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Not wearing a helmet while riding on that road -- indeed any road -- is pretty dumb. Why don't folks understand this? Yes, complain about the anti-cycling bias, but take all the safety precautios you can.

I wear a helmet. But let me ask this question, why is riding a bike without a helmet dumb?

Wash-
Id like to point out that getting people to vent against MSP is not that productive here. They are enforcing the laws as written and the law is pretty clear on the subject. Now I think the law is wrong and we should work to change it, but attacking the police only gets them pissed at cyclists.

This does indeed clear up two things:
1.The driver is not responsible because she didn’t see him. Case closed there.
2.A bike helmet will not prevent you from being mowed down. I’m considering throwing mine out now.

Think a little -
But isn't the point here that MSP is being selective in its law enforcement?
The police statement shows, for example, that they are looking hard into why the cyclist did not have reflective clothing on in broad daylight. Yet there is not a single word about the driver's legal obligation to see where she is going.


Wayne

I'm not advocating attacking the police. But letting people see that the law requiring cyclists to use the shoulder or bike lane will be used against them is productive. It's a bad law. LAB counts it against them as part of their "bike friendly state" criteria. Cyclists in Maryland SHOULD write their state legislators, show them this letter and the article about the crash and ask them to change the law.

Furthermore, it is reasonable for MD cyclists to let the State police know that they're not enforcing the law properly.

In general I don't buy the "we should be deferential to them because they have power" argument. In fact i think those are the very people we need to confront. Others have argued that we have to watch what we say lest we anger the driving majority whose votes we need. I frankly think that is BS. When you're right, you don't pull your punches. I think of that scene in Milk when Harvey Milk is talking to the older gay political leaders and they're telling him he's too radical and moving too fast, and he basically tells them to go to hell. I agree more with Harvey Milk than I do the others.

I also wear a helmet. Better safe than sorry. But not wearing a helmet didn't kill Mr. Leymeister, even if it would have saved him. Kathy May Lee killed Mr. Leymeister. And with this middle-of-the-lane sideshow, the MSP scoreboard on this investigation has it at Driver 2, Cyclist 0.

While they're looking into why Kathy May Lee hit Mr. Leymeister, they give no indication that they presume negligence by simple fact that it was a rear end collision. Here's an accident lawyer website that indicates that that presumption does exist in Maryland....
http://www.millerandzois.com/Presumption_of_Negligence_in_rear_end_accident.html

It doesn't sound to me that Washcycle is getting people to vent. He's just posted an open letter. If Lieutenant Thompson didn't want to hear from people, he wouldn't have written such an open letter.
I agree, the laws are weak to protect cyclists, and we need to change them. However, the tone of Lieutenant Thompson's letter is all about what the cyclist was doing, not that the DRIVER wasn't paying attention to what was in front of her. Lieutenant Thompson goes as far to say that the cyclist being in the main part of the roadway was the primary cause of the collision, rather than saying that both the cyclist was in the main part of the road and the driver wasn't paying attention. I drive and bike, and at 40mph in a car I can honestly say it's not too hard to see anything or react to anything in the roadway at that speed, regardless of the number of turns, or the amount of traffic. The roadway was designed for 40mph. You should be able to control your car at that speed in that location.

We all know the current issues of distracted drivers, whether from cell phones, hands-free cell phones, other passengers, food, etc. exist. Given that the driver might have been young and less experienced driver, it is highly possible that the driver was distracted in some way, or operating the vehicle in such a manner that did not allow him/her to react (i.e. over the speed limit). However, physical evidence of distracted drivers at a time of a crash is hard to come by. Any driver as a defendant would likely not come out and say he/she was distracted in some way. Unless cell phone records are analyzed, any defendant could simply put down the phone, or food, or deny they were fiddling with the radio or some other distracting action.

For the Lieutenant to make the statement that the location of the cyclist was the primary cause, and to assume the driver wasn't distracted or wasn't paying attention is in my mind a completely wrong thing to say in this open letter. It leans toward the bias we hear of police of all kinds siding towards the driver, when there is a car/bike incident. This bias is further shown by the Lieutenant's statement about the helmet and reflective clothing during daytime use.

So, yes MSP is enforcing laws, but with a pretty typical bias. Until I start hearing/reading statements from Police to show they are less biased, I'll give them credit. So far, outreach efforts such as this letter don't say much for public safety OR driver education. It just creates frustration in people.

I am wondering, based on the letter, just how far from the edge of the pavement would the officer consider an appropriate distance to ride? He seems to acknowledge that the shoulder is too narrow, but that the cyclist was too far into the roadway. How far is too far?

Can anyone find out exactly WHAT he was wearing at the time?

Can any Maryland lawyers illuminate the "safe and practicable" standard. Any case law?

If riding on the very narrow shoulder poses a significant risk that you will be (a) not seen and (b) clipped, then it is safer to take the lane. This is especially so if there is a fear of dogs in the neighborhood: if you suddenly have to swerve you will get hit. Not so if you force the cars to wait.

Any info on the cyclists usual speed? 15 is pretty slow for an experienced cyclist. If he was doing 20-25, and she was doing 40, then the collision would have been 15-20 mph: a speed at which there is a high survivability. (See greatergreaterwashington on the issue of roadway speed and likelihood of death)

While it's true the relative velocity between the cyclist and driver would have been 15 mph in your scenario, the cyclists would have still hit the pavement at faster than 15-20 mph assuming he gained any speed from the collision with the car.

WC -- because if you're going to ride a bike, at some point you're going to fall off. And wearing a helmet so increases the probability of surviving such an event, at such small cost, none but a fool would eschew that protection.

Consider the last time a helmet saved my life. My Campy Record crank arm snapped as I stood to accelerate. It could happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Helmet use aside, the office did not answer the pertinent question:

Why did the driver not see the cyclist who was riding in the middle of the lane?

As Wash states, it was broad daylight. Is wearing reflective clothing while riding a bike required by law in MD, and is wearing a helmet while riding a bike required by law in MD?

Sounds to me like Curtis was properly taking the lane, to avoid a road hazard (in this case, a narrow and dangerous shoulder), and was killed due to the negligence of the driver.

In reply to SJE, I am sure it is possible to find out exactly what he was wearing at the time. And what she was wearing. We might even be able to find out what Mr. Washcycle was wearing as he typed this entry and his various replies.

But I don't think this is that kind of blog. :)

Cylist was 5 feet into a 10 foot wide lane. Fine. The immpact on car's windshield is not center of the car, it's on the extreme right side. There seem to be no marks in the front bumper or grille. That means the impact was on the extreme right edge of the car. If the extreme right edge of the car was 5 feet into the roadway, the left side of the car was well over the double yellow line. Why would the driver be over the double yellow?

Becuase she saw the cylcist, attempted to pass by crossing over the double-yellow, but did not give enough space. She saw him, attempted to pass, failed, and killed him.

She is lying that she "did not see him."

Old guy, OK. The National Safety Council estimates that there are 25,000 slip and fall accidents for pedestrians every DAY, and that every year 16,000 people die from such falls. Many of these injuries and fatalties are in the form of head injuries. Do you wear a helmet when walking around? If you walk around, eventually you're going to fall. Do you wear a helmet in a car? If you drive around, eventually you're going to hit something? What about in the shower?

If you don't, are you dumb?

I'm not trying to be facetious. The answer to the last question might very well be yes. If we all wore helmets in the car and walking around we'd probably be safer and medical costs would be lower.

So why don't you wear one in those situations? Probably cause you'd look like an idiot, or someone with mental problems. The reason I wear a helmet when cycling is because, of those situations, it's the only one where helmet use is socially acceptable. But I fully recognize the illogical dimension of that, and so I chafe at the idea of calling other people stupid for their more consistent decision to not wear a helmet.

Aw what's the use. Driver will never be held accountable for his death because he wasn't wearing a helmet. "If he was wearing a helmet he might have lived." There's the contributory negligence they'll pin on him. She'll get a 2-point ticket at most. It's all so much bullshit.

SJE

Why do you assume that the cyclist was traveling at 15 mph? He could have been going considerably slower which would increase the net speed at impact. Since the force of the collision increases with the square of the speed, a few miles per hour could make a big difference. So let's assume the car was traveling at 50 mph and the bike at 10, that's a 40 mph difference. Alternatively if the bike were going 15 and the car 40, that's a 25 mph difference. The force in the former scenario is over 2 and half times greater than in the latter.

Either way, somebody died because an inexperienced driver took her eyes off the road for a second or two to look at her cellphone or ipod or pick up a dropped Skittle. What a waste.

WC - 25,000/the billions of walking trips is miniscule compared to the proportion of biking trips that end in falls. That's why one is socially weird while the other is prudent (you might have a point about cars, though :=)).

Seriously, you don't wear a helmet for safety? You do it because it's "socially acceptable"?

Finally, it's your blog, but don't you think it's a good idea to encourage bicycling safety? For my money, that involves a helmet -- and lights when it's dark.

Helmets are great after you've been knocked off your bike. Saved my melon twice.

But again, the proximate cause of Mr. Leymeister's death is the Honda Accord driven by Ms. Lee. This is not the case where we ought to be preaching, "wear a helmet." It's still a good idea, but it only remediates the actions of all the Honda Accord pilots of the world.

Some studies show that helmets actually decrease passing distance of drivers. And far more effective at improving safety is getting more bicyclists on the road.
http://www.livablestreets.com/streetswiki/safety-in-numbers

With the helmet being a barrier to riding (because we are all afraid to ride if we don't have one at hand, the expense, etc), every time we tell a new rider that 'you'd best wear your helmet', we degrade all of our safety.

I think it's the other way around. I don't wear a helmet the rest of the time because it's not socially acceptable, if I were being a truly rational decision maker I'd probably do it in all three or none. Superfreakonomics has a chapter showing that drunk walking is more dangerous than drunk driving for example.

I do want to encourage safe cycling. I don't want to encourage calling people stupid and dumb because they don't wear a helmet when the efficacy is debatable and the use isn't necessarily rational. Leymeister probably wouldn't have been saved by a helmet for example.

Good grief. Washcycle has embraced the Copenhagenization "pedestrian/motorist helmet" meme. God save us.

It's only illogical to wear a helmet while cycling--or playing hockey, or skateboarding, or walking around a construction site--but not while walking if the danger of serious head injury while walking is equal or greater than that of these other activities. While I can't prove it, I suspect that it isn't.

As for the content of this letter, could someone please show me where the commander says that driver error was *not* a "major factor" as well? Given the legal implications, we may have wait for the whole story to come out. But why wait, when you can spin now?

I'd like more information about this crash and I want to make sure that MSP knows about my interest. What's the best way to go about this? In my opinion, this is a textbook example of how cyclists are considered second-class citizens.

For those of you who think that the story is skewed against the cyclist, you should consider the fact that police do not like to speculate about future prosecution. It would be reckless for a law enforcement officer to make a claim about the degree of the responsibility of the driver at this point.

Regarding Brendan's comment about the driver crossing the center line, my money is that she crossed the line on an emergency basis, to avoid hitting the bicyclist she probably looked up from her radio to see 10' away. There were some skid marks of a "swerving" nature rather than a braking nature, according to a bicyclist who checked out the scene (though that's hardly an expert opinion). But that's just one of many possibilities. Another (maybe unlikely) possibility is that she was crossing the line to pass and an oncoming car surprised her and made her veer back. I'd be surprised if she misjudged passing distance so badly that the impact would be a foot laterally into the car. But you never know.

In last year's case of a young driver running a truck off the Bay Bridge, the police didn't seem to have any trouble calling the driver negligent...

http://www.hometownannapolis.com/news/for/2009/02/18-58/Woman-pays-470-in-bridge-fatality.html

Though even in that case, the citation was less than I spent on my roof rack.

I still don't understand how "I didn't see him" is an acceptable excuse. I didn't see that red light....should I still get a ticket? I also don't understand why him being in the MIDDLE of the road as opposed to the FAR RIGHT of the road is worse. You're less likely to be seen on the far right than you are in the middle, no?

I just looked at the section of road on Google maps where the cyclist was run down. I see a fairly open stretch of road with 2 broad gentle curves.

If we assume Leymeister, as an experienced cyclist, was traveling 15 mph and the driver the 40 mph that she states that gives us a closing speed of only 25 mph.

At such a closing speed I would expect the cyclist would have been in full view long enough for any driver truly looking at the road to have seen and avoided him.

Perhaps she was going much faster than 40mph?
Perhaps she was fiddling with the radio in the car?
Perhaps she has poor driving skills and her gaze was fixed to a spot on 20 yard in front of the car?

We'll never know and it sounds like the MSP don't care to find out. The commander has pretty much telegraphed that so long as you claim either:
1) I didn't see him or
2) He swerved suddenly

a motorist is relieved of any responsibility for running down and killing anybody on the road.

Old guy,

I'm going to stand up for wash. He said "it's the only one (riding a bicycle) where helmet use is socially acceptable".

What is obvious from his statement is that wearing a helmet while walking or driving a car may be prudent given your risk tolerance, it is far out side the normal social behavior.

JeffB is right, we probably never will know. Just one of the inequities of a severe bike/car crash, only one person remains to tell their side of the story. A strict liability statute for striking vulnerable road users would address that. Fat chance of that.

Lars, she saw him. See my post at October 9, 1:27 pm

The open letter is an insult and testament to police bias, ineffective/dangerous laws and a person's life being ended by a guilty driver. I'm furious-you should be too, and turning the topic to anything else than driver accountablity is simply wrong.

WC -- You know as I think about it, I really find it reprehensile that some novice reading this thread would see how you, a paragon of bicycling wisdom, are arguing against using a helmet.

In the future, as you wonderfully cite the statistiscs regarding the comparative disadvantage of not wearing helmet, I'll love pointing out your
disdain for helmets.

I get yelled at by people I ride with because I'm not afraid to take up the whole darn lane. Better I block traffic and demand respect rather than get buzzed and cut off. Yes, I get buzzed and cut off by car drivers who get angry when I'm in the lane; it's my choice on which danger I wish to confront and which to minimize.

Full-size bike lanes are often full of broken glass, limbs, rocks, etc., so I have no compunction about riding in a clean car lane, no matter how big a striped bike lane next to it may be. Rural roads have plenty of surprises (road kill, snakes, bottles and cans, etc.) especially at the edge of the grass. Tires and drafts from cars and especially trucks blow garbage to the edge. Another reason to ride a few feet from the edge.

Looking at the picture:
1 > No way the edge of the road (I don't think it's a bike lane at all) is three and half feet wide. Unless you measure from under the grass which has overgrown the edge of the pavement to the INSIDE of the white line. Not only is it not a bike lane, it's not big enough for a bike to ride without running over things => not safe.
2 > That's a huge dent in the roof of the car. Small car, cheap construction -- still huge. How fat was the cyclist? If he was 300 pounds I might buy it, otherwise I gotta say the car was going WAY fast. That dent was made by a HUMAN BEING? Humans are soft and squishy, car roofs not so much.

Daytime, no other traffic on the straight section of flat road? At best the driver was horribly negligent. I gotta think correct the theory that the driver DID SEE the human being in front of her and didn't give the HUMAN BEING the respect (room to pass) to keep him alive. At an unsafe speed.

But I wasn't there, so I should let the investigators do their job.

Paul

Here's a picture at the scene of the damage and position of the car.
http://www.somdnews.com/stories/10072009/entetop162308_32180.shtml

Where is the proof that the cyclist was riding to the left of the lane line? Is it only because of the point of impact on the car?

Why is it also not equally feasible that the cyclist was on the shoulder and the driver swerved (accidentally, I hope) into him?

That letter from Lieutenant Michael Thompson is truly disappointing and deeply troubling.

This reminds me of the way they used to treat rape victims (maybe still do but not so often and more subtle maybe). "She wore a skirt and make-up, can you blame the guy that he was trying to score since her signals were so obvious?"

"He was riding on the street with his bike when he had a drivers license and could have taken his car. Can you blame Ms Lee for driving into him while she was distracted from driving with the many things college-aged woman are doing on the way to class?"

I was a riding companion of Curt and can attest to his level of awareness in regards to bike safety and road respect. He traveled the roadways nearly every day on his bicycle. Whether he used to his car to transport his bike to the trails, or traveled on the bike to the stores, or traveled 20 to 30 miles to his destination, he was always aware of the vehicles on the road. He did not ride his bike when visibility was restricted (dreary, rainy days, twilight, dusk or nighttime), he did not ride in the middle of the roadway unless he was making a turn, he always skirted the lanes, he never listened to music, answered his telephone while riding or took any unnecessary risk. He always rode with caution and care. He was a safe bicyclist and a wonderful man. He was actually on his way to meet my father and I at the trails in Charlotte Hall on the day he lost his life. Because he was more experienced than us and could certainly tolerate a bigger challenge, he would ride to meet us (about 20 miles) for his physical challenge and just enjoy our company while we met our physical challenge (about 7 miles). He was encouraging my father to become more active by sharing his enthusiasm for bicycling. He loved to ride. He loved life, he loved his family and friends, he loved his kids, he loved his grandkids and he had a heart of gold. I knew Curt for 17 years. I never saw him without his smile.
Regardless of the supposed findings in the investigation, I will never be convinced that any action of Curt or his bicycling that day caused his death. I have traveled that road myself, seen the level of visibility from the windshield of my car, while driving 40 miles per hour, while traveling through the accident sight, and there is absolutely NO WAY that Kathy May Lee was watching the road. My only question to her......."What was so important (cell phone?, getting to school on time?, make-up?, coffee?, breakfast?, facebook?, i-pod?, twitter?) to her that morning that she would get behind the wheel of a dangerous weapon and not watch the very road on which she was traveling? What was more important than the life of my good friend?"
Curt was a gentle soul and I believe that he would have compassion for the young lady that took his life, I am not so sure I can. I want 'JUSTICE FOR CURTIS'.

Can any Maryland lawyers illuminate the "safe and practicable" standard. Any case law?

The only case I am aware of is Maryland vs. McCutcheon. It was dismissed before it was adjudicated, but McCutcheon's brief is at http://bikelaws.org/court_ca.pdf


This section of his brief is relevant to the case at hand:

Under narrow lane conditions, a bicycle cannot be operated safely near a
roadway’s edge.
– A narrow lane is defined to be any lane that is too narrow for motorized
traffic to pass a bicyclist without crossing the lane’s left demarcation line.
– The 1999 AASHTO guidelines, which have been accepted and adopted by
the MD SHA, define any lane narrower than 12’ as too narrow to be shared
between motorized and bicycle traffic (References 3 & 4). This minimum
lane sharing width can be derived by adding together the following:
» 2’ buffer between bicycle and roadway curb or edge
» 2’ allowance for bicycle width
» 2’ buffer for passing motor vehicles
» 6.5’ allowance for width of motorized vehicles
– When speed limits are higher than 40mph, traffic engineers recommend a
minimum 14’ width for shared use lanes (Reference 5).

hi old guy:

read michael bluejay's blog on bike safety, esp. vs. foresters effective cycling religion.

what kind of helmet do you wear? -- the only helmet with good protection are of the skate boarder variety -- and i sure dont see many cyclists wearing those, for obvious reasons...but given you analysis, it's silly not to wear such helmets.

two facts that don't add up - impact on the right side the car - but the cyclist was in the center of the lane. This would clearly indicate that the motorist was attempting to pass by crossing the double yellow. As this is the case, we can safely assume that she did see the cyclist prior to the impact. She passed to closely.

In addition -

Come on, you know hardly anyone goes 40 in a 40mph zone. Odds are she was going at least 45-50mph. or more!

Helmet isn't going to do you any good when you get mowed down from behind at 45-50mph...

What might have helped is a big LED tail light, like say the B&M 4D toplight. Plus a blinkey.

Also the shoulder is pretty narrow, but I would have used it anyway.

Lars: I am not assuming 15mph, it was a stated assumption in an earlier posting on this topic, and one I was questioning.

quez, first of all where do you see "spin" here? That usually means a bias or one-sided aspect. But I'm letting the police get their full letter published and adding very little to it. I think letting people speak for themselves is the exact opposite of spin.

As for your other point "show me where the commander says that driver error was *not* a 'major factor'", I know that you always want to take the other side to fight your battle against the echo chamber of the internet or whatever your crusade is, but that's just ridiculous. Omission is a powerful statement. He dedicated two paragraphs to Mr. Leymeister's position and another to his clothing choices, but not a single word was given about the driver's action - that certainly is a strong implication of where he thinks guilt lies. When asked about the cause of the crash, state police Cpl. Derek Peck said a "He's supposed to be on the [paved] shoulder" and it doesn't appear he added anything about the driver's action beyond their preliminary indication that she wasn't speeding.

Show me where the commander says that the stimulus package was *not* a 'major factor'.

Show me where the commander says that planetary position or bigfoot or aliens were *not* a 'major factor'.

Perhaps he still thinks THOSE things are major factors as well. But every time they've been asked about the crash, they've said that cyclist position was a major cause - and nothing else. [It's like asking "How do I look?" and getting back "I like you're watch." "But do I look good?" "You have a nice watch on."]. He could have expanded on this in his letter to cyclists and say that driver actions were a major cause too, but he didn't. So I'm going to interpret that as a tacit statement that they don't think it's a major cause, because they've willingly offered up cyclists behavior and mentioned nothing about driver behavior.

And finally "It would be reckless for a law enforcement officer to make a claim about the degree of the responsibility of the driver at this point." Isn't that what they've done by calling the cyclist's position a "major cause" of the crash. If they don't want to speculate or make claims then all they have to do is STFU and tell the media "no comment." But that isn't what they did.

Lars: I do not assume the cyclist was travelling at 15mph. That was a statement from an earlier article on the accident.

Maybe what the cycling community needs to do is some sort of cooperative workshop with law enforcement training agencies that train officers in crash investigations, and train them in a better understanding of the current laws with regard to bicycles on roadways. While the laws may be weak to protect cyclists, that doesn't give the police the excuse to make speculative "major cause" statements in any pre-investigation time frame. I think there is some real misunderstanding by the police in general of the fine specifics of the legal roadway use by cyclists.

On the same topic, but in Texas from an article out of Bikeportland.org:
http://bikeportland.org/2009/10/10/tragedy-and-outrage-in-texas/

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