb 6, 2013 3:10 pm • linkreport

JimT:

"A police officer must have probable cause to believe that the driver was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, before issuing the ticket. Not having seen what occurred, the officer believed he lacked probable cause of the violation."

The standard for issuing a civil infraction is lower than that of an arrest. The Bureau of Traffic Adjudication operates off a 'clear and convincing' standard rather than a 'beyond a reasonable doubt' standard for moving violations and a 'preponderance of the evidence' standard for parking violations (18 DCMR 3012.2). It would logically follow that since the standard to issue a ticket would be even lower than 'clear and convincing'.

by MPD Officer Friendly on Feb 6, 2013 3:13 pm • linkreport

I get this argument but don't cars have to drive and operate under the assumption that just because there was no one beside you when you parked, you do need to be on the lookout for cyclists in order to prevent "dooring" (at least I think that's what it's called)

Funny, I was going to bring up "dooring" as a counter-argument, but you've refuted yourself before I could get to it. :)

by oboe on Feb 6, 2013 3:47 pm • linkreport

@Officer Friendly--OK thanks for clarifying that DC does not treat moving violations as misdemeanors.

Still: The officer has to reasonably believe that a traffic court adjudicator would find the evidence clear and convincing. I gather that the officer and his supervisor did not view the evidence as being clear and convincing in this case. Is it common for that burden to be met when the witnesses are vehicle operators who swerved to avoid a collision? Or does it take more, such as a neutral eyewitness or physical evidence?

Nevertheless, we do seem to have a preponderance of evidence that would allow us to conclude that the driver was at fault.

Most of the suggestions that the cyclist was at fault make me wonder where people learned to drive. The suggestion that a driver has the right to swerve into a lane simply because his brakelights are on is totally wrong--even turn signals do not give you the right of way when changing lanes over someone already in the lane. Similarly, merely because taxis can pull into a bike lane to drop off passengers does not mean that they have the right of way to do so without yielding to those already in the lane.

by JimT on Feb 6, 2013 3:52 pm • linkreport

@JimT

I think the suggestion is only that the 2nd cyclist is at fault for her injuries. She wasn't far back enough from David G to avoid him or stop if he stopped suddenly.

Seems obvious that the cab driver pulled out without concern for the bike traffic and therefore failed to yield. But did the cab cause her injury?

by MLD on Feb 6, 2013 4:08 pm • linkreport

I get this argument but don't cars have to drive and operate under the assumption that just because there was no one beside you when you parked, you do need to be on the lookout for cyclists in order to prevent "dooring" (at least I think that's what it's called)

It's the same argument. Anyone wanting to enter a traffic lane has to yield to those already in the lane. Someone wishing to open a door into the lane has to yield to those already in the lane. The cyclist shouldn't have to anticipate someone pulling into traffic and cutting them off, just as the cyclist shouldn't have to anticipate someone opening a door into their path.

You've mixed up who is violating the right-of-way and who already has it.

by MLD on Feb 6, 2013 4:11 pm • linkreport

You'd probably need more evidence to determine which party is at fault but as a general rule, I usually keep a few bicycle-lengths distance between myself and the cyclist in front of me. Tail-gating is not cool in a car, nor on a bike.

by Scoot on Feb 6, 2013 4:29 pm • linkreport

Now if you're asking if there are citations for scooters/motorcycles driving in bike lanes, parking in bike lanes, etc., there aren't really. Parking in bike lanes is sometimes covered by existing citations, however which ones I can't recall because I generally avoid issuing parking tickets except for things like hydrants, bus lanes, etc.

Parking in a bike lane is a $65 fine. 18 DCMR 2405.1

Driving a car or a motorcycle in a bicycle lane (i.e. restricted lane) is a $100 fine. 18 DCMR 2220, 4005.1.

Most scooters/mopeds are permitted to ride in a bike lane.

May I kindly request that you issue these citations the next time you witness the violations? Thank you.

by Scoot on Feb 6, 2013 4:47 pm • linkreport

" what really gets me about cabs is pulling to the crosswalk to drop off passengers . Blocks turning cars and pedestrians. I understand that on some streets you dont' have a choice - double parking would essentialy block all traffic -- but it is something that could be handled better. "

Make fire zones into taxi drop off areas.

by Douglas Andrew Willinger on Feb 6, 2013 6:27 pm • linkreport

@Scoot

May I kindly request that you issue these citations the next time you witness the violations? Thank you.

Well, look what happened in the case of u-turns on Pennsylvania. When it comes to protecting bikes, I'm afraid it's not enough to just have a law. You've got to also have the chief of MPD and the mayor and the office of legal council explicitly say that the law should be enforced.

And even then it takes 2-3 months. (Are they done issuing warnings to u-turners in the Penn Ave bike lanes, yet? It's hard to tell.)

by oboe on Feb 6, 2013 6:37 pm • linkreport

Sorry I'm late to respond, MLD. Somehow I missed your question. David G. said,
To be clear, the cab was not moving as I approached and I saw no sign that the driver was preparing to enter traffic.
If there were no brake lights, the cab was moving. Brake lights are a sign the cab was not moving. Regardless, I already answered the question for the thread so this doesn't need to become an argument over semantics.

by selxic on Feb 7, 2013 7:33 am • linkreport

@MLD: Ok thanks. As you set it up, the cab is still negligent because it failed to yield. Moving into the lane clearly caused the accident, because the accident would not have occurred but-for the cab's action. So the only question that leaves us with is proximate cause: Is it foreseeable than when you pull into a lane, someone will swerve to avoid you, and thereby collide with someone else? I am pretty sure that in DC, courts view that as foreseeable. So cab would be liable--the lack of a ticket ought not matter much.

Then we switch to contributory negligence by the second cyclist. That is up to the cab driver to prove, if it actually went to court. We don't have enough information about why the collision took place. If second cyclist had bad brakes, she probably is contributorily negligent. If she was passing David G to the left and suddenly David G moves in front of her and stops, she is probably not negligent. If she swerved but just stopped more slowly than David G, the Driver has to prove that was unreasonable--maybe she had better control of her bike by not stopping. Maybe she is not as good at swerving while stopping as David G, but the failure to control the vehicle with the skill of a race car driver does not make one negligent.

by JimT on Feb 7, 2013 9:41 am • linkreport

I disagree with SadHatter. The key point he forgets (when making the false comparison to the car that rear ends being at fault) is this was not a line of three cars in one lane rear ending. This was very different. This was a stopped car suddenly pulling into moving traffic (two bikes), moving into another lane disregarding the traffic already there. You're supposed to look and yield before entering traffic.

SadHatter asks the cyclist "Why not stop, instead of swerving without regard?" It's because the taxi pulled into his lane--he had to swerve to the side to not get hit. Obviously he slowed down to a stop too, but if someone next to you veers into your lane, even if you could stop on a dime that wouldn't keep you from getting hit. Are you just going to sit there and let them hit you? No, you're going to swerve away and try not to get killed.

by Elizabeth on Feb 8, 2013 1:34 am • linkreport

MPD Officer Friendly--great ideas.

I agree with JimT: "The suggestion that a driver has the right to swerve into a lane simply because his brakelights are on is totally wrong--even turn signals do not give you the right of way when changing lanes over someone already in the lane... merely because taxis can pull into a bike lane to drop off passengers does not mean that they have the right of way to do so without yielding to those already in the lane."

Couldn't have put it better myself.

Also, just looked up DC Traffic Violations. (DC Municipal Regulations Title 18 Vehicle and Traffic.) In Chapter 22 on Moving Violations 2201.6 (a) says:
A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single
lane and shall not be moved from that lane until the driver has first
ascertained that such movement can be made with safety;

Take that to the higher ups.

by Elizabeth on Feb 8, 2013 1:50 am • linkreport

This sucks because the (cab) driver likely didn't treat the cyclists as he would have cars, but if a vehicle hits another from behind it's almost always the trailing vehicle's fault for not leaving sufficient space to stop. I was even trained, as a driver, to place the nose of my car in a position that I wouldn't slam into the car in front of me if I were rear-ended while stopped, when in doubt that the trailing driver could stop.

While I'm not sure that the cab driver should have been cited with the accident, with the information given it appears he should have been cited for *something* (illegal lane change springs to mind, as it is *sometimes* legal to dive in the bike lane, such as when making a turn).

But there's also the possibility that we need some special laws to deal with these interactions. Except in extraordinary circumstances, bikes move slower than cars. Racing ahead of a biker and cutting them off is dangerous and should be illegal, particularly if you're using the bike lane to cut them off. I don't actually know if DC has any standing laws about suddenly cutting off a travel lane (I have experienced this while driving, as well). If we do, they apply here. If we don't we should, at LEAST for bike lanes, but it doesn't seem like a terrible idea for ALL travel lanes. I have had a LOT of people cut me off from another lane, both driving and riding, and that's NOT a reasonable or safe road behavior.

by Ms. D on Feb 8, 2013 1:50 am • linkreport

No debate here -- the cyclist is at fault. As a cyclist I've almost been rear ended a few times myself by other irresponsible cyclists. The same rules about safe following apply to bikes as they do to cars, and it actually is harder to stop a bike at speed than a car.

by Captain Tennile on Feb 8, 2013 6:59 am • linkreport

The police officer is wrong, *and lying*.

I don't know about the rest of it, but it is absolutely legal to arrest someone based on witness testimony. The police officer's claim that he needs to let everyone go because he didn't witness the failure to yield personally is bogus.

Now, the correct thing to do when the police are arbitrarily refusing to do their jobss would seem to be to get names and addresses and submit the issue to the District Attorney's office, who has the right to prosecute regardless of what the police do. I'm not expecting any success from them, of course -- but at least DAs are elected in most places.

When the DA refuses to prosecute, the next stop is to go to the newspapers and find a grand jury. Grand juries have the right and duty to prosecute when the DA refuses to do his job. Judges and DAs lie to grand juries about this, and so very few grand juries do *their* duty.

This combination of corruption has completely ruined the US criminal justice system, turning it into an injustice system where police break the law with impunity, while DAs harass people they don't like and protect people they do like. I'm not sure how to fix it.

by Nathanael on Feb 11, 2013 4:21 pm • linkreport

To be clear, I refer to the officer at the scene as "lying", not to Officer Friendly, who pointed out the exact same thing:

"You can write a citation if you have sufficient cause to believe a violation occurred. If observing the violation was a requirement to write a ticket in a traffic accident, I wouldn't be able to ticket 99% of the time."

by Nathanael on Feb 11, 2013 4:25 pm • linkreport

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