[ 11/24 Updates on this shocking crosswalk fatality continue to ooze out from Tempe police, as the grieving family of Xiaoying Wen came to Tempe from China seeking answers; “Tempe police said both had the green light, but Wen failed to yield, and Tempe city law dictates that bicyclists must yield to motorists”. See below for this bad local law. LAB Bike Friendly GOLD? ]
The 11/21 News story says the crash occurred ‘last week” ? news media seems to report less and less.
Date: [Thursday 11/16/2017 ~ 4:15pm per comment below] Location: intersection of Rural Road and Vista del Cerro Drive
This is a ‘T’ intersection with Rural running north and south, and Vista del Cerro running only to the east of Rural. Notably there is no crosswalk on the north side of Vista del Cerro; signs indicate peds must use the marked south crosswalk.
Tempe Police for some reason, haven’t released any of the particulars, the news story says without explanation “Tempe police said the truck driver had the right of way”; I don’t know why police didn’t release relevant details. Seems odd. The news story linked below was updated on 11/23 with a statement from Tempe Police:
…both the bicyclist and driver of the vehicle had a green light. Please keep in mind that bicycles are not afforded any legal protection by a crosswalk or a walk sign because they are not pedestrians.
Cyclists are subject to the same rules as vehicles and are required to yield when leaving the sidewalk and entering the roadway, just as cars are required to do. As a result, the driver of the vehicle was not cited since he had the right of way.
Based on that statement [but see Tempe Local Law, below], it appears Tempe Police are unaware of Maxwell which says, under state law, bicyclists in a crosswalk are more-or-less pedestrians. (in Maxwell, a right-turning motorist struck and bicyclist where both had “a green light”; the motorist was held at fault, and the bicyclist was held to not be in violation). This is the same mechanics as Madaline Pila fatality in Phoenix; apparently Scottsadale police understand Maxwell, but Phoenix and Tempe Police do not.
According to the news piece video, according to a colleague (referred to only as “the professor”) of the victim the victim was eastbound in the south crosswalk (of Vista del Cerro. In other words, he was traveling the “right” way; that’s in quotes because crosswalks have no correct direction and in any event would have been traveling in the correct direction relative to adjacent traffic had this been a through road) traveling with “his own green light” (probably actually referring to a walk signal), and the driver “didn’t wait for him to get across”. The driver, then must have been making a left from Vista del Cerro onto southbound Rural.
Tempe Local Law
The City of Tempe also has some odd local ordinances that can adversely affect bicyclists on sidewalks (and in “bicycle lanes” and “bicycle paths” — yet LAB sees fit to award the City a “Gold” level?);
Sec. 7-52. Riding on sidewalks or bicycle lanes.
(d) Any person riding a bicycle on a bikeway, sidewalk or bicycle path that is about to enter or cross a roadway shall yield the right-of-way to all traffic on such roadway.
(quoted here without the ebike updates)
I don’t know if that is in play here; but it’s worth mentioning. [as thinks turn out, yes it is in play and very much worth metioning, per the 11/24 news story update (emphasis added) “Tempe police said both had the green light, but Wen failed to yield, and Tempe city law dictates that bicyclists must yield to motorists”]
It appears that Tempe ordinance 7-52 is not carte blanche as the Tempe PD statement says, but rather meant to apply a similar standard to bicyclists as state law applies to pedestrians entering crosswalk: §28-792. Right-of-way at crosswalk… pedestrian shall not suddenly leave any curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield”.
We all like there to be zero bicyclist fatalities… bike fatals in Tempe are quite rare, you can see a synopsis of the 5 fatals over the past 8 years here. Many of the five involve crosswalk riding; though usually going the “wrong” way.
ASU doctoral student, renowned pianist Xiaoying Wen killed in Tempe crash
Clayton Klapper 6:50 PM, Nov 21, 2017
…Tempe police said the truck driver had the right of way during the crash at Rural Road and Vista del Cerro Drive, but friends of Wen say the light at the intersection is timed so that the driver and Wen both had a green light when the crash happened.
A (also new/late; published on 11/22) Fox News story similarly states:
According to police, the driver who hit Wen was not cited. Cyclists are required to yield when entering a crosswalk
It also annoyingly doesn’t say what date or time of day the crash occurred.
Xiaoying Wen was an accomplished concert pianist
crash report info goes here when/as available.
This is what’s known as a “left cross” crash. In PBCAT (FARS), it should be listed as
- crash group 210, Motorist Left Turn / Merge
- crash type 212, Motorist Left Turn / Opposite Direction
The crash group/type is independent of whether the bicyclist is traveling on the roadway vs. the crosswalk. The bicyclist’s position is noted in a separate field in PBCAT/FARS, as is the bicyclist’s relative directions (“with traffic”).
Police-reported incidents, listing those cross-streets, 2009-2016 inclusive:
select SUM(sF_Bicycle), SUM(sF_Pedestrian), SUM(sF_Motorist), SUM(sF_OtherUnk), SUM(sF_Motorcycle) from incident where (OnRoad LIKE "Rural%" and CrossingFeature LIKE "Vista Del%") OR (OnRoad LIKE "Vista Del%" and CrossingFeature LIKE "Rural%");
Sidewalks and Bicycles
It should be noted that bicyclists traveling on sidewalks can be a safety concern for pedestrians; but won’t be discussed here.
Safety for bicyclists traveling on a sidewalk in general is difficult to achieve because they are less likely to be noticed at crosswalks and driveways by drivers turning and crossing.
That being said there’s no reason a bicyclist traveling at a slow-enough speed is any more a safety concern than that of a pedestrian walking in a driveway or crosswalk (marked OR UNMARKED); where normal rules-of-the-road apply and pedestrians have right-of-way.
Tempe, and more recently Yuma, have adopted a severe standard for bicyclists at crosswalks; my way of thinking is much more inline with this quote from a state of Washington decision (the state laws of WA and AZ very similar in this area), my emphasis added:
Our case law evidences the strong level of protection afforded to those traveling in a marked crosswalk… Those traveling in a crosswalk rely on their favored status to cross safely.
Common sense dictates that bicyclists be included in those protections. Otherwise, a driver’s duty to yield to those in a crosswalk would depend on the type of crosswalk user, resulting in dangerous confusion for motorists and crosswalk users alike.
— Pudmaroff v. Allen, 89 Wn. App. 928; 951 P.2d 335; — Wash. Court of Appeals, 1st Div. 1998
Pudmaroff goes on to note that “Users of crosswalks must exercise due care and caution for their own safety and may not suddenly dart in front of traffic”, a re-statement of our §28-792. Right-of-way at crosswalk… pedestrian shall not suddenly leave any curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield”.
Tempe’s local modification can result in “dangerous confusion for motorists and crosswalk users alike”; with crosswalk users being not just pedestrians and bicyclists, but skaterboards, wheelies, strollers, etc, etc.
It should be noted that the legalities of bicyclists riding on sidewalks, driveways, and crosswalks is permissive under Arizona’s state laws; and that the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles do not apply to those bicyclists. We know the former because there are no statutes prohibiting it, and the latter because of Maxwell. The next layer, local laws, adds a whole new layer of confusion because different cities have taken completely different rules;the most obvious one being sidewalk cycling unless posted is banned in some cities (e.g. Tucson, Prescott), but allowed in most others (e.g. Tempe, Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Chandler, Glendale). As well as additional restrictions, e.g. the direction of travel is stipulated only in Tempe and Yuma.
There are no known localities anywhere in AZ where dismounting is required at crosswalks (or driveways).
I noted previously that ADOT’s 2011 BSAP (Bicycle Safety Action Plan ) recommends state-level sidewalk law clarifications, which seem like a worthy endeavor, given the huge proportion of sidewalk-related collisions, along with the current legal murky morass that currently exists when cyclists who cycle on the sidewalk subsequently collide with vehicles in crosswalks and driveways.