Shared Roads, Shared Responsibilities, Shared Fault

Yesterday, July 12, 2021, two events happened which proved to me how widespread 'autocentrism' is in our culture.  Now, I'm not talking about the classical definition of autocentrism, which is the quality of being self-centered, I'm talking about 'auto'-centrism, a learned trait where drivers of automobiles absolve themselves from any blame whenever they have an accident with a pedestrian, motorcyclist, or bicyclist, somehow declaring the alternative form of travel is inherently unsafe sharing the road with them.  We regularly see police and media go fully autocentric in their investigation and coverage.

The first event happened when I was on a bicycle ride across town, going east on Stray Street coming up to the intersection of Lavinia Street prepared to make a right turn.  I was about two feet from the curb riding in the far right part of the street, saw no traffic to my left coming up Lavinia, moved my head back to make the turn and nearly saw a collision involving myself and a SUV.  

This 'driver' had been travelling north on Lavinia and saying that she cut the corner when she made a left turn onto Stray would be an understatement.  When she got onto Stray she was totally in the right lane I was in, fortunately I was as far over as I was.  Had there been a car in my lane it would have been a full head-on crash, as it were I was missed by inches.  The above map shows the point where my bike travelled (blue line) and the red line shows her path that day, terminating at 410 Delia Street where she parked.

I know that, of course, because when my life was nearly taken from me by this crazy yahoo, I turned around and hoped that I could catch up to them and give them a good lesson in how to drive better.  She was in the process of getting out of her vehicle when I asked her whether she was aware of the fact that she had almost hit me as she cut the last corner.  Her first defense was to suggest that I hadn't yielded properly at that corner.  

I reminded her that I had not even made it to the yield sign when she almost ran me over well on my side of the street.  She acknowledged that point and obliquely apologized without admitting any fault of her driving, probably just to get me on my way.  Noticing she was wearing a school food service shirt, I reminded her that driving the way she did was not showing any respect for kids out walking or bicycling, and her driving needs to change if she doesn't want to kill someone through her cutting corners.  

I actually was more pleasant than when I normally hunt down drivers that drive stupid and nearly take the lives of me or others.  A family was out playing in their pool on the opposite side of the street, so I just made my point firmly and rode off.  

Clearly, had I been hit and critically injured or killed by this woman driving on the wrong side of the street, her defense as stated would have been that I hadn't yielded and she hit me in her lane on Lavinia while lawfully preparing to turn.  Chances would have been good that the investigating officers wouldn't have pieced together that I hadn't even been in the intersection when I was hit and so they and the local paper would defame my dead carcass by adopting her testimony as fact.  "For some reason Mr. Bicycle Safety rode out in front of this innocent driver."

On returning home later, I noticed that a recent FOIA request to the LPD had been sent to me by email regarding a crash between a young bicyclist and a driver at the intersection of First and Washington Streets, previously described here.  Ironically, this second event had the bicyclist driving on the wrong side of the street at an intersection and she was held 100% responsible for the accident and her injury.  

The police crash report makes clear she was doing something illegal at the time of the accident, driving on the wrong side of the street.  The driver and a witness notice that, the bike rider admits it, and the UD 10 report shows that in its diagram.  Is it open and shut that the bike rider is totally at fault?

Not so quick.  The driver was at a stop sign at an intersection.  Under Michigan law, if you are approaching a stop sign or yield sign, any motor vehicle, pedestrian, or cyclist already in the intersection has the right of way.  That's what lawyers say, here's what your driver's training courses say:

A motorist is obligated to stop behind a crosswalk, look for pedestrians, move forward, check again for cross traffic and pedestrians, then and only then can they enter the intersection.  Mary Harris had to stop behind that stop bar below, she wouldn't be able to see up Washington Street to her right, without moving up and checking just to make sure there was a pedestrian running out from that way.

Jade, the minor bicyclist claimed to be fully at fault for riding on the wrong side of the road, shouldn't have been where she was, and yet, the young (20 y.o.) motorist Mary Harris failed to check what was in front of her and to the right when she started up from a 'stop' (note she only admits to slowing for a stop in the report). 

Jade was likely going as slow as a running pedestrian at that point as the hill on Washington is steepest around that point.  One cannot say that Mary was driving safely or within the law, if she never stopped behind the bar, and didn't notice a road user in her way that she drove into.  The witness confirms this allegedly saying they saw the bicyclist ride out right in front of the 'slow to a stop' vehicle-- and saw the the vehicle unlawfully go forward into them.  Mary's carelessness could have cost Jade her life.

And fault can be important even when you're in a no-fault insurance state like Michigan. In Michigan, an accident victim may recover damages for pain and suffering due to the negligence of the at-fault driver(s).  If Mary Harris was determined to be half or more at fault for this accident, Jade would qualify for some relief.

Our autocentric society focuses only on the transgressions of the vulnerable user of the road when such accidents occur, this is why police and the complicit media see Jaramie Jones get the same fully-at-fault treatment that Jade got by claiming without any proof that he was speeding and somehow deserved to have a motorist take his right-of-way.  It's why drivers can run over bicyclists with impunity, because they use the road at their peril, and even if they have to avoid a storm drain, that carefree motorist doesn't have to avoid hitting them because everyone knows that only motor vehicles should be on the road.  

It's why they can cut corners and turn into the path of a bicyclist, because no police 'investigator' will ask why the crash happened behind the yield sign.  It's they who cut corners even more.  It's why things need to change to better represent and better protect the rights of vulnerable road users.

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Replies to This Discussion

Sounds like you are lucky to be here to post this topic. Like I tell my family and friends who ride cycles, you can complain all you want that you were in the right while you are laying in a hospital bed, injured or near death or possibly in the morgue but then it's to late. Engaging in the risky practice of riding a cycle with large tonnage motor vehicles all around is not a wise decision. Sky diving makes more sense and is less dangerous because a sky diver has only one thing to worry about hitting and that's the ground. I suppose in the near future when the Marxist have eliminated fossil fuel burning cars, cycles can then inherit the Earth but they will still be complaining about the dogs, cats and deer they hit. Even though we disagree about this topic I'm glad you did not end up as someones tire tread, I would miss the Torch.

One more thought. If someone as experienced as you are in the art of cycling almost ends up as a muffler patch what can we expect from the weekend tourist and leisure bikers who hardly knows how to handle a bike especially during dangerous encounters with cars and other emergencies. Telling the World to watch out for cyclists is not going to work especially with all the texters now driving around. 


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