Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Crash on W&OD Trail Monday June 13

We learned that a cyclist was involved in a bike/car crash at the intersection of Michael Faraday Dr and the W&OD Trail at around 7:45 a.m. on Monday, June 13. The cyclist was riding through the crosswalk and a motorist drove in front of him. The cyclist struck the side of the motor vehicle. The cyclist has no memory of the crash. If you witnessed the crash on Monday, June 13 at around 7:45 a.m. or heard anything about it, please contact us.

The cyclist suffered a concussion, a broken rib, and various bruises and road rash. The cyclist was unconscious when he was taken to the trauma center at Inova Fairfax Hospital, where the police issued him a ticket for failure to yield right of way.

At this location there is a very short distance between the nearest road intersection and the trail crossing. A fast-moving motorist could come upon a cyclist very quickly, which may have been the case in this situation. Traffic volume on Michael Faraday Ct is very low, approximately 210 vehicles per day, which is much less than traffic volume on the trail. Fairfax Co recently counted trail users within a mile of this intersection and the daily totals ranged from 887 to 2709. A strong argument could be made for installing STOP signs for motorists traveling on Michael Faraday Ct.

According to the crash report, the VA code used for the citation was 46.2-826, "Stop before entering public highway or sidewalk from private road, etc.; yielding right-of-way.” There is some confusion about whether this is the proper code to use in this case. According to a VDOT report about the zig zag markings on Sterling Blvd, they commented on this confusion:
With regard to language in the Code regarding vehicles entering a public highway from a road other than a highway, § 46.2-826 states: “The driver of a vehicle entering a public highway or sidewalk from a private road, driveway, alley, or building shall stop immediately before entering such highway or sidewalk and yield the right-of-way to vehicles approaching on such public highway and to pedestrians or vehicles approaching on such public sidewalk.” Again in this case, however, bicycles are not considered “vehicles” by § 46.2-100 because “a private road, driveway, alley, or building” does not meet the Code’s definition of a “highway.” Therefore, this code provision does not appear to apply to bicyclists on the W&OD Trail.”
On the other hand, on June 14, 2013 the VA Attorney General's office issued an opinion on the enforcement of STOP signs on the W&OD Trail: "Accordingly, it is my opinion that law enforcement officers may enforce against trailer [sic] users stop signs installed on the W&OD Trail if such signs represent a rule or regulation adopted by NVRPA under the Virginia Park Authorities Act." The opinion does not state which code should be used for writing a citation.

The bottom line is be very careful when crossing road intersections. We know that most trail users don't come to a complete stop (including Fairfax Co bike police). But if you don't stop, and are involved in a crash with a motorist, there's a good chance you will either be found to be at fault or the contributory negligence law in VA will prevent you from winning in civil court.

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I am very sorry to hear this.

> Traffic volume on Michael Faraday Ct is very low, approximately 210 vehicles per day

Um... rubbish. Look on the sat photo above. The building on the top left is a pre school. At opening and closing it has heavy traffic. The building on the right is the ice rink. The traffic in and out of the rink, when it is in session (when teams are practicing or there are games) can be constant and robust. Not shown but at the top of the photo is the parking area for an entrance to the Lake Fairfax MTB trail system. At peak (both the school and the rink let out simultaneously), there can be traffic jams right at this spot.

No, this is not Wiehle Ave. The car traffic volume certainly is lower. But the car traffic is absolutely constant and at times quite high. Furthermore, the sight lines for the cyclist coming into that intersection are obstructed. They cant see you and you cant see them.

Any cyclists going across Faraday has got to confirm whether there is traffic, confirm whether the traffic sees you, and confirm whether the traffic is going to stop. Just like every road crossing in that section, it is heads up and hands on brakes.
The average daily traffic number is from VDOT. I have no idea when they collected the data; it could have been years ago. I agree that there is regular traffic on Michael Faraday. That said, would you oppose having STOP signs on the road similar to the entrance to Newton Square about a mile to the west?
Did I say I opposed anything???

What I said is that Faraday, like most of the trail / road crossings in that part - gets regular traffic and cyclists need to be very heads up. That's what needs to happen today - not what could happen tomorrow if you could over come political opposition of the ice rink.
As an advocacy group, we think about how conditions could be better in the future, and personally I think having more trail intersections where motorists are required to stop for trail users would make conditions safer. If police are going to treat the W&OD Trail as a road when they write tickets, which they do, then VDOT should use the same guidance for installing stop signs as they do when two roads intersect, and that guidance is mostly based on traffic volume.
Who would have received the infraction if the cyclist was already in the SUP "crosswalk" and the motor vehicle still did not yield and the cyclist struck the side of the motor vehicle? The cyclist because they struck the motor vehicle rather than the other way around? This is, in fact, the very scenario I come upon at this intersection on the W&OD, along with Wheile, Sunrise Valley, Sunset Hills, and Sterling Blvd. Motor vehicles proceed and fail to yield the right of way even when a cyclist or pedestrian has already proceeded to enter the crosswalk on "reasonably clear" traffic conditions (and I'm not talking the roadway clear or all traffic in each direction for blocks...that is not practicable). At SUP crossing, once your front wheel enters the crossing YOU are the stop sign. Any other condition results in failure to yield right of way on the part of any traffic traveling in a perpendicular motion to the individual already proceeding in the crossing....This, unfortunately, does not seem to be enforced by the FCPD as this has also happened to me many times at the FFX CO trail crossing and New Dominion EVEN when police are present in their vehicles for right on red and speeding violations. Signage is great...but enforcement of existing vehicle code is better.
According to 46.2-924. Drivers to stop for pedestrians; installation of certain signs; penalty, "The driver of any vehicle on a highway shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian crossing such highway: 1. At any clearly marked crosswalk, whether at mid-block or at the end of any block;"

However, the code also states that "No pedestrian shall enter or cross an intersection in disregard of approaching traffic." In my experience, the motorist involved in a crash will say they didn't see the cyclist who darted into the street. It's hard to get the cyclist's point of view when they are unconscious and headed to the hospital. In this case the cyclist was issued a ticket at the hospital. Unfortunately, and this isn't uncommon, the cyclist has no memory of the crash.

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