Wednesday, October 6, 2010

More info on cyclist accident

The guy who got in an accident on Monday is Matthew. I talked to his sister, Katherine, this morning. She has spent the last 40 hours in ICU and was exhausted, shocked, and heart broken.

It's unlikely that Matthew will recover from his injuries. He's got extensive spinal and brain damage. Katherine has been instructed to gather family quickly.

It's one thing to sit and armchair accidents. It's quite another to be in one and it's quite another to meet, face-to-face, the loved ones of victims who are struggling to make sense of it all.

I'll lay out what I learned here.

- Matthew worked at the new Apple store. He was on his way to work.

- According to a witness Matthew was "flying down the hill." Based on Katherine's discussions with the "investigators," this is the single piece of evidence that makes this a closed case. (I can't stand it; I have to editorialize a bit here: to most car-people, I would submit that a cyclist going 25 MPH is "flying." But of course I wasn't there.)

- The driver, who had an expired license, was not ticketed. He stopped. Then he pulled in front of Matthew, who was unable to stop in time to avoid a collision.

- There are bicycle tire skid marks that indicate Matthew tried to stop.

- According to Katherine, Matthew was a "real" cyclist: he always wore a helmet, he was not a "sidewalk rider." He followed the rules.

- Katherine made the mistake of looking on the Spokesman-Review for information on the event. The poorly described accident scene (which implies it was rider error) coupled with the typical vitriolic, uninformed remarks of the SR commenters made the horrific event even worse.

- She mentioned that the investigating officer said that there were some "bike advocates at the scene who were doing their own investigation" and who were going to "put up a white bike." If this is you or your buddies, please contact me. She's very interested in learning anything new, especially finding other witnesses.

I have to wonder how the SPD "investigation" would be different if this were a car-car accident with such an awful result. There's so much to say here.

36 comments:

Bryan B said...

Goodness - a heartbreaking situation.

I think you've said most of what anyone would want to say about this, but I must say the fact that the driver is getting away with not yielding to traffic at a stop sign (at the very least) is offensive. A man is essentially dead because of driver error, and yet it's not the driver's fault?

Also, I can hardly bear to read the SR when there is a bike-related story. The comments are too much to read, and make me fear for my safety on the road, judging by the vitriol some commenters choose to spew.

Jon Snyder said...

How do you NOT get ticketed when the cyclist has the right-of-way? I cannot believe this.

Ken Paulman said...

Guys - I know it requires a bit of nose-holding to engage on the Spokesman's comment boards, but you really should think about adding your voices to those conversations. Unlike many news sites, the S-R's boards are closely moderated, and, more importantly, people in the newsroom actually pay attention to what's said there (it's true).

Very simple - be factual, be reasonable, be polite. Hold the moral high ground. If you don't want to get drawn into a pissing match, speak your peace and walk away.

You don't need to cede the debate to a vocal minority of idiots. You won't change their minds, but you do have a free, easy opportunity to influence more reasonable people who might be reading.

Jason Gilman said...

Between the accident and the Spokesman response pretty sickening all around. I too can't believe no ticket whatsoever was issued and it's apparently a closed case. It seems like I read about drivers getting let off the hook because they "didn't see the cyclist" all the time.

I wonder if Matthew had even a rudimentary bike computer? If he did the max readout would probably indicate just how fast he was "flying" (or not) down Lincoln.

Jacqueline Gibson said...

In a state that supposedly supports a "share the road" policy, this is completely unacceptable. If bikes are supposed to follow the same laws as cars, then car drivers should be forced to recognize that bikes have the same rights on the road. There is no excuse that the driver of the car was not held responsible.

EvilElf said...

Amazingly sad story.

The SR led the day with an antibike story on the second ave bike lane and then got to close it with a story which made it sound as if the cyclist were at fault in this incident.

Had a friend whose entire family was ran over (while in a crosswalk) by a motorist. I think she may have received a failure to yield ticket.

If you are a pedestrian or cyclist in this town, you don't have near the rights that a motorist has.

All the ridiculous vitriol you read in the SR's comments fuel much hatred against cyclists. Of course that all starts with a very biased article by reporters with agendas.

I have had some pretty aggressive drivers bother me since the Second Ave story in the Spokesman-Review. This morning, in fact, I had the right of way and almost got clobbered by a guy who thought he did. I swerved and avoided him.

It would be great to hold the newspaper accountable.

Pat S said...

John, thanks for shedding some light on this. I think we've all been struggling to make some kind of sense of out of the very few and confusing bits of information that have been provided through the mainstream media.

The destruction of Matthew's vital, healthy, young life is beyond tragic and your description of Katherine and what she is going through is just rip-your-heart-out stuff. That she (and the rest of Matthew's family and friends) can be victimized over and over by predjudicial investigating, skewed reporting, and geniunely hateful sentiment from anonymous cowards seems almost beyond belief. Living with an accidental, sudden and terrible loss is in itself a nightmare. But having to deal with that kind of injustice on top of it all must be living hell.

Ashli M said...

Thank you for posting this update. Since reading the vague article yesterday in the SR I've been wondering how this awful accident played out. While the article lead the reader to believe that it was due to rider error, I had only to remember my own personal close calls with non-yielding drivers to imagine that this could have indeed been avoided by a more attentive driver.

If Matthew was in fact riding in the street, as opposed to the sidewalk, it shouldn't matter how fast he was coming down the hill. He had the right of way. If a motorist was doing 40 mph down that hill, the driver at the stop sign would have had to yield to that car. This is vehicular manslaughter!

This makes me so angry and so sad... My heart breaks for this family.

And please don't get me started on the article about 2nd Ave bike lanes not to mention the two recent idiotic anti-bike editorials printed in the SR.

Not said...

Supporting cycling in our city isn't simply about building bike lanes. As long as drivers can get away with things like this, the city is anti-bicycling.

Also, I have a question: Am I correct in assuming that any unlicensed driver must be uninsured? It seems like any insurance policy would stipulate that.
- Ventura

rory said...

Learning a bit more about the details of a bicycle accident/ collision and the media's reporting of it can often lead to feelings of vengeance towards things that won't help alleviate the situation. Anger towards the police won't restore the broken life. anger towards the media won't help the victim's family. Anger toward's the driver, who i assume is feeling pretty lousy, probably won't help either.

I would suggest that we look at how this could be preventable in the future. Based on some accounts, this is a location that has people being cautious through it because of it having an unsafe feel. how many accidents at this location have occurred in the past 5 years? what are somethings that can be done to improve the safety of this intersection? could they install a traffic signal? can they shift lanes further to the east to improve sight distance? can we ask the city for what there current plans for this intersection are?

Anonymous said...

Bicycle education needs to start with the Spokane Police Department.

Christina said...

Matthew only moved back to spokane a few months ago. Getting his life back together. He was always cautious and safe on his bike, following all rules. This is just one more tragedy for his family that has already been through so much. My heart goes out to him. We were very close a few years back. He's brilliance always amazed me. A law suit should be filed, charges need to be pressed, but I doubt his family has the means to do so.

Jon Snyder said...

I've spoken to Captain Braun, the traffic investigations supervisor at the Police Department and have some more information. He assured me this investigation is far from over and is being treated just like a car-to-car accident or a major crime. Capt. Braun told me that the more serious the incident the longer and more involved the investigation. I was told that this investigation would take up to 4 weeks because they need do blood test of the driver, find and interview all witnesses, try to figure out how fast the bicycle was traveling, and figure out the lighting and sight conditions. Once all this is done, instead of issuing a ticket the evidence will be turned over to the County Prosecuter who will decide whether or not to charge. (Possibly including the suspended license? How could they NOT press some charges.)

I told Capt, Braun that the perception in the cycling community is that the cyclist is assumed always to be at fault in these situations. He assured me that was not the case and that police investigators will look at every possibility. I asked him if speed trumped right-of-way in this situation and he said that is possible.

I will wait to see the results of the investigation, but I am very troubled by this and I am concerned that it will be hard to ascertain whether or not the driver was acting in a distracted manner, i.e. talking on a phone.

Justin said...

It's hard to imagine that speed could trump right-of-way on a bicycle. How fast could he have been going 41-42 mph maximum? I know cars travel that fast regularly down that hill.

Hank said...

Thanks for the update, Jon.

Anonymous said...

Jon- I don't live in Spokane any more, but I'm glad you are in office

Peter G. Williams said...

As a daily bicycle rider, I have found the news of this tragedy to be very disturbing. I greatly appreciate you, John, providing the updated information and forum. I also appreciate the various comments, particularly the update from Jon.

Schrauf said...

The family should immediately contact Ray Thomas in Portland - http://stc-law.com/

I'm not sure if there is a local attorney with such in-depth experience with bicycle law.

The response from the officer seems reasonable. At some point speed has to trump right-of-way. How fast depends on the specific conditions. 30 or 35 in a 25? Probably not. And without proof, that cyclist could have been going 18 just as likely as 35 - both could appear to be "flying" to some observers.

Seems like unlicensed or uninsured drivers should be subject to a much higher level of "innocent until proven guilty" when harming vulnerable road users. Almost to the extent of "guilty until proven innocent".

If there are witnesses, what about the police returning them to the scene, running bikes down the hill at multiple speeds, and then having them pick the speed that appears to match the victim's speed? Probably subject to as much error as a police lineup - but we still use police lineups...

Anonymous said...

A few years ago as a driver (my only accident ever), I received a ticket for doing almost exactly what that driver did, so I'm puzzled why that driver didn't.
Bike+car vs. truck+van doesn't seem to make enough difference that the person who failed to yield should get a ticket in one and not in the other.

I was at a stop sign at 5th (slightly different part of the South hill), didn't notice a truck coming down the hill, pulled out right in front of it, and he hit me (hard) - just like that bike hit the car on 4th. I received a Failure to Yield ticket since he had right of way. An officer thought the guy in the truck was probably going too fast (since his truck flipped up-side-down and took off the front of my van), but there were no witnesses (I never saw him until I heard the collision).

Speed limit on my hill was 30 miles an hour. The pickup driver was probably doing 35-40.
It's unlikely that the bicyclist was going more than 30, since he had a sharp corner only a few blocks earlier. (I used to ride my bike that route years ago when I lived on Lincoln Place and worked in RP square, and frequently went the same speed as cars for the entire route. Google maps says it should take 4 minutes to drive from the top of that hill to Main, and 6 minutes on a bike). The speed limit was 30 then I think.

The only differences I see between the 2 accidents, is in my accident, the other guy had to replace his truck (covered by my insurance) and go to the chiropractor (also covered by my insurance), whereas in this situation, the guy on the bike is likely to lose his life, and the driver without a license isn't even going to get a Failure to Yield ticket.
Whether the person with right of way was in a truck or on a bike should make no difference. And in my case, "possibly speeding" by the person with right of way made no difference.

Alexander said...

I want to thank you fro writing something different than what has been going around in the media about this. I am his roommate and saw him right before he left. He was on his way to work and was busting my balls for taking too long of a shower right before he left. We had just talked about 10 min before that his life was finally looking up and he felt truly happy for the first time in a long time. Matt was an awesome man and a good friend of mine despite how short I had to know him. Every time he left he mentioned being freaked out by that hill but he must have decided to take it because he was pressed for time. I feel like it is some terrible authors version of foreshadowing.

Rachel said...

Yeah, talk about it. It's unlikely he was speeding, and he had the right of way. Just because he is the one who struck the car, it doesn't mean the driver wasn't at fault. WTF?

Not to mention, now it's ok to drive your car without a license? This is the second car-vs-bike accident in the last two years involving an unlicensed driver who walked away with no penalties whatsoever. Something is seriously flawed with this picture. What's the point of getting a license if it's not going to be enforced that you have one?

Schrauf said...

Remember that in many cases with unclear or complex crashes, the police wait to write citations until the investigation is complete. Even for something as straight-forward as being unlicensed - I think they might assess all citations together, rather than one at the scene and another one later.

Unfortunately the media rarely does their job and fairly explains such things - and people read that the driver was not cited and everyone assumes the other party was at fault. I suppose the police should do a better job of explaining as well.

Anonymous said...

Bicyclists need a legal advocate to sue the city on behalf of dead and injured cyclists. The near total lack of enforcement against motorists in case after case after case is really everything you need to know that these are civil rights violations.

I would be all to happy to donate to a legal defense fund.

Rob Moore said...

I think one of the worst things about this whole situation, besides the tragedy of Matt being in the hospital, is rather than speaking out on awareness of safety, for motorist and cyclist alike. People all around Spokane seem to be playing the blame game. Like somehow or another it will make them feel better about the situation. Matt was a friend of mine and i don't feel this is what he would want to come out of this whole situation. The fact of the matter is, is that it happened and its terrible that it did, and it will continue to happen. What we should be discussing isn't who had the right of way or who should be ticketed or who is in the wrong but how to prevent this from happening again. The cause of this accident was human error, and no amount of finger pointing or discussion about speeds traveled ( come on he was on a bike) will make it go away. One thing Matt did love discussing with me was the relationship between motorists and cyclists, and how there needs to be more of a consideration from both party's on the others presence on Spokane streets.

Julie said...

John... thank you for posting more information about Matthew's condition. I, too, have been watching for media updates and haven't seen anything but horrible comments from heartless people. My thoughts and prayers are with his sister and his friends and family. I was about 15 feet from Matthew when the accident happened. My back was turned, so I didn't see it. I just heard the crash and called 911. I knelt beside him and waited endless minutes until EMS arrived. From my perspective, it was was a horrible tragedy. Yes, Matthew was going too fast. Yes, the driver stopped at the stop sign - and then creeped out into the intersection without seeing Matthew. I walked across Lincoln just seconds before the crash and I didn't see Matthew coming down the hill either. I was two steps onto the sidewalk when I heard the horrible impact. Maybe the van driver's line of sight was blocked by the line of cars parked on Lincoln. Maybe it was blocked by me walking right in front of his view up the hill. Maybe Matthew was flying down that hill at 40 mph. Maybe. I'll never know the answer to those questions. I saw the driver's response when he got out of the van. He didn't know what hit him until he walked around the side of the van and saw us on the ground. He was sobbing and inconsolable. Placing blame here doesn't help - no matter which side you're on. The lives of Matthew and that van driver where irrevocably changed in the space of a few seconds. That whole awful scene will be forever replayed in my mind. Thank you, John, for allowing me to know Matthew's name, so I can continue to send my prayers.

KellyM said...

John, I'm so sorry to hear this. So very sorry. I know that intersection well, and "fly" down there myself (if 25 mph can be called flying). It's a precarious one, for obvious reasons, and every time I go through I think of the possibility of what Matthew just endured. Drivers DON'T look for bikes there, and quite often the pedestrians crossing at the crosswalk miss us, too. Extra signage would help at the cross street, to "Look up for cross traffic, and look AGAIN" much like we used to have on Argonne at Mt. Spokane Park Drive. Tragic, so very sad. It sounds like Matthew was following the rules... what more can a cyclist do? These drivers, and this anti-bicycle attitude, are increasingly lethal... I don't understand the animosity. This guy was completely within the lines; I hope he recovers.

Addy said...

The Spokesman-Review is taking a lot of flak for reporting this as we did. I'm pasting below the original SPD press release upon which we based our report. We didn't go out to the scene -- we rarely do on accidents -- and relied solely on the police description of the incident. We will be following this as the investigation proceeds, and always welcome information/input from the public.

Addy Hatch, city editor

Contact : Ofc. Jennifer DeRuwe
Email : Date : 10/4/2010
Incident #: 10-330685

Bicyclist vs Car Crash at 4th Ave and Lincoln St

On October 4, 2010, just before 2pm, a bicyclist struck the side of a minivan in the intersection of Lincoln Street and 4th Avenue. Spokane Police are have been on scene and have closed the intersection pending their investigation.

Preliminary investigation shows the bicyclist was traveling down Lincoln Street towards downtown (northbound). A minivan was traveling east on 4th Ave, stopped at a stop sign. The minivan entered the intersection and was struck by the bicyclist. The bicyclist was transported to a local hospital for serious injuries. The driver of the mini van was not injured.

At this time, the intersection of 4th and Lincoln remains closed (Lincoln between 4th and 5th Ave & 4th Avenue between Monroe and Lincoln)

Anonymous said...

There has been a Caring Bridge web site set up for Matt at the following link;

http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/matthewhardie

Schrauf said...

Rob Moore - please don't misunderstand some of the comments. When there is an incident such as this, the details are always hashed out on some blog somewhere because people who participate in the same activity (transportation via bike, in this case) are attempting to rationalize the incident and try to understand how they can reduce risk to themselves and their loved ones. The result is that at least some people who bike and drive will be more aware and safer as a result. And maybe the intersection itself will eventually be improved, if necessary. I don't know Matt, but maybe he would approve of that.

This crash is very similar to an event in February when my wife was riding down the hill northbound on Washington at Fifth, and an elderly driver who had stopped at her stop sign on Fifth then preceded into the intersection with her pickup truck without seeing my wife, who had right of way and impacted the driver's door with her face. She was lucky and only broke her jaw and teeth and fractured her spine, but is mostly recovered eight months later. The driver was immediately cited and had insurance. I hope Matt has the same opportunity to recover.

Juliet said...

Thank you for covering this John. Matthew was my neighbor on 21st and a great guy. I love his family dearly and this is just heartbreaking.

Anonymous said...

There is additionally a blog set up that allows you to donate as well.

http://www.matthardie.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

Has anyone gotten an update on the investigation?

Thanks!

Zodiac said...

About the rate of speed Matt was going -- speed limit on the freeway is 60-70mph, for reference.

I used to ride with Matt, so from memory I can do some calculations. To make my calculations a bit more legit to readers, I'll detail them briefly. This is just for conjecture (since I wasn't there) to illustrate how "credulity straining" estimates above 50mph are. In all estimates I choose higher values.

Matt weighed ~180lbs. max., though he had been losing weight. When we went to the gym together I always weighed around 10-15 lbs more than him. And he had reported losing weight after starting his new daily commute.

Assume 100 watts of power.

Assume Matt's carbon-alloy frame bike weighed 20.0lbs.

Assume bartops position since he was going downhill, on a hill with multiple plateaus, in a traffic lane, which is a relatively controlled descent. This is typical from what I remember riding with him this last summer.

Assume grade % = -9.72. Reasoning: Downtown has elevation 2000ft, if Matt started his descent on 7th at the crest and the collision was at 4th, I can guess his elevation was around 2150ft. The distance from 7th street and Lincoln to 4th is 1541.73 ft. = 0.291994 mi.

So, 150ft rise on a run of 1541.73ft = 0.0972 percent. Pointing downhill makes this a negative number.

Just to make things more interesting, lets guess he had a tailwind of -2mph. and that it was 59.8(F) that day.

With a 95% Trans. efficiency, Matt could have been going 44.75 mph, which would've taken about a minute to reach.

For argument, if we assume a drop-bar tucked position, with no brakes, and a 5mph tailwind, Matt could conceivably have gotten up to 56.78 mph. Conversely, if he had had a head-wind of 5 mph, he would have maxed out at 47 mph in a tucked position on drop-bars.

Remember that I chose to weight all calculations in FAVOR of a "speeding cyclist" scenario -- these are not the most likely numbers, but well above the likely averages.

The only factor that limits this is that the road conditions include potholes, cracks, cars in front, and other conditions forcing him to brake. The way the hill pans out at the intersection before 4th would also affect his rate of descent. I did not try to adjust for these limitations either.

In conclusion, for Matt to reach speeds near or in excess of 50 mph prior to the intersection on 4th, he would have had to have had more ideal road conditions than he did, he would have had to intentionally have been trying to max his speed by avoiding breaks, positioned on drops, benefited from an ideal tailwind, etc. The accusation that the cyclist was "speeding out of control" stains credulity.

Zodiac said...

About the rate of speed Matt was going -- speed limit on the freeway is 60-70mph, for reference.

I used to ride with Matt, so from memory I can do some calculations. To make my calculations a bit more legit to readers, I'll detail them briefly. This is just conjecture (since I wasn't there) to illustrate how "credulity straining" estimates above 50mph are. In all estimates I choose higher values.

Matt weighed ~180lbs. max.
Assume 100 watts of power.
Assume Matt's carbon-alloy frame bike weighed 20.0lbs.
Assume bartops position since he was going downhill, on a hill with multiple plateaus, in a traffic lane, which is a relatively controlled descent.

Assume grade % = -9.72. Reasoning: Downtown has elevation 2000ft, if Matt started his descent on 7th at the crest and the collision was at 4th, I can guess his elevation was around 2150ft. The distance from 7th street and Lincoln to 4th is 1541.73 ft. = 0.291994 mi. So, 150ft rise on a run of 1541.73ft = 0.0972 percent. Pointing downhill makes this a negative number.

Lets guess he had a tailwind of -2mph. and that it was 59.8(F) that day. With a 95% Trans. efficiency, Matt could have been going 44.75 mph, which would've taken about 0.39 seconds to reach.

For argument, if we assume a drop-bar tucked position, with no brakes, and a 5mph tailwind, Matt could conceivably have gotten up to 56.78 mph. Conversely, if he had had a head-wind of 5 mph, he would have maxed out at 47 mph in a tucked position on drop-bars.

Remember that I chose to weight all calculations in FAVOR of a "speeding cyclist" scenario -- these are not the most likely numbers. The only factor that limits this is that the road conditions include potholes, cracks, cars in front, and other conditions forcing him to brake. The way the hill pans out at the intersection prior to the intersection at 4th. In conclusion, for Matt to reach speeds near or in excess of 50 mph prior to the intersection on 4th, he would have had to have had more ideal road conditions than he did, he would have had to intentionally have been trying to max his speed just before a 3-way Downtown intersection Matt was familiar with and knew was dangerous.

The accusation that the cyclist was "speeding out of control" stains credulity.

Lenny said...

I hate motorist that dont respect cyclists, something needs to be done urgently, if the driver does not even get a ticket theres is something wrong with the police aswell!!

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