An 82-year old motorist turning left onto Union Hills from 15th Avenue struck and killed an 11-year old girl riding in the crosswalk on August 5, 2010. The girl was heading southbound on the west side (i.e. going with the flow of adjacent traffic).
Names have not been released, Phoenix Police officer “Martos said the woman was not impaired and likely will not be charged. Police are still investigating.”
I’m not familiar with this area or intersection [google maps], though Union Hills Dr appears to be a typical Phoenix “car sewer”; 5 lanes of rush rush.
The mechanics of the collision are very similar to Maxwell v. Gossett, where the Arizona Supreme court found for the cyclist, and against the motorist who was turning through the crosswalk. If anything, this is a stronger case for the bicyclist, given the direction.
[azfamily][arizonarepublic][kpho] The kpho piece says in part that “police are trying to determine if she was riding the crosswalk or in the street, because, police say, it is illegal to ride in a crosswalk…”
Where does such patently false, mis-information come from?
Is it legal to ride in a crosswalk?
Setting aside the issue on the relative merits of sidewalk cycling…
By way of some more background on the legality of cycling in crosswalks; an analysis prepared by the Tuscon City Attorney’s office in 1998 found that (my emphasis) “…it is apparent that under the present state of law in Arizona a bicyclist is not prohibited from riding on or across a crosswalk…”.
It’s worth pointing out that this conclusion was reached in Tucson where it is patently illegal to cycle on the sidewalk. I am not aware of any Phoenix ordinance that affects crosswalks, thus we would fall back to the same cases and Arizona statutes analyzed in the above memo.
That being said, saying something is not prohibited is not the same as saying that the car driver must be automatically at fault, e.g. “the court held that bicyclists must still exercise due care and concern for their safety while about to enter or in the crosswalk”.
Please see Sidwalk Cycling in Arizona for more details and references, especially Maxwell v. Gossett.
The Police Report
This is adot incident 2414621 and Phoenix Incident number 10001096939 [I had gotten the number off by a digit from phoenix traffic records, I may have written it down wrong, in any event that caused a large delay in analysis. Victim Madeleine Pila Driver: Marguerite Savarese.
The ACR is available from the city of Phoenix online, there is presumably a DR as well available from Records but I do not have that.
The narrative in its entirety is succinct and very descriptive:
Traffic unit 1 (pedalcyclist) was riding her bicycle southbound in the crosswalk on the west side of the intersection of North 15th Avenue and West Union Hills Drive. Traffic unit 2 (vehicle) was making a left hand turn from northbound 15th Avenue to westbound Union Hills Drive. Unit 2 collided with unit 1 in the marked crosswalk. As a result of the collision, the operartor of unit 1 was pronouced dead at the collision scene by responding paramedics
THE TRAFFIC UNITS ARE LISTED ALPHABETICALLY BY LAST NAME
Note that in Arizona, “Unit #1 is the vehicle, pedestrian, pedalcycle or animal rider that caused the collision or was most at fault” (refer to ADOT AZ Crash Manual; links here), there is no provision for assigning units in any other way. To do so destroys the usefulness of statistics in the ADOT crash database (ALISS). If police are going to do this, it should be corrected before submitted for final inclusion in the database — was this done? It’s not clear; but given that the driver was never cited for any infraction (according to case lookup), it appears the investigation results stand as initially entered.
Though there would seem to be no confusion in assigning fault, the cyclist was for no apparent reason listed in Block 20, Violations/Behaviors “13. Failed to keep in proper lane”. This is nonsensical. From the narrative the cyclists should have been assigned “1. No Improper Action”. See Maxwell v. Gossett for further verification that the cyclist was doing nothing whatsoever wrong in riding through a crosswalk.
Though there seems to be no confusion about what the driver did, the driver was listed in Block 20, Violations/Behaviors “16. Inattention/Distraction”. That may well be true, however, it is apparent from the narrative that the driver committed a “7. Made Improper Turn”
In short, the driver was most-at-fault, and should have been assigned unit number 1 along with the violation/behavior noted above, and should have been cited (according to court records, the driver was not cited).
There is also an apparent error on the ACR but doesn’t affect the outcome, Block 14 Type of intersection is marked as “12 (Controlled Access Area) Intersection Related”. The intersection is not in a controlled access area (a.k.a. a freeway interchange) and should presumable be “2 Intersection Related”.
The ADOT Database Record
This is IncidentID = 2414621 In addtion to what was described above as errors done by the investigating officer on the ACR (and signed off on by a supervisor), the following errors and inconsistencies were noted in the ADOT crash database record:
- AlcoholUseFlag: 1 (but that is not supported by the report?)
Why does Phoenix Get it Wrong, and why does Scottdale get it right?
I have no idea. I have informed Phx PD VCU at least twice (once while the investigation was still supposed to be open, and again in May 2012 when I reviewed Phoenix fatalities). They have steadfastly refused do the right thing; claiming their mis-handling of crosswalk cases is ” based on a sound and experienced understanding of the law along with the guidance of Department, City, and County Attorneys”. Their conclusions appear to directly contradict Maxwell., and indeed those I’ve contacted seem to have never even heard of it.
Consider the case of a 12-year-old boy in Scottsdale struck while proceeding straight in a crosswalk who was struck and seriously injured by a left-turning driver. This is exactly the same configuration as the Pila fatality. However Scottsdale PD not only cited the driver for a bad turn, but also charged him with 28-672, a misdemeanor. Phoenix rewards dangerous, inept drivers with NO_IMPROPER_ACTION while Scottsdale punishes them with criminal charges.
So, apparently Phoenix’s city attorney or Police Department knows something that Scottsdale’s doesn’t, or vice-versa. And of course the County Attorney is one-in-the-same (I mean: Scottsdale and Phoenix are both in the same county); and of course the same state laws exist in both cities — there was no mention of any city codes in the Pila report. I don’t believe any of it, I’m willing to guess no attorney ever reviewed it (I mean for citations; i imagine the case received perfunctory review for negligent homicide charges)
Botched LAPD investigation
This has many of the similar elements of botching as PPD above, the belief, not based on any law, that it’s somehow illegal to ride in a crosswalk, soapboxla explains:
On Monday, June 1, 2009 at approximately noon, a woman rode her bicycle on the sidewalk of Louise Avenue in the valley. As she approached the intersection of Valerio she rode into the intersection on an unmarked crosswalk. At the same time a large truck approached the intersection on Valerio and proceeded to turn right onto Louise. The cyclist and the truck collided, she fell to the ground and the truck crushed her head as she lay on the street.
…But especially disturbing is the resulting confusion during the investigation of the incident and the confusion over “the rules of the road.”
Councilman Smith’s office responded to the incident the next day and explained, via email, that “the bicyclist was reportedly riding on the wrong side of the roadway and traveling against the traffic flow; making her the initial “primary cause” of this tragedy.” The email went on to detail the law enforcement experience of Councilman Smith, Chief of Staff Mitch Englander and Public Safety Deputy Jim Dellinger.
The LAPD’s Public Information Officer confirmed the report that the LAPD considered the cyclist the “primary cause” of the incident because she was riding a bike in a crosswalk which is a violation of CVC 21200 which requires a cyclist to obey the rules of the road. The PIO explained that a cyclist must either dismount at crosswalks or ride on the right side of the road with traffic.
The legal statues, codes, and ordinances are detailed at bicyclelaw.com’s blog — they happen to be analogous to Arizona’s state statutes and Phoenix’s ordinances.