Driver Caught on Dash Cam Gets Deal, "Because Cyclist Was Riding in CrossWalk"

On Saturday, October 15, 2016, at 5:31pm, K.B. and her fiancé were riding bikes in Littleton, near Bowles on the bike path, when they entered a crosswalk.  K.B.’s fiance's bike had a Burly attached, in which their 2-year old child was riding.  K.B. was just behind, following her fiancé and their child in the crosswalk, on a green light/walking signal, with ample crossing time remaining on the digital signal.  Without warning, K.B. was hit by a car. 

The car was in the left-hand turn lane, with a green light.  When it was clear, it accelerated into the crosswalk and t-boned K.B. on her bike.  Notably in this case, another car that sat in the turn lane had its dash cam running, capturing the entire event.  You can hear that driver anticipate what’s about to happen – yet, for some reason the turning motorist never noticed K.B. or her family on their bikes, until it was too late. 

Dash cam footage (forward to 3min in...warning- it's not easy to warch this): 

The motorist was cited by Littleton P.D. for failure to yield right-of-way to pedestrian under violation code 802(1), which is a Class A Traffic Infraction.  A summons was issued for the driver to appear in Littleton Municipal Court.  We contacted the City Attorney (CA) ahead of time and implored her not to offer a plea deal in this case.   Her proposal was to drop the charge to a defective vehicle charge.  We asked that she not do that, given the factual situation, the video showing clear negligence (and failure to yield) by the motorist, the injuries K.B. suffered, and the very real fact that one or two seconds earlier, the car would’ve hit the Burly with the child instead. 

Communication quickly broke down with the City Attorney, who insisted this is how her office “always handles cases like this.”  I informed her that I would be sure to notify the cycling community that this is Littleton's approach to these cycling crashes.  (i.e., this blog, and honorable mention in my cycling education classes).  The City Attorney then spoke with my client directly and criticized my professionalism.  (Yes, you read that right).  We appeared several times in Court; on one occasion appearing, only to learn the case had been rescheduled and no one had bothered to tell us:

Instagram Venting.   

Instagram Venting. 

 

Keep in mind K.B. is the victim here.  Yet, she began to feel as though she was the accused, by the way she and her case were being handled.  Curiously, the City Attorney wanted nothing to do with the dash cam footage – although this would have made her case very easy to prove to a jury, she minimized its importance.  She brushed it aside.

At the eventual sentencing hearing for the driver (mid-February!), we learned that in fact, yes, the City Attorney HAD offered the driver a lesser charge in exchange for the plea.  K.B. and I were not informed of this, despite our asking the CA repeatedly what her plan was, and despite our requests that she not reduce the charges, and if necessary, take this case to trial.  (While not technically a Victim Rights Case, DAs and CAs typically involve my clients / my office in these decisions given the severity of the injuries).  At the hearing, the Judge asked to see the dash cam footage and did review it several times on K.B.’s phone.  He seemed apologetic in light of its clear showing of failure to yield to pedestrians/cyclists in the crosswalk, but his hands were tied with this minimal charge/plea agreement.  (We were seeking community service as part of the sentence of the driver-the Judge declined to order it based on the plea agreement reached between the driver and the CA).  The CA then began criticizing K.B. for riding in the crosswalk.  Suddenly she, as the City Attorney, who is tasked with pursuing charges written by law enforcement – argued that the victim of this collision was riding illegally in the crosswalk.  It begs the question: Is this how Littleton feels about its cyclists?   

Let's address the CA's statements to the Court, shall we?  Her representation of the law to the Judge is simply incorrect. 

First- C.R.S. 42-4-1412, does NOT prohibit sidewalk or crosswalk riding, nor does it require dismounting at crosswalks.  The State Law indicates that these behaviors are prohibited/required only where required by local ordinance (i.e. city ordinance) or traffic device (i.e. signage).  In pertinent part, the statute reads,

(10)(a) A person riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle upon and along a sidewalk or pathway or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian. A person riding a bicycle in a crosswalk shall do so in a manner that is safe for pedestrians.

(b) A person shall not ride a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle upon and along a sidewalk or pathway or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk where such use of bicycles or electrical assisted bicycles is prohibited by official traffic control devices or local ordinances. A person riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle shall dismount before entering any crosswalk where required by official traffic control devices or local ordinances.

(c) A person riding or walking a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle upon and along a sidewalk or pathway or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances, including, but not limited to, the rights and duties granted and required by section 42-4-802.

 So –let’s investigate whether the City of Littleton in fact has an ordinance that requires cyclists to dismount?  (Answer: no). The City has adopted the Model Traffic Code.  You can review this on our website here.  The only new/additional sections added by the Littleton City Council to their ordinances, beyond the Model Traffic Code, are posted here.  Of note, one of the ONLY additions concerning bikes in their code, is the one that addresses BIKEWAYS:

9-1-7: BIKEWAYS:

(A) Bikeways Created: Public streets and rights of way or portions thereof may be designated as bikeways. When marked by paint striping, reflective buttons, no parking signs, bikeway signs, or other traffic devices or signs, the portions so marked shall not be used for driving, parking, stopping, standing or turning of motorized vehicles of any kind; and bicycles operated on said streets shall be operated only within the bikeway portions so designated. The City administration shall determine the location of bikeways and the appropriate type of marking on each street or right of way based upon good traffic engineering practice. (Ord. 13, Series of 1985)

(B) Operation Of Motor Vehicles When Necessary To Cross Bikeways: It is recognized that upon occasion such as making of right turn movements, entering driveways and the like, it will be necessary for operators of motor vehicles to drive across designated bikeways, but in such instances the required movements shall be made by the operator of the motor vehicle remaining in the bikeway for as short a distance as possible, and he shall enter the bikeway only after taking due care to ascertain that his movement will not endanger bicycles being operated therein. (1971 Code, sec. 15.21)

In sum, I’m left scratching my head trying to figure out why this City Attorney believed that my client (a) should not have been riding in a crosswalk (which comes off a bike path and re-enters a bike path), and (b) should have dismounted and walked her bike across the crosswalk. 

And in short, this means those “mitigating factors” the CA argued to the Court, were misrepresentations of both State and City law, to the detriment of my client and her case.

My client stood in that courtroom, mouth agape - having been hit by a car while riding legally - she was now being accused of bringing the collision on herself by riding in a crosswalk in broad daylight with her family.  She was on the defensive, having to explain her behavior that day. 

Result: charge ultimately entered: “unsafe vehicle.”  Fines: $391.75.  Our request for community service was denied, based on the plea agreement reached.  However, the judge did order the driver to attend a defense driving school course. 

K.B. spent the time and energy to attend a handful of court settings in this matter from October through February.  She left this process with a very bad taste in her mouth for how it was handled (as you can probably imagine).  You can review/view the entire sentencing hearing here: