Sunday, April 27, 2014

Railrunner crash: Epilogue

Above--Surveillance video taken on the Railrunner. 
The cyclist seems oblivious to the possibility of a train.
Note: the Youtube site keeps wanting to convince me to download shit.

With regards to the cyclist killed at the Zia Road train crossing, it now appears that eyewitnesses not only got the earphones stuff wrong, but the cyclist's direction of travel as well. According to a story in the Friday issue of the Albuquerque Journal, train video shows (italicized stuff from the Journal) "...the cyclist was trying to ride west across St. Francis Drive at Zia Road when the light for traffic on St. Francis appears to green. She makes it across St. Francis safely but then rides in front of the southbound train that was crossing Zia..."

She was in fact hit on the Rail Trail crossing, as previously reported.  The Journal further reports Police spokeswoman Celina Westervelt said one witness who was driving south on St. Francis told police he or she had to slow down to give LeBeau a chance to get across the street just before she was hit.

Its all conjecture as to what happened next. Did she run the light or enter late or on yellow? What is the yellow cycle time for Zia? Maybe in the rush to get across the intersection, LeBeau overshot the crossing or just missed the fact of the train. Anyone can guess. Would a gate have helped? We will never know. What we do know is that you can, especially in tight situations, get killed out there, bicycle trails or not. Lesson learned: Be careful and conservative out there.

Some of this bears on John Allen's recent growling at People for Bikes, a pseudograssroots organization of the bike biz. I'm not an ardent foe of the organization, but I do have a bone to pick with its attempt to create uncritical riders dependent on advocates or government to provide for their safety. There stated goal "Riding made simple. The choice to ride a bike is yours. The responsibility to ensure safe and convenient riding opportunities is ours." That statement kinda misses the point. Riding a bicycle may be simple enough. Riding it safely requires a modicum of personal engagement or as my mom used to say, "I can't pour it into your head in liquid form."

Find the cyclist
The responsibility to provide safe and when possible, convenient riding falls to all of us. Depending on advocacy or government to provide for your safety is a one or two legged stool--an inherently unstable situation. It takes smart riding and reasonably well designed facilities (not all facilities live up to their billing, either) to be safe out there. Government and advocacy can help with facilities and education, but in the final analysis, its the competent, engaged rider who has to put it all together. That balance of responsibilities must be carefully maintained. We all have a role to play in safe riding. Especially the cyclist.

Note added later. Its not just cyclists, of course. From Carol Clark's Daily Post. Someone tell me, sun or not, how you miss a tractor trailer:


JerryM said...
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Khal said...
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JerryM said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Khal said...

Jerry M said this before I accidentally deleted it.

"Another thing I noticed from watching (the video) a few times. The angle between the train and cyclist stays almost constant the whole time. What that means is there is no change in position in the field of view or no motion to detect in the cyclist's peripheral vision. The train just gets larger. That is one of the reasons we have mid-airs with airplanes and is why pilots are taught to scan and move their head to look for traffic. A spec in the sky stays in the same place out the windscreen and slowly gets bigger and bigger and many times not noticed until its too late. "

Anonymous said...

On Saturday May 3 got some eyeglasses at the Zia Walgreen's, but drove there, probably because knee didn't want to be used or, and, I didn't want to walk on it. While parked at Walgreen's, I decided to go across St. F along the path of the bicyclist that lost her entire life when she did so on her bike a week or two ago and was hit by a railroad train on the far west side. It was more illuminating to do that than I thought it would be, by which I mean I could _easily_ see how she might miss an entire train. There is as usual so much psychological pressure to be felt from crossing in front of waiting automobile traffic and there are so many visual distractions off to the right and upper right to the northwest, in the area of visual field which is the same area as the direction from which the train traveled proceeding southward, as one crosses along in there. Those distractions are cantilevered traffic lights, signs, aluminum poles all over the place, railroad stuff. I was a pedestrian, without a helmet or goggles. If the wind was blowing northward, she might not have heard the train and obviously she didn't see it or didn't see it correctly or didn't see it in time to stop - something.

.... Driving, many times I've stopped, looked, started to go - out of a driveway for example - and then noticed that whoa! a vehicle IS coming, I'd just not seen it the first glance. Dangerous and odd, but it's happened a bunch of times over many decades. Can happen when you are in a hurry.

Walking, it's entirely possible to get lost in your thoughts, or fiddle with your cell phone, not pay attention, stumble, trip, fall, and get hurt. This has happened to me.

Bicycling, things move fast and it's always easy to have an accident. I've had some. This one though, was really unlikely and really tragic.

Anonymous said...

The traffic lights at that intersection have been screwed up for maybe a year. When I tried to cross East to West just as she did, about half the time the light would blink to green and then right back to red again, not even giving me, a single car, time to get across--and I my car is in good condition with good acceleration. What I believe happened is that she had no hope of crossing in time on a bicycle, so she was calmly trying to get out of the way of St. Francis southbound traffic--and you see here that a motorist says he had to slow for her. Attempting to cross safely despite a malfunctioning crossing light took her attention off of the other danger: a train. Yes there were lights and gates--but not on the trail she was using to cross. She crossed sucessfully, managing not to get hit by the often insane drivers along St. Francis, and was hit by a train instead. Sure the conductor honked his horn...but he just wasn't fast enough. The city is culpable: not only for the lights but for refusing to allow the Railrunner to regularly honk at crossings. I brought this up publicly right after the accident, and guess what? Yep. The intersection's lights have been fixed.

Too bad the city has to blame her.

Khal said...

Does the city or the State DoT maintain those traffic lights?