A commenter asks:
Interesting about pedestrian right of way. I take it that right of way means that if a car hits a pedestrian in a crosswalk the car is presumed to be at fault. Would you write about bikes vs cars and right of way? Specifically I am quite disturbed about the recent accident in Corvallis where an elderly man on a bike was clipped and knocked over by a car as he was passing through an intersection. It just seems wrong that cars have no responsibility to not hit a bike in that situation. Thanks.
The accident in question is:
INJURY ACCIDENT: 3 p.m. Grant Avenue and Dixon Street. William Brown, 87, of Corvallis, was riding a three-wheel bicycle south on Dixon Street and reportedly went through the intersection without stopping at a stop sign. Jessica Neffendorf, 19, of Corvallis, who was driving a vehicle east on Grant Avenue, clipped the back part of his bike. Brown was transported to Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, where he is reported to be in fair condition. No citations were issued. [source: Gazette Times]
I share her concern. I am a member of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission to the Corvallis City Council. Shortly after this accident, we received the 4th quarter (2011) bike/ped crash report from Lt. Cord Wood of the CPD. While Bill Brown’s accident (referred to above) was too recent to be included, we did discuss it. Commission Susan Christie was more familiar with the details than I and inquired:
Commissioner Christie asked a question about the recent bicycle/car crash at Grant Avenue and Dixon Street, where a man was hit and later died. She said there is considerable unrest in the bicycling community because no citation was issued. Lt. Wood said that in that particular instance, if a citation had been issued, it would have been to the cyclist. [source: BPAC minutes]
Lt. Wood discussed the reluctance to issuing citations, referring to the danger to policemen in doing so. While Bill Brown was recovering (and before he died due to complications), we hear Bill Brown’s side of the story:
He said that was about 80 percent of the way through the intersection when Jessica Neffendorf, 19, of Corvallis drove east on Grant and her vehicle clipped his right rear tire. Brown, 87, said he saw her car coming from three or four blocks away, but he couldn’t ride through the intersection fast enough to avoid being struck. [source: Gazette Times]
It is difficult for me to believe that a car travelling within the speed limit would not have time to stop for a cyclist that is visible from four blocks away. And if the cyclist was proceeding so slowly through the intersection (presumably at a crosswalk) that this car would catch up to the bicycle during this time, then I would guess that Bill Brown was travelling at walking speed. I’m no lawyer, but Ray Thomas is. In his Legal Guide For Oregon Bicyclists, he describes the conditions in which a cyclist should be treated as a pedestrian according to crosswalk law:
While bicycles are considered to be vehicles under Oregon law and must, therefore, yield the right-of-way to pedestrians just like any other vehicle, bicycles may also be operated in crosswalks. While on the one hand Oregon law allows bicyclists to have the right-of-way in cross- walks like a pedestrian, the law also sets a speed limit for bicycle riders that conditions the right-of-way on proceeding no faster than a “walking speed”. ORS 814.410.
While the law makes some sense as motorists should not have to yield the right-of-way to bicycle riders speed- ing across intersections like galloping urban deer, few bicyclists know about the “walking speed” limit and invariably the law gets used against bicycle riders who are struck by a careless motorist when the bicyclist thought he or she was lawfully crossing the street. [page 21, LGFOB]
That may be a little dissatisfying, but it is difficult to swallow the number of car-bicycle collisions that go citation-less; particularly when one results in the death of a cyclist.
And you can count on me coming to the defence of a driver when a bicycle-car collision results in the death of a driver and not the cyclist.