When A Reputation Is On The Line, A Video Is Worth A Thousand Words

Sometimes people misconstrue things, rather than admitting to what is actually there. This can lead to unintended consequences. For instance, when a cyclist or an anti-cyclist wants to blame a cyclist for his own death, they lose sight of the fact that a man’s reputation is on the line — and he is no longer able to defend himself.

Anti-cyclists do not care how much harm is caused to a cyclist who has lost his or her life in a crash involving a motor vehicle. Anti-cyclists don’t want cyclists on the roads and believe that they deserve any misfortune that befalls them.

Cyclists who want to blame other cyclists for their own deaths probably have many reasons for wanting to do so. In a recent comment exchange concerning a Wellesley, Massachusetts cyclist’s death — which I have written about several times on this blog — a cyclist explained his desire to blame a cyclist for causing his own death.

In this case, his reason for doing so was a fear that some roads would be closed to cyclists if advocates pointed out the dangers of roads without bike lanes. His fear stemmed from comments made to this effect when bike lanes were requested.

Had he consulted an attorney, his fears would have been allayed. If his state recognizes bicycles as vehicles or acknowledges in some other way their right to use the roads, they cannot be banned from roads which do not contain bike lanes — even if some people want to take this approach.

If I understood him correctly, he wanted to blame a cyclist in a state where he doesn’t live, for his own death, to show that cyclists don’t play the “victim card.” This approach is flawed in many ways.

First, it is not possible to conduct a proper accident investigation from another state. Google maps (which rarely has current street level photographs) and police reports do not contain sufficient information about what happened. In this particular case, many experts were brought in to reconstruct the events leading up to the crash.

They used a bicycle and a truck to reenact the scene. Tire marks, road measurements, evidence left on the truck and road, and injuries to the cyclist’s body were all accounted for. This is the proper way to determine the cause of a traffic accident.

Second, there is really no such thing as the “victim card.” Such a term is merely a way for unenlightened people to refuse to acknowledge harm caused by one person to another. It’s like blaming a woman for her own assault by saying that if she hadn’t been born with a female anatomy then a man wouldn’t have been tempted to attack her. Therefore, her assault is her own fault and she should not blame the man for his actions. If she does, she is playing the “victim card.”

Third, when you blame a cyclist for his own death, you are making assumptions about what he was thinking or doing at the time of his death. These assumptions are not facts, they are beliefs. And, the only person who knows whether they are true or not can no longer speak for himself because he is dead — and his reputation is on the line. (But, in the case in question, the video below will speak for him.)

As is often the case in these matters, the commenter misconstrued legal concepts to suit his needs. This is common among lay people who have no formal background in practicing law.

The commenter in question gathered “evidence” while residing in another state by using this process:

“This case just kept nagging at me.  I spent hours online. I read everything I could find. I viewed the videos. I studied the photos.  I looked at pictures of the same type of trailer.  I talked to other cyclists.  I even talked to some truck drivers.

What I found showed that:

-The truck entered the intersection before the bike.
-By crossing the double yellow lines  the driver left about five feet between the trailer and the curb.
-There is nothing to show that the truck did not maintain a somewhat straight path past the intersection.
-About two thirds of the rig passed the cyclist before contact.

This shows that it is likely that something may had caused the cyclist to move to the left. That something could have been the drain,  air blast, or panic by having the vehicle so close.”

We will have to give this commenter an “A” for effort. (“A” refers to a high score for his achievement, for my non-U.S. readers.) I will refrain from assigning any other grades for this work because his facts are wrong, possibly due to inaccurate information he obtained online.

Incorrect statement: “the truck entered the intersection before the bike.”

The bike entered the first intersection, at the beginning of the bridge, ahead of the truck which was turning left when the cyclist was on the main road. Being on the main road gives the cyclist the right of way.

The two were riding side-by-side with the truck boxing the cyclist in against a high curb. According to an eyewitness account, they were still side-by-side, and the cyclist appeared to be caught up in the truck, when they approached the second intersection at the bottom of the hill.

Incorrect statement: “By crossing the double yellow lines the driver left about five feet between the trailer and the curb.”

While I do not have exact measurements for this road, it is extremely narrow (as are many roads in Wellesley) and a traffic camera video shows that only the truck’s left wheels were over the yellow line, and just barely. This is because the truck had to squeeze between the bicycle and an oncoming car. From my own experience, I would estimate the distance between the truck and the bicycle to be two feet or less, with less than two feet on the cyclist’s right side.

Note: Here are the truck dimensions and road dimensions at two points on the road, including the crash area, from the Police Report:

“The trailer is approximately 8 feet wide and the top edge of the trailer is more than 9 feet off of the ground. In total the tractor and trailer unit is approximately 42 feet long, 8 feet wide and 9 feet tall.

The northbound lane of Weston Road at the crest of the bridge is 13.8 feet wide from the yellow center line to the white fog line, with 2.55 feet between the fog line and the curb. It is approximately 250 feet from the crest of the bridge to the area of the collision, just past the intersection with Linden Street. As Weston Road continues north past Linden Street the road narrows. The northbound lane of Weston Road in the area of the collision is 10.65 feet wide from the yellow center line to the white fog line, with 1.7 feet between the fog line and the curb.”

Incorrect statement: “There is nothing to show that the truck did not maintain a somewhat straight path past the intersection.”

There were marks on the road which the investigators used to determine the paths of the bicycle and the truck.

Incorrect statement: “About two thirds of the rig passed the cyclist before contact.”

Even if half or more of the rig had passed the cyclist, by law, if the truck driver doesn’t give the cyclist enough room to ride safely, he is responsible for causing the accident. Evidence on the truck shows that they had contact while the truck was passing. This means that the cyclist didn’t have enough room to avoid the truck. That’s what a safe bicycle passing distance law is for, to ensure that the cyclist does not get boxed in.

From all of these erroneous “facts” the commenter concluded that the cyclist must have moved left (into the truck) either due to “the drain, air blast, or panic by having the vehicle so close.”

This conclusion does not follow from any of the facts gathered in the actual investigation conducted in Massachusetts. There was no room for the cyclist to move to the left. He was boxed in. Further, as I’ve pointed out before, the cyclist was dragged about 20 feet before landing near the drain, which was on the road where he lived.

Here is how one eyewitness described the events (NARRATIVE FOR PATROLMAN MARK J CARRASQUILLO from the Wellesley police report, taken at the crash scene):

“Once the roadway was shut down, I approached a white female party who was standing on the sidewalk near utility pole #2. The woman, identified as, [witness name], was extremely distraught and was crying. I asked if she witnessed what happened. She nodded her head indicating yes, gasped for a breath, and said, “I saw what happened. I saw the bicyclist and there was a huge truck a HUGE truck.” [witness name] continued, “When I saw the bicyclist my first thought was, wow he’s got a lot of guts.”  When asked what she meant, [witness name] explained to me she thought the bicyclist was very brave for riding his bicycle in the roadway while having such a big truck come up from behind and pass him.

[witness name], who was extremely upset throughout our interaction, said numerous times, “It wasn’t his (the bicyclist’s) fault! He didn’t do anything wrong! He was just coming down the hill and the truck hit him. That truck was going way too fast! He (the truck driver) came barreling over that hill!” I asked [witness name] to describe the truck to me in greater detail. She said again, “It was a HUGE truck, like a big construction truck. Bigger than a landscaping truck.”

Of course, people in other states think they know better what happened than a woman whose car was in close proximity to where the crash occurred and who saw the entire sequence of events with her own eyes.

Note in the video below, of the moments leading up to the crash, how the truck drives up quickly behind the cyclist and tries to pass him on a narrow bridge by squeezing between him and oncoming traffic. Just this act alone is reckless driving. There is barely enough room for an SUV to squeeze through that opening while steering around a bike, let alone a large Mack tractor-trailer.

Keep in mind that the traffic camera video makes the road look wider than it really is. This photograph of one of the eyewitness cars shows the bottom half of the hill. By using the relative width of the passenger car, it is easier to judge the width of the road. When a trailer-truck is driving at a high speed, so close to a bike, do you think it is fair to blame the cyclist for causing his own death?

Wellesley Accident Witness Car

Photo Credit: Wellesley Police


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3 Responses to When A Reputation Is On The Line, A Video Is Worth A Thousand Words

  1. KillMoto says:

    Thanks for this, IsolateCyclist.
    The cyclist rode right dead center past the truck driver’s field of view – there’s no way the truck driver did not see him.

    Since the truck driver saw the cyclist, he has the obligation to operate his vehicle in a safe manor – even if this means slowing down and staying behind the cyclist if only to keep him in sight.

    I get passionate about motorist mayhem because I see so much of it, and it is all senseless. That driver who red lines his engine to pass me, only to brake hard behind the other cars at the still-red light (as I catch up and glide past). The motorist who speeds up and jams their car into a 90 degree right turn, as if the law says “if part of the car is in front of part of the bike, it’s OK to perform a killer right hook”. For what? These moves don’t gain a driver any more than a second or two at best.

    Our cultural tacit approval of these behaviors speaks volumes: “a second saved for a motorist is worth a lifetime of a cyclist.”

    I want to demand more care and diligence from **all** drivers. But I’m a practical man. I can be happy, for now, with demanding a higher standard for “professional” drivers. Sadly, a grand jury in Wellesley did not agree.

    I wonder. Can the killer driver be indicted again? Does double jeopardy only apply to the trial itself?

  2. Pingback: Goodbye to bicycling’s best friend on City Council; Gardena hit-and-run, and Kevitt sent to rehab | BikingInLA

  3. KillMoto says:

    Recent reassurance that our culture is bigoted against that inferior people known as “cyclists”. Some of the same bigotry that led to the lack of indictment against the killer of Alexander Motsenigos.

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