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He said investigators are trying to determine whether the biker was in the main vehicular lane, or whether the car that hit him was in the bike lane.

Investigators need to determine a lot of things. For the Post to just pull out that one quote smacks of windshield bias so omnipresent in these crashes.

I hope investigators make the effort to obtain cell phone records and vehicle data.

It is most definitely not a bike lane. It is a shoulder. To be a bike lane, it would have to have bike-specific markings, but there are no pictures of bikes on the pavement or signs mentioning bikes. Because it's just a shoulder, cyclists are not required to ride in it. I construe the law to mean a rider could even ride in the middle of the travel lane, which is permitted if the lane is too narrow to pass a bike in the same lane (it is).

It's actually a pretty good shoulder. There are no grates or other obstructions at that location and it was free of any debris yesterday afternoon. It's wide enough that it would meet bike lane requirements. The crash happened towards the end of a long uphill and I was told you'd be riding straight into the sun at that time, but I couldn't verify that.

Yes - it is important that the investigators quickly disabuse themselves of the notion that a cyclist has an obligation in Maryland to ride on the shoulder. Their initial statements show confusion of the law, the road markings and how they apply to cyclists.

21-1205 Riding on roadways or on highway.
(a) Riding to right side of roadway. – Each person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter at a speed less than the speed traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing on a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable and safe, except when:
(1) Making or attempting to make a left turn; (2) Operating on a one-way street;
(3) Passing a stopped or slower moving vehicle; (4) Avoiding pedestrians or road hazards;
(5) The right lane is a right turn lane; or
(6) Operating in a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle or motor scooter and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

11-151 Roadway
(a) In general. – “Roadway” means that part of the highway that is improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, other than the shoulder.

Emphasis is mine.

I used to sometimes use that route to commute to work. That traffic circle is a zoo. Been awhile since I've ridden it,but I can't imagine they've added a bike lane. Traffic around there sucks,and you get people coming out of the circle going faster than they should.

And WTF does it matter where he was in the road? He was struck from behind,which means he was in the driver's field of view at some point. Hope the family sues the pants off the idiot,cause I doubt the police will even cite him.

WTF does it matter where he was riding? If he was obeying the law, was visible, then the duty belongs to the driver.
Why does the media act as if bikes are the problem, when cars kill 30K other drivers each year.

Objectively it matters where he was on the road so as to best understand and weigh the all causal factors that contributed to the crash.

Going forward it matters when we consider the safety issues of adding any bike lane alongside a high speed road.

Capt. Starks needs to be schooled. That is not a bike lane. Now that misinformation has been repeated by every reporter covering the story. I'm sure it will make the killer feel better, because it's okay to run into cyclists how go out of the lines.

jeffb--the speed limit on that section of Mass Ave is only 30, not that that is what you were getting at. Anyway, I wouldn't call that a high speed road, nor would I call that a bike lane, but the police and everybody else seem to think it is. (The pavement to the right of the regular travel lane striping is a "bike lane," no matter how narrow or crappy, in common knowledge, but this is not true. I think all this faux bike lane striping should be removed.)

I ride that part of Mass Ave often. I can't imagine a more benign piece of road. The "bike lane" thing is profoundly disturbing. Some idiot cop or reporter saw the generous shoulder and went with it. Of course, even had there been a signed, separated, red carpeted...

So sorry for this man's family and I find myself grateful that, for once, the killer stayed at the scene.

SJE: "The United States is on track to have its deadliest traffic year since 2007, the National Safety Council says, with nearly 19,000 people killed as a result of motor vehicle accidents between January and June—a 14 percent increase over the same period last year. The number of injuries and the costs associated with traffic accidents also rose significantly, according to estimates from NSC’s statistics department released Monday.

Nearly 2.3 million “serious injuries,” which the NSC defines as those requiring medical consultation, were sustained during the six-month period, up 30 percent when compared with the first half of 2014."

Why? Maybe this from the same source: "A survey released by AT&T in May showed that roughly 70 percent of respondents use their smartphones while driving. Texting was most common, with 61 percent saying they’ve read, sent or replied to texts while driving, but respondents also indicated they use email, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram while driving and even conduct video chats, shoot videos and snap selfies behind the wheel." More than 6 of 10 drivers admit to using a phone to text WHILE DRIVING! WTF!

Put the damn phone away and drive the damn 2 ton killing machine you are operating!!!!

"“There’s a bike lane there. And being close to the District, it’s an area that I would say is frequently used by bikers, some of whom are commuting,” Starks said."

Why does it matter if the cyclist is commuting or simply going to the local Dunkin Donuts for coffee? Why doesn't Mr. Starks share with us what the motorists are doing on this road? Are they commuting?

And I know this is nit picky, But the head should read, "Father of 5, one of 9 siblings, Navy Seal and Gulf War Veteran, Killed in car bike crash."

I went by the spot last night. There is, needless to say, no bike lane there, and sight lines are just fine. The only conceivable explanation is driver fault.

The MCPD PIO should know better than to make untrue statements about basic facts such as the presence of a bike lane or a shoulder, but maybe he doesn't.

I don't expect MCPD to be monitoring comments here, so I suggest we engage the PIO office on their social media. We need to provide feedback when our officials get it wrong.


I wrote Capt. Starks an e-mail yesterday and he replied to my satisfaction:

"Thank you for your mail. This investigation is continuing and we may release updated information later this week.
I'm checking with investigators and will contact you with clarifying information regarding the bike lane issue. We always want to ensure we are communicating the correct message to everyone in our community.
Please mail or call with other questions. I'm providing you with my mobile phone number but asking that you not share it.
Thanks again for your comment.
Captain Paul Starks, Director
Public Information Office"

I hope someone with some standing can get a at least a letter published in the WaPo correcting this.

I'm glad people are telling the police it's not a bike lane.

But a benign effect of the mischaracterization might be that from the start the police may have been more likely to view the driver action as egregious than had he simply hit someone riding on the shoulder (if in fact the cyclist was in the shoulder). The negative impact of the mischaracterization might also be limited mostly to people who are familiar with that portion of Massachusetts Ave, and the facility looks so much like a bike lane (very regular in width, closed section, smooth, well-maintained) that people might not extrapolate the characterization to your typical shoulder that doesn't look anything like a bike lane. And while such a mischaracterization could cause problems during an ongoing investigation or legal case, hopefully by now the police understand that it's not a bike lane, thanks to our letters.

On the other hand, if the cyclist was riding in the travel lane, any notion that he was "not in a bike lane" could be harmful to cycling.

Jack, the fact that the shoulder has no bike lane treatment at the intersections makes it completely unlike a bike lane. The shoulder just disappears before the intersections, leaving any cyclist riding on the shoulder no safe place to go.

Nancy, good to know, thanks. It looks like the shoulder ends just 500 ft after the crash location. A better design would have the shoulder flow into the right-hand lane where the lane starts and the travel lane flow into the left-hand lane. Then a cyclist riding in the shoulder could just continue straight into the right-hand lane without having to yield to cars. Cars would have to yield to the cyclist.

I know that area, and I would not consider that shoulder to be a lane substitute. There is often debris in it, and residents often place trash can and yard waste bags in it as well. The entire roadway is wide enough for a bike lane on the climbing side, but Montgomery County has been very slow in implementing cycling infrastructure.

Here's an updated article about Tim Holden that gets the bike lane thing right, by saying, "While there is not a dedicated bike lane..."

The Bethesa Magazine article exhibits a better nuance. I appreciate the effort to include local cyclist's voices in the piece.

I think the the thing that many cyclists find so disquieting about these crashes are that each of us realizes that it could easily happen to anyone.

There is little protection from distracted drivers and here in the U.S. we are behind the curve and getting further behind.

Its good to see Capt Stark responding, but he should have shown more nuance in the first place. It doesnt matter where the cyclist was, or what he was doing. It doesnt matter even if the cyclist was at fault: he could have reminded people that this is a 30mph road, there are lots of ppl on bikes, and drivers need to watch out and not text etc.

Distracted driving needs to be the subject of much more enforcement and treatment like drunk driving by the law.

Mm. These sorts of stories give me pause both as a cyclist and as a driver. I know far too well how easy it is to suffer a lapse in concentration in either mode - and how catastrophic the consequences can be if the timing is just wrong. What Jeffb said above, "each of us realizes this could easily happen to anyone", applies in my mind, to drivers and to cyclists alike.

John: lapses in concentration happen. But driving too fast, texting, being on the phone, being drunk don't just "happen." We can enforce the law while giving room for human error.

SJE--I agree, Capt. Stark could show more nuance, and maybe he will in the future, however, I only complained about his characterization of the shoulder as a "dedicated bike lane" in my e-mail to him. You could write him and express your thoughts-- he seems open to listening.

SJE, I agree. But at the moment we don't know that any of those are to blame in this crash. What we know is that a driver hit a cyclist, didn't flee, and (for now) hasn't been charged with anything.

None of us is perfect, and sometimes I find myself acutely aware (from my own life experience) of the terrifyingly thin line between those little, occasional cockups that did no harm to anyone - indeed no one but me even noticed - and those that kill. I wonder what it would feel like, knowing that I made an understandable, none-of-us-is-perfect human error and someone died because of it.

From the street-view, the breakdown lane in that section of road looks very similar to East-bound Strathmore/Knowles road, from Stillwater to Kenilworth and from Beach to Summit.

Why is there an effort in these comments to find excuses for the driver? Yes, driving is dangerous, but that just means people who except that responsibility must be acutely careful. In a 30mph area such as this, apparently on the uphill side as well, the risk of a fatality from a car is relatively low. Especially given the low light at that time of day, any safe driver would have their speed on the low side. So if anything, it all points to an exceptionally dangerous driver. And in any case, what is known for certain is that the cyclist didn't injure the driver.

Please stop searching excuses for this driver. It's not any of our place to pardon harm done to someone else (or threats to others) and does us all huge disservice.

I'm not trying to find excuses. I'm just pushing back against what seems sometimes like an impulse to regard Drivers as members of some species separate from & inferior to Cyclists. We are (most of us anyhow) both those things, Drivers and Cyclists, and all of us subject - humans that we are - to mistakes that, when the stars line up badly, may produce consequences far more awful than we ever might've thought.

One time, commuting southbound on 16th Street, I pulled out of the curb lane to pass a stopped bus. The second lane was clear alongside me, but there was traffic coming up from behind, so I stood up and mashed on the pedals to get up to 25 mph for a couple hundred feet to make an easier merge. On the third or fourth pedal stroke, my chain snapped, all resistance disappeared at the crank, my foot came out of the cleat and fell all the way to the ground, and it was all I could do to keep the bike upright. If I'd fallen I could easily have been crushed by a car from behind, or by one in the third lane. I was lucky.

Just three weeks ago on Park Road, a bee flew down my shirt and stung me, quickly, three times in a row. Son of a *bitch*. For 10 seconds I was a flurry of frantic & highly disorganized activity until I could stop the bike and get my shirt off, and I don't know what would have happened if I'd been in heavy traffic. Not my fault and I was lucky there too.

Now - naturally, as a daily bike commuter I have suffered my share of close calls that weren't remotely my fault. Some idiot pulling past me to execute a right turn in front of me; getting passed by someone at 40 mph giving me maybe 4" to spare - these and many others are familiar occurrences. I am quite conscious how easy it is for an inattentive or hostile driver to injure or kill me on my bicycle. My only point is that unexpected stuff happens on the road and it's well within the realm of possibility that someone can die and it's *no one's fault at all*.

The chain breaking thing is something most cyclists don't think about. When it happens under load, you are very likely to crash. It really doesn't hurt to think about how things look from the other side sometimes since some day you are going to be at fault and maybe want a bit of forgiveness yourself.

I had the three stings from a yellow jacket inside my shirt thing happen to me this summer too. (A bee would die after the first sting.)

I'm not certain the U.S. will ever fully embrace self-driving cars, but cars with sensors that help avoid accidents could really help here. For instance, if your car has an override that applies the brakes to keep you from running into a pedestrian, cyclist, or other car in most cases, we should see a reduction in fatalities.

"Some day you are going to be at fault and maybe want a bit of forgiveness yourself"

Yup - thanks

Time was, a policeman would say that there is a bike lane, and it would mean the cyclist is being blamed. Now when a cop says there is a bike lane, it often means they are considering serious criminal charges against the driver for intruding.

Did Mr. Holden's chain break? Did he suffer an attack from an angry flying insect? Perhaps.

The fact that unexpected things happen is precisely the reason that operators of motor vehicles have a responsibility to operate that motor vehicle with extreme care when cyclists and pedestrians are about. And cyclists who also drive are superior to drivers who do not cycle; the former group operates from a dual perspective, the latter has no idea what it is like to be on a bike in traffic. People who only drive see cyclists as a hindrance to be tolerated at best, harassed at worst.

I emailed the reporters who wrote the item in the Post about the bike lane vs, shoulder issue. Ms. Zauzmer wrote back saying they corrected this in an update, which Crickey has already seen.


Oops. Sorry for the ambiguity, I wrote them about the bike lane vs. shoulder issue.

Got an update from Capt. Starks in which it says the collision occurred in the "eastbound shoulder area," which to me means that Tim Holden was in the shoulder and the driver ran into him.

Regarding the update - Not to worry. The motorist perhaps made a mistake and deserves a bit of forgiveness, as do we all...

An essay by a close friend of Tim Holden:


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