Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Creepy crashes

Halloween is 30 days away, but yesterday was the creepiest day of the year for me in terms of traffic crashes. On my regular route to work, I pass through the intersection of Liberty Street and Baxter Avenue, just after passing under the railroad overpass. Yesterday morning, at the exact location where I would typically stand at the traffic signal waiting to turn right onto Baxter Avenue (heading toward downtown), I needed to change lanes to avoid a minivan stopped across the median and sideways into my normal lane amidst crash debris. Another involved car was stopped nearby, along with a police cruiser. I have no idea how the northbound van ended up sitting in the westbound lane, but I was mighty glad that I hadn't been standing there astride my bicycle when it arrived.

In the afternoon, a friend informed me of a crash that had critically injured a bicyclist on Bardstown Road near Grinstead Drive. I had ridden there just a few days ago. A bicyclist traveling southbound on Bardstown Road had been hit by a minivan also heading southbound. News reports have thus far given no clues about the cause of the crash. Epitomizing the rush to release sensational news, a television news report of the crash and the accompanying photos and video alternately report the victim as a teenager and a 27-year-old woman, and the striking vehicle as a minivan and a TARC bus. It turns out that the TARC bus on the scene was not involved in the crash, and the victim was indeed 27 and not a teenager. I got the creeps from the photos and video (filmed from a helicopter), though they do not show the victim or any obvious gore. Just the tell-tale bicycle with a crushed rear wheel, leaning against a tree behind yellow police tape...

The crash happened at about 3:40 PM on a day with good visibility and no precipitation, on a street with quite a bit of bicycle traffic. An eyewitness account, which I received second-hand, said that the bicyclist was riding in the middle of the right southbound lane, being passed by a TARC bus in the left southbound lane. The minivan had been following the bus and swerved to pass it on the right. While doing so, it hit the bicyclist. This sounds eerily similar to the crash that killed bicycle commuter Vance Kokojan in July.

If you know any of the eyewitnesses to yesterday's crash, please ask them to contact Bicycling for Louisville if and when they are willing to talk about what they saw. Learning what actually happened in injury crashes is critical to our ability to change the factors that cause these crashes. It also helps us learn the strengths and weaknesses of the justice system in protecting the rights of bicyclists.

A fellow cyclist informed me this morning that the crash victim is in the ICU, unconscious. He had spoken with her father. Please hold the injured cyclist and her family and friends in your prayers or positive thoughts.

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