Video: When separate infrastructure isn't enough - cyclist hit by SUV on footbridge

But Virginia Department of Transportation says staff allowed to drive on pedestrian and cyclist facility

by Simon_MacMichael   June 17, 2014  

Norfolk VA pedestrian bridge collision YouTube still

Separate infrastructure is not always enough to protect cyclists and pedestrians from injury, as this video from the United States shows, with a bike rider struck head-on by a vehicle while riding across a footbridge – although it transpires the driver may actually have been permitted to use the segregated path.

Cyclist Kelley Howells escaped serious injury as she rode on a caged-off pedestrian and cycle path running alongside the Berkley Bridge in Norfolk, Virginia on Saturday when she was struck by an SUV travelling in the opposite direction.

Ms Howell, who suffered cuts and bruises in the incident, told WVEC-TV: “I saw this vehicle. Oh, my God. Brake. Scream. When I realised I was hitting him, there was no way to stop it.”

She said that the driver was unable to explain why he was there, and when she tried to present video evidence to a police officer, he was unimpressed.

“I said, ‘I have video if you want to see,’ and he said, ‘Oh, why do you have video?’ And I explained that I use it to educate, and he said, ‘Oh maybe you were the person who caused the accident’.”

She was also told police were unable to investigate the incident because an officer had not been called to the scene at the time, though neither the driver nor the cyclist had a mobile phone with them.

Ms Howell said: “[Norfolk] wants to be a bike-friendly community. It’s hard to see how if they have police officers who don’t feel the need to investigate motorists driving on pedestrian bridges.”

Yesterday, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) confirmed that one of its contract employees has been put on administrative leave while they investigate the incident.

In a statement it said its employees are permitted to drive on the pedestrian path, and there are signs warning people on foot and bikes that its vehicles may be present.

A spokeswoman said: “VDOT is working with its contractor to determine the factors involved in the incident and to ensure that proper policy and procedures were followed.”

33 user comments

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As someone that bikes in Virginia often, the bike laws are behind the times. Virginia has failed to adopt many very standard laws protecting cyclists, for example a "dooring" law has failed in the VA senate many times, so if you get doored by someone, they can't be found at fault (huge insurance implications).

I will be surprised if she gets any settlement from the driver's insurance company since no laws were broken, fortunately it doesn't seem that bad an accident. It's hard to believe a car can legally drive on a pedestrian bridge, but it is Virginia. There might be a gun shop on the other end of the walkway, we can't impede that can we.

posted by bobcdc [19 posts]
17th June 2014 - 12:12

25 Likes

At the moment of impact, the car seems to have stopped. And you can see the rider's fingers in the video. There is no braking until right alongside the car. Plus they seem to swerve out slightly as the car is seen approaching, but that could be down to panic. It's an odd one.

posted by DrJDog [182 posts]
17th June 2014 - 12:15

19 Likes

Easy to say she should have reacted faster when you watch the video and know what is coming. But I don't think most people ride along "traffic-free" paths at full hyper-alertness expecting oncoming cars at any moment.

In reality the YouTube timestamps suggest she didn't exactly have a lot of time to brake or take avoiding action:

plenty_of_time.jpg

posted by GrahamSt [115 posts]
17th June 2014 - 12:21

39 Likes

WTF! Only in America. That driver should be disqualified and banned from driving for life. Earlier in the footage there were a group of people walking which the cyclist passed. Presumably the SUV would have come up behind them and would have run them down as well. For Christ's sake it's a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists! In the UK it would be like some c**t in a huge 4x4 deciding to take a short cut down a dedicated cycle path or over the Millennium Bridge in London and mowing down the cyclists and pedestrians on it. As for the local police response ……… much like the cops here when you report you have been knocked down, so no difference. Unbelievable stupidity and selfishness.

Airzound

posted by Airzound [495 posts]
17th June 2014 - 13:17

27 Likes

I think the only way this happens is if you're admiring the view and suddenly you look ahead and realise there's a...

posted by chokofingrz [320 posts]
17th June 2014 - 14:25

4 Likes

Quote:
In the UK it would be like some c**t in a huge 4x4 deciding to take a short cut down a dedicated cycle path

Or a Jaguar...

http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/News/The-moment-a-car-crossed-cycle-brid...

posted by ribena [147 posts]
17th June 2014 - 14:54

6 Likes

ribena wrote:
Quote:
In the UK it would be like some c**t in a huge 4x4 deciding to take a short cut down a dedicated cycle path

Or a Jaguar...

http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/News/The-moment-a-car-crossed-cycle-bridge-07012013.htm

Missed this one. What a numptee. But at least he realised his mistake, well at the point he couldn't exit the other end due probably to a bollard or width restriction so had to reverse. Had there been no physical obstruction at the other end he probably would have carried on and not been caught. Unfortunately for him there was. Was he prosecuted/fined? No, thought not.

Airzound

posted by Airzound [495 posts]
17th June 2014 - 15:00

10 Likes

OldRidgeback wrote:
the driver should have been taking adequate precautions by driving slowly. That clearly was not the case as can be seen in the video.

These structures are not generally designed to cope with large SUVs that weigh up to 2 tonnes such as the one involved in this incident. Cleaning machines or snow sweepers are generally lighter as well.

Point 1a.... Relevant authorities had signs "warning people on foot and bikes that its VEHICLES MAY BE PRESENT." I'd suggest that with the displayed warning signs the cyclist should have been able to come to a full stop if they had been cycling at a safe speed for the possible hazards present. The cyclist has just as much responsibility as the driver to act safely.

1b.... Also Its not clear to me that the vehicle is actually moving when the cyclist hits it.

1c.... Looking at the picture used to illustrate the article it shows a gap about 1/3rd of the path wide i.e. enough for a cyclist going at a safe speed to have got into.

2.... Are you a structural engineer? There are plenty of structures that allow heavy vehicles on a "for access" basis. As for snow ploughs for the road Google tells me they are around 20 tonnes. Even those diddy little ones that you drive on pavements 3.2 tonnes. Compared to a fully stripped out Govt. vehicle i.e "no options" electric windows, no electric leather seats etc.

Are you looking at this objectively or is there an agenda?

posted by Bishop [15 posts]
17th June 2014 - 15:38

7 Likes

Airzound wrote:

Missed this one. Was he prosecuted/fined? No, thought not.

You must be absolutely gutted just think all that anti-car, anti-old person bile you missed out on being able to spew up Crying

Why should this individual be prosecuted or fined? he made a mistake. Are you advocating that cyclist should be prosecuted for riding on pavements to get around cycling the wrong way up a one way or RLJ'ing? or any number of other road rules that cyclist choose to ignore?

posted by Bishop [15 posts]
17th June 2014 - 15:50

15 Likes

Airzound wrote:
For Christ's sake it's a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists!

Spoken like a TRUE cyclist .... what do you NOT understand about "there are SIGNS warning people on foot and bikes that its VEHICLES MAY BE PRESENT" or are you one of those cyclist blind to red lights, one way signs etc?

posted by Bishop [15 posts]
17th June 2014 - 16:29

15 Likes

Bishop wrote:
are you one of those cyclist blind to red lights, one way signs etc?

And with that comment you have revealed yourself as the troll you are.

Applause

posted by GrahamSt [115 posts]
17th June 2014 - 16:35

34 Likes

GrahamSt wrote:

And with that comment you have revealed yourself as the troll you are.

In what way? or are my comments a bit too close to the truth?

The issue here is there is a large cyclist lynch mob who will defend to the hilt whatever a cyclist does no matter how stupid or reckless. It does cyclist and cycling in general a huge is disservice. Until we get our own house in order how do do you expect anything will change?

posted by Bishop [15 posts]
17th June 2014 - 16:59

13 Likes

Bishop wrote:

Until we get our own house in order how do do you expect anything will change?

Get out of my house, mate. I don't remember giving you the keys.

Work harder. Buy a tank.

userfriendly's picture

posted by userfriendly [325 posts]
17th June 2014 - 17:27

27 Likes

Bishop wrote:
In what way? or are my comments a bit too close to the truth?

No, far from it - they simply repeat the same tired old sweeping generalisations that many of us hear from drivers on a regular basis.
Waffling on about red light jumping, one way streets, riding on pavements, ignoring traffic laws - none of which have any relevance whatsoever to this story.

You should have slipped in something about "road tax" for the full house. Yawn

Bishop wrote:
The issue here is there is a large cyclist lynch mob who will defend to the hilt whatever a cyclist does no matter how stupid or reckless.

I don't see anything in that video which suggests that cyclist is "stupid or reckless". To me it looks like someone travelling at a perfectly reasonable speed and understandably getting a bit of a shock when they unexpectedly meet an oncoming SUV on what is supposed to be a traffic-free segregated bridge.

If you read the comments on Facebook or YouTube you'll see that many of the "cyclist lynch mob" are actually slagging the cyclist off for failing to react in time. (Rather unjustly I feel).

And yes there may well be a sign warning of vehicles. The gallery in the linked WVEC-TV article certainly shows a photo of one. But that doesn't stop it being an incredibly stupid idea. Nor does it diminish the responsibility of the driver to take extreme care when driving through a no-cars area.

posted by GrahamSt [115 posts]
17th June 2014 - 17:35

27 Likes

Have to say it looks like the woman on the bike is daydreaming, the car is clearly visible from 18 seconds, the still from GrahamSt is from 15 not 18 seconds, and in the next three seconds she makes no attempt to avoid the collision and appears to only be aware of it at the point of impact when she crys out. That car could just as easily have been another cyclist

"WTF! Only in America", well, no, actualy overhere as well. It's perfectly legal for a vehicle to be on a cyclepath or right of way if they are involved in maintenace of the path, work for the highways authority and are there for maintenance or inspection purposes or work for a utility company involved in works on the path.

posted by spen [94 posts]
17th June 2014 - 18:29

6 Likes

On my cycle commute this morning I saw (as I always do) enough cyclist jumping read lights etc to make it a valid point. Your "sweeping generalisation" comment seem to be the cycle apologists standard reply and then quickly move on.

I was speaking in general about a cyclist lynch mob but as an example a car driver hits a 9 year cyclist on a pedestrian crossing seriously injuring her then drives off. There would be outrage yet when its a cyclist riding off the response is completely different (comment 3 with others)....
http://www.cyclechat.net/threads/hit-and-run-cyclist-badly-injures-girl-...
"I wonder whether in the interests of balance, and before the anti-cyclist brigade start foaming at the mouth..."

Was the lone woman driver from Kingston afforded the same balance?

Lets look at the title to this News item.... its says "cyclist hit by SUV on footbridge"
Where does the "FOOTbridge" come from I can find no reference to foot in ANY article I've read on this incident. The original article says "Bridge" Why was it felt necessary to prefix Bridge with foot?

EVEN you yourself mention "a sign warning of vehicles" Its NOT 'A' sign its "signS" its plural i.e there more than 1 BIG BRIGHT YELLOW SIGNS from the image you point to.

Its Insidious .

The cyclist is NEVER wrong unless they are.

posted by Bishop [15 posts]
17th June 2014 - 18:32

8 Likes

Bishop wrote:
On my cycle commute this morning I saw (as I always do) enough cyclist jumping read lights etc to make it a valid point.

How on earth does that make it a "valid point" in relation to this article??

I might as well counter-argue that on my commute I saw (as I always do) a driver speeding whilst sending a text so the SUV driver must be in the wrong here.

Bishop wrote:
There would be outrage yet when its a cyclist riding off the response is completely different (comment 3 with others)....
http://www.cyclechat.net/threads/hit-and-run-cyclist-badly-injures-girl-...
"I wonder whether in the interests of balance, and before the anti-cyclist brigade start foaming at the mouth..."

That would be the comment which starts with "I hope they throw the book at him." - which you strangely omitted in your quote?

I don't see many people on that thread saying the cyclist did no wrong. But more to the point, WTF has it got to do with this incident???

Bishop wrote:
Lets look at the title to this News item.... its says "cyclist hit by SUV on footbridge"
Where does the "FOOTbridge" come from I can find no reference to foot in ANY article I've read on this incident. The original article says "Bridge" Why was it felt necessary to prefix Bridge with foot?

I don't think Americans use the term "footbridge". The original article variously refers to it as "a pedestrian bridge", "pedestrian walkway" and a "caged pedestrian/bike lane" - so "footbridge" seems like an accurate translation to me, especially given the "cyclists as pedestrians" rules that they have in the States.

Bishop wrote:
i.e there more than 1 BIG BRIGHT YELLOW SIGNS from the image you point to.

I count one. With no context to back up your assertion that you will see more than one sign on approach or that it is big bright and prominent. In fact the other image suggests it might be obscured behind some direction signs.

BerkleySign1.jpeg

posted by GrahamSt [115 posts]
17th June 2014 - 18:56

16 Likes

So she may not have expected to meet a car whether she saw/knew about the signs or not, but follow the shadow and her line and look at where the car goes and how slow (maybe stopped) he appears to be at the time of impact.
Looks to me like he reacted and she didn't.
Stow the pitch forks for another day from what I see.

Forum rudeness is for the weak - pity them.

posted by Eebijeebi [88 posts]
17th June 2014 - 19:01

7 Likes

I have no idea what evidence people can glean from that video to suggest the car driver had stopped. And I'll bet the regs aren't in place to allow employees to drive their private vehicle on that bridge.

posted by paulfg42 [379 posts]
17th June 2014 - 19:23

11 Likes

There was plenty of room, the vehicle had stopped......would flashing lights have avoided this?

What if it were a large group of pedestrians?

It's idiotic that a vehicle is there unless necessary for maintenance (i.e towing a compressor for repairs or suchlike).... But there was plenty of room and it appeared to be crawling.

Or am I missing something, was it moving too fast?

All Campag

posted by Flying Scot [682 posts]
17th June 2014 - 20:08

3 Likes

The story says "Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) confirmed that one of its contract employees has been put on administrative leave while they investigate the incident"

I'm guessing that means it wasn't Joe Public becoming confused or taking a sneaky shortcut, but someone driving across the bridge as part of their job (e.g. for bridge inspection). There's a similar situation on the Forth Road Bridge, where you regularly encounter Bridge Authority maintenance vehicles driving along the pedestrian/cycling path in the morning, and quite often "civilian" vehicles belonging to contractors.

It's possible the driver was travelling too fast and didn't slow down. It's also possible the driver was driving cautiously at an appropriate speed and the cyclist just wasn't paying attention and saw the vehicle too late. You can't really tell from that video, and it is impossible to make an accurate judgement about what speed both parties were travelling at.

posted by kcr [77 posts]
17th June 2014 - 20:28

7 Likes

GrahamSt wrote:
Easy to say she should have reacted faster when you watch the video and know what is coming. But I don't think most people ride along "traffic-free" paths at full hyper-alertness expecting oncoming cars at any moment.

In reality the YouTube timestamps suggest she didn't exactly have a lot of time to brake or take avoiding action:


This picture is fake.
You can see the car at 0:17 already, clearly. And thats a wide angle camera.
The hit is indeed at 0:21.

Thats 4 full seconds - at this speed, both could have stopped. It looks like they both decided they were going slow enough with enough space to both fit in.

Since the bike hit the car well starting to go along the car, I VERY HIGHLY suspect the cyclist hit the car on purpose. And as a cyclist who doesnt own a car, I despite people faking accidents.

posted by muffies [16 posts]
18th June 2014 - 2:05

7 Likes

Bishop wrote:

1c.... Looking at the picture used to illustrate the article it shows a gap about 1/3rd of the path wide i.e. enough for a cyclist going at a safe speed to have got into.

Wide-angle lenses distort horizontal distances. The cyclist has a lot less room than you think. I would estimate that the gap between parapet and SUV mirror to be about 24". To put this into perspective road-bike handlebars are about 18" so the rider has about 6" to spare. The distance between parapet and the first longitudinal shadow is about handle-bar width.

As to comments about the cyclists reaction time then I would like to point out that you react quicker to things you expect. Who would expect an SUV driving towards you on a cycle path?

You have to question the choice of inspection vehicle. Surely this could have been done in a more appropriate vehicle. Cycle, motorbike, trike, golf-buggy, gator or shanks pony would all have been more suitable.

posted by levermonkey [395 posts]
18th June 2014 - 6:15

5 Likes

muffies wrote:
This picture is fake.
You can see the car at 0:17 already, clearly. And thats a wide angle camera.
The hit is indeed at 0:21.

The picture is two screenshots directly from YouTube. I didn't tamper with it in any way other than to magnify the timeline.

However I do concede that YouTube doesn't do a great job of syncing the image with the timeline when you scroll through it. If someone wants to download the video and stick it into a proper editor with frame-by-frame time code then that should give a definitive answer.

Just watching it through with one eye on the time, there is no sign of the SUV at 0:17.

I'm not sure why you think a wide lens makes a difference? If anything that magnifies the distances involved and makes it appear she has much more space than reality.

muffies wrote:
I VERY HIGHLY suspect the cyclist hit the car on purpose.

Sounded like a pretty genuine cry of surprise and alarm to me!

If the cyclist is guilty of anything then it is slightly slow reactions - but people don't ride on traffic-free paths in the same "high alert" state that they do on roads. That's one of the pleasures of such paths.

posted by GrahamSt [115 posts]
18th June 2014 - 7:24

10 Likes

Airzound wrote:
For Christ's sake it's a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists! In the UK it would be like some c**t in a huge 4x4 deciding to take a short cut down a dedicated cycle path or over the Millennium Bridge in London and mowing down the cyclists and pedestrians on it.

Try the cycle path over the Avonmouth M5 bridge between Pill and Avonmouth.

Shared-use, for bicycles and pedestrians. Oh, and mobility scooters, and motorcycles under 50cc so long as they stick to a 15 mph limit.

And yet its used as a shortcut by people on two motorised wheels who can't be bothered to go all the way out to the motorway - kids on souped up scooters, and one time "That very large Harley Davidson motorcycle you're riding at 30 mph, sir, is the engine capacity less than 50cc?" "F- off!"

I daren't take my kids on it.

posted by brooksby [210 posts]
18th June 2014 - 7:33

12 Likes

Bishop wrote:
On my cycle commute this morning I saw (as I always do)

Yeah, and I rode my magic Llama in to work this morning so I could simply fly over all the traffic.

I'll give you a 5/10 for your trolling attempts, a bit more generous than most but your commitment to utter nonsense has drawn a few people in so should be reflected in your score.

Huge scope for improvement though.

posted by farrell [1580 posts]
18th June 2014 - 9:09

6 Likes

Airzound wrote:
ribena wrote:
Quote:
In the UK it would be like some c**t in a huge 4x4 deciding to take a short cut down a dedicated cycle path

Or a Jaguar...

http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/News/The-moment-a-car-crossed-cycle-bridge-07012013.htm

Missed this one. What a numptee. But at least he realised his mistake, well at the point he couldn't exit the other end due probably to a bollard or width restriction so had to reverse. Had there been no physical obstruction at the other end he probably would have carried on and not been caught. Unfortunately for him there was. Was he prosecuted/fined? No, thought not.

I know the bridge. There's a really sharp 90 degree angle to get onto it, and you'd probably have to ride over a couple of kerbs to do it.

It's very narrow - barely one cars' width on the cycle path. It's not at all constructed like a roadbridge. Plus, you know, it's full of pedestrians and cyclists. I've never been over it when there haven't been at least a dozen other users, even at night, and this was daytime.

Anyone who can't tell you shouldn't be driving there isn't pay enough attention to their surroundings, and shouldn't be on the road.

And you wouldn't need to go all the way to the end to realise your mistake, although perhaps by that point they thought it would be easier to drive out.

https://www.google.com/maps/@52.195361,0.14195,3a,75y,324.16h,60.47t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sAtpzaBPifeRTVopoI7W9HA!2e0

posted by HKCambridge [175 posts]
18th June 2014 - 11:15

1 Like

First of all let me apologise for what I am about to say, as some people may find it offensive

When I first watched the footage, I couldnt help but laugh at the drivers last comment, as the bike and rider are on the floor, and a little snigger at the comedy scream she came out with.

However, on a more serious note, the driver doesnt look like he is speeding, and you can see him slowing and pulling to the side as he sees the cyclist, however the cyclist is slowing drifting out towards him, oblivious. If she had stayed on the side of the path, that she had been following seconds earlier, she may well only have clipped the wing mirror or something, and not made that comedy scream she came out with.

As a person who has been clipped by wing mirrors, sometimes downhill at 30 miles an hour, I can admit to myself its not the best thing to happen to anyone, but I managed to stay upright at 30 miles an hour, but fell off at 10 miles an hour, so each time is different, but I have to admit her reaction times seemed awfully slow. Even for me, 3-4 seconds is a long time to not notice a big fuck off SUV coming your way.

I hope she didnt get too damaged, and isnt put off cycling.

God Bless America and all the morons who live across there.

I go great with chips Tongue

posted by tommyketchup [85 posts]
18th June 2014 - 11:17

3 Likes

I've watched it 1/2 dozen times and in my opinion it should be renamed cyclist hits SUV...irrespective of the vehicle ROW on the 'foot' bridge...the cyclist makes no attempt to slow or avoid the vehicle...injury lawyers 4 u...springs to mind. The cyclist 'misjudged the gap' and came off the worst.

The_Kaner
FREEEEEEEEDOM!

The _Kaner's picture

posted by The _Kaner [516 posts]
18th June 2014 - 11:33

1 Like

Interesting how you get so many different perspectives on the same footage. I read all the comments before looking at it. I can see the SUV just arriving at 18s. You can see it starts off central in the bridge and then pulls all the way across (as far as it can) as the bike approaches, from the way the front wheel starts up lined up with the shadows of the enclosure and then moves away from it. That suggests he was looking and did what he could to get out of the way. If you look at those shadows, it seems like the SUV is about the same width as the space between the two shadows, and that is probably about 60-70% of the width of the bridge? If you assume the SUV is about 7ft wide, then the gap for the bike is perhaps 3 ft or so. Not massive, but certainly enough to get through if she had made any effort to change line - I certainly didn't see that happening.
As for the conspiracy theory about 'deliberately looking for an accident' ... that would be inspired crystal ball gazing to know the vehicle would be on the bridge, wouldn't it???
It seems to me she just wasn't looking, and only realised the car was there at the last moment. I don't see what else the car could have done. If it was there for inspection / maintenance, and had a right to be there, then her collision is the unfortunate effect of inattention.

posted by edster99 [207 posts]
18th June 2014 - 13:52

2 Likes