I see a recent letter to the editor imploring bikes to follow the law. The complaints are noted, with many bicyclists flaunting traffic laws, failing to use lights “or reflective markers on their clothing or bicycles at night. They compound the problem by wearing dark clothing.”
But I have a different view – cars don’t follow the law either. And I have stories to back it up. Since March of 2014, my wife and I have each had our cars hit three times. We have had two cars totaled in that time. Four of the times were in the city of Davis. None of those times were we declared at fault. And, fortunately, in no instance was someone injured. In at least one case, that fact could be considered a miracle.
Worse yet, I can recall no fewer than three near misses in the last year. I believe there are ongoing problems in several parts of town.
It all started last March when my wife was driving our two youngest to school. She was on westbound Cowell, and the light had turned green at the corner of Mace. She started to proceed, but a northbound car failed to slow at the red light on Mace and careened into her. Fortunately, it missed the passenger compartment, and our car, while in bad condition, was not totaled – this time.
No sooner had we gotten the car repaired but a car side-swiped us on I-80 by the toll booth at the Bay Bridge. Less damage to repair this time.
My problems started on Election Day, I had dropped the kids off at Montgomery. I was backing out of the parking spot, when a van that had already passed the spot suddenly saw the spot and went into reverse quickly. My dashcam did not catch the collision visually but was able to show my car had stopped going backwards for one and a half seconds when the collision occurred. My car was technically totaled, though I was able to drive it for nine months as a salvage before buying a new car in July.
A few weeks later a car backed into my parked car in a parking lot. Fortunately, I was not there and there no damage. Were it not for my landlord, the person would not have stopped.
Finally, this spring, I was waiting for a parking space to open up in the Starbucks parking lot in North Davis when a car backed directly into me, knocking out headlights and causing minor damage.
The coup de grâce, however, was my niece this August was driving our car on I-5. She was in the left-most lane when she saw a car moving into her lane. She tried to pull into the median, but got hit and ended up spinning to the right-most lane. The car flipped upside down but, miraculously, she was uninjured.
This was literally two or three weeks after we bought the other car, and we had to make a second purchase.
I have a nice collection of dashcam footage. There was the person who suddenly pulled from a right-turn lane, pulling onto Cowell suddenly instead of merging from Mace, doing a u-turn directly in front of my car. There was a left turn as I drove northbound on B where the car tried to jump the light at 3rd Street and I had to slam on my brakes as they turned in front of my oncoming car. Finally, the most scary was also on B, crossing Russell at a green light when a car went flying through the intersection running the light by at least five seconds, and I again narrowly averted getting hit.
The downtown remains a huge problem with people failing to understand order of right of way at four-way stops. This eventually resulted in the bike meets car incident I caught on my dashcam and posted from last winter. There are also the problems of bicyclists running those stop signs, and delivery vehicles stopping and people failing to understand how to go around them.
Finally, one of my biggest concerns is the street I live on in south Davis. There are lots of kids living on the block, including mine. Cars frequently drive down the street at 35 to 40 mph. There are many times they fail to yield to pedestrians crossing, including young kids. The most amazing thing, from my perspective, is some of those cars have kids inside.
The city has thus far failed to do anything to stop this problem.
We have also had frequent problems with the way people drive around the schools. I sent a dashcam to the police because, as we were turning into Montgomery, a car piggybacked on another car through a stop sign as we were in the process of our left turn, and they actually had to swerve around us to avoid collision.
These are just incidents in the last year and a half. These are just incidents I have personally observed. I am tired of listening to people complain about bikes being unsafe when cars drive way too fast for our roads, they are paying scattered attention, often holding phones and wearing ear buds, and they drive impatiently and with a disregard for human life.
The difference is a bicyclist is more likely to get hurt or injured when they fail to adhere to the rules of the road. Cars are a multi-ton weapon that can kill and maim in an instant.
My call for more patrol officers to patrol the downtown is amplified by a call for more traffic officers. For all the fear that we have following the stabbing, the much bigger threat of death is bad driving. There are far more automobile fatalities than murders.
—David M. Greenwald reporting