We also have (thanks to Nathan) the police report for the 5/27 car/bike crash at Beacon and Grant. As I suspected, it involved a car catching a gap in car traffic to turn left, in this case from Beacon eastbound to Grant northbound, and missing that there was no gap in bike traffic.
This one's not so simple.
A cyclist on Beacon heading to Newton Centre will frequently find a car in his lane stopped short of the intersection, because a) traffic is backed up from Langley to Grant, so it would block the box to continue or b) the driver is just being kind and creating a gap for an eastbound driver looking to turn left (north) onto Grant or a southbound driver on Grant looking to turn left or right on Beacon. Whether with express intent or not, the driver has created a gap for turning traffic. Call the westbound, gap-creating driver WBS (westbound Beacon straight), the eastbound driver B2GL (Beacon to Grant left), and the southbound drivers G2BR and G2BL (Grant to Beacon right and left).
But, the gap-creating rationale doesn't necessarily apply to the biker. Even if there are cars backed up from Langley, there's plenty of space to ride legally to the right, so a bike is not going to block the box. Or, the biker was not privy to the decision to informally yield the right-of-way to turning traffic. But, the gap-creating decision on the driver G's part is going to induce any of three different drivers -- B2GL, G2BL, or G2BR -- to make the turn. And, there is a potential conflict between B2GL and G2BL. However created, when there's a gap, the biker is basically riding into a gauntlet.
According to the crash report, what happened on 5/27 was pretty much the back-up scenario. One or more WBS cars stopped short of Grant. Two B2GLs caught the break in traffic and turned left from a stop. The cyclist was riding westbound, passed the stopped WBSs, realized he was going to hit the first B2GL, slammed on the brakes, and went over the handlebars. The first B2GL stopped short and the cyclist hit the car.
The B2GL should not have been across the bikers path. But, it doesn't absolve the driver to recognize that the rider showed poor judgment. Obscured by westbound traffic, he proceeded into the intersection despite the fact that the WBS cars in his lane had created a turn-inducing gap.
Contrary to my friend Nathan's suggestion, this isn't principally a striping issue. There should be (and I am confident there will be) more bike-appropriate striping through intersections on Beacon Street. But, stripes aren't armor. A bad crash happened last fall at an intersection on Beacon that is striped properly. There is no break in the shoulder stripe where the driver swerved abruptly and rode over a bicylist on Comm. Ave. the same day. And, who's to say that better through striping wouldn't induce more bicyclists to proceed injudiciously than cause motorists to proceed more judiciously.
Bigger things are necessary to reduce the stress and risk of the Beacon/Grant intersection. The intersection needs better, safer gap-making. A roundabout would be ideal. Loathe as I am to say it, if not a roundabout, maybe it's time to put a full signal at the intersection. Having ridden many, many times through all the intersections where there have been recent bike/auto crashes, this strikes me as the likeliest to have another one.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Posted by Sean Roche at 9:48 PM