Category Archives: safety

Incidence of Pedestrian and Bicyclist Crashes by Hybrid Electric Passenger Vehicles

This ponderously-name technical report from the NHTSA, Incidence of Pedestrian and Bicyclist Crashes by Hybrid Electric Passenger Vehicles [DOT HS 811 204 pdf here]

Has a bunch of interesting tidbits. It’s obviously leading or suggesting that quieter motorvehicles, particularly at low speeds where tire noise would be less significant, have a tendency to not be heard by cyclists or peds thus leading to more crashes. Sounds plausible. The difference may explain some human behavioral factors of operators of bicycles; such as why cyclists rarely make a complete stop, yet rarely get seriously injured in those situations. (Motorist, too, rarely stop but that’s another story)

What mainly caught my eye was a juicy dataset as describe in the METHODS section “State crash files from NHTSA’s State Data System (SDS)… The SDS includes all police-reported crashes, regardless of the injury or crash outcomes”. Though the SDS actually only contains records for 32 states, arizona not being one of them.

Distraction receives attention

The US DOT put on a major two-day Distracted Driving Summit. Here is a news story about the conference from the WSJ.

There was a media blitz including e.g. major press push from AAA, and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.

The federal government announced via executive order an immediate ban on texting for employees while driving government vehicles or while driving on official business in any other vehicle.

Legislation will be pushed which will ban texting while driving for federally regulated drivers, such as bus, truck, drivers. In addition, legislation to “encourage” states to likewise ban texting will be likely be introduced. The feds have no direct control over what legislation states enact — but (a big but), they can tie such things to withholding of federal monies, a la seatbelt and age-of-drinking, and 0.08BAC laws.

While all of this sounds good on the surface, my take is that is designed to make it appear to be getting tough on DD (distracted driving) while more-or-less ignoring the bulk of the problem. Why not a ban on talking on cell phones? (the “handsfree” business is just subterfuge). Or why not just enact real penalties for distracted drivers who harm others? This driver received a $254 fine for KILLING somebody. Here’s another driver — the police, because of an oversight, didn’t even write the citation. Just two examples of a huge class of inattentive drivers; drivers distracted by who-knows-what. They are apparently either sleeping, or daydreaming or actively distracted — though they rarely admit to the latter.

What does this all mean?

While I’m glad that distracted driving is receiving attention — it looks to me in looking at the press that the powers-that-be are setting up texting as the scapegoat. Texting will eventually be made illegal everywhere; but we will still have all sorts of other inattention being ignored, like talking on cell phones.

here is a blurb that ran in many media stories, but I have to find the source, note that it refers to cell phone use in general, not texting in particular:

A study performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that 955 deaths and 240,000 accidents in 2002 could be attributed to cell phone use. The study was conducted in 2003, but the results weren’t made available until last week… has some good cell links, Motherjones article on the study, and reference to a lawsuit here.

Green Valley cyclist killed

the Arizona Daily Star is reporting a fatality in Green Valley (near Tucson),
Green Valley cyclist, 84 killed in vehicle collision.

It is very unusual for police (in this case the Pima County Sheriff’s Office) to cite immediately. The normal pattern in fatal collisions (see e.g. Allen Johnson) is nothing gets issued, a lengthy investigation (most of elapsed time is due to waiting on tox results)  is conducted, after which the prosecutor declines to file criminal charges, and finally traffic citations are issued. Will there be no further investigation? Seems hasty. Entry at also see zero-citations-so-far-for-three-foot-passing-rule-in-tucson-this-year for interesting facts about just how rare citations for 28-735 are.

There was a nice article about Jerome in the Green Valley News, interesting discussions about criminal negligence at

The case was settled for only $254 in fines, covering two citations, according to the GV News “David Armstrong, 76, of Green Valley, pleaded responsible to ‘overtaking bicycles – fatal,’ and ‘driving in the bike lane’ and was fined $140.50 and $113.50 respectively”. No word as to why the fine for violating §28-735 , which carries a fine of “up to” $1,000,  was settled for far less — not that it really makes much difference, but after all what’s the point of having enhanced penalties for more serious outcomes if the judge/magistrate doesn’t apply it? It was Case number TR-20091755 in Green Valley Justice court.

I have no idea how the fines are arrived at. The fine schedule according to the list for ddp (but defensive driving school isn’t an option, I’m just using it to look up court fees), for Green Valley is $120 court fee plus $40 state fee. Perhaps that is where the $140.50 comes from? Which I suppose means the “enhanced” part if it is $0.

Here is a google maps street view of N Desert Bell Drive. It appears to be a full-up bike lane; albeit with “old” bike lane signs and the diamond markings. the street view when I checked it in March of 2012 was dated April 2008, so I don’t know if it’s been updated with the new MUTCD 2003 signs/markings.

2009 AZ Cyclist Fatality Grid

By Alexis Huicochea
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 09.03.2009
An 84-year-old bicyclist died this morning after he was struck by a car in Green Valley.
Jerome Featherman was riding south on North Desert Bell Drive, near West Calle de Oro, at 9:38 a.m. when a motorist drove into the bike lane and hit him, said Deputy Dawn Barkman, a Pima County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman.
Featherman was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, she said.
The driver of the car – David Armstrong, 76 – was given a citation on suspicion of violation of the three-foot passing rule causing death and driving in a bike path.
The three-foot passing rule states that when passing a bicycle that is going in the same direction, a motorist has to leave a safe distance between the vehicle and the bicycle of not less than three feet until the vehicle is safely past the bicycle.

Who’s Responsible?

There is a claim floating around that some study has concluded that motorists are responsible for some 90% of car-bike collisions.

This would be a lot higher than is generally appreciated. I’ve grappled with this a little bit before in Understanding Collision Summaries, where I pointed out an inexplicably high proportion of  “other” violations assigned to bicyclists.

So far, I’ve found a page at with a table that is said to be source from Tomlinson, David. Conflicts Between Cyclists and Motorists in Toronto, Canada. Link to a .pdf on the

The same claim can be found in a newslettery article dated Aug 19, 2009 on a University of Toronto website entitled Smart Cycling. the information was supplied by a physcian, Dr. Chris Cavacuti, who is also involved with projectfreeride. And a correction with that article that was posted Aug 26:

In the interview, Dr. Cavacuiti is quoted as saying “The [Toronto Collision] study concluded that cyclists are the cause of less than 10 per cent of bike-car accidents”. Dr. Cavacuiti has asked us to make readers aware that the Toronto Collision study was actually designed to look at the cause of bicycle/motorist collisions but not culpability.

It is actually several studies conducted by the Charles Komanoff and member of the Right of Way organization in New York that concluded that concluded that cyclists were strictly culpable for less than 10 per cent of bike-car accidents.

Dr. Cavacuiti would like to apologize for any confusion this error may have caused.

On the projectfreeride page,  in a statement summarizing Tomlinson’s findings, the page at projectfreeride says “In fact, cyclists are the cause of less than 10% of bike-car accidents in this study”. Is that really what Tomlinson found? Or should the correction mentioned above be also applied to the projectfreeride page too?

This claim got picked up by the Freakonomics blog, garnering wide exposure.

Skepticism at the commuteorlando blog. Links the 90% claim back to Komanoff’s group Killed by Automobile paper. More links here on cycledog.

(more to come…)

See my own figures for manner-and-fault-in-bicyclist-traffic-fatalities-arizona-2009 which, according to the police reports/investigation, found motorists most-at-fault in about 50% of fatal traffic collisions between a MV and bicyclist in 2009.

Another hit-and-run; this time Mesa

A cyclist was seriously injured by a hit-and-run driver in Mesa in the early-evening timeframe. Monday Aug 24, 2009.  Police arrested Benito Gil-Mendoza, 31,  on suspicion of aggravated assault and hit-and-run.

The azcentral story says the collision was 6:30p. Sunset that day in Phoenix is 7:03p. No mention of lights was made in either of the news stories.

How will this one play out? After all, three hours is a long time. The suspect will likely deny he was drunk at the time.

Continue reading Another hit-and-run; this time Mesa

Queen Creek hit-and-run; driver arrested

Another bicyclist fatality, the fourth fatal Phoenix metro area hit-and-run in just over two months.

See Phoenix hit-and-runs disturbingly similar for a rundown on the other three.

According to MCSO, on 8/15/2009 ~2am three cyclists were EB on Ocotillo Rd ne

ar 228th St, the motorist was WB in the EB lane — i.e. head on. The motorist fled the scene and MCSO later arrested Gary Foshe, 53. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) provides police services to the town of Queen Creek. The name of the suspect is probably actually Gary Lynn Foshee — there is a 53 year old by that name with a civil traffic case in justice court June

of this year (is that in addition to the DUI in Scottsdale 2006, mentioned in the EV Trib article below?).

There are some pictures of a roadside memorial at queencreekevolves. The victim’s name was Russell Jenkins. Pics of the ghostbike memorial here, and here. Continue reading Queen Creek hit-and-run; driver arrested

MAG Stats

There was a nice little piece in the local West Valley paper, Surprise a safe zone for bicycle riders.

They make some rather outlandish claims, though.

According to figures recently released by Maricopa County Association of Governments, Surprise has one of the lowest rates of injuries and fatalities in the county.

Surprise has an average rating of 5.08 per 100,000 of its population for bicyclist injuries and fatalities and 6.31 for pedestrian injuries and fatalities from 2003 through 2007, the latest statistics…

This contrasts with other neighboring cities such as Peoria — with ratings of 16.43 for bicyclists and 11.71 pedestrians, and Glendale — with 26.68 for bicyclists and 31.27 for pedestrians.

Tempe ranks as the most dangerous city for bicyclists with a rating of 93.57 injuries and fatalities per 100,000 and 54.5 for pedestrian injuries and fatalities.

Is bicycling really almost twenty times more dangerous in Tempe relative to Surprise? One imagines it has more to do with the amount of cycling relative to population. And other distortions, e.g. maybe ASU students aren’t counted as Tempe residents.

Here is MAG’s Transpo Committee page, to see the data referred to in the story, open page Crash Trends in the MAG Region 2001-2007 and then click on “Injuries and fatalities per 100K population”, and a table with per-city data pops into the same page below the existing stuff (thanks to Sarath for pointing that out).

Phoenix Hit-and-runs disturbingly similar

There has been a third fatal hit-and-run in Phoenix, the third within two months — one in June, one in July and one (so far) in August.

Just after midnight this past Saturday,  52 year old cyclist Charles Waldrop was killed by a hit and run driver who witnesses say was driving at a high rate of speed and swerving. Police say an anonymous tip lead to the apprehension and arrest of  23 y.o. Timothy Kissida after he traded (via the “Cash for Clunkers” program) a light blue 1992 BMW 325i w/damage consistent with hit-and-run.  He was booked into the Maricopa County jail and charged with leaving the scene of a fatal collision and tampering with evidence. (KPHO, abc15, azcentral) (CAzBike blog). According to case minutes from 04/08/2010 “The parties anticipate that this matter will resolve prior to Trial.”. Kissida was ultimately sentenced to 10.5 years in prison.

This is disturbingly similar to another incident just 4 weeks ago; also in Phoenix, also in the early morning hours of Saturday, also hit-and-run. In that case, though, police apprehended and was arrested someone soon after the collision. See South Phoenix Hit-and-run for details on that incident.

There was a third nighttime hit-and-run fatality in Phoenix back in June, see Driver confesses to hit-and-run killing

As a note on media coverage; something I normally have complaints about, I have to give credit where it is due — The (and carried the same quotes), sourced to police spokesman Sgt. Tommy Thompson was unambiguous: “The cyclist, 52, was riding home from work and was in full compliance with the bicycle laws. He was riding with a bike light and a rear flashing light in the bike lane.” In the June fatality, police said “Police say that Thompson was riding his bike legally”.

Recap of the Criminal Cases

Index to the three, with outcomes, all drivers were caught and were subsequently convicted of various crimes, though the outcome varied quite a bit:

  • June incident: driver worked a plea for simple hit-and-run; very brief sentence. Presumably because there was apparently no impairment.
  • July incident: driver went to a full trial — found guilty of neg hom among other crimes. Was sentenced to 6 year PLUS a consecutive 3.5 years for the hit-and-run (VERY unusual) — this seems to be his “punishment” for going to trial vs. working a plea deal.
  • August incident: driver plead to manslaughter and got 10.5 years. due to plea deal, the hit-and-run he also plead to netted no incarceration.



2009 AZ Cyclist Fatality Grid

36th and Equestrian traffic circles

Ahwatukee is getting two traffic circles courtesy of the City of Phoenix’s collector street mitigation project. One at Equestrian Trail and Appaloosa Drive, and the other at 36th and Coconino Streets. At the same time, the bike lanes were re-configured on 36th Street. Equestrian Trail also has a bike lane; that has not been altered other than to allow for the circle. Continue reading 36th and Equestrian traffic circles