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Re: 34 St Bike Lane,

Like most of the other bikes lanes DDOT chooses to install, they are totally in the kill zone of the parked cars.

The only completely sane way for a cyclist to use this lane would be at a pace no faster than an old ladies trot.

Re: Cyclist struck and Killed:

Hopefully the police accident investigators didn't actually come out and say:
"bicyclist visibility" as the apparent cause of the accident"

That might be a contributing factor. But it is not the cause of Mr Young's death. That was the result of a several thousand pound vehicle being rammed at high speed into the back of the cyclist.

Also - why are the police always so quick to come out with exonerating facts for the motorist and, seemingly, accept them at face value? In the case of a death happening on a Friday night it sure sounds like the police are wrapping this up pretty quickly when, in my opinion, an investigation should just be beginning.

Legitimate questions remain to be answered:
1) Was the cyclists headlight on or off? A motorist paying attention might have been able to see the spotlight on the road ahead of the cyclist.

2) How do the police know the taillight was off? Perhaps only by the motorists self-serving statement? One can discern from regular filament bulbs whether it was on or not. Not so with LEDs - which is what 99% of cyclists taillights are.

3) Where was the cyclist on the road when struck? Washcycle is right - there is a perfectly good, wide shoulder there so why would he be in the travel lane?

4) Police say speed and alcohol weren't a factor. OK - now let's pull the cellphone records. There has to be a reason why a motorist who wasn't drunk, wasn't speeding, was unable to see an object in the roadway in time to avoid it. Did he make ANY evasive maneuver?

Were HIS lights on?

Finally - looking at the street views of the adjacent roads in this area I'd say the ultimate cause of Mr Young's death is living in suburbia and having the audacity to not travel by car.

More coverage of cyclist struck and killed:


My coverage:

...the ultimate cause of Mr Young's death is living in suburbia and having the audacity to not travel by car...

Here's my thought for trying to make sense of our suburban roads after this latest rundown death in Maryland.

Road engineers need to decide whether a road is going to be a limited access highway or not, and make clear distinctions. If not, then the road can't be designed like a near-highway, with slip lanes and other features that send a message to drivers that highway speeds are essentially OK. If it's not a limited access highway, then it shouldn't look like a limited access highway. We need a clear distinction between limited access highways -- where bikes and pedestrians aren't allowed, and speeds are expected to be high -- and complete suburban streets on the other, where speeds are lower.

No more in-between roads like Veterans Highway in this case, or like Md 450 (in places) or Greenbelt Road (in places) or 301 (in places) etc. etc. etc. that are built like mini-highways and naturally encourage drivers to speed, despite the fact that the pedestrians and bikes may be on the road.

I don't want to be a knee-jerk "blame the car" cyclist, but Barry has a very good point: what is the driver's responsibility? People get killed crossing the road on a cross-walk. No charges. Man is killed on a country road at 830 am: he wasn't in the shoulder. etc etc. It seems you could have 10 foot flames coming out of you and there would still be a reason that you were at fault.

I don't want to tighten the legal requirements for rear refletion/lighting, lest we add yet another opportuinity to be contributorily negligent--and the requirement is probably sufficient for people who only ride on neighborhood streets with little traffic.

But the legally required rear reflector (or optional tail light) is completely inadequate for a road like MD-3, US-301, MD-450, etc. On a neighborood street with little traffic, drivers are looking for pedestrians and bikes with no lights.

One needs a tail light designed for the worst 0.001% of drivers. On a road like MD-3, many drivers are looking for car tail lights. Even a motor vehicle driving 10 mph under the limit with dead tail lights has a good chance of being rear-ended. A bike with just a reflector or dim tail light will only be noticed by drivers looking for cyclists--which is not everybody. Even if you are on the shoulder, you need a light designed to catch the eye of the driver who is not paying close attention.

Jim: I completely agree that the standards are inadequate. Ninja cyclists also feed into the "scofflaw" meme.

At the same time, I am concerned that the police are focusing on his "dark clothing" and not checking if there were witnesses to confirm that the cyclist was poorly lit. As I said above, cyclists get hit in the daylight, and nothing gets done.

@Greenbelt I concur, local roads should look like local roads and not freeways.

@Jim, the question was raised should our new manslaughter by vehicle law be applicable in this case? Your thoughts?

Re. Reflector standards:
I strongly feel this is a national issue and not a Maryland issue. Bikes need to come equipped with better reflectors and bike shops need to sell better reflectors and lights. This cannot happen unless national standards change.

@SJE: What's your source for the police not looking for witnesses?
I'll give a partial defense of the police public statements. They
think that cyclists care about staying alive more than drivers care about hitting a cyclist. The typical cyclist riding on MD-3 at night will be passed by many cars any of which could kill him; the typical driver on MD-3 will not see a single cyclist in the lane at night in a week--and none will kill him even if he did. So "dark clothing" and "tail light not working" seems more relevant to initial statementes than "driver failed to look for faint objects on MD-3". Saying things that beenfit the driver may also help to keep the driver cooperating longer; whether the driver was right or wrong, he can refuse to talk to the police.

@Barry. We do not have any facts to suggest that this particular case would fall within the negligent homicide by vehicle law. In a case like this, if the cyclist was really riding in the shoulder and the driver drover along the entire distance of the shoulder to pass slower traffic in the lane, then I think it falls within the statute. If the driver's headlights were off, it falls within the statute whether bike was in the lane or shoulder. Mere inattention or momentary distraction would not be homicide under that law.

I doubt that reflector standards are the complete answer for roads where cars are driving >55 mph because the bikes are too far away.

@Greenbelt. I am having a difficult time visualizing what you really are suggesting. (As a clarification of terminolory, bikes are banned on expressways but limited-access roads allow bikes, e.g. MD-193 east of MD-564. Cyclists generally favor limited access since the shoulders are safer with the minmum of cross streets and driveways.)

The general driving public will not go for every road being designed for a maximum speed of 35 mph, and the cycling public will not go for bikes being banned from every road with a maximum design speed of 35 mph. SHA has generally been led to believe--by cyclists--that it is doing a good thing by adding wide shoulders to new roads.

Sidepaths would probably be useful for MD-3.

Jim: My assumption (agreed, it is an assumption) arises from the fact that the man was killed on Friday and the police already sound like the investigation has wrapped up, and there are no statements confirming that the cyclist was poorly lit.

Jim -- I was thinking of the term "limited access" as referring only to interstate-like roads that truly have only occassional access points at major bridge/exits, like (95 or the BW Parkway. No stops or at grade crossings or driveways, and no bikes or peds allowed.

On the other hand, your example of MD 193 on either side of 564 is what I'm thinking about. 193 in that stretch has some interstate-like features and visual cues. But it's not a fully limited access highway -- it has stoplights, and driveways and cross streets at grade. Bike are allowed and (brave) pedestrians are sometimes seen.

But it has the feel of a limited access highway in spots, with the interstate-like exit slip lanes and ramps, center grass median etc. Speeds of 60+mph and higher are common. That's why I won't bike on 193 in that area even though there's a wide shoulder -- at those speeds, if a driver swerves or is distracted and drives on to the shoulder, the cyclist or pedestrian is dead.

Ideally, I'd prefer a road like 193 to be designed like a broad boulevard, with pedestrian havens in the center of intersections, bus stop pull offs, and roadside or center median cycletrack, instead of in a limited access highway-like fashion.

There are lots of separated but not limited access roads in semi-rural areas. They're often pretty dangerous because speeds get high but access points are unlimited and cars pulling out of driveways at 5mph don't mix well with cars going 60+.

Our traffic engineers seem to think that the best way to make "improvements" to suburban roads is to make them more like interstates, reducing at grade crossings and installing bridges with high speed loop exits and ramps etc. But that signals to drivers that highway speeds are OK. But if access is not really limited, and the road is open to all users and has stoplights and driveways too, those cars that are being visually encouraged to go 60+ by an interstate-like feature are going too fast for the road.

Don't even get me started on the completely unnecessary slip lanes on Soil Conservation Service Road, or Greenbelt Metro Drive...

I saw the 34th Street bike lane this weekend. It's terribly narrow - like 3.5 feet wide. Should have just been sharrows on this street if the city wanted to let people know bikes belong there.

@Greenbelt. It's a real conundrum. When you are on a bike, the speed of the traffic is a bit scary even with a wide shoulder. (Heresy alert:) And frankly, with that wide shoulder east of MD-564 and few crossings, I have to wonder whether riding on the left side is safer.

By the way: SHA considers MD-193 to be limited access. It is very difficult to get permission run a driveway or new street unless that is the only option.

Given the political reality (e.g. 12 mph margin for speed cameras) I don't think there is much chance of dramatically slower speeds is likely. But compare MD-450 east of MD-193 with MD-193 between MD-564 and MD-450. The latter has 10 ft shoulders and open section; the former has 3-4 foot shoulders and a sidepath.

Possibly for these limited access roads with speed limits greater than 35 mph, we need to be pushing sidepaths? It requires a smarter cyclist observing the cross streets--but you are a lot less vulnerable to drivers veering off the road.

2) How do the police know the taillight was off? Perhaps only by the motorists self-serving statement? One can discern from regular filament bulbs whether it was on or not. Not so with LEDs - which is what 99% of cyclists taillights are.

This is actually quite simple to do: on the off-chance that the driver stops and reports killing a pedestrian or cyclist, the responding officer will make a note of any lights laying around on the ground. If the taillight is blinking, then it was on. If it's not--or if it has been smashed into twenty million pieces by the impact of the collision--then not.

Much more convenient for everyone that way.

"The light couldn't possibly have been on, as it was so badly smashed and destroyed that it was inoperable. And the batteries weren't even in it, they were - oddly - in a nearby ditch."

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