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Bicycle Safety

Belmont Police Blame Cyclist for Getting in the Way of Driver’s Left Turn

3:37 PM PDT on April 23, 2015

An emergency crew treats an injured 29-year-old man who was hit on his bike by a driver who turned left into his path. Police blamed the victim for carrying bags and talking on a phone. Photo: Belmont Police Department
Caption. Photo: Belmont Police Department

When a 90-year-old driver turned left into the path of a man bicycling on Ralston Avenue, the Belmont Police Department blamed the victim for talking on a cell phone and not wearing a helmet. The department also warned people on bikes against "carrying packages and bags" in its press release.

None of those behaviors are illegal, nor would they have stopped the driver from turning left into the victim's path -- which, by the way, she didn't receive a citation for.

The crash on Saturday afternoon occurred on Ralston, where city officials refused to include bike lanes and a road diet in a plan for safety improvements last year.

"Cars come first," Belmont City Council Member Coralin Feierbach declared in 2013. Feierbach acknowledged that “when you ride your bike on Ralston you take your life into your own hands," but concluded that there is nothing to be done about it. She deemed it “impossible” to reduce speeding, ignoring the evidence that road diets do just that [PDF].

Victims of Belmont's failure to implement proven safety measures won't get any help from the local police department, which issued its statement on Monday to "remind cyclists to drive defensively."

"Talking on a cell phone and other activities," the BPD statement said, "such as carrying packages and bags can reduce your reaction time to unexpected hazards." Reckless drivers, for example.

The driver was at least issued a DMV notice of re-examination, according to BPD Captain Patrick Halleran. Elderly drivers in California aren't required to take a re-exam unless ordered by a police officer, physician, or others.

As of press time, Belmont officials have issued no reminder for drivers to slow down and avoid running over people on bikes.

Westbound Ralston Avenue at Chula Vista Drive, where the crash occured. Photo: Google Maps
Driver's view heading westbound on Ralston Avenue at Chula Vista Drive. Photo: Google Maps

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