Friday, July 11, 2014

Rail Runner Video Shows Second Cyclist Killed Never Looked for the Train

This was the fatal on St. Michael's Drive. Video says it all. Article in the New Mexican, video on Youtube.
My earlier post is here. It has a good photo showing a cyclist's approach to the tracks, courtesy of Jerry Merkey.

Ok, for some reason the video is not consistently playing after I tested it here or at the Youtube URL either. You might have to go to the New Mexican. Maybe its blocked or swamped??

Assuming this was accidental (the New Mexican said the rider was depressed after his mom's death), this screams out for cyclist situational awareness. We have to look out for #1.

In a related article in the New Mexican, we read that "Protected Bike Lanes Double in Cities' Bid to Attract Youth."  But protected bike lanes or separate cycling facilities don't relieve a cyclist of the need to ride intelligently and be aware of his or her surroundings in traffic. Both recent fatal bike-train crashes occurred where a separated bicycle facility crossed the tracks and the cyclist failed to observe the train.

One needs space to install these lanes. In many cities including old Santa Fe, such space is at a premium, thus the need to install these strategically. The Cerrillos and St. Francis corridors would be prime candidates.

Cycletracks (another term for protected bike lanes) must be designed properly or their failure modes occur when cyclists and motorists collide at unprotected intersections and driveways. Good European models (visit John Allen's site and specifically, his "cycletrack" posts) have separate green light cycles for cyclists and motorists, and especially control for turning and crossing conflicts using separate turn phases for motorists where cyclists get a red light, and vice versa. This can decrease intersection level of service. Other designs protect cyclists with the use of protective islands that put cyclist stop lines forward of cars and require cyclists to make left turns with two "pedestrian style" crosswalk-like maneuvers. All of these designs trade convenience and efficiency for the alleged benefit of "more safety". But as we see in the video, safety is primarily in one's aware mind.

By the way, People for Bikes is an advocacy organization paid for by the bicycle industry, aka an "astroturf" organization. Its uncritical support for separated facilities owes in part to its bankrollers, who obviously want to increase bike sales. That can be good or bad--or both.


JerryM said...

Examining this video and the previous accident video, you can see the angle between the Railrunner and the cyclist does not change. This means there is no motion to detect in your peripheral vision. The object approaching just gets larger. This is why pilots are taught to scan for traffic and not rely on peripheral vision. many a mid-air collision has occurred because pilots are staring straight ahead or looking at instruments and never see that growing dot off to the side. Just an observation.

Khal said...

True enough. When I was a kid and you got to the tracks out in Alden, you would first look to see if you saw the headlight of an approaching locomotive. If you did, you would watch it briefly to judge distance and how fast it was getting bigger, before crossing. It was a two step process. My parent's house is about 20 miles east of Buffalo and the trains were moving really fast, so watching carefully was important.

But this fellow never even turned his head to look up and down the tracks, so its all moot. Seems to me that given the number of people hit by trains in NM, folks just don't take the hazard very seriously. Maybe its because I grew up with 70 mph freight trains, but I sure do.