Cyclist Killed; Investigation Begins

Details are still coming out in the story of a cyclist killed after being hit by a truck yesterday morning. The Cavalier Daily first reported that the victim is UVA grad student Matthew Steven King The portion of the story that is clear right now is that the accident took place just after 9:00 AM, at the corner of Fourth and Main (across from the market); that King was wearing a helmet; and that the vehicle that hit him was a Charlottesville Public Works truck. One version of the story have the truck making a right-hand turn and colliding with King, while another has King riding on the sidewalk and veering out into the street in front of the truck. (And those are both from CBS-19, who does not appear to have tried to reconcile these two claims.) Police were investigating the scene and conducting an investigation today, in order to reconstruct the accident.

Any sort of accident involving a cyclist and a car inevitably results in recrimination and finger-pointing, with cycling advocates blaming drivers for behaving recklessly around bikes, and opponents of cycling claiming that all bicyclists are dangerous law-breakers. In the past 36 hours, this incident has proven to be no different, with news stories on the topic receiving hundreds of comments, most of which ignore the death of King and focus instead on speculating on what happened and whether, broadly speaking, cyclists or drivers are to blame.

15 Responses to “Cyclist Killed; Investigation Begins”

  • Just Bob says:

    One version of the story have the truck making a right-hand turn and colliding with King, while another has King riding on the sidewalk and veering out into the street in front of the truck.

    Waldo I don’t think the two versions -as you have paraphrased them in your post- I don’t think they contradict one another.

    I made a right hand turn (the downtown Mall and Mcintire/Ridge Street at my back) that same day from West Main onto 4th. As I was approaching the turn I noticed a cyclist racing along the sidewalk. I saw that she would cross 4th Street at West Main along the crosswalk as I would be in the middle of my Right turn. So I slowed down and yielded to the cyclist who was in violation of traffic rules.

    The cyclist was relying on the Pedestrian crosswalk light which signaled to a pedestrian that it was okay to cross. But there were no pedestrians. Just the cyclist. In that situation it would have been more appropriate for the cyclist to be nearer the double solid yellow line than on the side walk.

    So I can understand why someone might think the two reports as “different versions” but why they might not be different at all.

    On that section of street where there are often a variety of potential traffic hazards, auto, cyclist, and pedestrian, I can see how one might have been overlooked.

    …with news stories on the topic receiving hundreds of comments, most of which ignore the death of King and focus instead on speculating on what happened and whether, broadly speaking, cyclists or drivers are to blame.

    The death is a tragedy for his family.

    For everyone else… It’s about “what happened, and whether cyclists or drivers are to blame.”

    While I can’t speak for those that bicycle on their daily commutes. A major part of my job involves driving and maintaining a spotless record (as one would think most public employees that operate motor vehicles must also do).

    So I don’t think that anyone (especially someone in the employ of a governmental agency) purposefully hits a bicyclist. And I think that sentiment – at least in part contributes to the discussion of “broadly speaking” who might be to blame.

  • jogger says:

    You want to ride a bicycle on city streets then take a written test, road test, and be required to have a license just like motorist are required to pass and obtain.. (granted the test will have to be modified for bicycle riders).
    There is a city regulation on the books which prohibits bicycle riders from riding on sidewalks, just not enforced.

  • Scott says:

    I don’t agree with the licensing and testing for bicycles, but I do agree we need to enforce the traffic laws for bicycles and the law prohibiting them from riding on the sidewalks. There are bike lanes along much of W. Main – I can’t recall if the bike lane is there in front of Awful Arther’s (or whatever it is now), but cycles are allowed to use the regular lanes when there is no bike lane available, and they should follow the rules of the road.

    I will comment on this: if the light on W. Main was green (allowing the truck to turn) or the pedestrian signal was lit, then it seems like the cyclist had the right of way to go straight. If the truck was making a right-on-red, then they are still at fault, as they are supposed to check to see that the way is clear first. The larger/faster vehicle has the duty to avoid the smaller/slower one.

    The “jumped out” bit is a distraction. As a runner, I’m regularly infuriated by people in larger vehicles feeling that they only have to beat me to the intersection to get the right of way. As a runner, it’s annoying as all get out to be forced off the sidewalk nnd into a bike lane by a bicycle on the sidewalk!

  • Pete says:

    As a cyclist, it’s annoying as all get out to be forced out of the bike lane and into the road by a runner in the bike lane!

  • DN says:

    There are no bike lanes during this stretch of West Main, and the “bike lanes” on most of the other sections of West Main do not meet minimum requirements for any recognized standard, that is 5′ when next to on-street parking and stripes on both sides of the lane.

    I take the lane during this tight spot near 4th St., or ride very carefully on the right-most edge of the street. I believe this is the safest way to handle it, but I know that some cyclists feel they are safer on the sidewalk until they reach 4th and things open up a little. Legally, they should dismount when they do this, but many do not.

    With Waldo, I have little interest in playing the blame game. I trust that this will be resolved by the courts once all of the relevant information is in. I certainly do not want to see either cyclists or motorists banned from streets entirely. I am interested in asking the infrastructure questions. How can we minimize the risks with proper accommodations for all users of the road? Where there is will there is a way.

  • Scott says:

    Pete – I hear ya…it’s true, the abuse does go both ways. I’ve tired of the constant obstacle course dodging that running on the sidewalks entails in a lot of places, and use the bike lanes, but always yield to bikes, but I’ve seen plenty of runners fail to do this.

  • perlogik says:

    This is so sad and it looks like it might have been preventable. There will never enough room for bike lanes if you have to have on street parking on Main Street.

    Everyone needs to look out for each other. I am very careful around cyclist and most are very good but almost once a week I see a cyclist fly though a red light. With the amount of drivers who aren’t paying attetion or sightseers being on a bike can be a danerous place in Charlottesville.

    All I can hope for is people will become more aware who’s around them.

  • whoRu says:

    When you’re on a bike, you have to ride defensively, it’s foolish and risky to do otherwise. If there’s a collision, it doesn’t really matter who was entitled to the right of way, the cyclist loses. Fault essentially just determines who pays the bills.

    Most of the cycling violations people point to are routine among vehicles. I guess we notice when it’s a cyclist because they are more vulnerable and/or they are (typically) slower.

    From the reports there was no alchohol or malice involved. Sh*t happens. My sincere sympathy to Matt’s family and friends.

  • Cryptoportica says:

    This unfortunate incident, I believe, should not become a finger-pointing game. DN makes a good point. There is a broader problem that could be ameliorated throughout the City with a comprehensive approach to traffic planning that thus far has been generally lacking. There are many dangerous intersections (for cars, bikes, and pedestrians alike), including the 4th-West Main intersection. As a pedestrian, I’ve nearly been hit crossing West Main there on a “walk” light because of drivers turning left too fast from 4th, which has a short light and a stop line that is too far back to provide visibility at this tight and busy crossing.

    But the bigger issue that this should bring to the table is finding creative ways to make the City’s streets, sidewalks, and bike lanes safer and easier for everyone to use. The City has talked for years about becoming more walkable and bike-friendly but little has been accomplished or funded to meet this goal in their Vision Plan. Fir example, many sidewalks in the City are not ADA-compliant, as they are too narrow, discontinuous, or have obstacles such as utility poles, overgrown plants, or mailboxes in them. Often I see runners, people with strollers, and wheelchairs forced off these impassable sidewalks into the street.

    Obviously some of this is a function of narrow road right-of-ways, limited parking, and other tricky issues. However, a comprehensive approach to improving roads, sidewalks, and bike lanes throughout the City (and not just directly around the Downtown Mall) could make this situation better. I urge all concerned citizens to bring this up to City Council and perhaps they will find a way to put the will and money behind such an effort.

  • Just Bob says:

    Infrastructure improvements are nothing if the reckless cycling traffic violations are ignored.

    The police need to step up their enforcement of traffic violations by bicyclists, start writing some tickets. Currently it’s non-existent. Start policing bicyclists the same way you police autos and you will generate a greater awareness of and adherence to traffic laws that apply to bicyclists. This will go a long way toward improving cyclist safety.

    I don’t know anyone that wants to have an encounter that results in a cyclist being hurt.

  • DN says:

    Just Bob and jogger,

    There’s a certain logic to what you’re saying, but in the end I think both of these suggestions will actually lead to a less safe environment for cyclists. Numerous studies have indicated that the single highest factor that correlates with safety is simply the total number of cyclists on the road. The more bicycles, the safer the city. Everyone is more aware and experienced in sharing the road.

    Imposing fees and obstacles to riding would be moving in the wrong direction for safety. Not to mention the environmental, fiscal, public health, etc. issues. I like the idea of traffic classes, but perhaps they could be incorporated into public eduction. Instead of drivers ed, we could have road-users ed. You get your driving and cycling certificate at the same time.

  • Dan says:

    I don’t know if this is related, but on Monday of this week, I saw motorcycle policemen giving tickets to two different cyclists around JPA/Main St. area (in front of Jimmy Johns). I don’t know the cause for the citations, but it’s the first time I have ever seen a policeman cite a cyclist.

  • blockhead says:

    My son got a ticket in the same area three yrs ago. He was westbound on Main and went thru the red light by the Baptist church when the traffic from the hospital area had the green. It cost him a fine, and he had to pay to take a safe driving class because he was under a particular age (18?) At the time, I thought that was a bit heavy handed – a warning would have been sufficient . But he did learn that bikes are subject to the same rules of the road as motor vehicles.
    He still cycles- now mostly in Richmond. He has been the victim of a hit and run in C’ville riding to CHS at North and Sheriden and once he and a group of friends were run off the road near VCU, in front of lots of witnesses. The auto driver tossed a bag of weed out the window as he fled the scene , but was later apprehended and charged.
    In a previous lifetime, I bike commuted in Baltimore over five miles a day. There were no lanes there at the time, you just had to be very aware of your surroundings and hope for the best . There were the random parked car door opening adventures , that even the quickest had trouble negotiating.
    Having clearly marked , continuous bike lanes would help. I don’t think the flowerbeds on Park St make the road safer- but they do establish a precedent for the city eliminating auto -dedicated pavement in the attempt to make a road safer.

  • It’d be great to see police cracking down on dangerous cyclists. It’s especially bad around UVA, where student cyclists routinely toggle between acting like pedestrians and acting like automobiles, whichever is more convenient for them from moment to moment. It’s dangerous, and it gives cyclists a bad name.

  • Majung says:

    Quote: “Infrastructure improvements are nothing if the reckless cycling traffic violations are ignored”

    Wrong. Many cities in Europe have bike paths (that actually go where you’re going) completely independent of car traffic. Many people bike to work/school because it’s cheap, clean AND convenient. To top it off, it’s much cheaper to maintain a bike path per person than what it costs for car roads per person.

    But of course, that would mean some free thinking. And that resource is not in abundance here.

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