Cycling leaders discuss bicycle safety at busy interesection following fatality

Leaders of the Reno, Nevada cycling community met with members of the Reno Police Department at the scene of the fatal bicycle collision on June 7. Noah Silverman (Reno Bike Project), Janet Phillips (Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway) and Terry McAfee (Nevada Bicycle Coalition) met with Sgt. Stegmaier and Lt. Newman (Reno PD) Wednesday afternoon at the site of the fatal bicycle collision, Mill Street and Kietzke Lane.

Terry McAfee shared the following comments:

“It was an emotional experience to be at the site of a fellow bicyclist’s so recent death. When there is a fatality, the police do an exceptionally detailed and thorough investigation and this fatality is no exception. The final report will no doubt be several weeks in coming. Here’s what they think so far, based on the testimony of a couple of witnesses:

The bicyclist was westbound on Mill Street traveling not very fast. The garbage truck passed her about 1,000 feet before Kietzke without incident. There’s a wide bike lane on Mill Street there. The garbage truck stopped at the traffic light, behind about 5 cars. The bicyclist continued on Mill Street. The bike lane ends about 200 feet before reaching Kietzke. From there to Kietzke there is no shoulder and very little room for a bicyclist between the motor vehicles and the curb. The light changed and the cars and garbage truck started to move forward. The timing was such that the bicyclist and truck ended up side by side as they approached Kietzke. The garbage truck turned right on Kietzke and crushed the bicyclist. The garbage truck stopped immediately.

I could cite the various laws that might apply in this situation but I think it would be better to throw out a couple of ideas for strategies to get through this intersection and ones like it. You can decide who would be at
fault, if this is actually what happened.

Noah suggested that he would probably go up on the sidewalk. This works pretty well in this situation, IMHO. To be really safe, he should dismount and become a pedestrian to cross Kietzke. If a bicyclist pedals from corner to corner in the cross walk, he does not have the same rights as a pedestrian. If he gets hit by a motorist there, the motorist will not be cited.

My strategy is to get in line behind the vehicles waiting at the light. I ride in the center of the right hand lane to prevent anyone interested in turning right from getting next to me on my left. I may slightly delay those motorists behind me but I’ve successfully avoided the potential for a “right hook.”

Janet suggested that she sometimes stops well back from the intersection and waits for the traffic to clear before trying to cross the intersection. This works pretty well, too.

As an urban bicyclist, you need to think about this situation and plan your strategy in advance. This is a VERY common way for bicyclists to get nailed. Look here for more good ideas about how to avoid the most common bicyclist /motorist collisions – http://www.bicyclesafe.com/ ”

This additional information about the bike lane at the accident scene brings to mind a scenario that would lead a cyclist to danger from a “right hook” or collision with a turning vehicle: if the bike lane continued to the corner, it would feed cyclists into the blind spot of large vehicles. I guess that explains why bike lanes often end before busy intersections. I have often wondered where they expect bicycles to go. At an intersection as busy as Mill and Kietzke, I agree that going up on the sidewalk and walking your bike across as a pedestrian would be the safest option.

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