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This morning I was commuting to work here in San Jose, CA, heading up North 1st St. towards Old Bayshore (near Hwy 101). I've done this commute a ton and was happy to see that the local weather was holding out for more than a week straight. The stretch of North 1st is tight between Taylor and Old Bayshore...not a ton of room to commute, but enough that I feel pretty safe/comfortable. This all changed this morning...

The light was red heading north and the cars were backed up about 20 deep in both lanes. I was riding between the curb and the right lane of cars. To my left were stopped vehicles; on my right was a long parking lot for the local Hyatt. Without notice a SBC van decided that it didn't want to stay stuck in traffic and instead felt that cutting through the hotel parking lot would save him time. Without notice (not even a blinker), the driver turned right across my path and into the driveway.

I was coming up fast enough that I didn't really have time to do anything. I was riding on the hoods, but given I was doing between 10~15mph, there was no time to pull the brakes. I ended up taking out the side mirror and then faceplanting onto the curb as I was thrown this way from the impact of the van.

To say the least I was pretty dazed, but managed to do the usual inventory check. Hands? ok..feet? ok...teeth? ok. Then I remembered that I wasn't sweating too hard and that what was warm on my face was blood. Yup, two nice gashes, one above my left eye and another (much worse) extending from my chin toward my right ear. I've been cut open before, so I quickly grabbed my t-shirt from my commuter bag and applied pressure.

My bike ended up not having a scratch, except for the rear derailer being a little nicked and the hoods on the handlebars being ground down a bit. The driver of the van was completely surprised and in shock (heck, I was too). He pulled over and promptely called 911 and checked to see if I was ok. I found his mirror about 20 feet away and looked at the facial damage...not pretty.

Anyway, to shorten this story, the police came & took a report, I ended up at the ER with 21 stitches (6 forehead, 15 chin), and now I'm wondering what I should do.

I'll be calling later today to get a copy of the police report, but what should I do next. I don't feel I was in error with my commuting on the bike, but I do feel it would be fair for the driver (and his company...since it was a company van), to pick up the tab for medical costs and replacements charges for damaged parts.

I'm open to hearing all advice (even those who call me the person in the wrong...).

-Thanks, Todd
 

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Standard effective cycling

tmanley said:
I was riding between the curb and the right lane of cars. To my left were stopped vehicles; on my right was a long parking lot for the local Hyatt. Without notice a SBC van decided that it didn't want to stay stuck in traffic and instead felt that cutting through the hotel parking lot would save him time. Without notice (not even a blinker), the driver turned right across my path and into the driveway.
Effective Cycling principle number one is to behave like a vehicle. You clearly were not doing that. While many of us have done the exact same thing, you are definitely taking your chances when you do this and you have to be extra vigilant. There is no way a car driver would be looking for a bike coming up the gutter on his right in stopped traffic. You took a chance and paid the price. There is no traffic law or principle that would declare your behavior to be "in the right" and therefore deserving of compensation. Sorry.
 

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Kerry Irons said:
Effective Cycling principle number one is to behave like a vehicle. You clearly were not doing that. While many of us have done the exact same thing, you are definitely taking your chances when you do this and you have to be extra vigilant. There is no way a car driver would be looking for a bike coming up the gutter on his right in stopped traffic. You took a chance and paid the price. There is no traffic law or principle that would declare your behavior to be "in the right" and therefore deserving of compensation. Sorry.
I know in some states, motorcycles can cut lanes. Wouldnt this be true for cyclist too? If so, then wouldnt he be in the right? I dont pretend to know cyclist laws as well as others, I'm just putting it out there for others to answer.
 

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Kerry Irons you have to be completely wrong with your reply. Are you telling me that a bike in a bike lane is not able to pass cars that are standing still in the roadway? I commute 5 days a week and there are at least 3 lights that have horrible timing. Thus creating a huge backup in traffic. So based off your statement I would have to stop and start with the traffic flow.
I am not sure if you commute or you just ride but I am not sure where you were going with the advice. So if a pedestrian was walking down that same sidewalk and the van just turned into the driveway and hit the pedestrian would he not be at fault as well??? Since he "is not expected to be looking on his right side" while turning.

With that being said there is one rule of thumb I use all of the time. When a light is red I generally stop behind a car, even if I am 20 cars back. I have been caught riding down the right side when the light turns green and the drivers freak out. You are generally riding faster then the stopped cars and drivers freakout when you roll up on them.
 

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KendleFox said:
I know in some states, motorcycles can cut lanes. Wouldnt this be true for cyclist too? If so, then wouldnt he be in the right? I dont pretend to know cyclist laws as well as others, I'm just putting it out there for others to answer.
I am most familiar with California statutes. Lane-splitting and lane sharing are not specifically addressed in vehicle code; they are therefore not illegal. General rules of thumb to be guided by are to not go in and out of lanes without signalling, only lane-splitting while it is safe to do so, and not going more than 10 mph above the rest of traffic.

I'm not certain if the original poster was in a bike lane or not. If he was not, due to my complete lack of knowledge of case law, it is unclear whether he was partially at fault (i.e. unsafe lane sharing). The van driver specifically is partially liable due to exiting his lane of traffic without signalling.

If the poster was in a bike lane, the situation is quite cut and dry.
 

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I have a feeling that vehicle code dictates that if you leave your lane you're responsible for making sure it's clear and safe to do so, whether it's another vehicle, or a pedestrian, or a bicycle. Could be wrong.

In this situation, I would probably elect to ride between lanes, rather than between lane/gutter. I don't like passing stopped cars on the right.
 

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sorry you were hurt - glad you're bike wasn't too wrecked - it's lucky for you that chicks dig scars!

it's really gonna depend on local law so difficult to say - further - people ride different in heavy urban traffic and in the burbs - I've pulled that kind of move loads - multiple times every day - had someone almost door me in that circumstance a few months ago - I didn't think I was in the wrong - but didn't think they were in the wrong either - how were they to know that I would be cycling between the stopped line of traffic and the curb? presumably they (reasonably) assumed that they were safe as a passnger in getting out of the car - hard to argue with that logic

(I assume you weren't in a cycling lane) generally I think cycle lanes are dangerous and this is one of the reasons why - it makes cyclists feel too comfortable and "protected" cycling between traffic and curb - plus the stop start nature of cycle lanes only exacerbates the problem

sorry to hear about your accident - personally - I think you should be asking yourself - what do you get, or expect to get, by pursuing this further? what and who exactly will you be pursuing?
 

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I'll chime in.

I'm sure alot will have to do with your state traffic laws (you might be in the wrong for going down a line of parked cars or have a right to, he was in the wrong for changing position before looking?). I'm sure this will factor into any compensation you may or may not get. From my totally non-legal point of view, what you posted, and the fact this is the internet and you can post ridiculous or whacko opinions based purely on your own twisted logic..... I'd say you were both semi-responsible!

But, regardless of traffic laws, I think you should look at what you did to put yourself into the position of being involved in the accident, and more importantly what you can do to help obviate that in the future. First, let me say I cycle down the right side of parked vehicles so I'm not trying to holier than thou, but from your description it sounds like you were going too fast (yes, I know that's subjective) -I know I usually cycle at 2-5mph rather than 10-15mph down the side of stopped cars. I do it knowing and accepting I'm putting myself in possible peril, but take the risk based on my slow speed giving me (hopefully) time enough to avoid a car door opening or a car turning. I also know sometimes that I won't be able even at that speed avoid a collision, but hope the speed is slow enough to avoid any serious injuries.

I really don't mean to be a smartar$e, but even from your description, you readily identified the hazards: i. stopped line of vehicles, ii. you cycling between the kerb and those vehicles, and iii. a driveway to a parking lot where someone can cut through. Those are really clear factors to be very wary (I also accept the fact I wasn't there, and am just basing my opinion on what you posted). In that situation my road-sense alarm bells would have been ringing. FYI: from a practical sense of trying to avoid an accident, it wouldn't make any difference here whether you were in a bike lane or not.

Sorry for the soapbox stuff, I'm really glad you're ok. Concerning your question, think through all the aspects of what you might have to do and what you expect -lawyer's fees, possible time off work, probable outcome, losing as well as winning compensation. Then work from there -whether the driver did something silly (not looking to make sure it was safe to move to another space) -might not be a deciding factor for you.
 

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this brings me to a question that i have never really understood. it is my belief that in most if not all state(i have lived in several) the idea of lane splitting or lane sharing is vague at best and the best rule of thumb when on the bike is to do what give you the best chance of being safe. to all those out there who ride often and your riding consists on lane splitting/sharing, what rules do you adhere to? I often just do the absolute best that i can to be a "vehicle", but this does often leave me at the back of the line at a red light when the idea has certainly crossed my mind to advance through the cars. How safe is this practice? What are the main things that you have to look for in cars when you do that which is unexpected to them? Do you ever get caught in a place that is more dangerous because you split lanes or advanced on the right of stopped cars? Most of the lanes here in houston do not allow enough room on the right to pass, but splitting lanes is certainly possible, but is this more dangerous? I prefer to ride in the right lane in the groove of the passenger tire. Far enough out that most cars feel obligated to pass in the left lane, leaving enough room on the right to get over if need be, so if i split lanes and end up between lanes when the cars start, what do you do then? What are your thoughts?
 

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msl819 said:
to all those out there who ride often and your riding consists on lane splitting/sharing, what rules do you adhere to?
I will often pass stopped cars on the right when approaching traffic lights or stopped intersections. Here are some of my general rules involving this behavior:
-Get to the front or don't go at all. If the light is about to turn green, you are much safer to just take your place in line with the cars. Trying to advance ahead of moving cars is especially dangerous. Cars will often turn right without signaling.
-If you get caught in the middle, don't ride alongside a car going at the same speed. You are in their blind spot. Let them go ahead then continue behind them (on the right)
-If moving at the same speed as traffic, take the lane. Some idiot will always try to inch up to get ahead of me even though there is no place to go. They end up next to me going at the same speed. (see previous rule)
-Don't blow the light or stop sign if other motorists are watching. That gets the cagies all pissed off. That said, I'm not waiting at lights at 6am on Sunday with no cars around.
-If the road is really narrow just take your place in line. Some roads I ride on will require traffic to wait until it is clear to pass me. I try to avoid these roads but it's not always possible. Cagies get annoyed when they have to wait to pass you multiple times. It's best to act like traffic.

Disclaimer: These are my rules and they apply to my area, my style of riding, and my level of experience. If you don't like'em...too bad!
 

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c0braje7 said:
Kerry Irons you have to be completely wrong with your reply. Are you telling me that a bike in a bike lane is not able to pass cars that are standing still in the roadway? I commute 5 days a week and there are at least 3 lights that have horrible timing. Thus creating a huge backup in traffic. So based off your statement I would have to stop and start with the traffic flow.
I am not sure if you commute or you just ride but I am not sure where you were going with the advice. So if a pedestrian was walking down that same sidewalk and the van just turned into the driveway and hit the pedestrian would he not be at fault as well??? Since he "is not expected to be looking on his right side" while turning.

With that being said there is one rule of thumb I use all of the time. When a light is red I generally stop behind a car, even if I am 20 cars back. I have been caught riding down the right side when the light turns green and the drivers freak out. You are generally riding faster then the stopped cars and drivers freakout when you roll up on them.
Dude, do not call down the Kerry Irons smack-down. Just don't. It's not pretty.

But seriously--the original poster said exactly nothing about a bike lane. Not one word.

This means he was riding on the edge of the road, in a spot that is not reserved for bikes, and where even a reasonable driver might not expect one to be (this does not excuse an abrupt, unsignaled turn without a major head-check of the area, of course). This, of course, also puts your argument about sidewalks and pedestrians out of bounds, as the sidewalk is reserved for pedestrian use (at least as far as cars are concerned) and cars must cross it when making a turn--making them responsible for the safety of oncoming pedestrians.

It's all very unfortunate, and the van driver did not make what I'd consider to be a good or safe decision, but neither did the cyclist. If you want maximum assurance that cars know where you are when you're on the road, you MUST behave like a car, to the extent that it's possible (not just the extent that it's convenient for you).

I'm with Kerry. I feel bad for the OP, but he was taking his chances (and we all do without much thinking about it) and got hammered this time, and I'm just glad he and his bike weren't damaged a lot more seriously.
 

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if the driver of the van did not signal, he most likely broke the law. the driver needs to remember he's in a 2-ton van.

you might have broken the law, too, by riding up the right side of the road. but i have every sympathy for you. with a line of 20 cars in front of you, what are you supposed to do? sit there inhaling exhaust and wait your turn, only to miss the green light and sit there for another two minutes breathing exhaust?

i don't buy the argument that you are supposed to act like a car...because, in all practicality, you can't. this would require you to sit and wait your turn until traffic starts moving...and then what? when traffic hits 20 mph, you are forced to move over to the right anyway, or risk the wrath of 20 drivers behind you swearing. i don't see anything wrong with cutting up the right side of traffic...just don't do it at 10-15 mph. more like 5 mph.

that said, talk to a personal injurty lawyer who knows cycling. the vehicle code is the least of your worries. trust me, this is not going to become a crimial matter. now you are going to have to be concerned with complicated, arcane insurance regulations. do you really want to argue with a giant company about who is liable in this case? you may need plastic surgery, which your health insurance may or may not fully cover.

i was hit by a car in '04 (hit and run) and had to file a claim against my own auto insurance. it was the first claim i ever filed. but they gave me the run-around, cut off my physical therapy after 12 visits and had me filling out mountains of paperwork. i never thought i would want a p.i. attorney, but i got one. i never did another piece of paperwork and the lawyer eventually got me a settlement from my own uninsured motorist coverage.
 

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c0braje7 said:
Kerry Irons you have to be completely wrong with your reply. Are you telling me that a bike in a bike lane is not able to pass cars that are standing still in the roadway? I commute 5 days a week and there are at least 3 lights that have horrible timing. Thus creating a huge backup in traffic. So based off your statement I would have to stop and start with the traffic flow.
I am not sure if you commute or you just ride but I am not sure where you were going with the advice. So if a pedestrian was walking down that same sidewalk and the van just turned into the driveway and hit the pedestrian would he not be at fault as well??? Since he "is not expected to be looking on his right side" while turning.

With that being said there is one rule of thumb I use all of the time. When a light is red I generally stop behind a car, even if I am 20 cars back. I have been caught riding down the right side when the light turns green and the drivers freak out. You are generally riding faster then the stopped cars and drivers freakout when you roll up on them.
If the OP was in a bike lane (never stated or suggested in his post) then the van was totally at fault and the rider was in the right.

In 30 years of year-round daily commuting, I have passed cars on the right, in the gutter, on many occasions. I knew the chances I was taking and knew that I was not in the right from a legal or practical standpoint if it ever came to a collision. As a result, I tried to be very careful in doing this. My impression is that the OP was just cruising along the gutter, not paying enough attention (hands on the hoods, not on the brakes) to deal with the exact situation that arose.

Your pedestrian/sidewalk example has nothing to do with this situation, as described.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Here's a sweet picture

So this morning I woke up and felt like I had played a football game without pads. As for the scaring, check out the pic...I'll be growing the beard back while this heals.

And to add some more details...my hands were on the hoods with all 4 fingers on each hand resting on the brake levers. I've ridden the route too many times to know that it's unsafe not to have my hands at the ready. Nonetheless, thanks for your input/perspectives.
 

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tmanley said:
So this morning I woke up and felt like I had played a football game without pads. As for the scaring, check out the pic...I'll be growing the beard back while this heals.

And to add some more details...my hands were on the hoods with all 4 fingers on each hand resting on the brake levers. I've ridden the route too many times to know that it's unsafe not to have my hands at the ready. Nonetheless, thanks for your input/perspectives.
I'm glad to see the chin cut isn't as bad as I'd pictured it. Rest up, heal up, get back out there.
 

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Better stiches than bad concussion. . .scars are cool anyhow

Good to see that was teh worst of the damage. Got to agree with Kerry though. Even though I think all of us do it the right side passing, bike lane or not, puts your life in the hands of the wack job drivers. People do crazy things when there isn't a lot of stressful traffic but throw in a lot of cars, irritated nerves, etc. and drivers do crazy things. I pass on the right all the time if I think I can get through alive, but there have been many times I've sat behind ten or more cars waiting my turn. It's just not worth taking the chance of a crazy driver taking me out. When lane splitting is appropriate I'll zip through the left side between lanes like a suicidal messenger, but know the chances of being smacked exist there also.
 

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Heya Kerry Irons, I have seen a ton of your posts and I have much respect for you. I think that I was assuming a bit in my response. He didn't mention a bike lane and you did agree that if there was one the driver would be at fault so we are straight on that part.
The comparison to the pedestrian was made to call out your comment about how the driver shouldn't expect a rider to be coming up the right in stopped traffic. I was simply trying to make an example of how the driver was not paying attention to anyone on the right side. It could have been a bike rider or a pedestrian. The way he described it it wouldn't have mattered.

The thing that kills me is the actual bike lanes. I live in San Diego and I can't complain about bike lane support BUT... I am not sure who decides where they start and stop. I commute into work each day and there are 3 places where the bike lane simply stops and then picks up again about a quater mile down the road. There isn't any other way to get to the next section without riding through the "non bike lane" section. That is FRUSTRATING!
 

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Oregon passed a law this year making it legal to pass stopped or slow moving traffic on the right. That said, I watch my ass when I do. Biknben said it best.

Bicycle Legal Revisions (SB 938)

This bill impacted laws that define where bicyclists may ride on the roadway. The new rules reflect actual riding practices and give cyclists maximum protection under the law in the event of crashes and insurance claims. The changes are in ORS 811.845, ORS 814.410, and ORS 814.420.

Laws Regarding Bicycle Lanes

Until now, Oregon law required cyclists to use the bike lane whenever one exists. The new rule allows cyclists to leave the bike lane when preparing for turns, avoiding hazards, passing other cyclists, or riding at the speed of traffic.

Passing On The Right

This change made it legal for bicyclists to pass slower or stopped vehicles on the right when conditions allow them to do so safely.

http://www.bta4bikes.org/at_work/legisreview.php
 
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