As a long-time cyclist I feel compelled to add some insight to the recent cyclist deaths in the area, with the hope that law enforcement will improve so as to proactively prevent future serious accidents.
I’ve been riding recreationally (and used to race competitively) for 28 years, so I have a lot of road experience and skill on the bike. I was on my standard daily training route a few years ago and was approaching a very simple intersection in southern Durham.
At this location the road I was on has no stop signs and there’s a simple road that goes to the right into a neighborhood. There was oncoming traffic when I was approaching the intersection. An oncoming motorist slowed to turn left into the neighborhood, but did not yield to me and then crossed my path in front of me. I broadsided the SUV while braking as hard as I could.
Long story cut short I was taken to the Duke ER by ambulance and had to have my nose and bones between the eyes reset in the ER, and later (after initial bone healing) follow-up surgery to re-establish the airways so I could breathe properly again. This was not a small accident. Furthermore, had the crash gone differently I could have easily been thrown into oncoming traffic.
The officer that responded to the accident wrote a report that attributed 100 percent of the fault to the motorist, but he did not issue a traffic citation for failure-to-yield! He categorized the root-cause as failure-to-yield in the report and issued a ticket for illicit tags on the vehicle, but did not issue any citation for poor driving in any form.
In addition the report shows clearly that the motorist short-cut the intersection to complete their turn before I got to the intersection. They stopped in the oncoming lane of the road they turned onto after I hit their vehicle – their lane position was clearly a result of trying to beat me through the intersection and not yield. The data on what happened could not have been more clear; there were even witnesses that saw the whole accident. Yet the motorist was not cited for traffic violations.
I wonder how much more lenient the Durham police could have been for the motorist. By the way, that week Durham was publicizing some sort of “Cyclist Friendly” award that was earned ... hmmm. To me if laws are not upheld by police then they effectively don’t exist.
By not upholding laws we’re creating an environment that results in innocent deaths. (Consider serial drunk drivers that eventually kill.) Here’s an idea: Let’s wait for accident statistics to increase before we uphold the red-light laws and see how many people are seriously injured before those laws are enforced (have you noticed the new fad of red-light-running in southern Durham?). How many have to die in the meantime?
There’s also a second-order effect taking place, which the article from Sunday delves into (DN, bit.ly/1twWCuP). Statistics on safety can be misleading if not collected properly. In my case, for example, no driver traffic citation was issued so any statistics on cyclist accidents that are counted by citations will not include my case. Said differently, a way to create great statistics for reports can be to under- or mis-enforce the laws. Imagine how much the statistics can improve with some creative enforcement policies!
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news or to seem overly sarcastic or cynical, but ignoring what’s really happening is not going to help prevent more injuries and deaths. Laws were intended to create order and produce a safe environment for citizens. Not enforcing them is having the expected (opposite) effect. Can things change please?
Brad Makrucki lives in southern Durham.