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I was walking on 15th and saw the car. The driver did not hit the cyclist, the driver turned into the alley and was struck by the bicycle. It looked very much like the driver's fault, but neither one could probably have seen the other BECAUSE THERE IS A LANE OF PARKED CARS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET.

I'd be curious to know if DoT "daylighted" the area just prior to the turn from the street to the alley (i.e., removed the parking space right before the turn to allow the driver a better sight line).


Just guessing from the above photo I'd say not.

It is conventional wisdom that separating bike lanes from motor vehicle traffic makes cyclists feel safer. We can create a barrier using things other than parked cars of course. But then where would the cars park?

I think Mase may have correctly identified the design deficiency here. Any intersection has to "daylighted".

I feel like there is a daylight gap there, but I don't ride this lane regularly. Anyone else know.

@JeffB: I agree completely. But in this instance a row of cars on a busy street does not a good barrier make. Parked cars do very well at separating pedestrian traffic, but a bicycle moves at greater speed and a greater variable speed than a pedestrian. My point was that I see how even a very careful driver could have failed to see a fast moving cyclist in the rush-hour evening sunlight.

I think Mase has it right.

I live on T street by this bike lane. I believe the lane baaccame much more dangerous when it was made two way. It's first iteration as a contraflow lane was much better, in that drivers have an easy sight line up the lane as they turn left. It is virtually impossible to see bike traveling in the same direction as the cars. daylighting is done here, but it is not enough space to still see the bikes.

I was in a similar incident a month ago riding north on the cycle track between P Street and the alley before Church Street. Luckily in my case, I did not suffer anything more other than a sore back for a day. I had previously been stopped at the light at P Street and was not going terribly fast when a driver turned quickly from 15th Street into the alley and cut in front of me. I was able to slow down, but still collided with the side of the car. I was not able to see the driver until it was too late (and the driver would probably say the same thing) because the alley intersections are not day-lighted as well as the street intersections. I believe there is signage for both cyclists and drivers to watch out at the alleys, but it does not seem to be very effective.

@CJ- You are exactly right. The cyclist was riding north and struck the car pretty hard. There was a big dent in the rear driver's side door of what I believe was a Prius.

I bike these lanes to and from my gym three days a week, and I turn from 15th, left on to Caroline (with no light) every time I park my car. To make my left on Caroline, I come to a complete stop in the road and enter the bike lane as if it's a complete blind spot.

As a cyclist traveling north, I prefer to take the right most lane of car traffic, but I don't even know if that's legal now that there's a segregated bike lane. I know the car drivers hate me for it. On a caBi bike, I use the bike lane, because the CaBi bike is too slow for that road (IMO). The intersections, traveling north, scare the crap out of me.

Here is an example of how daylighting is done at similar situations in NYC. This one is one Kent Ave, in Brooklyn. Basically, the parking ends for about 15feet before and after the driveway, with striping to indicate the crossing, both to cars and bikes. In the NYC case, the green paint is dropped for sharrows across the driveway intersection.


If you turn in front of someone in such a way that they can't avoid a collision, that's the same as hitting them in my book.

I prefer to take the right most lane of car traffic, but I don't even know if that's legal now

It is.

@ jacob

In 15th street, the signaled lights are configured so that the left lane for cars is a turn lane, with a turn signal. They have a red light when bikes have a green (with the right two lanes of car traffic), and they have a green turn signal when the bikes have a red.

At the alleys and named streets, the left turning cars are exiting three lanes of moving traffic to make a left turn across the bike lane. Most probably at speeds far greater than the speeds of the cars in that example you posted.

I'm not saying that this shouldn't work, I'm just pointing out that, in my experience, it's not working. And in the accident being discussed, the car entered the intersection first, and was struck by the bicyclist, I'm told on the rear quarterpanel. I know I have the right of way over cars at those intersections, but what if they are already in the intersection?

I can't go north bound at speed because of exactly this issue. On a CaBi, it makes a bit more sense.

@ washcycle

If you turn in front of someone, and they hit you, we have no way of knowing whether they "couldn't" avoid the collision, or "didn't" avoid the collision. We only know that the car did not collide with the bike.

I'm fine with holding the car driver a fault here if they were speeding, or if the bicyclist was clearly at the daylight area when the car driver started his or her turn.

However, if the daylight area was obstructed (as it often is by an illegally parked car), or if the bicyclist was traveling fast enough that she was not viewable when the turn was instigated (and that one scares me and is why I don't ride my road bike up that road), then I don't see how it can be the car driver's fault.

How do we ever figure out these possibilities? We can't, and that's why I advocate for this to only be a contraflow lane, with a right lane sharrow for north bound traffic.

I used to take the 15th St. cycletrack southbound, and then ride northbound in the sharrow lane. When they switched the cycletrack from a counterflow-only lane to a 2-way lane, I switched to 14th St. - I just didn't feel safe riding northbound in the cycletrack. Not enough visibility, even when there aren't cars illegally parked too close to intersections (which happens all the time).

Of course, with daylighting comes the complaint that the city is removing more parking spaces to appease cyclists.

I occasionally bike these lanes and must admit that I force myself to become hypervigilent while doing so. I've had a couple close calls, not only with cars but with pedestrians, who often use the lanes as "safety" zones from which to hail cabs or stand while waiting for the light to cross. It's just a very busy, very dynamic sort of arrangement that calls for a reduction in speed and an increase in awareness from just about everyone. That being the case, I'm not so sure these lanes, as constructed, are much of an improvement over sharrows in terms of safety and transportation.

Arguably, they do much to show motorists that the city is serious about cycling as a viable and serious form of transportation and to bring awareness in general that cycling is on the rise, but if that comes at the cost of accidents like this one, the type that is especially likely to happen inexperienced cyclists, perhaps it's time to rethink things.

@CJ, if the motorist can't see whether the way is clear, they shouldn't zip in. They should nose in slowly and carefully, as they would with the possiblity of a collision with another car.

In this case, I'm betting the motorist just didn't think to take precautions, nor did the cyclist.

As cyclists, we should treat ALL intersections as danger zones and be hypervigilant and act accordingly. It doesn't matter to the victim which party is ultimately at fault when the victim is severely injured or dead as a result of the collision. Laws don't protect us, they just help to sort out the aftermath.

CJ, failure to yield is failure to yield, regardless of whether it's bikes or cars.

This kind of thing almost happens to me about twice a month at the entrance to the illegal parking lot that St. Luke's Episcopal Church runs at the NW corner of 15th and P. The alley entrances usually aren't as bad because people turn into them really slowly, but people cruise into that parking lot because it's a wide entrance and they can see where they're going.

@Washcycle- I was not trying to say your reporting was inaccurate; there was a collision. But the details make the collision much more unsettling.
As I walked by this incident I kept thinking 'What if I rode my bike today instead walking? What if I were driving and tried to turn into that alley?'

Sometimes drivers hit a cyclist because their not paying attention. Other times a cyclist is not obeying traffic rules and gets struck. This collision gave me a very bad feeling when I saw it. I hate to use the word "unavoidable..." maybe "difficult to avoid?"


@CJ- RT is correct, but I see your point. The setup can easily confuse both cyclists and drivers.

It comes down to "perceived" safety and "actual" safety.

If you feel that the bike lane is safer but it isn't accidents like this will occur.

Given the design of this lane bikers and drivers need to be more careful. Bad things that "shouldn't" happen in a protected bike lane often do.

I hope the DCDOT learns lessons from this lane and can add safety features to future lanes. It seems that we can "cut to the chase" and look how the Dutch do it.

The real solution may, ironically, not be politically feasible.

I'll double check on my way home, but I don't think that alley is daylighted. If it is, it's not enough.

I walked to work on 15th today and noticed a few signs facing southbound bike traffic that said "watch for turning traffic". I think these might be new, as I haven't noticed them before. I feel they unfairly put the onus on cyclists to be the ones to be careful, as I don't think turning motorists at the uncontrolled side streets and alleys have any such warning.

Why isn't DDOT finishing the design as it was proposed by adding colored pavement markings at these conflict zones? Why did the planned sharrows for the lower half of the 18th street reconstruction never get installed? Where's the oversight to make sure these projects get done correctly?


I agree regarding failure to yield, but I'm not sure what you are saying. Do you mean that there is no scenario in which this collision could be termed cyclist error?

This crash occurred at the alley behind my apartment. Because the alleys are not signalized this should be an open-and-shut case of failure to yield by the car driver when the cyclist had the right of way. It's essentially a "right hook" crash that happened on a left turn.

That said, the visibility issue does highlight a flaw with the current configuration of the bike lane at the alleys. Daylighting would improve visibility, but daylighting alone would only encourage left-turning drivers to cross the bike lane at a shallower angle that would provide an even poorer view of northbound cyclists. If the crossings were daylighted, plastic bollard posts should be placed near where the right front fender of previously parked cars were - in order to ensure that left turning drivers slowly and completely make their turn before they cross the bike lane. This would ensure that drivers have the ability to see and yield to cyclists from a 90-degree angle.

Probably the cheapest and quickest remedy for this section of the 15th Street bike lane is to ban left turns from 15th Street into the alleys altogether. The alleys in this stretch are "T"-shaped and have three access points each - one on 15th Street and one each on the parallel streets (in this case Q and Corcoran). As a resident of this block I'd support making the 15th Street opening of the alley "exit only". It's only a 15-20 second delay to drivers to make them turn left at Corcoran and then turn left into the alley. I already do that when I drive because it's just easier and safer than crossing the bike lane at the alley.

And sorry, I should have said cyclist error, or design flaw."

I was riding up this cylcetrack the other day and almost got hit by a car, a pedestrian, and even a speeding cyclist. This was after being forced to veer into oncoming traffic to avoid a truck blocking the entire lane.

Like most things, this cycletrack started off as a great use of shared traffic and has since become a flawed, dangerous avenue.

@KG- that's a great suggestion, but you're probably the only resident that wouldn't be upset by such a change!

When 15th St. is rebuilt completely(something I'm told by DDOT will happen in the not so far future), alleys and intersections not controlled by signals should have a raised crosswalk installed to make it annoying to the point of a deterrent for cut-through traffic, and dramatically slow speeds and increase awareness for motorists crossing it.

@KG and jeff,

Some of the non signaled streets are one way and can only be entered from 15th. I'd be a proponent of speed bumb/raised crosswalks though.

This sucks.

But @Tom pretty much nailed it with "It comes down to 'perceived' safety and 'actual' safety."

The benefit of such infrastructure is that it encourages more folks to ride, because it increases perceived safety.

As far as this particular collision goes, if there's a bike-auto collision in the contraflow lanes, the driver should be assumed to be at fault unless gross negligence can be shown on the part of the cyclist.

I'm sorry but there's no way a cyclist hits a car leaving a significant dent while riding on a straight flat stretch of bike-only lane unless the driver was negligent. Perhaps there's some other scenario someone can come up with, but I sure can't.

As someone put it up-thread, it's a right-hook situation, only from the left.

@ all,

My only point is that I am more than capable, on my road bike, of riding northbound in that lane in a way that is legal, and would make this accident unavoidable to a left turning car.

That should be unacceptable to cyclists.

@CJ, not to beat a dead horse into dog food and glue, but come on. The way this accident can be avoided is exactly how I described. The motorist, unable to see clearly, should move very slowly and with caution across the intersection with the bike lanes.

Most motorists would do this very thing if the threat of colliding with an unseen motor vehicle were imminent. No one--neither cyclist nor motorist--wants a collision, so I have to assume here that the motorist didn't exercise due caution. Because motorists frequently fail to exercise due caution, it also falls to the cyclist to do so. I'm certainly NOT blaming the cyclist here or anywhere else, but who is right and who is wrong are academic elements that belong strictly to the aftermath--they are rarely tools of prevention.

Signs are well and good (if not installed to excess), but, just as with a crossing signal, I'm not going to trust my life to the efficacy of a sign that all too quickly becomes just another piece of artificial background/scenery to a motorist.

i've felt less comfortable riding south in this lane because cars making left turns onto 15th (or turning off of 15th) aren't used to looking for bikes coming in that direction. i was almost hit last week riding south by a car that was inching forward trying to make a left hand turn onto 15th street. the bugger had fully tinted windows so i couldn't tell whether he was looking out for bikes coming south or not - and he wasn't. why is it legal to tint your windshield and front windows anyway?

BTW, assuming it was accurately stated, the fact that the dent was in the rear quarter panel strongly suggests the car was NOT moving slowly (that, or that the cyclist had both eyes closed prior to impact)--the car almost cleared the intersection with the bike lanes before being hit. The cyclist, on the other hand, may or may not have been moving slowly.

BTW, assuming it was accurately stated, the fact that the dent was in the rear quarter panel strongly suggests the car was NOT moving slowly (that, or that the cyclist had both eyes closed prior to impact)--the car almost cleared the intersection with the bike lanes before being hit. The cyclist, on the other hand, may or may not have been moving slowly.

More speculation - perhaps the motorist seeing a cyclist approaching SOUTH BOUUND decides to floor it to beat the cyclist through the intersection.

@JeffB: Floor it? I've always taken that to mean NOT MOVING SLOWLY.

My statement still stands. BTW, when the word "suggests" is used, it's automatically implies speculation.

@Blue-eye Devil

What I meant was that maybe the motorist sees a different cyclist approaching south bound. Not wishing to wait he/she then decides to accelerate the vehicle forward at an incautious speed - never noticing the accident victim riding north (more speculation).

That's all. Just adding a little onto you post ;)

I got ya, no worries. But if either assumption(that the motorist did not move slowly into the intersection and/or failed to pay attention to southbound AND northbound cyclists) holds true, then the motorist is at fault.

What I meant was that maybe the motorist sees a different cyclist approaching south bound. Not wishing to wait he/she then decides to accelerate the vehicle forward at an incautious speed - never noticing the accident victim riding north (more speculation).

In which case....driver still at fault. Perhaps what we need are automated bollards that are triggered by bicycles rolling over a sensor. My guess is that the threat of running into a immovable barrier at 15+ mph would tend to focus the driver's concentration on potential cross-traffic.

What kind of bike did she have? The District requires a certain level of braking ability, correct? I ride this route frequently and don't go as fast as I can because I've had to brake suddenly for peds and vehicles, not necessarily the cars' fault for not noticing a fast moving cyclist over the parked cars.

It's very possible it was the cyclist's fault, and there's just little if any way to tell until we know more facts.

Not necessarily the cars' fault for not noticing a fast moving cyclist over the parked cars.

It's very possible it was the cyclist's fault, and there's just little if any way to tell until we know more facts.

First, DC is a contributory negligence jurisdiction, so from a strict legal perspective unless one party is 100% at fault neither is.

That said, your assertion has no basis in the law. When driving, you have an obligation to keep a lookout and to yield to traffic with the right of way. The fact that it is difficult -- or even impossible -- to keep a lookout does not relieve you of that responsibility. To the contrary, in difficult conditions you have an even greater responsibility to be cautious and vigilant. If it is impossible for you to execute a manoeuver safely, that does not give you license to execute it unsafely. Rather, your duty is to find another way of getting where you are going. Along a similar vein, misjudging the braking ability of another vehicle is no excuse for violating their right-of-way.

Under current DC case law, judges have created a "duty of self-preservation" that applies to cyclists and operators of no other vehicles. A cyclist who gets hit is presumed to have contributed to the accident. From a strict legal perspective it is impossible for an accident involving a cyclist to be the fault of anyone but the cyclist.


Looks like 15th is flat or has a slight rise over that section. So unless she had an ACME rocket strapped to the back, I think the normal assumption would be that the vehicle making a left across a traffic lane was at fault.

If you're driving in the middle lane of a three lanes of one way traffic, you take a left from that middle lane, and a car hits you in the quarter-panel, you're at fault.

Getting rid of the parking lane entirely would seem to solve the problem. Safe cycletracks vital in my opinion for slower-moving riders. We can build parking garages for the cars if we have to take out some parking lanes to make them safe.

What an exciting discussion. I like how everyone was very polite.
I think it's speaks a lot to the unintended weaknesses of this bike lane.
I don't want to rush to judgement on either the cyclist or the driver. It might be that both were being safe, but not (as CJ said) "hyper-vigilant."

There are many things going on 15th and Q at 6:30pm on a Tuesday. A half-dozen pedestrians in the crosswalk, a honking car, a delivery truck, a car parking... throw in a few cyclists at 4-15mph and a 1/2 second distraction and BAM!
I guess we should all just count our blessings and be careful on crowded, busy city streets.

@ oboe

If you make a left turn from the middle lane of three lanes of traffic and get hit, you are at fault because you made an illegal maneuver. That's improper lane usage, and is a pretty good example of why this lane is so poorly designed. It requires a left turning vehicle to cross another lane of ongoing traffic, and also puts a blind between the two lanes.

I don't think that this is necessarily an example of a car driver error. It could be, but my opinion is that this lane is designed in such a way that this type of accident can happen even if both drivers are driving legally and competantly.

As I said on GGW, I'd like to see the crash data - and I mean all crashes - on 15th Street before the cycletrack, while it was contraflow only and now. Until then, this is a crash. Crashes happen, and it alone is not proof of any weakness - no more so than the lack of high-profile crashes prior to this was proof of it's perfection.

If a car runs over a scooter-riding kid on the sidewalk, who's at fault then?

This is absolutely an example of car driver error: the appropriate left-turn here would be to verify there's no traffic moving parallel. The fact that there's a line of parked cars between the two travel lanes means that the left-turning car has an obligation to stop (or slow to a crawl) before entering the cycletrack, then slowly make the turn once they've determined there's no conflict.

We have narrow alleys in my neighborhood, and there are no sightlines to the sidewalk when you emerge from one. So the responsible drivers pull up to the sidewalk, then slowly pull across the sidewalk, and enter the street.

The responsible driver doesn't use the fact that a wall is obstructing their view to excuse running over some pedestrian.

@ oboe

I think you and I are talking about two different things. I'm not just interested in assigning blame in this incident. I'm more interested in preventing another incident like it. I'm particularly interested in not being involved in an incident like it, either as a cyclist or a car driver.

Yes, the driver may be legally at fault (ignoring possible contributory negligence), but this still may not have been caused by driver error.

Well, it could be driver error in a situation that, by design, makes driver error more likely. But it's still driver error. I remember seeing a study of intersection crashes that showed that often they're caused by drivers proceeding into the intersection even though they can't see the traffic light - because it's obstructed by a truck of tree branch or something - and only realizing that it's turned red when it was too late. They can fix this by moving the light and adding some, but in the end, it was still driver error.

This is similar. We want a design that makes driver error less likely to happen and less destructive when it does happen.


Applying an extremely rigid standard for fault here is counterproductive. A driver should never be turning left across a two-way bike lane separated from the street by a row of cars. To invite them to do so is to encourage serious accidents like this one.

Even a very careful driver turning left into the alley may have had to move onto the cycletrack before he was able to see bikes to his right. Inching onto the path as you suggest may have helped here, but it is still quite possibly insufficient to prevent other accidents. When the stakes are as high as they are here, why not design a safer cycletrack?


I'm not letting DDOT off the hook: it's pretty clear the cycle-track design represents a sad compromise between protecting cyclists and "ample parking".

But as I pointed out earlier, there are features of the built environment that don't optimally promote safety (e.g. my 19th century alley example). The fact that this stuff could be designed better shouldn't absolve us of responsibility when we're behind the wheel of a car.

In my opinion, it's similar to the "dooring" issue: bike lanes should not be in the door zone. When I park and go to get out of my car, I check over my shoulder for oncoming bikes, then I open the door a few inches, then I look again, then I open the door. I don't just shrug my shoulders and swing it open.

I've actually suggested this to folks who primarily drive, and who've argued that "dooring" is just something that happens. When I explained what I usually do to avoid dooring a cyclist, I usually get to "open the door a few inches" before whoever I'm talking to scoffs and says, "That's just too complicated!"

Bad design requires an even greater standard of due care, not a lesser one.


Just to compare w/ the cycletrack behavior: inching into the path may not prevent all accidents, but it would certainly give a cyclist a chance to either avoid the accident, or slow down to make it less severe.

Same thing with opening the door slowly and incrementally into the bike lane. Is there a chance that a cyclist could still be clipped by the door that's only open a few inches? Sure, but that's better than forcing them to swerve into traffic (which is the real danger), or hitting the door full-force.

Again, if the cyclist had clipped or hit the "nose" of the turning auto, I think we could assume that the driver exercised all due care. Since the cyclist hit the rear quarter-panel at what sounds like a fairly high speed, we can infer the driver was at fault.

Hope she recovers quickly and gets back on her (repaired?) bike to ride another day.

I hate the cycletrack but use it between the White House and M Street because I turn left on M to get to work. In morning traffic, it's the safest way, but if I had a dollar for every time a pedestrian, parked car, or person getting out of a southbound taxi/ride to work was blocking the lane, I wouldn't have to go to work that day. I'd buy a burger and a beer with my dollars.

The southbound cycletrack is terrible, too. There are these terrible grooves that really suck to ride over when going 15mph. They causes people to take the left lane going southbound.

GREAT VIDEO ---> http://youtu.be/bzE-IMaegzQ

As a bike messenger in DC I'm riding these streets everyday. I have been to many places in this world, DC and its suburbs easily hold the most reckless and bloodthirsty drivers I have ever witnessed. Whether I am driving the car or riding the bike...

I never use any of the city's bike lanes, they are too dangerous and filled with hazards.

Bike lanes are most useful for me on longer stretches of road for example Wilson Blvd bike lane is GREAT. People just need to learn to share the road with bicycles. Better yet, people should just drive their car substantially less.

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