Here in the Bay Area, cars, bicyclists and pedestrians often need to share the same crowded streets. Unfortunately, motorists tend to have the final say when a given intersection is disputed. This, of course, results in a many bike and pedestrian accidents in Oakland and nearby cities.
But when such an accident occurs, it is not always immediately clear who or what is to blame. Does fault lie with the driver, the bicyclist or the intersection itself?
A fatal bicycle accident earlier this month in Woodside shows that blame for a crash is not always easy to determine. News sources say a 50-year-old woman was riding her bike down a steep hill with several sharp curves when she was struck and killed by a minivan. The 22-year-old driver of the van was making a turn toward the bicyclist's lane just as the bicyclist rounded a curve and came into view.
This collision occurred in the exact same spot where a similar fatal accident took place just two years ago. In that crash, a car struck a motorcyclist. A floral memorial still marks the spot.
Commenting on the recent accident, a woman who lives in the neighborhood said: "It's a very blind curve and bicycles come flying around that corner, and right before the corner there's a turn on Elk Tree Road and sometimes things happen too fast. People are driving 45 miles per hour on the road and there's no place for a bicycle to go."
The area is a popular place for bicyclists to ride. Therefore, the driver of the van arguably should have known to be extra cautious when traveling in the area. On the other hand, bicyclists also have their part to play in making sure that drivers can see them.
Yet another factor to consider is the area itself. A steep, curvy hill that doesn't allow drivers and bicyclists to see each other from a distance is a recipe for disaster. As such, the city should be doing all it can to make intersections in the area as safe as possible. This could include posting more warning signage, traffic lights and stop/yield signs.
After an injurious or fatal accident, victims and their families may not know exactly who to hold accountable. That's one reason why they need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney, who can help reconstruct the accident details and carefully assess liability.
Source: KGO-TV San Francisco, “Bicyclist killed in crash with minivan in Woodside,” Vic Lee, Sept. 18, 2013