Multiple injuries caused by RV driver bad overtaking

8/27/2023 10:30am.
The crash occurred about 1/2 mile south of the intersection of Lake Mary Rd & Ashurst Lk Rd. According to the news account from the Arizona Daily Sun (archived) seven cyclists were injured. We have remarkable documentation because a cyclist in front of those injured had a cycliq rear taillight/camera. The driver appears to have misjudged the space available, and struck a rider who was riding in the narrow traffic lane. The coco county sheriff’s office said the driver was cited, with reference to 3-feet, and max fine of $500; so 28-735B.

The posted speed limit here is 50mph. The video could probably be used to ascertain both the vehicle’s and the bicyclists’ speed (the dashes on the centerline are a standard length). The bicyclists appear to be going relatively fast, perhaps 25 mph or more.

Multiple Cyclist Crashes are rare; Bike Crashes on Lake Mary Road are rare

Most MV-bike crashes involve one driver and one bicyclist (about 98%). There are a vanishing small number of MV-bike crashes that involve 4 or more bicyclists. In the database back to 2009 there have been a total of 7 (out of over 22,000 MV-bike crashes) recorded. It’s been hypothesized that groups of cyclists are much more visible to drivers; it’s also been hypothesized that groups don’t make fundamental safety errors like riding against the flow of traffic, or not following lighting rules.

(remember: only crashes involving a MV are included in the official traffic crash database).

Lake Mary Road, specifically has reported only 5 MV-Bike crashes since 2009, four of the 5 were in the city of Flagstaff, and only one (Marshall Lake Rd) was out in the county. All involve a single MV and a single bicyclist — all were low injury severity. Only one involved same-direction traffic, the other 4 involved some sort of turning/crossing maneuver.

2325043 2009-07-16 23:00:00 87 I-17 Exit 339 A-Ramp / Lake Mary Rd
2644721 2012-08-29 11:38:00 87 E Anita Ave / Lake Mary Rd
2671916 2012-11-30 07:33:00 87 E Beverly Ave / Lake Mary Rd
2858006 2014-07-13 13:00:00 87 E John Wesley Powell Blvd / Lake Mary Rd
3239573 2017-05-21 11:48:00 999 Lake Mary Rd / Marshall Lake Rd

In the same time period there was one MV-Ped but  OVER FIVE HUNDRED MV-only crashes.

In 2012, bicyclist Ev Ramsay  was killed when he appeared to have struck a large rock (presumably on the shoulder) and crashed to the ground; and as mentioned above, this is not a traffic crash by definition because no MV was involved.

So it looks like the quote from Coco County Sheriff in the news story rings true: “Simonsen said Lake Mary Road is not thought of by deputies as particularly hazardous, but it is well-known that it is heavily used by both cyclists and runners”.

Is it a bike lane?

Lake Mary Road in the City of Flagstaff is a marked Bike lane

Asking the question is a bit of a non sequitur; but here goes. Lake Mary Road has a clearly marked bike lane in the city (pictured at right at the intersection of Anita). Out in the county, however it does not appear to be consistently marked. There are most certainly markings here-and-there  (Example 1; Example 2; Example 3; here’s a nonstandard 3-ft sign), most appear clustered around populated areas.

As a general rule, bike lanes away from populated areas are probably a bad idea, and cause more confusion than they are worth; and are extra-difficult to maintain, leading to obstructions and hazards that cyclists must then avoid. Cyclists are free to ride on shoulders if they choose. In the news story, the statement from the county, interestingly, doesn’t use the term “bike lane”, only shoulder.LakeMaryRd RV sideswipes community bike ride near Flagstaff, reinvigorating safety concerns

The legal issue, though hard for some to understand, is there is no requirement for bicyclists in Arizona to use a bike lane or bike path; this law was repealed in 1989. To see what a real mandatory-use law looks like, see compare to e.g. CA’s CVC 21208. Arizona has no such law.

In other words, they will be in full legal compliance with 28-815A while riding in a travel lane which is “too narrow to share…” (exception #3), which is the case here; regardless of the existence of a shoulder or bike lane. A “sharable” traffic lane is >14 feet, and the lane here appears to be perhaps 11 feet.

Bicyclists’ only duty here (I mean here, along a road such as this) to faster/overtaking motorists is just to comply with §28-704C which has no applicability in the circumstance here, as the video shows; there was exactly ONE vehicle, and it wasn’t being impeded; they never slowed down before impact. They (or any driver for that matter) must also not shift suddenly laterally while being overtaken; which we see in the video is not the case here.

It’s not known why the driver didn’t react prudently either by slowing to the speed of the large group of bicyclists (visible for a long long distance), or overtaking by changing lanes, the oncoming lane was empty, and the area is marked with a dashed line. Bicyclists using the travel lane — for whatever reason — are encouraged to take up more of the narrow lane, not less; as it makes drivers less likely to misjudge passing space and mistakenly thinking there’s plenty of room when, in reality, there’s not nearly enough. The RV here is about 8′ wide not counting any protruding mirrors; an obviously mathematically cannot fit thru an 11′ lane with 3 feet of clearance.

Slow Moving Vehicle Rules Apply

Another way to think of it is that whenever the bicyclist-specific rule, 28-815A is excepted (because one of the exceptions exist), the bicyclist is no different than any other slow-moving vehicle when going slower than the “normal speed of traffic”

Review those rules here.

For the Statistically Curious

I was too. of those 500 and some MV crashes that were reported on Lake Mary Rd in the past 14 years, the VAST MAJORITY were single vehicle crashes, distantly followed by rear-end. That’s a lot of bad driving; so much death and destruction…

SUM(TotalInjuries) SUM(TotalFatalities)
232 7



Here are the queries for Lake Mary road, and the state-wide multiple bicyclist crashes:

SELECT eCollisionManner, count(*) FROM incident i LEFT OUTER JOIN LOVCity ON i.CityId = LEFT OUTER JOIN LOVCounty ON i.CountyId = WHERE ( (OnRoad LIKE "lake mary%" AND CrossingFeature LIKE "%") OR (OnRoad LIKE "%" AND CrossingFeature LIKE "lake mary%") ) GROUP BY 1 ;

SELECT SUM(TotalInjuries) , SUM(TotalFatalities) FROM incident i LEFT OUTER JOIN LOVCity ON i.CityId = LEFT OUTER JOIN LOVCounty ON i.CountyId = WHERE ( (OnRoad LIKE "lake mary%" AND CrossingFeature LIKE "%") OR (OnRoad LIKE "%" AND CrossingFeature LIKE "lake mary%") ) ;

select IncidentID, IncidentYear, TotalUnits, TotalNonmotorists from 2022_incident where TotalNonmotorists>4 and sF_Bicycle ;
SELECT count(*) FROM 2022_incident WHERE sF_Bicycle ;


13 thoughts on “Multiple injuries caused by RV driver bad overtaking”

  1. Maybe not legally required, but if you are riding basically two-abreast on that road I feel you are inviting trouble. I think it is a very common occurrence for roadies to ride like that, but not a good idea in my book. I consider myself a fairly militant cyclist and I will frequently take the lane – but on city streets with lower speeds. Personally, I’d have been riding single file on that road, and kept to the shoulder as much as possible. At least the driver was cited, and AZ has a fine, albeit way too low.

  2. All cyclists should have one of those devices on their bike! It’s well worth the investment.

  3. Riding in the right tire lane, the motorist does not recognize the need to change lanes to pass. As a result, they wait too long and get trapped in the lane behind the cyclist. Drivers are then forced into a dilemma/conundrum, do I slow down and wait or squeeze past. We must make it clear from a distance the motorist must change lanes to past. If we do this, they will change lanes so far behind us they will not take their foot off the gas.
    On four lane roads it is not necessary to help the motorist to pass. Since we will be using the right most lane the motorists can use the left lane to pass.
    On two lane roads we need to use the concept of control and release. You control the lane, and then pull over to release them when it is safe to do so.

  4. I agree with your assessment from an American perspective of cycling. I think the video illustrates what the rest of the developed world learned years ago. Mixing bicycles and cars/trucks on the same roadway does not work – especially with high (30mph+) speed limits. Hence so many separated facilities in Europe and Asia.

    Outside the U.S., drivers are taught they are the ones in charge of the “death device” and therefore, they are the interlopers, not the cyclist or pedestrian. In the U.S., drivers believe the cyclist does not belong. Our road design reinforces this belief. Even though passing laws in most states have some kind of provision that a driver cannot pass unless “safe” to do so, most U.S. drivers do not believe they are “passing” a bicyclist in a legal sense, and don’t think that they need to execute any kind of a passing maneuver. That is, go around the “vehicle” (the bicycle) they are passing. It is kind of shocking the RV driver was cited for violating ,the safe pass law. I would not expect law enforcement, in general, to enforce that law.

  5. @Augsburg I’m surprised that you were surprised that a citation was issued to the driver. Police have a tendency to act correctly towards bicyclists pursuant to any sort of investigation; which is always or nearly always due to a collision.
    Instances where they have clearly NOT acted correctly towards a bicyclist, several of them documented here on azbikelaw, by issuing bogus tickets, were NOT the result of a collision investigation.

  6. Yes, regarding the dilemma — that’s why I like that old cartoon-style graphic from iamtraffic (now cycling savvy; is there an updated graphic? I believe Keri Caffrey produced it).

  7. @AZBL, I guess I am a bit jaded after reading numerous reports of deadly collisions where the driver (if they even stopped at all) merely claimed the cyclists “appeared out of no where”, or “veered in front of my vehicle”. Dead man tell no tales, and that’s usually the end of it from law enforcement and a citation stand point.

  8. Arizona Revised Statutes 28-815. Riding on roadway and bicycle path; bicycle path usage
    A. A person riding a bicycle on a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except under any of the following situations:
    1. If overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
    2. If preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
    3. If reasonably necessary to avoid conditions, including fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals or surface hazards.
    4. If the lane in which the person is operating the bicycle is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
    B. Persons riding bicycles on a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.
    There were two violations on the cyclists part here, they were riding three wide and there was not a single one was riding “as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway”. The cyclists should also be cited.

  9. @Nonya There are a couple of reasons why that’s probably not true; #1 As mentioned in the article, the lane in which the cyclist that was struck was riding in is “too narrow” pursuant to 28-815A3, which you quote in your comment but ignored, so that’s not a violation (for anybody there; the cyclists were all either on the shoulder/bike lane, or in the narrow travel lane.
    #2 is more confusing, 28-815B, the two-abreast rule, specifically excludes the people to the right of the white line (whatever that white line is, see the article “is it a bike lane?”), because if it is a bike lane, it’s excluded; and if it’s a shoulder it’s not part of the roadway. There’s no case law on the two-abreast rule — the intention is to prevent more than two IN A LANE on the roadway. Terms like “roadway” have specific legal definitions. In short, I could see an 815B violation going either way — but against who? I mean which cyclist(s)?

  10. @augsburg I have not seen that, I mean as a pattern. I tried to look in detail at each fatality that occurred in 2009, for example, here’s what I found:
    And I looked at many more Arizona fatal cases since then, in a less organized way. There’s a line item for EVERY bicyclist fatality in AZ since 2009, go to the main drop down “crash safety data/spreadsheet”.
    Quite honestly I don’t know why somebody doesn’t do what I did for 2009 for every year… It was an enormous amount of work, but there you have it.

  11. I hope you are right. The years we lived in Tucson, it sure seemed like law enforcement was prejudiced against the many cyclist killed. We lived for years in the Seattle area too, nearby where the cyclist collision in this news report occurred. I am heartened by the diligence shown by law enforcement detailed in the news report.

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