cycliq

Lumber Truck Driver Cited with Careless Driving As Result of Cyclist's Video

But -Plea Deal Results in Defective Vehicle Charge…

A missed opportunity for justice—that is how cyclist Jonathan Wirth feels about the plea deal offered to the driver of a tractor trailer who violated the three-foot rule. The initial charge of careless driving was dismissed in Lafayette Municipal Court. Instead, the prosecutor reached a plea deal with the defendant on the lesser charge of a defective vehicle, which is a two-point violation. “How was that justice?” asks Jonathan.

This is why our office advocates to district and city attorneys to stop offering plea deals. Both Boulder and Jefferson County DA Offices have shown their commitment to holding drivers accountable and have been getting positive results for cyclists. Find out more about how DAs in Boulder and Jefferson Counties are handling cycling cases.

Here’s what happened to Jonathan. On April 9, 2019, he was commuting to work in Boulder County when the truck driver buzzed him within twelve inches of his rear pannier, coming even closer to his left shoulder. The wind created by the truck pushed Jonathan to the left and right and eventually forced him off the road into the dirt. He was not injured but was fearful for his life and felt the driver completely disregarded his safety.

Jonathan is not new to cycling. It was not his first time on a bike or even riding this stretch of State Highway 7 (East Baseline Road) in Lafayette, CO. He used to race both road and mountain bikes and is currently a level 3 National Interscholastic Cycling Association mountain bike coach at the high school where he teaches. He understands the rules of the road and strategies to stay safe. Jonathan wears a neon yellow jacket while riding his bike and is very visible.

As Jonathan was going to work that day, the paved shoulder he was riding on ended. Before taking the lane, he looked over his shoulder and saw a tractor trailer approaching. With his left arm, Jonathan signaled a downward swinging arm motion indicating to the driver to move over into the empty left-turn lane. He even made eye contact with the driver. 

Jonathan thought that the truck would move over, out of the lane, to safely pass him as all others cars had done on past rides. He was wrong—the driver came dangerously close to him. Jonathan felt like he was being pulled under the truck and was blown off the paved road. After collecting himself, Jonathan followed the truck on his bike and saw it turn into a gas station.  He approached the truck while the driver was inside the station and took photos of the company logo and license plate number. He learned that the truck belonged to a wood supply transfer company located in Lafayette.

The close call was captured on Jonathan’s Cycliq6 HD tail light camera. He is very thankful that he had his camera on his bike and plans to install a front-mounted camera as well to capture traffic in front of him. Since Jonathan had video footage, he decided not to confront the driver.

Following the incident, Jonathan took action. He contacted the company and was informed that they would send the information “up the chain.” On April 10th, the next day, he went to the Lafayette Police Department and filed a police report as well.  Jonathan showed Officer C. Hayford the video footage. In the incident report, Officer Hayford noted her observation of the incident from the footage as a “large semi truck with a trailer driving at a high rate of speed past Wirth.” On April 11th, Officer Hayford spoke to the driver by phone. According to the report, the driver thought that Jonathan was signaling his intention to get into the left-turn lane by sticking his left arm straight out to the side. When it became apparent that this was not the case, the driver started pulling into the left-turn lane. He told Officer Hayford that he thought he had given Jonathan enough room but also stated that he was unable to start moving into the left turn lane until he was nearly next to Jonathan due to oncoming traffic. 

As the video shows, he clearly did not give Jonathan the required three feet when passing as mandated by Colorado law.

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The law (C.R.S 42-4-1003 (1) (b)) states that motorists must give a bicyclist at least a three-foot separation between the right side of the driver’s vehicle, including all mirrors or other projections, and the left side of the bicyclist at all times when passing. 

It is important to remember that in states where there is a 3-foot law, there is likely to be a provision that allows motorists to cross a solid double yellow centerline when passing to give cyclists the minimum required distance—as long as it is safe and clear of oncoming traffic.

Actual signage in Boulder County thanks to Cyclists4Community and Boulder County Government

Actual signage in Boulder County thanks to Cyclists4Community and Boulder County Government

If there is oncoming traffic, drivers must slow down behind the cyclist and wait to pass. Do not attempt to shoot the gap between the cyclist and the oncoming car. You must give the cyclist three feet no matter what!

Following her conversation with the driver, Officer Hayford called Jonathan and informed him that the driver had a different version of what had happened. Jonathan asked for him to be cited anyhow. The driver was summoned to appear in court. 


Jonathan was willing to take a personal day from teaching to attend the court hearing and ask for his rights. As a result of the plea deal, he did not get that opportunity. 


He believes cyclists should be able to ride on all Colorado state roads. Jonathan has contacted the Colorado Department of Transportation the past four years about this section of road. They are currently in the planning stage of widening it.

If you are involved in a similar situation, we encourage you to file a report with local authorities and the Close Call Database. You can sign up for free via STRAVA. You will get notifications when other riders update the database concerning incidents in your area. The mission is also to gather information about repeat offenders in hopes that information can then be provided in comprehensive form to law enforcement.  You can also call the Colorado State Patrol Aggressive Driver hotline or your state’s equivalent. In Colorado, dial *277 (*CSP).  The hotline has been approved for use by motorists to report drunk or erratic drivers, and it has been approved for use by cyclists to report motorist aggression.

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Check out our blog post for more information on crossing the centerline to pass a cyclist.

You can also get some of our 3-foot law stickers by sending a request with your address to connect@hottmanlawoffice.com.

A Close Call -The Importance of Bike Cameras

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“Education and awareness are always the way to go and the results can be most rewarding for all. I hope this helps everyone become better bike ambassadors on the roads, paths and trails.”

Guest Post by Gerry Stephenson – Cyclist, Commuter, and Bike Ambassador

*Gerry uses the Cycliq front and back bike cameras.

Hi, my name is Gerry and I have been cycling since 2001. Presently, I commute to and from work about eight to nine months a year and have been doing so the last four to five years. My route varies from 10-12 miles and includes both road and bike paths. When I ride, I always try to be a safe rider and educate others when it makes sense.

While commuting home on June 29th, 2018, I was riding north on a neighborhood street approaching a T-intersection. It was late afternoon; traffic was very light. I noticed a car and a fire truck preparing to come on the road behind me. The car passed with plenty of room before the intersection and my impending right turn. However, to my surprise, the fire truck driver decided that they had enough room to pass me only to turn right in front of me with clearly not enough space. I had to brake hard to avoid being hit. It should be noted that the fire truck had no flashing lights or sirens on at the time.  

Footage captured from Gerry’s Cycliq bike camera.

Footage captured from Gerry’s Cycliq bike camera.

I did not attempt to confront the driver or squeeze in to the right of the truck. I did swear and was very upset at this close call. Knowing that I had this entire incident recorded with my Cycliq bike cameras (front and rear mounted cameras), I chose to wait until I got home and review the video and decide what to do. Cooler heads always prevail, and my focus is always on educating others, be it drivers or cyclists, in times like these. After reviewing the video, it was very clear that the fireman was at fault for not allowing me the three-foot rule, and I felt that they did not realize the actual size of the vehicle they were driving.

I emailed the fire department and very politely explained what had happened and included the video of the close call. I never once mentioned that I wanted the driver of the fire truck reprimanded or charged. What I asked for was an apology, and that this video be used to show and teach the department to be mindful of cyclists. Later that evening or possibly the next day, I received an email from the fire department apologizing and promising to add this video footage to their department training. This incident was reported by the liaison to the fire department commander as well.

First response from the fire department’s liaison:

“Hi Gerry,

First let me send you my apologies for the incident with our department, I have notified the Lieutenant and Battalion Chief on duty the day of your incident and the Chief of Staff is aware and corrective actions will be taken.

I will make sure the Chief gets your video and we will be sure to use it as a training piece in our driver/operator program so this never happens again.”

 Second email from the liaison:

“I believe a lesson learned/corrective action is being written, then it will go to the whole Department, then I believe the Fire Chief will send it to you.”

My Email:

“Hi, I truly appreciate your timely response and apology. I try my best to be very viable and obey all the rules of the road while cycling and all I ask in return is that all drivers do the same. So that you know I have a great contact for training in the matters of cycling and traffic laws. Her name is Megan Hottman; she is a lawyer that helps educate everyone on the laws of Colorado. She has done many classes all over the state for law enforcement and the cycling community. If you are interested I can put you in contact with her. Thank you again.”

 A couple of weeks later, I received another email confirming that the fire department had in fact updated their training for the entire department and would be sharing this training with other towns.

“Here is the ‘Lessons Learned’ that was made from your incident. It has been made required training for all crews on our department and was reviewed by all the command staff.”

The following is an excerpt from ‘Lessons Learned’:

Background: In June, a fire truck was responding non-emergent to a commercial fire alarm in a neighboring district. While proceeding northbound on Main, fire truck passed a bicyclist as both were approaching a T intersection. Fire truck Engineer determined that, at the current speed, he could safely pass the bicyclist, and proceeded to do so. The pass and lane change were made into the right turn lane. Upon review of the video provided from the cyclist perspective, it appears that clearance was closer than intended.

Generic Corrective Actions:

1. A general review of the Colorado state laws regarding passing of a cyclist.

§ 42-4-1003. Overtaking a vehicle on the left

1. The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to the limitations, exceptions, and special rules stated in this section and sections 42-4-1004 to 42-4- 1008:

a. The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left of the vehicle at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle

b. The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction shall allow the bicyclist at least a three-foot separation between the right side of the driver's vehicle, including all mirrors or other projections, and the left side of the bicyclist at all times.

c. Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle on audible signal and shall not increase the speed of the driver's vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

2. Be diligent in making sure that the perspective and safety of the cyclist is given a greater regard.

·      Always be aware of the size of, and space needed for the engine to maneuver.

·      Be sure to maintain constant Situational Awareness (SA) while driving apparatus and avoid becoming complacent about driving responsibilities due to mental focus on the incident the apparatus has been dispatched to.

·      If there is any question as to the safety of a pass, yield to the cyclist, and do not pass.

Note: The name and city of the fire department in this incident have been omitted at their request as well as any public sharing of the video.

Riding with a Camera: ALWAYS a good Idea!

"Typically it's the drivers who hit a cyclist from behind that try to get away from the scene because the cyclist is often not in a position to ID the fleeing driver,” Hottman continues. “Also cars that hit cyclists from behind tend to be traveling at a faster speed, hence the increased need to capture backward-looking footage. Forward footage is good, too, but most cyclists don't have the cash or desire to run two cameras on every ride.”

Check out today's Bicycling Magazine article on this topic! 

http://www.bicycling.com/culture/how-cyclists-can-get-on-bike-video-footage-taken-seriously

 

Where Should I Put My Camera?

We received the following inquiry and figured it presented a perfectly great chance to discuss the topic here on the blog! 


"Megan, we met several times at different lectures - it's always reassuring to know you have cyclists back.  My question is more for my information and if ever needed your benefit.

Concerning riding with a GoPro.  If I have only one camera to use while riding which mounting do you find most useful in court - 1) back view of the bike from the seat post, 2) front view of the bike on the handle bars, or 3) front view of the bike on the rider's helmet?

Also, I'm wondering if you have any feedback on having the camera on the back - will motorists see it there and tend to think twice before pass[sic] the rider?

In this day and age I don't believe you can have enough leverage in a dispute.

Thanks for your time - I hope to never need your services.  Sounds weird." 


Great questions.  First- Allow me to refer you to a previous blog post/article on the topic of camera use by cyclists here. 

Next, let's discuss the placement of the camera if a rider only has one, and cannot place both a front-racing and rear-facing camera.  (Because yes, two cameras can be quite expensive!). 

There is no truly right or wrong answer to this question, it's more a strategic decision by the rider.  Based on our firm's caseload over the years, the vast majority of cases we handle are of three types (which also jive with the state and national bike crash stats):

1- motorist makes left turn directly in front of/into the oncoming cyclist (failure to yield on left turn);

2- motorist makes right turn from a position parallel to the cyclist, either into the bike or directly in front of the cyclist (right hook); or

3- motorist strikes cyclist from behind/side swipes cyclist from behind (does not allow proper passing distance/3 feet/fails to see cyclist at all/impaired/distracted driving).  

Based on our specific expereinces and the facts of our clients' collisions, I would say the injuries caused to the cyclists struck from behind or are side-swiped, tend to be the most severe.  (Not always mind you, but in general, because the motorist is typically at speed at the time of the collision).  

Therefore, I would recommend if a cyclist has only one camera, to mount it backwards-facing.  This also increases the chances of a good shot of the car, license plate, and most importantly -the face of the driver.  Camera footage does not provide the cyclist means of recourse if the driver cannot be identified.  It is critical that wherever the camera is mounted, and whatever camera the cyclist chooses, that the footage or images be clear enough to show the person behind the wheel of the car.  Otherwise law enforcement often cannot use the video to file charges- as the car owner can claim "someone else was driving my car." 

I do believe that motorists who see a camera on the bike behave differently/better than in instances where there is no camera (this is based purely on my own observations while riding with a GoPro camera).  Any time a motorist may realize they will be held accoutable for their actions, it logically follows that they think twice before behaving badly.  

Additionally, consider that often times the cyclist is able to whip out their cell phone to capture forward-facing or still shots.  Many cyclists now ride with their smartphone mounted to their bars, or I think it's safe to say all cyclists have a smartphone in their back pocket or bag.  Capturing rear-facing footage on the fly is nearly impossible, however.  

A camera we like for rear-facing footage with a light, is the Cycliq Rear Bike Camera with light.  

Check out also, the Garmin Varia, which alerts cars approaching from behind of the presence of the bike and also tells the cyclist the speed/relative threat of the approaching car by syncing with the rider's bike computer. 

A third product we recently learned about, which promises to eventually include turn signal options for a rider who is using a smartphone, is Cobi.  (It won't surprise us if this very soon includes recording/camera options also).

And of course the tried-and-true brand, GoPro, offers many bike camera options and its app is user-friendly and the entire system is easy to setup and to use! 

In general though, any footage is better than none, and any data is better than no data.  Often times video footage combined with Garmin or Strava/similar data, can really help a cyclist who was riding lawfully and is struck by a vehicle.  

This is a great time to ask Santa to bring you a bike camera and some new bright bike lights too!