A recent fatal bicycle incident near Bad Axe in the thumb area of Michigan illustrates why both the police and the press need additional training in reporting on traffic incidents involving vulnerable users of the road (bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians, whom we call BMPs).  A seasoned bicyclist is riding on the dedicated bike path shoulders of a main road, a driver at a stop sign of an intersecting road steals the bicyclist's right-of-way by pulling out in front of him causing the fatal crash, where the victim is dragged under that vehicle's trailer for some distance.

The Michigan State Police conduct an investigation and issue a press release on the incident, it is first reported on by the Huron Daily Tribune, which titles their article "Bicyclist dies after being hit by trailer in Bad Axe".  It relates that the bicyclist "was traveling eastbound on the eastbound shoulder of the road when he struck the utility trailer being hauled by a vehicle".  It begs the questions: 'Who hit who?' and 'Who was at fault?'.

Local TV station WJRT reported:  "The bicyclist was riding on the eastbound shoulder of the road when he struck by the utility trailer being towed by a vehicle." in their article titled:  "Police: Huron County bicyclist hit by trailer and dragged."  The article and headline is more consistent in this case, but neither of these initial two reports indicate fault or the mechanics of what transpired, other than the bicyclist was going east on the eastbound side of South Van Dyke Road (which confusingly goes east-west at that intersection).

Surprisingly, these two news agency's coverage was much better than what came out eventually on the Saginaw and Bay City News as reported on MLive where a 'journalist' called Winter Keefer appears to have written his own story which seems to conflict with the two earlier articles and even the MSP press release in defaming the victim and muddling the actual facts of the incident, this follows:

Bicyclist dies after being dragged under utility trailer in Huron County

HURON COUNTY, MI (MLive)-- A 52-year-old Bad Axe man died after striking and becoming lodged under a utility trailer behind a vehicle Wednesday, police said.

Michigan State Police Caro Post responded to a traffic crash just before 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, June 23, at the intersection of North Van Dyke Rd and Barrie Road in Huron County’s Colfax Township, just west of Bad Axe.

After stopping at a stop sign, a vehicle hauling a utility trailer drove south across the intersection of North Van Dyke Road and Barrie Road, according to a Michigan State Police news release.

The bicyclist, traveling east on the eastside shoulder of North Van Dyke Road, struck the utility trailer, police said.

Upon impact, police said the bicyclist became lodged underneath the trailer for some distance before becoming dislodged.

The victim, whose name has not been released, was pronounced deceased on scene from his injuries.

The vehicle pulling the trailer left the scene of the crash but was later located.

The driver of the vehicle, a 38-year-old male from Ruth, was unaware the crash occurred, police said. [END article].

Neither of the earlier articles stated the driver was driving south, it was basically understood they were driving north for the mechanics of the accident to occur.  Consider the bike's path (green), a southbound driver's path (thin red) and a northbound driver's path (thick red), all heading east (up the picture of that intersection as seen above, north is left, south is right).  

Had the driver been going south, the driver would never have been in the path of the bicyclist; on the off-chance the trailer did a wide arc and struck the bicyclist on the shoulder, it's almost impossible to have left the person lodged under the trailer.  If the driver was northbound, he would have had to cross the shoulder the bike was on and if he crossed it right in front of the bicyclist, where they could not prevent the crash, there are lots of ways they could get lodged on the trailer.

The article stresses that the driver stopped at the stop sign-- but did not suggest they did that action before pulling out directly in front of a user of the road driving lawfully and undeniably having the right-of-way.  This was a moving violation that caused the death of another, this would undeniably be a crime had the victim been driving another car, due to the prejudices of our police and justice system.

Winter Keefer, who apparently believes that using one sentence paragraphs is a proper style for news articles,  blames the victim for striking and getting lodged in the trailer in his first sentence.  Pushes a theory that stopping at a stop sign is good enough for establishing the driver properly yielded to oncoming traffic, after misstating the driver's path in his third sentence.  Emphasizes again that the bicyclist struck the trailer in the fourth sentence, while also claiming there is an eastside shoulder on an east-west road when that's just silly.  We also find out that the vehicle pulling the trailer left the scene, as if the vehicle is the entity that left the scene of the accident.

The press release of the MSP seems to have used language that absolve the driver of any fault for causing this death by pulling out in front of a lawful user of the road, a misdemeanor.  A prosecutor does not have to show intent in this case, only that the death was linked to a violation of the Michigan Vehicle Code.  The MSP seem to be looking only at the crime of driving away from the scene of an accident, something that may be problematical as it seems feasible that the driver may have been unaware that an accident happened-- even though his negligence caused the fatal accident. 

When MSP Trooper Chad Wolf appeared to have helped cause his own dragging death while riding on his motorcycle, MSP investigators went out of their way to try and prosecute a man they could not prove had violated any law, nor prove the driver knew that an accident happened behind him when it was dark out.  Here they have a clear violation causing death, but the victim isn't one of their own, so they write off the death as just an accident caused by a vehicle, not a living person who clearly violated the law and then may have left the scene of an accident. 

'Journalists' like Winter Keefer (seen below) should develop some sense of empathy with the victims and their families in these incidences and become the voice for the voiceless, but maybe she's just blinded by all her pride this month to think about anybody other than herself.

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Replies to This Discussion

I agree X. The police should be thorough in investigating serious accidents where death or other life threatening injuries occur. I can't think of a more gruesome way to die while riding a bike except possibly being hit by a semi. As long as cycles are on the same roads as cars and trucks there will continue to be disasters for the cyclist and their families and even for the drivers who hit them thru no fault of their own. The worst tragedy's of course are the children who become victims to the massive hunks of metal rolling down the streets. Even tho I disagree with you much of the time regarding bikes and motorbikes I know you are sincere about your opinions. Have you ever thought about submitting some of your articles to cycling magazines or other publications regarding this type of topic?

To answer your question, I would like to spread more awareness of how to protect vulnerable users of the road and get more accurate and truthful investigations and reporting of their accidents.  The big problem is that most of the specialist publications and organizations have their own conflicting agendas and haven't historically looked at why so many articles on these accidents blame and shame the dead victim of a very real crime. 

I can only hope that they may come upon some of my articles when they do some research and work some of that in their own articles.  Bicycling and Outdoors magazines have had some stories recently that may have been influenced or inspired by my outlook here, but I don't see any hope for groups like the League of MI Bicyclists who won't be satisfied until every road has protected bike lanes and meaningless measures are adopted by governmental units.

Both you and I recognize that it's dangerous for a bike, motorbike or pedestrian (BMPs) to get from point A to B, because they generally have to use the same easement that motorists use.  Even if they didn't have to, there would still be issues since there'd always be intersections of paths.  I sincerely believe that our road engineering, uneven enforcement, and driver's education are insufficient in many ways to keep BMPs safe, but other smart (but misguided) folks think otherwise.

XLFD, it would be nice if you offered your experience and services to the bike riders of Ludington and surrounding areas as a community action and activity of bicycle safety. Perhaps in connection with the city, school, senior citizen center, and/or police safety department, initiate a FREE bicycle safety course, not just for young people but seniors or anyone who would benefit. By that, I mean a collaboration of information and lectures of the safest routes and safe bike riding principles. When I was in college, it was a requirement for students to have a course on bicycle safety. It may seem draconian government, but was an interesting half-day course, free, with a fun instructor, who taught us principles of bike riding safety in a big city and was in conjunction with registering your bicycle with the police (as a reward, a sticker put on the frame). There were many bicycle thefts at the time. (My bike was later stolen out of a secured parking garage, but because of the sticker was returned to me.)

I see that there was a bike/car accident at S. Washington/First Street last week. Fortunately the bike rider suffered only an ankle injury, as reported, riding north in the southbound lane and was found at fault. It should be taught to ride with traffic, walk against. But S. Washington is becoming more busy and is a danger waiting to happen for bike riders, and pedestrians, imo and observation.

I fear that I am too much of a vehicular cyclist, used to operating safely without bicycle facilities to be widely accepted by most groups that strictly follow the orthodoxy (and inherent dangers) of separate but equal bicycle facilities.  I am more than willing to show true, practical wisdom to other bicyclists in an individual or group setting, but many of the safety issues that happen nowadays have to deal with distracted drivers and poor street engineering.

I actually have a FOIA request on that very accident because I have a very strong suspicion that the bicyclist was operating lawfully going south and making a left turn onto First Street while the motorist was left turning onto Washington.  This means they both had to go over the same ground which would meet in the northbound lane.  A biased officer may record this as being the fault of the bicyclist (who had the right-of-way), when actually it is the fault of the driver who was at a stop sign and who had the duty to determine that they were safe to enter the intersection without interfering with other vehicles.  I have seen this happen before in a GR fatal accident where the police and reporters found fault lied with the bicyclist, when they were actually the victim of illegal driving, worse police accident investigation, and even worse reporting.

I thought that possibility also, in regard to the driver with the stop sign being responsible for a clear pathway before turning into the intersection.  

A lot of bicyclists zip north going downhill on the sidewalk over driveway egresses, so that can be a big danger also.

.... A 15-year-old Ludington girl suffered an ankle injury in a bike vs. car crash Sunday, June 27, shortly before ​7 p.m. at the intersection of Washington Avenue and First Street, according to Cpt. Steve Wietrzykowski​ of the Ludington Police Department.

The girl was riding her bike south on Washington Avenue in the northbound lane at First Street when a car, driven by a 20-year-old New Era woman, pulled up to the stop sign on First Street, stopped for the stop sign, and turned to go north on Washington Avenue into the path of the girl, said Cpt. Wietrzykowski. .... excerpt from MCP.

Ok. Here's my problem in this accident report not making sense.

The bicyclist was traveling south (uphill) on S. Washington in the northbound lane (closest to the old bar) at First St. The car driver stops at First St. to turn north and presumably looking north doesn't see the bicyclist in the lane coming toward her up the hill?  A bicyclist cannot travel very fast at that uphill incline at that section.  I'm not 15 y.o. but am a seasoned and skilled bicyce rider and have to gear down and probably can travel about 5 m.p.h. uphill at that section of S. Washington.

Your diagram shows a red line turning south.  The MCP report says the vehicle driver turned north into the path of the bicyclist travelling south.

Oops, you're right, I'm wrong about this incident, I did botch the directions in my recollection; but even so you do point out the inconsistency of the driver not seeing the bicyclist, presumably going slow up the hill on the wrong side of the street.  What if this pedaler was instead a pedestrian effectively walking on the lawful side of the street, would the police say that they were at fault?

It's again why I want to read the report and do some follow-up investigation with the injured party who was claimed to be solely at fault.  I was injured in a 'bicycle accident' in the same block about 16 years ago and was assigned fault when the incident was totally because of a car (which left the scene) going south at the Washington-Dowland intersection speeding through in front of a long line of cars going north (who didn't have to stop at the 3-way intersection).  Just before he had done that I had turned right onto Washington from Dowland, noticed this guy coming on strongly behind me and I was screwed. 

I could either stay on the main part of the street and get ran over by the idiot who just stole the right of way from other vehicles and almost caused car accidents, or get on the shoulder of the street.  Unfortunately, a truck had been parked just a little further down on that shoulder and with the hill and me in the process of accelerating just before this guy launched himself, I wasn't able to brake fully and so my tire hit the back of the parked truck and my forehead hit the back of the topper's glass.  

Some good Samaritan called the ambulance when they saw the bump I had and me acting a bit dazed.  This also brought the LPD who never interviewed me, just some other good Samaritan who gave out information saying that the bicyclist just rode into the back of the truck for no good reason.  I am convinced I saved my life that day by not letting the idiot who broke the rules run over me, but I still get ribbed over it for inexplicably riding into the back of a parked truck.

Wow! That is some accident. That intersection is so poorly controlled (as well as Madison/6th St) with odd three-way stops that may have made sense 50 years ago with manufacturing traffic coming and going but makes for dangerous vehicular and bicycle traffic now.

I wouldnt be surprised if LPD or MCP also got directions confused in the recent June 27 accident on S. Washington. Can't wait to see your FOIA.

As far as your contribution to helping with safer bicycle routes, don't be too humble. You would have a great deal to offer.

When I did an article on the two three-way stop signs where Dowland Street intersects with Washington and James Streets back in 2017 (you may have missed it) I looked diligently through the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices and found that the only time they they mandate three-way stops are at some T-intersections, I found they never indicate you should have 3-way stops on true street intersections. 

I concluded then that both intersections should have stop signs only on Dowland Street for better safety and traffic flow.  Many of our visitors have never seen three way stop signs on two intersecting streets, and you will see a lot of confusion and near misses at both of those intersections tomorrow when Ludington is saturated with guests.

   Would think the North bound truck traffic needed to have some special ROW to swing the corner not having to stop headed uphill.. And also cars heading down the hill from the north and not stopping would make a backup into the businesses just over hill extremely difficult..   That area was heavy into manufacturing at one time but not so much now.  IMO

I could see some topological and historical basis for the 3-way stop on Washington-Dowland as you mentioned, that was discussed in the 2017 link.  Even back in history, I think it should have been a two-way stop on Dowland, with a special "Yield to left-turning trucks" sign on the northern side of Washington.

Nowadays, a 'stop on red signal' sign could be put at that location, where the red signal would trigger when a truck coming up the hill passed over a scale which would determine it would be a laden truck.  If a traffic study determined that it was still an issue.

Is there recorded history and discussion on when those three-way stops were implemented? Going out of town south on Madison at Sixth Street is also a three-way stop. I was nearly hit by a tourist with an out-of-state plate who evidently thought I should have stopped in Madison. When I didn't stop (he was on Sixth St. going west and must have assumed it was a 4-way stop) he gave me a road rage reaction complete with hand signals. He proceeded like I was going to stop at Madison. I did stop to prevent an accident as I was part way in the intersection. The tourist stopped briefly and threw me the finger and then proceeded before me and around me.

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