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I'm curious, what do you think the odds are that the truck was doing below 40mph (the posted speed limit). Of course, "speed" is never "a factor" unless the driver is exceeding the speed limit by at least 10-20 mph.

I'm sorry, but if you look at the intersection on Google streetview, the idea that a bicyclist just blindly proceeded out of their residential cul-de-sac onto this 40+ mph suburban highway seems pretty implausible.

What's more likely is that the cyclist thought they could cross the street, but the high volume of traffic exceeding the speed limit made that a risky proposition.

How can speed not be a factor in the crash? If the dump truck had been traveling 5mph, surely the collision could have been avoided and/or injuries would be less serious.

Also, how do we know the cyclist didn't stop? Is that the report of the driver who killed him? I bet that driver also reported driving under the speed limit.

It's possible that the driver was traveling slowly and the cyclist blew through the intersection, but it's possible the cyclist stopped, then proceeded when he thought it was safe, only to be wrong because this dump truck was speeding. I hope there is real investigation.


Don't hold your breath.

If a driver is going less than 20 mph over the speed limit--strike that, if there's no overwhelming evidence that the driver was going 20 mph over the speed limit--the police automatically check the "speed not a factor" box.

Doesn't matter if a driver is speeding and kills someone--speed is still not a factor.

oboe and gmb, good points, we don't really know. In my experience dump trucks are somewhat less likely to speed than other vehicles. I don't know which is less likely - that cyclist did the risky move of failing to stop at location like that, or that the dump truck was going more than 10MPH over the limit (and yes, that buffer, good or bad as policy, is the reality in the suburbs)

In my little corner of the world, I will take an intersection like that as a pedestrian, walking my bike. Yes, that makes biking in many parts of suburbia dreadfully inconvenient - but thats they way the area is built. More an infrastructure issue than a driver issue.

At least the first thing they reported was not the presence or absence of a helmet.

According to the Baltimore Sun there were witnesses, but it's unclear if they saw the crash itself.,0,234043.story

Suburban street meets 4 lane road. How fast was the truck going, and why did the cyclist not see him? Could the significant foliage have been a factor? There is also no shoulder to give a vulnerable user a chance to slowly feed into the road. Badly designed for anything except cars.

Check the brakes on any dump truck involved in a fatal/injury crash.

Wow. You have all done exactly what I've read on other forums - instantaneously and with no evidence whatsoever blaming the cyclist .. er ... driver, making gross generalizations about a hobby .... er ... profession and pretty much defining the word "stereotype."

And this from someone who's husband was hit by a car on his bike 6 weeks ago. I come to WashCycle expecting a more nuanced and intelligent analysis of cycling issues.

That driver must be feeling like shit right now. It's a tragedy all around, whoever is to blame.

arachne: I agree that there is not much willingness to blame the c7clist. Its a fair criticism. On the other hand, the cyclist is already being blamed, and is dead as a result. The necessary corrective is to understand what went wrong. I see two themes
1. Complaints about infrastructure. This is well founded from looking at the road.
2. Skepticism regarding "speed is not a factor" which is also very well founded based in numerous cases.

arachme: It's unclear what you're after, but I don't think you'll find it in the comment section of a blog.


Not sure that driver remorse is particularly useful from a public policy angle.

Think of it this way: You were on a blog that discussed issues that were relevant to pilots of airplanes, and you read a report of an air accident. The linked article reports that authorities believe the crash was entirely the fault of pilot error.

But then many of the pilots point out that the runway was arguably too short. And that, in their experience, that airport tends to have dangerous wind conditions that could cause a similar crash. Etc...

Now, how valuable is it to demand all conversation about causes be halted because "no one can ever know what happened" and "the families of the dead passengers already feel bad enough"?

If you don't want to be exposed to a lengthy post-mortem of suburban bike crashes, this probably isn't the site for you.

The real problem is that the lack of good investigation leads to bogus statistics, which prevent fundamental improvements to the system. The related issue is that the reports are used in ways other than the author necessarily intended; e.g., the patrolman likely reads "speed is not a factor" to mean "can't charge driver with speeding", but when there's a policy review for whether 40MPH is a reasonable speed for a road surrounded by residences, someone will point to the fact that accident reports all say that speed isn't a factor. Which is true, but the intended meaning and the interpretation have a big gap.

@Mike exactly:

1) Speed is not a factor. Okay, well maybe it was, but the speed limit is X mph.

2) Hey, we should lower the speed limit.

3) Nonsense, the "speed limit" is whatever 80% of drivers decide to drive.

4) Repeat until all the words become gibberish.

As far as "speed not a factor", this comment from the other thread should be required reading for everyone here. Okay, for every American adult:

Look at the front end damage on that vehicle. That was caused by a driver hitting a 9 year old child in a residential road in a suburban housing development (


Two responses:

Why is it good that they don't mention helmets? It's proven that helmets can save a life or reduce injury. That's a good thing. Any cyclist who is injured worse than he/she would have been with a helmet on should have worn one.

When they say "speed wasn't a factor" they mean the truck wasn't exceeding (or exceeding more than usual) the speed limit. Of course speed was a factor--every collision involves an object going faster than 0 mph--it just wasn't a factor in someone being at fault.

When they say "speed wasn't a factor" they mean the truck wasn't exceeding (or exceeding more than usual) the speed limit.

Your "exceeding more than usual" should be in bold, and underlined, btw.

I suppose the rest of your comment depends on what you mean by "at fault". Was a driver at fault if he was driving in a residential neighborhood doing the "usual" 10+ over the limit? Sure, he might have been able to stop or avoid a child on a bike if he'd been driving, say, 20 mph instead of the "usual" 30-35 mph.

Technically the child is at fault here. After all, he wasn't adhering to the traffic laws, and as a cyclist, is required to obey all traffic laws just like a car unless otherwise stipulated. The 9 year old was the scofflaw here, so the driver needn't worry--they weren't at fault.

And yet, I'd imagine they probably have just a twinge of (misplaced) guilt somewhere in the back of their conscience. I know it's silly, but for whatever reason, I can't help feeling like they probably wish they had it all to do over again, and this time they'd slow the F down.

The civil courts will likely have their own go at the speed question, inter alia, in this and the other sad case, won't they?

Speed wasnt a factor because the police decided not to factor it.

Whether a vehicle is speeding is critical in Virginia which has a statute that Maryland and DC don't have.

46.2-823: "The driver of any vehicle traveling at an unlawful speed shall forfeit any right-of-way which he might otherwise have under this article."

In this case, if it had been Virginia, if the truck broke the speed limit, it forfeited right-of-way to the cyclist.

Only six states have this as a statute, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, South Dakota, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Brendan: all states (IIRC) have a statute that requires you to operate at a safe speed depending on the conditions. (This dates to before speed limits existed, but which also put more responsibility on the driver for any accident). Now the default is to look at the speed limit and see if it was exceeded. We need to go back to something like a rebuttable presumption that the speed was not safe because an accident happened.

@brendan: any idea whether that statute supercedes contributory negligence? From the wording it sounds like it might.

I think the driver who killed the child seems more egregious if we have the facts. A dump truck on a state highway is hard to miss and I see no problem with the intersection for those directions. Conversely, you slow to 15 mph when passing a child on a road with no centerline.

@Jim T: no idea. Sounds like two ancient, absolute statutes going head to head.

Its good that they didnt mention helmets because it is usually a distraction from the actual issues. If you are hit by a dump truck doing 35+ a bike helmet is not going to save you.

In any fatal collision, the police are required to investigate the scene to determine if potential factors like speed, alcohol/drugs, road conditions, et cetera caused an accident. They'll do a whole accident recreation. If speed were a factor then they would probably see it in the skid marks. They probably also investigated visibility (ie, surrounding shrubbery someone mentioned) and other factors.

I don't want to jump to any conclusions, but I don't think the police shirk the duty that much when it comes to fatal collisions.

T: I think Alice Swanson's family might disagree. Or the guy a few weeks ago who was hit by a car and the police refused to correct the record, despite video evidence.

The issue is not so much shirking duty as whether they come to a situation with a pre-existing narrative. There are plenty of cases where a cyclist was doing the legal and safe thing and the police failed to ask the right questions or just assumed that the cyclist was at fault.


"I come to WashCycle expecting a more nuanced and intelligent analysis of cycling issues."

LOL - good luck! This blog has morphed from a pleasant place to learn about biking in DC to a militant, irrational echo chamber.

I'm sorry about your husband's accident.

"Militant, Irrational Echo Chamber" was the name originally planned for the blog. But it turns out Fox News trademarked that.

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