Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Yet another crash on Diamond at or south of Sandia

From Carol Clark's Daily Post, as well as a note from LAPD to yours truly, we learn of yet another intersection conflict crash on Diamond Drive.

Minor Injuries Reported in Morning Bicycle Accident

on August 8, 2012 - 11:39am
Staff report
Minor injuries were reported in an accident at about 8 a.m. today near Diamond Drive and Sandia Street.
A bicyclist was riding south on Diamond Drive when a motorist heading northbound on Diamond Drive turned left on to Sandia Street and failed to yield the right of way to the bicyclist.
The Los Alamos Fire Department treated the bicyclist for minor injuries at the scene. The Bicyclist declined transport to Los Alamos Medical Center.
Los Alamos Police cited the motorist for failure to yield.

Although I am not aware of where the vehicles were in relation to road edge and am guessing, I am increasingly worried that the bike lanes on Diamond starting at or south of Orange/Sandia, where there are a lot of turning and crossing points, cannot be navigated with an acceptable level of risk unless operators are keenly alert and cyclists manage their own safety irregardless of the presence of a bike lane. Intersections are known to be potentially hazardous to bicyclist operation due to a cyclist's small size and typical segregation to the right of motor traffic, often exacerbated by solid bike lane striping or misapplied As Far Right As Practicable laws (see Weigand, Allen, and elsewhere). 
 A cyclist in the traffic lanes is more visible than one off to the right of traffic. That said, lane positioning is no guarantee to safe passage, as many a banged-up motorcyclist (including my stepdad) will tell you.  Nevertheless, riding to the right in the bike lane requires extra diligence on the part of the cyclist, knowing motorists will be less aware of your presence or downright oblivious.  John Allen  (whose cv includes time as a former League of American Bicyclists Board member, longtime cycling instruction expert, expert witness, etc) suggests merging out of bike lanes and into vehicle traffic at intersections as appropriate: "...A well-designed bike lane should encourage you to ride in the correct position on the road when you go slower than the cars. It should also encourage you to move left, out of the bike lane, before an intersection if you are going straight or turning left... Remember: don't hesitate to leave the bike lane when necessary for your safety - all the guidelines about lane position in this book apply whether or not there is a bike lane...."

 I don't recall a similar spate of crashes on this segment of road prior to the installation of bike lanes. Is this a learning curve experience, or a permanent high hazard facility? Does NHHO need to manage this road?

The difference between minor and major injuries is a roll of the dice. This could have easily been a lot worse. If we are to have bike lanes in areas of heavy turning traffic and bike traffic, such as on Diamond or Trinity, we really are raising the stakes for cyclists, who pay in blood rather than fines for everyone's mistakes.

There are no universal answers here except to use your best judgement. Don't let the paint replace good thinking.

But it could be worse. You could be in Iowa.

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