Opinionator

Safe cycling in wake of Berkeley’s hit-and-run collision

By Renee Rivera

Renee Rivera is Executive Director of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition

We at the East Bay Bicycle Coalition are glad to see that swift action has been taken by the Berkeley and Oakland police departments to catch the suspect in last Wedsnesday’s hit-and-run collision on Tunnel Road in Berkeley. We are also relieved that these two cyclists got away with only abrasions and damage to their bikes. This unusual collision could have been much worse.

The video of this collision has gone viral on YouTube. With tens of thousands of viewers of this scary video out there we want to remind everyone that bicycling is safe, particularly with some basic traffic skills. While the video is very scary, remember that this is an extremely rare type of collision. We strongly everyone to take one of our free bicycle safety classes offered throughout Alameda County and learn how to ride in a predictable, visible and comfortable manner while sharing the road. For a full list of classes go to the safety pages of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition.

This type of collision is very unusual — the overtake from behind. However, there is legislation in progress at the State level to make it safer for bicyclist in this situation. This collision points for the need of the 3′ passing law currently in committee (SB 1464). Go to Cal Bike for more on this.

This collision also underscores the need for the recently passed anti-harassment law here in Berkeley where the collision happened.

If you are in a collision that does result in injury or damage to your bicycle we recommend that you contact an attorney right away to protect your rights. We have a list of bicycle-friendly attorneys.

There are bike lanes coming for this section of Tunnel Road as well as pedestrian improvements. While that may not have prevented this collision — these upcoming improvements will help to make this section of the road safer by providing dedicated space for riding and by raising awareness of the presence of bicyclists and pedestrians.

We encourage everyone to take our bicycle safety classes to learn the rules of the road for cyclists – as well as how to stay safe on the road. We have lots of classes coming up!

And no time is better to start bicycling for your everyday trips to work, school, errands and play then Bike to Work Day, coming up on Thursday, May 10th. Go to East Bay Bicycle Coalition for everything you need to know to have a great Bike to Work Day, or look out for the “Bike to Work Day Guide” in the May 2nd issue of the East Bay Express.

The East Bay Bicycle Coalition wishes you happy and safe riding on Bike to Work Day and every day.

Berkeleyside welcomes submissions of op-ed articles of 500 to 800 words. We ask that we are given first refusal to publish. Topics should be Berkeley-related and local authors are preferred. Please email submissions to us. Berkeleyside will publish op-ed pieces at its discretion.

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  • John Holland

    I’m surprised she had nothing to say about stopping at stop signs, considering how contentious that issue was in the comments here.

    By the way, I went and took some video of the stop sign at Zachary’s Corner. Out of 104 motorists, 98 rolled through the DOUBLE stop sign, and only 6 came to a complete stop. And two of those stops were necessary because of pedestrians.

    Pretty interesting statistics, considering that some commenters on Berkeleyside shared this attitude:

    the credibility of cycling is degraded by lawless attitudes and in the long run that is the connection.

    Pretty amusing, considering that only 6% of motorists stopped at a prominent DOUBLE stop sign at an intersection named after a dead boy who was killed by a car rolling through a stop sign.

    Watch these videos, and then talk to me about the “credibility of motorists”, and their lawless attitudes. Way to uphold your integrity, motorists!

    Here’s a link to the first video, and I will update this message when the other videos are done uploading:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=He0O7PfJP70

  • concerned citizen

     About three weeks ago, I was walking down Derby, toward College, on the North side of the street.  I stopped at Zachary’s Corner, waited for a car to stop and was just ready to step out and walk across when a bicyclist flew through the stop sign without stopping and seemed to be in his or her own world.  Luckily, I was able to step back quickly, then continue to cross.  These are the cyclists coming down out of Claremont Canyon, and in racing mode.  I’m now walking on the south side of Derby toward College thereby avoiding that still-dangerous Derby/Warring corner. Cars, bicyclists, motorcycles all need to be wary.  If you have time, you might want to set up a video to catch those bicyclists.  On second thought,  the city should consider installing cameras on that corner.  The videos would provide very enlightening information.

  • John Holland

    It did occur to me that you can make out license plates in my video. 

    In the first article of this story, a commenter suggested that based on the video evidence, the cyclists should be cited.

    I wonder if people feel the same way about the video I took. Should the motorists who 98 motorists who rolled through the stop sign be identified and cited?

  • Guest

    we should just install cameras everywhere and make sure the government is watching us all 24/7

  • John Holland

    “concerned citizen” wrote:

    a bicyclist flew through the stop sign without stopping and seemed to be in his or her own world. …

    If you have time, you might want to set up a video to catch those bicyclists.

    I was actually surprised that that didn’t happen. I was definitely expecting some bikes to round that corner without stopping, too. It’s finals week this week, so I don’t know if that’s part of it. I think it was a strange fluke I didn’t catch one. I was only out for about 15 minutes, but I expected to see a bike do just what you described. The only thing worse is an SF bike messenger doing the same thing. (thank goodness the Internet has come along).

    There is a cyclist that totally jams out from the right side in the second or third video… I don’t remember seeing if they stopped or not.

  • Charles_Siegel

    Everyone agrees that private citizens, like John Holland, have a right to take videos in public places.  This is a basic first-amendment right, and it has nothing to do with the government installing cameras everywhere. 

    The question is whether people should be cited if these videos catch them committing a crime (or arrested for more serious crimes).

    Hint: A private store-owner has a security camera, which catches someone breaking into the store and robbing it.  Should the burglar be arrested based on the video?

  • Lukasz Lempart

    I don’t think people realize that (1) hitting your brakes is not equivalent to stopping and (2) you still need to stop at a stop sign or a red stop light when turning right.

  • Lukasz Lempart

    Furthermore, I don’t think a lot of bicyclists realize that when they’re in the street the same laws apply to them as motorists.

  • intergalacticSpartacus

    Yes they do, as a matter of fact, it’s become a cliche to read this comment in every article about cycling.  Cyclists follow the rules of the road just as much as drivers follow the rules.  Just sit at a 4-way stop sign and see how many cars actually stop, how many use turning signals, how many drive the speed limit, how many cut others off, and on and on, before you judge. 

  • bgal4

    Expert? what is the data source?

    The two incidents I can quickly recall in which my immediate family
    was hit and the driver left the scene with cyclist on the ground  were
    not reported to the police.

    1. Sacramento at Blake, driver completely at fault, injuries to cyclist2.
    Rose St,  adult woman hits rear tire of my son at a stop sign, then
    drives around him on the ground while she calls him a bitch, not
    injured, just irritated.

     

  • The Sharkey

    Based on the behavior of the majority of motorists in your videos, it seems like it’s high time the City of Berkeley installed traffic lights at that intersection.

  • John Holland

    Lukasz Lempart wrote:

    I don’t think a lot of bicyclists realize that when they’re in the street the same laws apply to them as motorists.

    You mean like stopping at stop signs? LOL! I don’t think motorists realize that when they’re in the street, the same law applies to them as motorists, either!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=He0O7PfJP70

  • John Holland

    And for me, it was a thought experiment:

    IF you advocated citing the two cyclists for not stopping at a stop sign (people actually advocated this),

    THEN, would you advocate citing the 98 motorists caught committing the same offense?

    If not, why is there not similar outrage? Why don’t the rules apply for both?

  • Guest

    John:

    I watched carefully the first video link only.  I don’t at all agree with John’s numbers about how many cars stopped.  I encourage Berkeleyside editors and other interested readers to make their own score cards here and not trust the numbers John is throwing out.  I see three patterns going on in the first video.  Some cars (many more than 4) come to a complete stop.  A majority of the cars come to a nearly complete stop (1-2 mph?) and there are some cars (a small minority) which actually roll throught the stop sign with minimal braking.

    Most of the cars which roll through the stop sign appear to be behind a car in front of them which did come to a complete or very nearly complete stop.  Thus, the car that ran the stop sign, did, in a sense, come to a complete stop as well just out of view.  Once the car in front of them rolled on, they should have also stopped 100%, but if there were no pedestrians around and the sight lines are clear, it was not particulalry reckless driving.

    Older residents may recall that for many years that crosswalk had no stop sign at all for a right turn.

    Anyway, don’t take my word for this (or John’s!).  Watch for yourself!

  • John Holland

    “Guest” wrote:

     I encourage Berkeleyside editors and other interested readers to make their own score cards here and not trust the numbers John is throwing out.

    I’d welcome that. The definition of a complete stop is that the wheels stop moving. How many more stops do you count?

    “Guest” wrote:

    Some cars (many more than 4) come to a complete stop.

    No they don’t. A complete stop is when your wheels stop moving. Completely.

    “Guest” wrote:

    A majority of the cars come to a nearly complete stop (1-2 mph?)

    LOL, that’s what I’ve been saying. A majority of cars don’t stop. In this case 98 of them. Either you stop or not. “Slow” does not equal “stop”.

    “Guest” wrote:

    there are some cars (a small minority) which actually roll through the stop sign with minimal braking.

    Also the definition of not stopping. By the way, it’s a large majority, not a small minority who roll through the stop sign. 98 out of 104, to be exact.

    “Guest” wrote:

    Most of the cars which roll through the stop sign appear to be behind a car in front of them which did come to a complete or very nearly complete stop.

    But, sadly, they did not stop.

    “Guest” wrote:

    Older residents may recall that for many years that crosswalk had no stop sign at all for a right turn.

    Older residents may recall that for many years this crosswalk has had two prominent stop signs at the right turn, probably around a decade now. You can see them in the first video.

    Put your money when your mouth is. Please identify 12 cars in all three videos who’s wheels lock at the stop sign, and I’ll donate $100 to the Berkeley library in Zachary’s name. Just give me the time code for each complete stop you claim happened.

    Keep in mind that even if you can do that (and I’m betting $100 you can’t), it still means that less than 12% of drivers stopped at the stop sign. Disgraceful.

    To help with this, I’ve created a publicly editable Google sheet, Counts of motorists who run stop signs at Zachary’s corner. That means anyone can edit it. This sheet is for the double stop sign view. I’ve linked to the video in reference in the spreadsheet. You’ll see my counts in column C. I’ve reserved a special column D for “Guest” to provide their tally, and any other readers can add a column for their own tallies.

    Please note, there is no category for “slow” or “almost”. Either “Yes” for stop, or “No” for no stop.

  • John Holland

    Not so fast! Some people are arguing that the cars in the video really did stop!

    LOL!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ianbrettcooper Ian Brett Cooper

     As a cyclist, I would advocate citing everyone who runs Stop signs. Maybe then, there would be enough of an uproar about the ridiculous numbers of stop signs that are placed at quiet residential intersections that see a car maybe once an hour. Whatever happened to the Yield sign?

    It’s no wonder that people run Stop signs when such signs are placed so indiscriminately.

    Stop signs should not be used as a traffic calming measure. They are for intersections where a minor road intersects a more major road – where a Yield sign is not enough to ensure safety.

  • The Sharkey

    I don’t agree with the person you’re linking to but, in their defense, you certainly cherry-picked your intersection to try to get this kind of result.

    Those cars still should have come to complete stops, but that specific lane in that specific intersection is very different from a traditional 4-way stop situation.

    I think the BPD should set up a sting and start ticketing people at that intersection, but most drivers in that lane have the same “wide open view of the intersection” that bicyclists talk about when they breeze through intersections at full speed.

  • John Holland

    “The Sharkey” wrote:

    I don’t agree with the person you’re linking to but, in their defense, you certainly cherry-picked your intersection to try to get this kind of result.

    I think the results would be the same at most intersections, except at ones where it is dangerous to proceed without stopping. Are you just trying to get me to go out and film another intersection? ;-)
    “The Sharkey” wrote:

    that specific lane in that specific intersection is very different from a traditional 4-way stop situation.

    As is the intersection at Uplands and Tunnel where the cyclists ran a stop sign. (The other stop sign they ran was at a four-way stop, I believe.)

    “The Sharkey” wrote:

    What I don’t understand is where you’re going with this.

    First, I challenge those who “hope”, (yes, “hope”!) the cyclists are ticketed for rolling through the stop sign. After all, it’s the law isn’t it? If the cyclists should be ticketed, shouldn’t the drivers also? I’m surprised people didn’t call for a public hanging. Hope springs eternal.

    Second, I want to laugh at the people who complain that cyclists don’t deserve respect because they lack “credibility.” Safe handling by others on the road is not something that needs to be earned by establishing “credibility”. And if it that’s how it works, motorists don’t deserve any respect at all. “If only they followed traffic laws, the way motorists do.” ROTFLMAO! I’m afraid I’ll laugh my spleen out! 

    Mostly, I’m pointing out that what people ~really~ believe is that THEY can make a judgement call at stop signs, but other people can’t. I’m fine with that. I roll through stop signs all the time. I’m just not under the delusion that as a motorist I’m any better than cyclists.

    Finally, I thought it was amazing that when a car crashed into a pair of cyclists, there was a loud contingent who decided to behave like Javert instead of Myriel, and I found that amusing, cognitively dissonant, and disgusting all at the same time.

  • John Holland

    P.S. Sorry you won’t ever be seeing that $100, Berkeley library!

    ;-) sad face.

  • The Sharkey

    So, despite attacking drivers for rolling through stop signs, you actually condone the behavior? Interesting. I see it sort of the other way – Hey look, drivers are as bad as the cyclists they complain about! Tickets for everybody! Let’s fix those pot holes with moving violation money!

    And if it that’s how it works, motorists don’t deserve any respect at all.

    I was unaware that motorists in Berkeley got much respect anyway.

  • Charles_Siegel

     That sort of “free right turn” lane encourages dangerous behavior.  A sting operation would be a good short-term solution, but in the long-term, the best solution is to eliminate this lane and convert it to an ordinary right turn.

  • Lukasz Lempart

    I know the rule books are clear. I also don’t think most drivers know anything more than the a percentage of questions they need to get correct to pass the driving exam and that for not much longer then after they leave the DMV office. It’s just a hunch, based on being the passenger in many cars, but I think if you did an exit poll at the intersection and asked drivers whether or not they believed they came to a stop at the intersection, I think most would tell you they did. That is what I meant by my statmenet.

  • Lukasz Lempart

    The same rules do apply. Why not cite them all? When you sign your drivers license you agree to follow the rules for conduct on the road. Driving, on public roads, is a privilege not a right as some might claim. You can feel free to break rules but you must understand there are consequences when you are caught. Otherwise, what is the point of having rules at all. If those were my videos, I would probably turn them over to the police and see what happens.

  • Lukasz Lempart

    Agreed. I don’t think drivers realize this either :) I think the biggest thing for me is the red light. That really seems like the king of traffic laws. Red means stop, pedestrian, cyclist, or motorist. Yes, occasionally I see a car run one. With bicycles, and there are lots of them in San Francisco, red lights seem to be ignored by the majority. With stop signs, cars break the law, but most of the time I see them at least slow down. Cyclists around here, more often than not, at best stop pedaling. I’m not anti-cycling. Quite the opposite, I commute, road ride recreationally, and mountain bike. Cycling is truly the best (this usually also means quickest) way to get around any urban area. I think it’s one of the best things you can do for traffic congestion, your health, and the environment. I also don’t like to see cyclists giving those who want us off the roads an arsenal against us.

  • The Sharkey

    I agree completely. This is just another accident waiting to happen. Without some sort of modification, a distracted driver hitting another pedestrian in that lane is inevitable.

  • Lukasz Lempart

    You’re completely right. What’s, scarier, based on observation, I could almost swear that while on the street, most motorists don’t even realize they are driving.

  • Tomales Bay

    I live on The Uplands, and while I have little good to say about the speeding motorists that pass by our house every day–the cyclists are equally scary.  I know they rarely stop at the Tunnel/Uplands intersection, but the dangerous pedestrian scar comes as they zoom down from Tunnel, through Uplands/El Camino stop sign screaming at you if you are trying to cross.  The number of cyclists using cell phones, chatting 4 abreast is not a way to practice safe riding.  In time someone will be killed,and I think that it will be by a cyclist on a high as the zoom down.  These are not pleasant folks–giving the finger to those of us caught in their ride.

  • A Guest

     Agreed. While this type of collision may be relatively ‘ unusual”, it does happen. Collisions between car and cyclist, where the cyclist is seriously injured, and  is not at fault, occur all too frequently in Berkeley and Oakland, and inner bay area, on both urban streets and rural roads, and the results can be serious and on ‘ rare’ occasions, they result in fatalities. Many of these accidents, if not all, could have been avoided by drivers and cyclists paying attention to the situation, and by obeying the law. We all need to be careful, and to police the situation as well.  At the same time,  most of Berkeley major roads are carrying more traffic ( of all kinds) than they were designed to carry, with the result that  margins of safety (which emerged as a product of designed use, and  served to protect drivers, pedestrians and cyclists in the past) no longer function in the same way, especially when the vehicle code is ignored.
                               
    By the way, I’m a car driver, a walker and a cyclist. Nearly two years ago, I was walking in a crosswalk in Berkeley, with a green light, and  was run over by a car. ( I was injured, but the injuries were fortunately not exceptionally serious)  

  • Jackson_Pollock

    .

    I think there are two basic worldviews here.

    Worldview 1 > this is held by car drivers who don’t bicycle on a regular basis.

    Worldview 2 > this is held by car drivers who also ride bikes

    WV1 thinks as follows:  “Bikes are a nuisance.  They may serve a function now and again, but they get in the way of cars.  Plus, they act entitled, which you can see by their behavior; they keep running stop signs, and in general, don’t follow the rules of the road.  By the way, I, as a car driver, always follow the rules of the road, and I was one of the 6% who stopped at the stop sign in John’s video.  I have no idea who the other 94% are, I certainly don’t belong in that group.”

     
    WV2 thinks as follows.  “Bikes are great!  It’s a drag that cars hassle us.  I don’t hassle cars.  Yes I run stop signs, but if I had to stop at every stop sign I would never get anywhere, and if I did, I would be dead tired by the time I got there.  Plus, all those car drivers don’t realize that the odds of me causing an accident by running a stop sign, or doing anything else, for that matter, are pretty slim.  Compared to a car hitting a pedestrian, or more likely, hitting a care hitting another car, the damage I can do on a bike is minimal.  It is important to put things into perspective.  By the way, I was also in the 6% who stopped at the stop sign in John’s video (I was in my car that day).  I have no idea who the other 94% are.  I certainly don’t belong in that group.”

    And that’s the way it is.

    .

  • bgal4

    East Bay Bike Coalition intent is to avoid discouraging biking.

    I am not yet impressed with EBBC leadership or services.  Over the years as a family of cyclists I have tried to get them interested in implementing services bike friendly cities like Portland have in place and only heard silence.

  • concerned citizen

     If cameras were installed, by the city, at this corner and the results were measured/checked, say, over a 3 month period, your idea of converting the corner to an ordinary right turn might be considered for implementation.  (The camera results would not be used to ticket, just used to gather information in order to make an informed decision.) 

  • John Holland

    I’ve decide to update my challenge amount to $200.

    Fortunately, “Guest” is dead wrong, so there’s no way I’ll be out the money.. LOL.

  • Lukasz Lempart

    There is something to be said about etiquette and courtesy and you’re right. At the same time, how many drivers are chatting on the phone or texting while driving. Drivers with their headphones in (illegal) are not uncommon and I’ve seen people reading books or newspapers while driving. Driving on roads through the Santa Cruz mountains, along the coast, or elsewhere with one lane of traffic going in either directions, how many drivers actually use turnouts (it’s the law, there are signs indicating this, and it is just common courtesy) when a faster vehicle approaches behind them? How many drivers hog the left lane even common courtesy and the rules of the road dictate that the lane is for passing and many times you even see signs asking slower traffic to stay right? All too often when you need to change lanes and signal your intent the vehicle to your left or right will speed up to not let you in. I also only see a small fraction of drivers moving over when the lane to the left is clear at on-ramps to make it easier for the merging traffic or giving vehicles pulled over on the shoulder plenty of clearance?

  • sehe

    I decided to watch the vid you linked here. And I was _shocked_.

    I mean, yeah, virtually no one literally stopped. BUT most everyone drove carefully, had a calm pace to match the traffic situation.

    What was even more amazing to me, literally everyone made an effort to “wait” at the exact place of the stop sign/road marks.

    Now I don’t live anywhere near you (Holland), but where we live, I can assure you we have loads more cyclists on the road. And I’d be so happy if only people would be so sensitive to the traffic situation. Here, as a rule, people “pay attention”, but I feel a stop signs is mostly treated as a hint, “slow down”, the message being “dangerous crossroads” and cars would pretty certainly roll onto that pedestrian crossing before halting, if they even figured they needed to halt. While slowing down and running that crossing, their attention would almost certainly be on the traffic coming from the left, so as to maximize the chance of keeping rolling along.

    (Now on the other side, in this vid I think I saw 1, maybe 2, ‘follower’ car for which I’d question their ability to oversee the pedestrian situation before following their predecessor. It’s these I’d worry about, but I’d really be satisfied with the behaviour of the majority of drivers in this particular video)

  • Charles_Siegel

    We need a video of an intersection where you live. It is true, as you say, that many drivers do not stop at Stop signs before making a right turn. Instead, they drive right through the pedestrian crosswalk, just looking to the left to see whether any cars are coming that would make them stop before turning right, and not looking to see whether there are pedestrians crossing.

    I had someone do this to me at Cedar/Shattuck, an intersection with lots of pedestrians crossing. I was walking across Cedar St. in the crosswalk with the green light in my favor. A driver came speeding down Cedar St. and turned right onto Shattuck, hardly even slowing down and just looking to his left to see if there were any cars preventing him from turning. He did not look to see whether there were any pedestrians in the crosswalk, and he missed me by just inches, and drove on at high speed without ever realizing that I was there. And this was not just a Stop sign; he was turning right at a red light – without stopping and without looking for pedestrians.