Saturday, May 22, 2010

Cyclist killed in Fairfax County

On Bike to Work Day a cyclist was killed while riding on a trail adjacent to Lee Highway/Rt 29 at Forum Dr near the county government center. According to the police press release, the motorist was traveling north (east?) on Lee Hwy when he turned left onto Forum Dr. He struck two cyclists who were riding on the trail, killing one of them. The motorist then killed when the vehicle hit a tree. See a Google Map Streetview image of the location, which includes a pedestrian waiting to cross Forum Dr. It sounds like the bicyclist was entering the trail also headed north. The name of the  bicyclist was not released.

The post article quotes Fairfax Detective Scott Neville regarding recent bicycle fatalities:
Traffic fatalities have dropped sharply in Fairfax in recent years, and records indicate that the cyclist's death might be the county's first in more than a year. The majority of the half-dozen cyclist deaths in the past five years have involved Latino immigrants riding to or from work in the dark.

"You want to be careful about stereotyping, but you have to look at the circumstances," said Fairfax Detective Scott Neville, who investigates traffic fatalities. "As much as you hate to say it, it's often a certain socioeconomic class."
Detective Neville is right, he needs to be careful about stereotyping. This is the same police spokesperson who in a Post article on Wed. on cyclist/motorist interactions stereotyped bike commuters by saying: "'The people who do it for sport generally handle their bikes pretty well,' said Detective Scott Neville, who investigates fatal accidents in Fairfax County. 'It's the people who are biking to and from work, without so much awareness or understanding of the law, who get into trouble.'" Does he have any data to back up this dubious claim?

It could be that more Latino immigrants are being killed because they ride their bikes a lot. Many of them depend on bikes as their primary mode of transportation. They ride in all conditions, and usually bicycle conditions in Fairfax are not good. Maybe Detective Neville could stop stereotyping bicyclists and work with the county bike coordinator to improve bicycle conditions in the county.

It appears that the cyclists in this most recent crash were doing nothing wrong and probably could not have avoided the crash. The cause of the crash is being investigated, but it looks like the motorist was incapacitated in some way (heart attack, drunk?).

However, the intersection is an example of how not to accommodate bicyclists or pedestrians. It appears there is a trail on either side of Forum Dr, and yet there is no crosswalk linking them (Google map image). Both sides of Forum Dr at this point contain very wide curb radii, allowing for fast right turns to and from Forum Dr, the worst scenario for trail users. Regardless of whether it would have made a difference in this crash, something needs to be done at this intersection to make it safer for all trail users

FABB plans to meet with Detective Neville to discuss bicycle safety in the county.

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