ABA Journal



Lawyer Biking to Work Swerves to Avoid Car Door, Is Struck and Killed by Semitrailer Truck

Oct 5, 2012, 09:33 pm CDT


Commuting to law school on a bike, I'd ride on the stripe between the parking lane and the first trafic lane. Many a time I heard a door open just after I went by. A classmate took the door off a car on the way to school. It didn't do him or his bike much good, but at least he wasn't hit by a semi.

By All Too Common on 2012 10 05, 11:16 pm CDT

My partner bought me a bike to help in my quest to get healthy and after realizing how dangerous and inconsiderate motorists are - I decided riding the bike would get me killed first before my unhealthy eating and lack of a routine exercise program--- of course, there are parks--

By Alison on 2012 10 06, 10:12 am CDT

This is sad, however, in the rural area where I live it is a miracle that bicyclists are not killed more often. I have noticed that most bicyclists have zero situational awareness as well as an attitude that they can block traffic, stop on blind hills/corners and otherwise assert their rights on the road. Just as on a motorcycle, one must be aggressively defensive at all times, hyper alertness.

You can be right but there is no point in being dead right

You can't fix------

By Wakeup on 2012 10 06, 11:33 pm CDT

I don't bike much now but I used to and if your not aware of your surroundings your saying to every driver "I trust you with my life". Based on more drivers track record this is clearly not a good thing. Being aware on a bike is probably more important then on a motocycle, at least on a motorcycle you can get our of the was quickly. If a car hits you on a bike there is little chance it will end well for you.

That being said I am not blaming the victim, most drivers suck at driving and this one was clearly one of them.

By Joshua Neuman on 2012 10 07, 2:52 am CDT

Bicyclists are a hazard to themselves and others and have no business sharing a road with motorvehicles. At the very least they should be required to be trainied, liscensed and insured before they are allowed on the street.

By W.R.T. on 2012 10 07, 2:52 pm CDT

I agree with W.R.T. I live in Brooklyn and work in Manhattan. It's a rare sight the bicyclist who follows the rules of the road. They run red lights and plow through crowds of pedestrians. Many ride on the sidewalk. They'll get respect when they start respecting the law. (I do not know enough about Neill Townsend to make any statements about his tragedy. Perhaps he was one of thoe rare cyclists who followed the rules.)

By Illegal Assistant on 2012 10 08, 4:38 pm CDT

WRT and IA are WRONG! The driver who swung his door open in the bike lane broke the law and it resulted in a fatality. Does any driver do this if there isnt a bike lane and swinging the door open would mean it was into car traffic? And its the most hypocritical thing ever for car drivers to say bikers need to obey traffic laws. Car drivers break the law all the time speeding, running lights, driving and parking in bike lanes, driving too close to bikes, etc.

By Jail on 2012 10 08, 5:39 pm CDT

It's funny- when I'm driving, I hate bicyclists, but when I'm biking, I hate drivers. I have an existential crisis every morning when the weather is nice.

By DCW on 2012 10 08, 6:38 pm CDT

@7. Jail,

We don't have any real details on this accident so I will not assign fault. I am virtually certain however that the motorist simply did not see the bicyclist. Or are you suggesting that she opened the door into his path deliberately.

Bicycles are too slow and too hard to see to be allowed on the roads. They are no different from pedestrians in that respect.

I stand by my original statements and you have offered no argument to refute them. Bicycles should not share the road with motorvehicles. If they are going to do so then the riders should be required to show proof of training and insurance. Also the bikes should be liscensed and inspected and required to have lights and horns equivalent to those on motorvehicles.

By W.R.T. on 2012 10 09, 1:09 pm CDT

No, Im certainly not suggesting it was intentional. It was neglligent in not seeing the bike and swinging the door into it. The fact that bikes are slower than cars should make them easier to spot I would think.

I respect your opinion that bikes should not be allowed on the roads, though I dont agree with it. The fact is they are allowed by law just as cars are. The sharing of the road has already been declared by the state. There is a lane for cars and a lane for bikes. The car door was swung into the bike lane. Again, would any driver do that if there werent a bike lane and it meant the door would be swung into traffic?

By Jail on 2012 10 09, 2:25 pm CDT

Some drivers do not look . Some misjudge the speed of an approaching bike due to its small size.

By Docile Jim Brady - Columbus, Ohio on 2012 10 09, 3:36 pm CDT

" Bicyclists are a hazard to themselves and others and have no business sharing a road with motorvehicles. At the very least they should be required to be trainied, liscensed and insured before they are allowed on the street. "
It is my experience that bicyclists are routinely reckless on the highway and are a danger to motor vehicle traffic. No. 1 indicates he rides on the lane stripe, conduct which is illegal at the least and reckless at the worst. Bicyclists intentionally block lanes of traffic, ride side by side or so close together as to be illegal, they ride in large slow groups, often swerve from lane to lane, and seem to have little regard for the danger that they create.
Bikes transiting from parking lanes to travel lanes must yield to all other traffic before doing so, and No. 1 indicates he does so routinely without obeying traffic laws. Also, apparently, he passed another vehicle without being able to do so safely, almost causing an accident.
I see, or don't see, bikes at night without any lights, or with flashing red lights or flashing white headlights, both of which are illegal. I've seen bicyclists "running block" two lane roads separated by a double yellow line. In this state vehicles on the highway are illegal if they travel at a speed which obstructs the normal flow of traffic.
It's not that bicyclists should not be on the highways, but now we have so many slow human powered bicycles on the highway competing with faster, heavier motor vehicles, that if the bicycles don't meet vehicle safety standards (including for lighting and signalling ), and bicyclists aren't trained, licensed, required to maintain vehicle insurance, and required to conform to highway safety laws, then these types of vehicle accidents will continue to occur with increasing frequency.

By davebert on 2012 10 09, 3:37 pm CDT


In answer to your question "...would any driver do that if there werent a bike lane and it meant the door would be swung into traffic?"

It happens all the time. There's even a rather humerous car insurance commercial relating to that fact. The simple truth is a lot of drivers are completely oblivious when opening their doors regardless of whether it's into bike or car traffic.

By OKBankLaw on 2012 10 10, 1:45 pm CDT

@ #9: "Bicycles are too slow and too hard to see to be allowed on the roads. They are no different from pedestrians in that respect."

Bicyclists have to ride slow for the most part, because of the continuous risks posed by absent-minded drivers and pedestrians who wander into the streets at random. You almost have to ride as though you expect something to jump out in front of you at any moment.

I think Townsend's mistake was swerving to avoid the car door. I ride in Brooklyn, and find that it's usually better to stop or to slow and hit whatever is in front of you than it is to take a risk on swerving and being hit by whatever is behind you. In Brooklyn, many of the bike lanes are on relatively narrow one way streets. When riding one of these streets and inevitably encountering cars parked or stopped in the biking lane (or sometimes drivers parallel parking) unless I have the time to look behind me I will come to a complete stop and usually end up allowing several cars, and sometimes a city bus, to pass before I can ride around the vehicle.

By Esq. on 2012 10 10, 5:44 pm CDT

We need better urban design planning nationwide, incorporating bikes, walkways, etc. We need to change our focus from car-based design to a better, smarter, healthier physical environment. If I were a billionaire, I would fund multiple scholarships and awards at multiple universities for bright young people with good ideas in this area. If I were President, I would hold a yearly celebration of the best urban design and hand out awards. We can do better than concrete boxes separated by too-skinny streets with too many cars in them.

By Helen C. on 2012 10 12, 6:08 pm CDT

Proper urban planning would eliminate cars in the downtown area completely. Its less than a mile from the commuter train stations to Mich Ave. and from Congress pkwy to Lake st. If I were mayor this would be done overnight just like how Daley xd out meggs field. You car drivers, tell us why you need a car in the city?

By Jail on 2012 10 12, 6:27 pm CDT

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