74-year-old Cyclist Dies after passing through a red light and colliding with a pick-up truck

cyclist
via google maps

From MPD:

“Detectives from the Metropolitan Police Department’s Major Crash Unit are investigating a traffic accident that occurred on Friday, April 28, 2017, at approximately 2:49 pm, that resulted in a fatality.

The operator of a bicycle was traveling northbound on First Street, Northwest, when he passed through a red light at Florida Avenue, Northwest. An operator of a Ford pick-up truck was traveling westbound on Florida Avenue, Northwest, where the bicyclist collided with the pick-up truck. DC Fire and EMS personnel transported the bicyclist to an area hospital for treatment.

On Wednesday, May 10, 2017, the bicyclist, identified as 74-year-old Dan Neidhardt of Northeast, DC, died from his injuries.

The case is currently under investigation by the Major Crash Investigations Unit. Anyone with information regarding this case should call 202-727-9099.”

82 Comment

  • Would be interested in knowing what sources of information they used to determine who ran the red. Too often it’s the word of the person who didn’t need EMS transport, but hopefully they have video footage so the driver can be either fully cleared (if cyclist ran the red) or appropriately punished (if driver ran the red).

    • Seriously, that was my first thought too. Maybe it happened this way- or maybe the truck driver struck and killed a cyclist and then told police this story. I hope they have evidence other than the word of the sole survivor of the collision.

    • It was 2:49 pm so there were probably other witnesses.

      • +1. Plus I’m not going to jump to judgement on this given the number of times I’ve seen cyclists blow through red lights without slowing down.

        • Agreed. I feel terrible for the family of the man who died but I also really feel for the driver of the truck. It’s awful all-around and I am grateful that my many near-misses have been just that.

        • True, because it is inefficient to stop if there aren’t any cars coming. But typically best not done at intersections with busy avenues, and in any case without looking carefully first.

    • Police assess fault in accidents dozens of times a day. It’s easy. You talk to witnesses. MPD doesn’t just speculate on what happened before publicly assigned fault.

      • Typically police talk to the witnesses and them blame the cyclist regardless of the facts.

      • There have been many posts (one relatively recently) about police assuming blame falls on the cyclist in these scenarios when it was the driver’s fault. Video evidence that the police didn’t bother to review in many instances exonerated the cyclist.

        • That doesn’t contradict my point. If MPD says the cyclist ran a light, they either personally saw him run the light, or a witness (other than the driver) said the cyclist ran the light. If you’re saying that MPD showed up on the scene and just randomly decided they thought the cyclist ran the light, I’d suggest that’s probably not a good assumption.

      • I can easily produce a dozen documented bike crashes where police managed to get this “easy” task wrong. And in all of those cases, the bicyclist has had to bend over backwards to get the police to finally admit they were wrong.

        • Admit they were wrong about what? Running a redlight is a clear statement of fact. Either people say it happened, or it did not.

          • And yet, we have stories like this:
            “In the ambulance, Carlos Carter, a DC police officer, asked me what happened, and I told him. Once the EMTs realized I had hit my head, it was straight onto a backboard and off to the emergency room.
            .
            At George Washington University Hospital, an X-ray found that my shoulder was separated and several ligaments were torn. Doctors took me to a CAT scanner to check for broken bones.
            .
            During the test, Officer Carter entered the room. He asked me to sign a ticket for running a red light. I asked him to take a look at footage since I was certain I hadn’t. He wasn’t interested and asked me to sign the ticket and admit fault. I didn’t. He left.
            .
            Often that would have been the end of the story, but, thankfully, not this one. I was confident that I was right, but after spending a day at the hospital, I began to doubt myself. When the police report was ready, I picked up a copy. Both the driver and another witness said I had run a red light.
            .
            Once I was mobile again, I returned to the scene of the collision. I tried to reconcile their version with mine. Was it possible that the light showed red in their direction but green in mine? I watched a few light cycles: the lights turned red at the same time. As I watched the cars roll through, I took a careful look around and noticed a camera with a Metropolitan Police Department label.
            .
            The camera was part of MPD’s CCTV Neighborhood-Based Cameras program. After calling the department, I learned that I had to file a DC Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the footage, which is erased every 7 to 10 days. Thanks to the careful work of Commander James Crane, Kaylin Junge Castelli, and Ofc. E.A. Hoffstetter, I was able to obtain the footage before it was deleted.
            .
            Here is the relevant segment. I appear 32 seconds into the video.
            .
            The video was extremely clear: I did everything right, while the driver did something dangerous and in violation of traffic laws. At 9:13:09 am (7 seconds into the video clip above), the light turned green. At 9:13:42 (32 seconds in), I appear on screen, and less than 2 seconds later, I cross the intersection. At 9:13:44.524, the driver made a left turn. 8 more cars pass through the intersection. At 9:14:08, the light turns red.
            .”

            You should read the whole story, and view the video footage. here’s the link:
            .
            https://ggwash.org/view/31600/it-must-have-been-your-fault-cmon-you-are-a-biker

          • It´s a statement of fact. It´s not necessarily actually a fact. That´s the problem.

          • Running a red is usually NOT a clear fact, unless one runs it smack in the middle of the red. Otherwise, there’s a grey area on either end, especially on the end where a green is changing to yellow and red, particularly at wide intersections.

        • A dozen is still probably a very small percentage of the total number of times such assessments are made.

          Whether right or wrong, my own eyes tell me cyclists run red lights all over this city all the time. I see it every single day going to/from work without fail. And with a much, much higher frequency than I see cars running red lights.

          If the police are making a guess (doubtful) here, they probably are doing so based on their own endless observations of the same. That all said, I live on this street and at that hour, there were no doubt witnesses galore to confirm what happened.

          • sure cars are less likely to run right lights but i would venture that only a small small fraction of cars come to a complete stop at a stop sight (based on my observation) and a high % of drivers are on their phones (i see this all time). Cyclist can run red lights in a very safe manner (akin to jaywalking) while no one can drive while using their phone in a safe manner. Add to the fact that it is exponentially more dangerous for a car to run a red light than a cyclist.

          • As a cyclist who lived in DC for 3 years, commuted in/out of the city every day, and did a ton of city riding, and one who has been hit by a car, I can easily see both sides. Yes, I’ve seen plenty of cyclists run red lights, some crazy blatant without even looking. I’ve also seen cars pull some ridiculous stunts, including running lights with reckless abandon. Automatically making the assumption that the cyclist probably caused the accident in the city is ridiculously short sighted and heavily biased. Drivers in the city are generally terrible, especially around intersections, so I would never assume a driver did something correctly and legal when an accident is being investigated.

            Also, the fact that people will so quickly lie and pass blame to another person that they just seriously injured because of negligence, makes me pretty sad for humanity.

      • Pretty sure the jury determines fault.
        .
        The police are rarely on your side.

    • I think the instance of a death they likely did their due diligence. That said, I was appalled when I was t-boned turning left by a driver who had run the red light while texting AND speeding (she admitted both to me, and I assume lied to the police about both.) My car was totaled and without speaking to witnesses or viewing the camera footage present at the intersection assigned blame to me at the scene of the accident and refused to review anything after the fact.

      • This is a civil issue for the courts. The police are not some neutral force designed to determine truth and assign blame–nor would we want them to be.

        • They absolutely should be a force designed to determine truth during the course of an investigation. I was cited for failure to yield, despite having a green arrow. Their response? “It’s a light dispute, she said her light was green.” When in point of fact, her light wasn’t and if they checked the cameras they would see that. The minute I was cited at the scene, it made a civil case exponentially more difficult to win.

          • Which is all to say, that I was appalled that they simply took one persons word over the other. In the event of a death at the scene of the accident, I would hope that they would have done more actual investigating… but based on my own personal experience it would not surprise me if they simply took the word of the other driver.

          • At least in Virginia, police cannot take one party of the accident’s word over another, unless they personally witnessed the accident or unless there are corroborating witnesses. That said, insurers ultimately hash this out and if you had any evidence (such as video) disputing the report, you can provide it for their investigation.

      • @James at first my insurance said it wasn’t worth fighting because of the citation, but I pushed hard for them to review the cameras and once they did they were pretty shocked that I had been cited at the scene solely based on the word of the other driver. I’m still trying to get the citation dismissed. It made everything more difficult, though. I’m not aware of any similar policy in DC, but again this was just based on my own personal experience.

  • Sounds like the driver of the pickup truck was distracted. If the cyclist was going north on 1st, that means he crossed over the eastbound FL ave lanes first, then the westbound ones where the pickup driver was driving. So, the cyclist was more than halfway across the street. Why didn’t the driver see the cyclist?

    • How do you know he didn’t? There’s no indication of the speed of the impact. The driver could have been breaking. Given human reaction times, a cyclist crossing over a road may be moving too fast to break in time. We can also consider other factors that could be in play here – how new were the truck’s tires, were they properly inflated, were his breaks in good condition. So the driver could have seen the cyclist but still not been able to stop in time to prevent this.

      • All of this. Not to mention the possibility of slick roads or the presence of other cars that would have made it more difficult to see the cyclist.

        • I was there that day and saw the police attend to him. The roads weren’t slick, but they were congested because of all the construction. It was a bright sunny day.

      • The speed limit there is 25mph. How fast do you think he was going?

    • Making stuff up about an incident you did not see under the guise of the cyclist is never wrong. How can you know the driver was distracted?

      • I could absolutely see a driver in the left lane heading westbound at Florida not see a biker coming from his left in time to stop.

        • I could absolutely see the biker flying through a red light without paying attention. But I wasn’t there. So I am not going to say that. Chances are high that it lies somewhere in between. But people bending over backwards to make this fit their own biases does nothing to solve the issue at hand. Let the police and government sort this out.

    • “Sounds like” the driver was distracted…based on what? Because they didn’t compensate for someone ignoring a traffic signal? Sorry, but this is how cyclists completely alienate drivers – by placing complete responsibility on cars and none on cyclists.

      • Based on the fact that if you are looking in front of you at the road you will see someone crossing over two lanes of traffic. Also, I’m not a cyclist. But, I am a driver. My worst nightmare would be to hit and kill someone, even if they were running a red light or doing something else dangerous. That is why I obey the speed limit and keep my phone out of reach.

        When I took driver’s education they taught us that if you have a chance to avoid a collision it is your responsibility to do so. Maybe that’s not the law anymore? But, it seems like common sense to not hit a bicycle that is crossing a road, even if it is illegal. So, what happened? Was the driver not paying attention? Was the driver speeding above the 25 mph limit? I said that it “sounds like” the driver was distracted because that is my opinion on why the driver did not see the cyclist (even though the cyclist was crossing illegally)

  • Now that we have two bike share corrals in my neighborhood, I routinely see a lot of unsafe behavior like riding through intersections against the light, riding on the sidewalk even next to bike lanes, etc.

    I’d like to know what the biking advocacy organizations are doing to promote safe biking behavior in the neighborhoods. They are very vocal about pushing for more bike access, okay they have that now. But I’d like to see more safety education as well.

    • You and I both. I’m a cyclist and I obey stop lights, etc. The problem with cyclists not doing so is they create a more dangerous and confusing environment for drivers. When drivers don’t know how a cyclist will behave, it increases the possibility of injury.
      .
      I would also like to see a law passed that makes it mandatory to wear a helmet. Too many avoidable injuries occur because people don’t want to mess up their hair.

      • Me and a million other cyclists would vehemently fight any law requiring helmets, and it has nothing to do with our hair.

        • The idea that a helmet will somehow mitigate getting hit by a car at 30+ mph is wishful thinking. The better solution is better enforcement of traffic laws on both cyclists and motorists. Cyclists in this city are ridiculous. I say this as a cyclist.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Without comment on what happened in this specific crash or relevance of helmet, because I don’t have any idea, one of the worst bicyclist crashes I have seen involved a bicyclist who was riding at a perfectly reasonable speed (likely <10 mph) but who must have been distracted riding right into the rear bumper of a stopped vehicle, flying straight up in the air, and coming down straight on his head. I don't know whether he survived or not, but it was pretty awful to see. I'll grant that he may well have had other catastrophic injuries, e.g., to his neck or spinal cord, from that one, but the guy basically fell 5-6 feet and landed head-first. In such a scenario I'd rather have a helmet than not have one.

          • Agreed with Haile here. I do not understand the logic of saying there’s no necessity for a helmet. Even if no one hits you and you fall of your bike, how is a helmet not better than no helmet?

          • the argument is against helmet laws, not helmets. Its debatable whether wearing a helmet makes cycling safer on the whole, its not debatable that helmet laws make cycling less safe.

          • HaileUnlikely

            anonabeer – If you mean that there is clear evidence that helmet laws make cycling less safe, I know where that’s coming from, and I can’t say the claim in question is itself false, but I don’t think it’s accurate to say that it’s not debatable. The study cited by the “safety in numbers” advocates made mostly cross-sectional comparisons of the volumes of cyclists and crash rates of cyclists in different cities. The opportunities for confounding are endless. We don’t (yet) have data that clearly demonstrates that comparing within a place (not across places) that helmet laws decrease cycling or that decreased cycling volumes (in the same place, not one place vs. another) make cycling more dangerous. The author of the study admitted as much himself, within the study itself.

          • Fair enough Haile, I shouldn’t have said ‘not’ debatable, but I haven’t seen any reasonable arguments/studies in favor of mandatory helmet laws. I think there is a reasonable argument to be made in favor of individuals choosing to wear helmets (though I think even that is shaky – even though I almost always wear a helmet).

        • maxwell smart

          This is literally the dumbest thing I have heard this week – and that is saying something.

          • It really is. You should get out more.

          • maxwell smart

            I mean, whatever, it’s your life.. I don’t understand why you would oppose something that is potentially life saving, but whatever. I’m sure you oppose seat belts as well. You do you.

          • People use cars whether there are seat belt laws or not. Mandatory helmet laws prevent people without a helmet on them from cycling. You’re comparing apples and oranges.

    • Agreed that some bikers need to be better educated on bike safety. But I also believe that the amount of bike related scoff-law behaviour out there is totally overblown. I regularly see bikes doing idaho stops running through red lights, but no more than i see pedestrians jaywalking at the same red lights. anecdotally, i had three (3!) pedestrians looking at their phone walk into the protected bike lane on my bike commute this morning and almost get hit, one of whom nearly knocked me off my bike. this is unusually high, but indicative that everyone needs to be educated. and of course, the biggest danger is and always will be cars, who take up a disproportionate amount of road space, go the fastest, and have the greatest capacity to hurt and kill others.
      .
      i think, as biking has only exploded relatively recently, we’re going through a learning curve in trying to figure out how to adapt our infrastructure to best include bikes, but it’s best to work through this and continue making biking a viable option because its benefits to the city outweigh its annoyances.

      • It may depend on where you live as to what you see. I actually plan to do some videotaping one weekend on my street, and it won’t take long, because on one ten minute walk to the grocery store I usually see at least three bikers plowing through groups of pedestrians.

        • I see that nearly every day on my bike commute too, where you exit penn (in front of the white house) to turn south onto 15th. i think it’s most common when bikers do idaho stops when no cars are coming but pedestrians are crossing. the bikers check for cars, but don’t look out for pedestrians until they’re halfway across.
          .
          but the vast majority of bikers won’t just “plow through groups of pedestrians.” i think where it occurs, it’s either a design problem, or you need to take the story of the the person saying it with a grain of salt.

          • I’m not even talking about intersections, this is a problem with bikers using the sidewalks instead of the street at great speed and pedestrians having to jump out of the way. I got sideswiped along my back standing at a bus stop recently. You can call that a design problem, I call it something else.

          • Actually I call that confirmation bias. Incidents do occur, but you overestimate their frequency and severity relative to pedestrians and cars based on your own anecdotal experience.

          • At 15th and Penn, they certainly do. The way the lights are timed, I always get a red light when I’m about to pick up the cycletrack after cutting thru the WH. Even though pedestrians have the right of way at that crosswalk, most cyclists weave through them instead of waiting for them to clear and/or the green light. That’s a cyclist fail.

            Regarding the sheer number of cyclist-caused incidents, at some point anecdotal observations become actual facts. When you are the only cyclist stopping at a red light or stop sign (11th and Vermont, 11th and T, 11th and V, etc…) 5 days a week, 300ish days a year, that’s not anecdotal anymore.

          • Most drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians are actually behaving pretty well and reasonably, but the jerks stand out to everyone.

            There are some intersections where people simply do not obey the signals. At many, it is bikers who rarely think there are cars coming, so they feel ridiculous waiting at the light while pregnant ladies pushing strollers amble across against the light. At others, the jerkish bikers dart across anytime they think they have enough of a gap where the cars will have time to slow down. At others, it is cars running lights and blocking the intersection, doing rolling stops that are faster than most bikes ever go, or taking left turns around someone else taking too long for a left (all sometimes while talking on the phone). Meanwhile, far too many pedestrians wander around in traffic, even against the light, with eyes and earbuds fixated on their cell phone.

          • “Regarding the sheer number of cyclist-caused incidents, at some point anecdotal observations become actual facts. When you are the only cyclist stopping at a red light or stop sign (11th and Vermont, 11th and T, 11th and V, etc…) 5 days a week, 300ish days a year, that’s not anecdotal anymore.”
            .
            It sounds like you’re not describing cyclist-caused incidents, but rather bikers that slow down, look for cars, and then proceed through the red light. I see the same thing on my commute on 15th at basically every street Mass – U St. When I see cyclists going against the red, I also see pedestrians jaywalking, so you can’t call out one and not the other. And really neither should be called out if they’ve stopped and looked for cars. What I rarely see is cyclists going full bore through a red light when cars are coming (although it does happen).

  • Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but when I read the MPD statement that says “the bicyclist collided with the pick-up truck,” it sounds to me like it was the cyclist that broadsided the truck and not the other way around. Do we know if that’s accurate?

    • Not sure what that changes…
      Who hits whom certainly isn’t indicative of who’s at fault.

    • Why would one automatically assume the reporting is inaccurate. At a decent rate of speed, a cyclist colliding into anything can lead to severe damage or death. Car, mailbox, light post, etc. especially if one does not safeguard themselves for impact.

      • I don’t assume the reporting is inaccurate, but several of the above comments all seemed to be written under the assumption that it was the driver who hit the cyclist while the report led me to a different mental picture of what had happened. Obviously, it doesn’t address who ran the light and either type of collision can be fatal.

    • HaileUnlikely

      I would not even attempt to parse the language used in such a statement to that level of detail. Yes, as phrased, that is the implication, but (and seriously I do not intend to diss the police here), that is assuming that a lot more care went into the precise wording of that phrase than I suspect is typically the case for quick statements given to media on the day of or day after a crash, crime, or other police activity.

  • How about we start with: Condolances to the family of the deceased and to the truck driver. Regardless of fault, a man lost his life. That is a tragedy to all involved
    .
    I’m a cyclist. I’m pro cycling. I no longer commute by bike bc of job location, but I did for many years. I was appalled at the number of times drivers broke the law and put my life in danger – including a time a driver pulled out of a garage without looking and t boned me, and the time a cabbie intentionally tried to run me off the road in Thomas Circle. Some drivers suck.
    .
    I’m also a driver. I’m appalled by the number of times bikes have broke the rules of the road without any seeming regard for their own safety, putting their own lives in danger, including a cyclist who passed me on the right and merged over on top of me out of no where, only avoiding serious injury because I slammed on my brakes. Some cyclists suck.
    .
    None of you know the cyclist or the driver involved in this incident. No of you were witnesses. So to just speculate “must have been drivers fault” or “bet it was the cyclists fault” is just silly. There are bad apples in both groups.

    • Well said, Anon NS.

    • +100; as a pedestrian whose nearly been run down by people of all ages on bikes and in cars; I tend to agree with this. As an occasional driver, I’ve had bicyclists come out of nowhere while I’m in a parking maneuver and complain I was in the bike lane (yes, I was for a reason). The police don’t seem all that sympathetic to bicyclists but that doesn’t mean we always have to give the bike folks the benefit of the doubt.

    • Yes, thank you for breaking through this whole biker vs. driver noise.

      My bike was everything to me when I lived in Oregon. It was my transport. When I moved here in 1980 there were no bike lanes and I feared for my life, so sadly gave up my bike. Decades later I’m a pedestrian walking slowly with a cane who has been sideswiped and hit by bikers while walking on the sidewalk.

      Bikers can be in the wrong.
      Drivers can be in the wrong.

      That’s life.

    • Best comment.

    • “As a X” seems stupid here. Your experiences here are not unique. We all have driven, biked, and walked and observed people doing all three in ways that put them and others in danger.

      Why do these posts always devolved into WELL I BIKE EVERY DAY TO WORK SO I KNOW SOMETHING type arguments as if you’re the only person with such experiences.

      • To be clear, I’m agreeing with the above comment.

      • maxwell smart

        “We all have driven, biked, and walked” I don’t know if that’s true. I feel like some of the biker vs. driver issues are from people who have not experienced commuting from the others perspective.

      • No, I know many people who have not driven and/or biked in DC. I even know some people who don’t know how to ride a bike.

      • As someone who has both biked and driven in big cities, the sense I get from those drivers who complain bitterly about bikers is that they haven’t ridden a bike in a big city, and probably not at all since their suburban childhoods.

        • Or, they could just be complaining that they see bikers running lights/stop signs constantly and regardless of experience know that is unsafe and puts bikers at risk of injury and drives at risk of hurting someone unnecessarily and having to deal with the repercussions of that.

  • This is horrible. I cross 18th&Florida&U every morning on my walk to work and cyclists run that red light all the time. I understand that they might not want to stop their momentum and like the pace they got going down the hill or are late for work, but this is basically playing Russian roulette.

    • Are they running it against a left turn arrow in the opposite direction? At a lot of regular bike commuters seem to know the timing on these and either look to see if anyone is turning. On the other hand, bikers do seem to love running reds when going downhill on 18th St.

  • Note. Running a red light without stopping is NOT an Idaho Stop. Cyclists who practice an Idaho stop properly, will stop at the light, look both ways, and then proceed after confirming no cross traffic (something likely rare at Florida Avenue)

    Personally I only Idaho reds at certain three way intersection where there is no possibility of conflict with cross traffic. But I think as we discuss bike behavior, we need to be careful to separate proper Idahos, which are currently illegal, from reckless red light running.

    Regardless of whether in this particular instance the cyclists went through the red or not

  • “Motorists exceeding the speed limit surrender all rights of way.”

  • @Popville you dropped pin at the wrong corner on google map, FYI.

  • We were there when it happened (my wife is a nurse practitioner and assisted until medics came. ) and we called 911 instantly. The cyclist ran the light and the driver was following laws and terribly upset. It was not the drivers fault. There were a number of whitnesses that stopped and reported they saw the same thing. We felt bad for everyone (except those that didn’t bother to stop and just drove around the cyclist in the intersection until police shut it down.

  • Oof I’m very sorry but not surprised to hear this. There was a much-needed speed camera here (Florida Ave Park side) that was flattened by a Uhaul being pursued by police a few years ago. (Woke me up and I saw the aftermath, including officers rolling up the door with guns drawn to find… nothing.) The camera was never replaced, and who knows if speed was a factor here; at any rate, I’ll try to send more emails/make it to a community meeting soon to see about getting it replaced, because speeding cars generally are a problem on this stretch. Other input from community members would probably help.

    • You should also note the post above yours — it wasn’t the driver of the truck, so in this particular case, it sounds like it may not have been a speed issue.