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I always interpreted that as a stop line, to keep the North/South walkway clear of waiting bikes/peds/strollers/whatever. As in, "stop here while you wait for your signal." Certainly not "always stop here, even when the signal says go."

The subsequent removal of the lettering after an ambiguous meaning was revealed leads me to believe that the designers intended it to be a "stop line" as well.

I'd say the "stop" paint was removed a while ago. It has been removed all along the Custis trail in Rosslyn.

I don't think the MUTD code cite helps. Virginia law controls. And while he can sue, the police report would be admitted in a civil trial.

The GF and I did some accident reconstruction here this weekend. Going eastbound you have a clear view of cars turning right. My conclusion was the cop took a look at the $2000 carbon fiber bike and decided this guy was moving too fast.

"My conclusion was the cop took a look at the $2000 carbon fiber bike and decided this guy was moving too fast."

"Going too fast" means you lose your right of way? He had the light and the car was turning.

If he was to be treated as a vehicle, he had the right of way, as he was proceeding straight while the other party was turning.

If he was to be treated as a pedestrian (which he was, by statute, as a "person riding a bicycle... across a roadway on a crosswalk", section 46.2-904) then he had the right of way, as he was a pedestrian crossing with the light.

My guess is the driver underestimated the cyclist's speed (all too common) and thought there was room to squeeze through, rather than waiting the extra second for the cyclist to make it to safety.

Not only was the car turning while the bike was going straight, a sign posted (very visible to all Westbound traffic) clearly indicates that cars are to yield to "persons" (not merely "pedestrians") in the crosswalk. Who was failing to obey a sign?

The implications of the Arlington police position is a very serious one for Custis commuters: If bikes had to yield to all cars turning at that intersection, the Custis Trail would become impassable in the morning. There are generally more cars than can make the turn on a single green light. So no bike would be able to cross.

If the Arlington police department really believes that cars have the right of way over all bikes, they will need to have the sign removed; they will also have rendered the Custis Trail impracticable for bicycle commuters.

@contrarian; just to be clear, I think the cop was wrong on the facts and the law. The stop "sign" had been removed, and the idea of bicycle magically transitioning between a vehicle and pedestrian is silly. He made a snap judgment, and was wrong.

Part of the problem is the custis is opposition to the one way lee highway. I'd hazard a guess that someone going straight still has right of way over someone turning right, but it might be get confusing.

In the industrial park that my office is in, they added a stop line in the pavement like that to allow kids for the gymnastics school to cross. Everyone ignored it so a cop came out and ticketed them. Apparrently all the tickets got thrown out in court because they came back 6 weeks later and put up a real stop sign.

@Washcycle: The police report may get into evidence under the business records exception to the hearsay rule. So there is some value to getting erroneous statements removed, by going up the chain of command.

@Charlie. Re: MUTCD. Is Virginia different from Maryland? In Maryland, regulatory signs and double yellow lines have the force of law, while everything else is just a warning. "Not being in the MUTCD" is a short-hand for "there is not statute that gives this TCD the force of law."

@ Contrarian
"'Going too fast' means you lose your right of way?"

If he was on the road, he would. Virginia Code § 46.2-823 Unlawful speed forfeits right-of-way. ("The driver of any vehicle traveling at an unlawful speed shall forfeit any right-of-way which he might otherwise have under this article.")


@charlie
A post over on BikeArlington seems to indicate that the Stop signs were removed from the Custis Trail last week, so it would have been there on the date of the accident..

@5555624; fair enough. I don't usually go down that far on Custis.


@JitT; umm, aren't police records themselves a hearsay exception? And my point about the MUTCD cite is when contesting a Virginia ticket, it is far more helpful to cite Virginia law.

Larger point: contest the ticket.

Pavement markings are considered traffic control devices (TCDs), to which most (if not all) jurisdictions have laws requiring adherence to established TCDs; not just signs. So with that, if the markings were in place: there may indeed have been a legal obligation to stop.

However, the MUTCD does state that stop/yield controls *shall* not be mixed with signals, and its been confirmed that this holds true for all approaching modes; not just automotives. Therefore, these markings may not have been installed appropriately (indeed, that could be why they're being removed).

So on that line, a legal question arises as to whether any laws presume that TCDs installed by the authorised transportation agency are lawful & appropriate. If there is no such law or any laws specifying the opposite: then a TCD inappropriately installed could potentially be considered void for legal purposes. So the bicyclist would have lawfully obeyed the signal instead of the conflicting markings.

...Though a really savvy lawyer could counter by saying that the bikeway crossing the sidewalk is a separate intersection, just as it has been established that right-turn spurs around channelised islands, for example, also form separate intersections... hence why they can have Stop/Yield signing despite being practically a part of a signalised intersection. So if a bikeway crossing a sidewalk were considered a separate intersection, the stop markings could potentially be valid & legal, if not necessarily intuitive... could be a good case to take to the MUTCD for an official interpretation (http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/resources/interpretations/index.htm)

Well, again, let's put aside all the parsing of the "Stop" on the pavement for a second and explain how a motorist turning through a crosswalk has the right of way when THIS sign is posted:
http://maps.google.com/maps?q=custis+trail+and+lynn+street&hl=en&ll=38.898991,-77.070712&spn=0.005361,0.011362&sll=38.899059,-77.070754&sspn=0.006295,0.006295&layer=c&cbp=13,280.04,,2,-2.7&cbll=38.899104,-77.070753&z=17&vpsrc=0&panoid=_UIp3nKCPWZkjZXb_AV0-Q

@Viennabiker-
A good point! Continuing with the end of my preceding comment- if the bikeway crossing the sidewalk really is a separate intersection, the STOP markings are separate from the signalised intersection. At the intersection where the collision occurred: that sign (and potentially statutory law, though I'm vague on Virginia's legal details) certainly makes it clear that the motorist committed an infraction.

My assumption has been that (in Maryland) if it is not in the MUTCD (or placed with FHWA permission) then it is construed as a warning regardless of what it purports to require. That is: Regulatory TCD's (I'll stop saying "signs" to avoid confusion) must be in the MdMUTCD, but warning TCD's need not be; therefore, the presumption of legal behavior by the locality means that only a warning was intended if it is not in the manual.

PS: The presumption of legal behavior also implies that it was meant to be a stop line because a stop TCD would conflict with the requirement of not mixing the controls.

The argument that a sidewalk is a different intersection would not work in Maryland because the sidewalk is part of the highway. Just as well: If all sidewalks were viewed as if they were separate roads, we would have total chaos at every intersection lacking pedestrian signals.

At the bottom of Section 46.2-904 of the Virginia Code:

A person riding a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, motorized skateboard or scooter, motor-driven cycle, or an electric power-assisted bicycle on a sidewalk, shared-use path, or across a roadway on a crosswalk, shall have all the rights and duties of a pedestrian under the same circumstances.

Virginia law seems pretty clear-cut to me here. The driver was in the wrong. And the police botched it.

Here's another monkey-wrench: it's illegal to enter a crosswalk after the walk light has gone from green to the flashing red with the countdown. So technically you have to wait for the two or so seconds that that light turns green - which is really the safest thing to do anyway at that intersection.

@Froggie. I think we call agree that the driver committed an infraction. The only question has been whether the cyclist also committed the infraction in the warning, which was failure to comply with the "highway sign" which we construe as meaning a TCD.

In a contributory negligence state like Virginia, it matters little whether the driver also committed an infraction. All that matters is whether the cyclist was perfect, or made a slight error.

Clearly the law has not caught up with society on this issue.

The bicyclist did hit the car, correct? Not vice versa? Which means the car had entered the intersection before the bicyclist had even arrived at the intersection. This of course assumes that the bicyclist wasn't simply hanging out on the corner; he was proceeding at probably 20-25 MPH on a sidewalk and attempting to fly through the intersection. That's never going to work safely under any set of laws.

I would say a proper law that takes into account angles and approach speeds would require ALL bicyclists to come to a complete stop at all intersections when riding on the sidewalk/crosswalk, but would allow them to maintain course and speed through controlled intersections where the light is in their favor.


...when in the normal traffic lanes.

@Viennabiker (and I say this as a cynical cyclist who knows we always get f'ed in the end), the "Right turn yield to persons in crosswalk" sign does not help the cyclist because the driver started the turn before the cyclist was in the crosswalk.

Just a guess. Hope I'm wrong.

Is there any evidence that supports the assertion that the car was there before the bike? The intersection there is four lanes wide and a bike could easily have been in the intersection, and moving quickly, before the car entered and still hit it. In fact, I think it would have been harder for the bike to enter the intersection AFTER the car and still manage to hit it.

The bicyclist did hit the car, correct? Not vice versa? Which means the car had entered the intersection before the bicyclist had even arrived at the intersection.

Not necessarily. In fact it sounds like the car came from behind the cyclist, so we don't know who entered the intersection first. And, it's irrelevant anyway. If the car pulled in front of the cyclist without giving him time to stop, it doesn't matter who entered the intersection first.

There's also no evidence that the cyclist was going 20-25 mph (uphill mind you) or that he was flying.

"uphill mind you"

Wasn't the cyclist coming EASTBOUND on the Custis trail, which is (slightly) downhill?

my bad. He was going downhill (slightly)

“It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong” - Voltaire

@dayglo - That is no longer true at intersections with countdown pedestrian signals. It only applies to the old style green - flashing don't walk - solid don't walk pedestrian signals.

@dave,

But the new ones clearly say "don't walk" or show a don't walk signal, in red, while the countdown is happening. I don't believe that you are expected to be able to enter the crosswalk with just one second left and have the right-of-way against what is about to be an opposing green. I think you're mistaken, can you provide details?

There's a difference between "don't walk" and "don't run" or "don't ride". In other words, once the countdown begins, there is not enough time to safely walk across an intersection, but one can still easily make it across on a bike or while running. That's the beauty of the countdown - you know if you have enough time to make it through the crosswalk.

Notice that in DC itself, when the countdown timer is in operation, the walk signal is still displayed the entire time. In all other DC-area jurisdictions that I can think of, as soon as the countdown timer starts, the flashing don't-walk signal starts. As far as I know, when that happens, you can't legally enter the crosswalk to start crossing, regardless of mode of travel. So in most jurisdictions, you have to be waiting at the intersection when the walk signal comes on if you are to get in the 2-4 second window that sidewalk users are given to legally start crossing.

I've long thought the law on pedestrian signals is all wrong. A flashing signal should be just like a yellow light for motorists: you have the right to enter the intersection, but the obligation to insure that you can clear the intersection before the light changes.

And crossing against a light should be like an Idaho stop, only an infraction if it actually interferes with traffic.

I wouldn't be surprised (though there's no way to know from the story) if the motorist was making an illegal right turn onto Lynn Street (to head into Georgetown) from the far left (straight only) lane exiting the parkway. I see this all the time (in fact, I witnessed it yesterday afternoon). A motorist in the back waiting to turn right onto Lynn get impatient with motorists in the front near the intersection waiting (lawfully) for cyclists/peds who have the right of way to cross the intersection. So the impatient motorist cuts into the far left (straight only) lane, passes the waiting motorists ("suckers!"), and guns it up to turn right (illegally) onto Lynn, colliding with the hapless cyclist/ped who never expects such an a-hole, me-first move and is blind-sided. Neither motorist nor cyclist has a chance to see the other before impact, because the two right-turning lanes of traffic obscure the view.

I really believe that this one intersection warrants a signal strictly for cylicsts/peds that gives them the right of way and bars traffic from all directions from moving (e.g., turning right on red) during the signal's cycle. I mean, 20 seconds to save life, limb, and property doesn't sound like a bad deal to me.

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