“This is at least the 4th serious accident to occur there in the last year or so”

bikecab
via google maps

Ed. Note: On Twitter another reader reported the incident to us around 9:30am

“Dear PoPville,

Just wanted to let you know about another bad car vs. bike crash at 13th and Florida NW this morning. The cyclist was riding fast down the hill on 13th heading south, and a cab never saw her and made a right turn from 13th onto Florida and cut her off. Cyclist tried to brake and swerve and went over her handlebars into the cab at fairly high speed. Fortunately from an initial look it looks like she will probably be OK, but she had a lot of facial injuries and probably a broken bone or two in her arm.

A few bystanders and I kept the victim calm while MPD and EMS were on their way. They arrived quickly and were extremely helpful and professional.

This was clearly the cab driver’s fault–he should have seen her coming and not made the turn. Just want to spread the word to everyone who goes through that intersection to exercise extreme caution. This is at least the 4th serious accident to occur there in the last year or so. Drivers need to be aware of the possibility of fast-moving cyclists as they go through the intersection, and cyclists, even though it’s not their fault, need to anticipate unaware drivers cutting them off.”

67 Comment

  • To the OP, thanks for helping the cyclist. It means so much when strangers help you after a crash. To the cyclist, I wish you a speedy recovery. To my fellow cyclists, let’s ride with extra caution tonight.

  • Probably was the cab driver’s fault, and I wish cars were paying more attention to bikes pretty much every day… but as others have noted w/r/t previous crashes at this intersection involving bikes going downhill, there are southbound bike lanes on both 11th and 14th, both of which have a far shallower grade than 13th.

    I bike to work daily on 11th and don’t even consider 13th street a viable option compared to the other choices that are literally 1 block in either direction.

    • same. I live on 13th but would never even consider biking down it. I always take 11th to get to work, and 14th/16th/18th if I’m going somewhere SW of my home. I hope the cyclist has a speedy recovery.

      • I have to ask both of you, just out of curiosity, why take 11th/13th/14th/18th when there is a physically separate-from-the-road bike lane on 15th Street that runs in both directions? Am I missing something here? Do bikers not like that lane for some reason?

        • Reasons not to take 15th:
          1) The hill north of Florida is very steep
          2) It began going two ways north of Florida a few weeks ago, and still isn’t really finished
          3) There are a staggering number of left turns on red through the bike lane, when cyclists have a green and cars have a red
          4) The light timing southbound is atrocious – it’s timed for northbound cars, so going south can take forever
          5) This time of year it’s full of leaves, to the point where it becomes dangerous
          6) It may be way out of the way.

          Other than that, it’s a great piece of infrastructure. I use it a lot (although the hill is too steep when I’m pulling the kids. I’ve done it to prove I could, but it’s not fun).

          • All of this adds up to a simple reality: The 15th St. cycletrack is more dangerous than no cycletrack at all, as good as the intentions of the designers might be. I cautiously use it occasionally northbound, but prefer the shared lane on the right side of 15th that preceded the current design. I won’t go near it southbound.

          • TJ: no way. it could be improved, but the 15th street bikelane is definitively safer. most of the items listed are inconveniences and/or temporary (the leaves). what danger that does arise from, e.g., the left turns on red can completely be avoided by just waiting, like you probably should do anyway.

          • I disagree with you as well, TJ. The 15th St cycletrack is not perfect, but it’s the direction the city needs to go. It was the first one, and I like to think that DDOT is slowly learning (although given that they subsequently put in the L and M cycletracks, that may be a terrible assumption).

            A little enforcement of the left turns would be nice, but until someone gets killed I don’t expect to see it happen.

          • I agree about the lights on 15th. Sometimes they are in sync. However, I usually take 14th St. down to U and cut over to 15th from there. Sometimes I stay on 14th if I’m hitting all the lights right.

        • By the time I get to the beginning of the 15th St track, my trip is half over and it’s easier to continue on whatever route I start on.
          Plus, it’s usually crowded and the lights are poorly timed

        • for me, it’s just because it’s so steep. going downhill I feel much safer on a less severe grade. And of course going up is literally impossible on my single speed and I consider myself to be pretty fit!

        • gotryit

          I take 14th southbound because it has a bike lane for most of the way (soon to be all) and the lights on 15th are timed very poorly going southbound. I stop at red lights FWIW.

          Heading northbound, I take 15th, but going up the hill by Meridian Hill park is difficult.

        • I live on the end of the 15th street track right on Euclid. In fact, I rode it to work today, and it’s basically a door to door route for me. Biking south and downhill is a nightmare right now with all the leaves, but it wasn’t busy when I was riding so I could reasonably ride in the wrong lane. I find myself riding my brakes going down 15th and it doesn’t feel safe because of the incline. I still prefer going down 14th and then eventually getting onto the 15th street track.

          • I live in the area too. I agree on the downhill. I tend to think it was a mistake to extend it up to Euclid. Now you have bikes with some serious speed conflicting with pedestrians around a blind curve (Belmont) and behind parked cars (W St). They need signs for pedestrians to tell them to look. I think it is bad news.

      • Agree. 11th is the best to bike. If only WMATA would move the buses off the street it would be the perfect option.

  • Every part of this intersection is terrifying for cyclists. A steep hill, blind angles, and cars that regularly run the light all make it dangerous for everyone involved.

  • I bike in this city a LOT, and I’ve a few thoughts….

    A. My fellow DC bicyclists are often far too confident and caution-averse in this city, not to mention non-compliant with traffic laws. This is beyond debate.
    B. Biking south on 13th Street from Columbia Heights is dangerous as hell. You take your life in your own hands there more than in many other DC corridors.
    C. No bicyclist should ever be going so fast in traffic that they can’t come to a complete stop rather quickly. I know that means engaging brakes and not moving as fast, but 20 mph downhill is idiotic.
    D. IF the driver was *ahead* of her, and she ran into his car from behind because she was going too fast, that’s entirely the bicyclist’s fault. I can’t think of any circumstance in which running into someone from behind is not the fault of the person doing the running into, unless they were purposely cut off. Beyond that, running into somebody means you were going too fast, or were following too closely.

      • +1

        This morning I was about to cross M, the light was yellow and I took step forward when I see the lady accelerating to make the yellow (now red) and screaming at me like a madwoman. Seriously, you can barely hear some bikes, pedestrians have the right of way on a crosswalk, but cyclists are very reckless.

        I would not be so quick to say it was the cabbie’s fault. You should be going at a rate of speed that you can avoid these type of accidents. It’s not like you are riding a bike on a close circuit at the Tour d’France, you are in an urban environment

  • I’m a regular biker myself and this regularly deal with aloof drivers, but I have a hard time understanding how this could be the cabbie’s fault. They way I understood the accident is that both we’re heading south, and the cab was ahead of the bike. I believe there’s only one lane of traffic here, right? (with a lane for parking). If I understood this correctly, it certainly sounds like the cab had the right of way to turn right on Florida and that the biker was simply going too fast/following too closely to slow down in time?

    • * and THUS regularly deal with

    • As long as the cabbie had his turn signal on, indicating taking a right. Sometimes cabs and ubers take sudden turns without indicating anything. I do however think the biker is going too fast. I regularly go down 18th and I am practically riding the brakes because cars take all kinds of sudden turns (without any indication) around Florida. I wish cabs and ubers wouldn’t behave the way they do – pulling over all of the sudden, taking sudden turns, sudden 3-point turns in heavy traffic on narrow streets, sudden U-turns, and that drunk driving thing they do trying to find an address – but there doesn’t appear to be any way to address this kind of driving so defensive biking is the only alternative. On this last point, if someone knows of a way to report them let us know. Please!

    • I was going to say you are wrong, that the cabbie had an obligation to check his/her blindspot when turning right, but that’s only the case when crossing over a bike lane, which doesn’t exist here. If (and that’s a big if, details like which direction each participant is going are often wrong in early reporting) this happened as described, it’s the cyclists’ fault for putting herself to the right of a vehicle outside of a bike lane. I would be willing to bet the cabbie didn’t signal (in my experience 30% of turning right drivers in DC don’t signal), so the biker assumed the cabbie was continuing straight, and she could quickly pass him on the right.

      As a long time biker (now with kids on the bike) in this city, the most important safety tip is to learn how not to put yourself in unsafe situations. That means recognizing the signs that a car is about to turn without a signal (braking for no obvious reason, drifting to the right), and as others have said, using roads like 14th and 11th with bike lanes and less steep inclines.

      But I would be careful about drawing conclusions this early. Details are often revised later when more information comes in.

      • Excellent point in your second paragraph.

      • I am a long-time urban biker myself (Monday-Saturday, summer through spring), and I disagree with your and another poster’s idea that the biker has to be at fault with a cab driver taking a right turn in front of her. Without knowing all the details, it is hard to say what happened. HOWEVER, you do NOT need to be in a bike lane to have a right to stay to the right of cars- we share the road; we have no obligation to “take the road,” so of course we end up to the right of cars all the time! I wouldn’t even recommend you taking the road unless there were very specific reasons for doing so (i.e., narrow street; avoiding getting doored, etc). Drivers sharing the road with bikers should be aware of bikers when they take a right, but bikers should always assume drivers are oblivious to them. I bike defensively, assuming everyone around me is texting and/or on drugs. However, if you go by the laws, a biker can stay to the right of the road and be wrongfully cut off by a driver not paying attention and suddenly cutting them off. This is a huge risk and one that I am always aware of when I get on my bike. My advice to everyone: ride defensively and acquaint yourself with the laws and safety techniques provided at WABA’s website.

        • +1 to assume every driver is on drugs and/or texting. (obviously we hope that isn’t really the case, but it’s definitely a safer mindset for cyclists.)

        • HaileUnlikely

          Agreed regarding your general point about *staying* to the right of other cars. However, without comment on fault in the legal sense in this specific case, passing a car that is also moving while bicycling down the hill on 13th Street is a batsh!t crazy thing to do.

        • As someone who commutes by bike, foot, and car – depending on day/mood – I’m amazed when bikers come up behind cars and don’t think a thing about it. Who cares who has right of way – if you are the one who could die, don’t do it. Period. Case Closed. QED.
          .
          I had a biker the other day pass me on the LEFT in traffic, then merge over on top of me in a space that was less than a bike length between me and the next car – she is alive and walking today only bc I was paying attention and managed to slam on my breaks in time. I beeped at her, like “pay attention idiot,” and she flipped me off. God I hate self righteous a-hole bikers. (Yes, I know there are self righteous a-hole drivers too, but for some reason I’m more annoyed by the bikers for not feeling any sense of responsibility for their own safety.)

    • I see your point — but this depends on whether the cyclist was taking the lane OR riding as far to the right as practical. Both are legal alternatives. If she was taking the lane, then I think you’re right. But if she was riding as far to the right as practical and the cabbie was driving on her left, then I think it would be the cab’s fault.

      Either way — we as drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians all have a lot of work to do to make the streets safer for everyone. Hopefully the cyclist here will be OK and it’s reassuring that people stepped in to help.

    • You guys didn’t read this properly. The cab cut in front of her from Florida (east to west) onto 13th (going south) as the cyclist was going through the intersection (I’m assuming cyclist had the green light). If the cyclist was a car, this would most definitely be the fault of the cab. I hope the cyclist is okay and isn’t afraid to get back on her bike in the future.

      I like the OP’s suggestion below of a “no right turn on red (arrow)” for Florida traffic at this intersection. That would help, although I’ve seen tons of people ignore such signs/lights). 13th Street is a nightmare right here and (as others have said) I completely avoid it.

      • (west to east)*

      • “You guys didn’t read this properly. The cab cut in front of her from Florida (east to west) onto 13th (going south) as the cyclist was going through the intersection (I’m assuming cyclist had the green light).”
        .
        “The cyclist was riding fast down the hill on 13th heading south, and a cab never saw her and made a right turn from 13th onto Florida and cut her off. ”
        .
        You seem to be the one who misread the OP.

      • No, I think you read it wrong *copy and paste* “The cyclist was riding fast down the hill on 13th heading south, and a cab never saw her and made a right turn FROM 13th ONTO Florida and cut her off.”
        Cab and cyclist both traveling southbound on 13th, cab turns right (west) onto Florida ave cyclist hits cab.
        Whose at fault? Sounds to me that both are at fault. Cabby not being aware, cyclist traveling too fast.
        This IS an accident, they happen from time to time. When you’re driving don’t next and take caution of cyclist. When you’re cycling take caution of motor vehicles.

        • Are you even under an obligation in DC to check your rear-view mirrors when you’re in the rightmost lane making a legal right turn through a green light? You check your mirrors when there’s possible legal traffic passing from that direction, but a cyclist shouldn’t legally be passing you when you’re going right through a green with your turn signal on.

          Certainly possible the cab didn’t signal, but that’s a different scenario.

          • IDK, I don’t bike and I rarely drive. When I do drive I use blinkers and check side mirrors for cyclist bc I’ve had some close calls.

          • Pretty sure driving school teaches you (or at least mine did) that anytime you make a turn, check your blind spot. I also glance in my rear view every 10 seconds or so. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a DC obligation or not, it’s an obligation when you’re driving a car to be hyper aware.

            If a child runs off the curb and you take a right into the kid, you gonna say “But I wasn’t obligated to in DC!”?

          • HaileUnlikely

            You also learn not to pass a line of stopped cars in the adjacent lane at full speed, but rather to do so cautiously and be prepared to stop in case somebody tries to move over. While the context in which this is typically taught is driving a car on a multi-lane road in which traffic is stopped in one lane but moving in the other, the principle is the same when riding a bike alongside a line of slow or stopped cars, and even moreso when there’s a steep downhill involved. It is particularly important to realize that even if a driver checks their mirrors and turns their head to look over their shoulder, their view will be partially obscured by the car behind them, and if you are approaching at a high rate of speed they may not be able to see you until you’re right there (and still going too fast to stop), despite their making a good faith effort to look. Regardless of who the law says is at fault, passing a line of slow-moving or stopped cars at high speed (whether in a car or on a bike) is a very dangerous thing to do.

    • Nope, sorry. The rightmost lane is the bike lane, not the vehicle lane. A vehicle turning right at this intersection cedes the right of way to the cyclist.

      I go down 11th and 13th regularly, and the number of blind turns I see by vehicles scares the pee out of me.

      • There is no bike lane on 13th. The cyclist should not have been passing cars on the right through an intersection with a green light. This is absolutely the cyclist’s fault.

  • OP here–
    In my mind, this was the cab’s fault because the cyclist was properly biking to the right of a line of slow-moving traffic and the cab did not look/see her when he began his right turn. It is possible I am wrong about this–perhaps the cab has the right of way if he entered the intersection before she did? It is one of the many intersections that is technically one lane but cars making turns either way often pass or get passed. I do think it would be helpful to put lane line in (left lane straight or left turn, right lane right turn only) at the intersection so cyclist can better anticipate the behavior of cars, and/or put chevron arrows in the street so cars know they have to share the lane, and/or add a right turn signal with “right turn on green arrow only?” I don’t really have a solution, I just hate seeing serious accidents there over and over. I do praise DDOT for removing the aged and dangerous “bumper strips” that were causing more harm than good. Beyond that I just want everyone to be more cautious and recognize the dangers of the intersection.

    • Is it really “proper” for a cyclist to pass slow moving cars on the right? At least once a week I could easily kill a cyclist riding like this as I make a right turn into my alley (or other right turns) and they come zooming up out of nowhere. I’m super aware, use turn signals etc. but a cyclist doing this will not always be seeing a turn signal in a line of traffic, and a driver is not always thinking – “there could be a cyclist speeding up behind me.”

      • But you ALWAYS use your turn signals, right?

        • Absolutely I always use turn signals – but feel free to whack yourself silly trying to make yourself feel – actually I have no idea what gratification stupid comments bring you. . .

      • If there is a bike lane, yes, it’s absolutely proper.

        If there’s no bike lane, bikes are supposed to be treated as cars, yet cars routinely pass cyclists.

        • No, this is false. Bikers share the road. We usually are on the right of the road at any given time, bike lane or no bike lane. We are supposed to abide by most of the laws that cars abide by, but NOT all. For example, it is legal in DC to pass a line of stopped cars at a red light if you are biking to them on their right. The presence of a bike lane (a rarity in many jurisdictions, including this city) is absolutely irrelevant to this incident. It has no bearing on anything.

          • There’s absolutely no suggestion I can see that this was at a red light. If the cyclist was passing a line of cars on the right through a green light and ran afoul of a cabbie made a legal turn, that’s the cyclist’s fault.

          • Arouet, the red light scenario was just an example of how bikers are not obligated to abide by all traffic laws expected of drivers. If there is a green light, a biker has the right to remain on the right side of the road going forward. The driver would be at fault for not checking, especially if he or she was aware of bikers sharing the road with his/her car. THAT SAID, you can be deadly right about this as a biker, but who wants to be right and dead? I will not blame this biker, but I will counsel my fellow riders (those who care to listen to me) to be very careful biking out there and ride as if no one can see you. Too many distracted drivers out there to assume they know where you are on the road.

  • 13th street may be bad, but it’s not like 14th is any better. I live in 16th street heights and sometimes bike to my work near metro center. The stretch of 14th street from about Spring road down to Florida is really scary, bike lane notwithstanding. Buses, parked cars, pedestrians, yech.

  • Sounds like bike’s fault on this one.

  • I miss the days when bikes vs cars debates were all we had to get fired up about.

  • OP one last time–
    Is there someone on this board either from law enforcement or WABA or a lawyer who can definitively let us all know the law? I was always under the impression that the cyclist going straight to the right of cars at a green light (regardless of the presence of a bike lane) has the right of way, and it is the obligation of turning cars to look and cede the right of way to bikes on their right if they (the cars) are making a right turn. Is this correct?
    I also do understand that this is an extremely risky situation for cyclists–if they are going fast even a good look by a reasonable driver might not see them, and I do appreciate and agree with all of the “bike defensively” comments in this thread.
    I really do hope this intersection is on the radar of all of the “vision zero” folks in DC.

    • Google WABA’s Pocket Guide (September 2015), see pg. 19. But please note, police officers often don’t know the laws when it comes to bike/car collisions, and bikers are usually unfairly penalized even when they are correct. Depending on the severity of the incident, I guess that is when you have to consider bringing in the attorneys…

      • It’s not clear from the page cited that the cabbie is at fault here. If he was as close as practicable to the right side of the road (that doesn’t mean literally hitting the mirrors of parked cars), had not just overtaken the bicycle, and turned right after properly signaling, that’s the biker’s fault. And that’s even taking the overly generous legal conclusions of the WABA at their word.

        We don’t have enough facts to know for sure.

        • You’re right- we don’t have all the facts. But this is a good starting place, as is the DDOT language on right hooks that someone just posted below this. I would hesitate to point blank assign guilt to the biker without knowing everything- especially when I see how many non-bikers are unaware of proper biking when it comes to our right to stay on the right, the obligations of drivers, etc…

    • If you want definitive, then call a lawyer. This is the internets.
      My thought is that the pertinent part of the law is that bicyclists can split the lane (bike between cars) when it is safe to do so. Doing that at an intersection or at high speeds isn’t safe in my view. I only do that in stopped or very slow moving traffic, and I don’t go fast.

    • “law enforcement or WABA or a lawyer who can definitively let us all know the law” – good luck reaching consensus. I think the biggest issue here is red light vs green light passing between cars – I understand that it’s allowed when cars are stopped at a red light, but ten things get pretty murky from there.

  • The obligation for all vehicles (car and bikes) is to pass on the left. If the cyclist followed that obligation they’d be fine.

    • Only if they know the car is going to turn. If they don’t have their signal on there isn’t a way to know if they are turning or not. And if the car is taking a left and doesn’t signal then passing on the left can wind you up in the same situation. Passing properly is important, but the drivers need to signal properly as well. Some intersections (such as M & 22nd) have a separate bicycle light and the cars have to stop while the bike has the right of way. That should be standard across the city. But, alas, there aren’t that many dedicated cycle tracks, and sometimes cars think they can right-on-red, despite a sign that says “No Right On Red”.

    • This comment is why (in a perfect world) it would be great to have everyone participate in a mandatory 1-week of urban biking. If you’ve only been a walker or driver in a city, you don’t really understand how it works. Not trying to be offensive, but this truly is a case where one’s perspective is informed (or not informed) by the amount of urban biking they do. We share the road, and- with every few exceptions- riders will almost always be found on the right of the lane. There is no accounting for a driver’s sudden veering for a right turn (the infamous “right hook,” which injures and kills bikers “doing everything right.”). Even if the biker was right to be going straight with her green light, I’d still caution everyone to always be aware that drivers may not see you or check as they turn (even when you think they are aware bikes are on the road with them in predictably right part of the lane).

  • washington20009

    This is the so-called “right hook” problem.

    Seee page 19 of the WABA DC Bike Law brochure for a discussion of this scenario. http://ddot.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/ddot/publication/attachments/DC-Bike-Law-Pocket-Guide-Oct2012.pdf

    https://momentummag.com/legal-brief-rights-and-the-right-hook/

  • Found on the DDOT web site: “One of the most common bicycle crashes is known as the right hook, when a right-turning motorist hits a bicyclist traveling straight through the intersection. In this case, the bicyclist has the right of way. Motorists should let bicyclists clear the intersection before beginning their turn. As a precaution, bicyclists can look over their left shoulder to check for cars before traveling through an intersection.”

    This is less than clear about the situation when the car was there first and the bike hits the car or crashes trying to avoid hitting the car…

    http://ddot.dc.gov/page/ddot-bicycle-and-pedestrian-safety

    • Even though it doesn’t say it at the DDOT site you linked, I’m pretty sure that is only meant to cover when there is a bike lane as the far right lane. The driver has a responsibility to make the right from the right-most lane, and to merge into that lane safely, even if it’s a bike lane. And the driver must check for pedestrians legally crossing at the intersection before turning. In this case it’s hard to tell if the cab was too far left or if the cyclist just tried to squeeze through.

  • As a PI lawyer in D.C., I’ll chime in, though this is not intended as legal advice for the injured person. The bike rider has the right of way in the bike lane but also has a duty to operate the bike within the law, therefore if the bike was speeding or failed to pay full time and attention to the road, the rider would also be at fault. This includes if the car had already started to turn and the rider failed to see what was there to be seen. Since the new law taking away contributory negligence (if you are even 1% at fault for your accident you are barred from recovering anything) for bikes and pedestrians has not be enacted, the bike rider could get screwed. Additionally, the driver of the car may come after them for damage to the car, even though usually that’s a useless claim, but most people don’t know that.

    Critically important in these sort of cases to talk to a lawyer early on since the insurance companies will try to get you to make a recorded statement before you have a lawyer and that can doom you down the road. Also, there may be some no fault medical benefits you can claim before making a full claim for your injuries, but in D.C. that can waive your right to file you full claim. So careful, some landmines out there for the unknowing.

    Happy to answer other questions if asked or can be emailed at my account name at gmail.

    • How, if at all, does the analysis change when (as here) there is no bike lane, and the cyclist is “lane-splitting” between traffic and street parking.

  • Stepping past the blame game here — would it make sense to ban southbound bike traffic on 13th in the interest of saftey? Bikes have horrible braking performance in general — small contact patches don’t help. The corner has some blind spots. Should we discourage people from risking their lives there?

    • I have lived on 13th street at the bottom of the hill for over 52 years. I have rode my bicycle down that hill more than any millennial will ever do and not once did I “run into any cars. I do believe that the bicycle was at
      fault, one because it was going faster that the posted speed limit, two because you should never overtake a automobile at an intersection (common street smarts). Since these millennials have moved into the city they now need “bike lanes ” and helmets and the drivers need cars that brake for them(while they are on the phone)
      and self parking cars since they no longer need to park in the dirt driveway of they home town.