In 2007, history teacher John Myslin was killed by a passing truck on Mission Street, Santa Cruz. An accident reconstruction video created for the wrongful death lawsuit dramatically illustrates what happened.
Myslin was cycling north on on Mission Street at Bay when he was clipped by a gravel truck operated by Gabriel Manzur Vera. Vera was also the driver in the death of cyclist Lauren Ward in 2010 on Alpine Road at I-280.
Investigators put fault of Myslin’s death on the cyclist, concluding that he tried passing to the right of the truck in the narrow lane. This reconstruction video, however, shows Myslin in front of the truck by two car lengths, with Vera failing to give sufficient passing space.
Eight months later, a woman was hit and nearly killed at the same intersection by a passing gravel truck. A few days after that, Chris Rock was run over by a cement truck on Mission and Bay. In 2010, Ecology Action and the truck operators met to discuss truck and cyclist safety on Mission. Ecology Action published truck safety brochures for cyclists, while the truckers on Mission Street agreed to change lanes when they pass cyclists.
Mission Street through Santa Cruz is really too narrow to share; I avoid Mission, but if I must ride there I usually take the entire right lane to keep truckers like Vera from even attempting to pass in the same lane. It’s just self preservation.
Myslin’s family filed a wrongful death suit against several parties; the case against the city and county were dismissed, while the family won $1.5 million from the trucking company.
H/T to Bay Area Cargo Bikes in Campbell, CA for the discussion.
As annoying as talking about vehicular cycling can be sometimes, this video clearly shows why riding in the lane is the safest way to go. The “far to the right” part of the law that most people get hung up on is exactly the most dangerous place to ride.
Hi Andy; I was going to skip mention of lane taking because it can come across as preachy and tiresome, but for this example it just seems irresponsible to not mention it.
It’s hard to even bring it up without “blaming the victim” but I think you put it into words well. While this scenario (at least as shown in the video) is clearly the truck driver’s fault, it also seems likely that a cyclist that understands the benefits of riding in the lane at the right times wouldn’t have the same outcome.
No, no…the family won $1.5 million from insurance policy holders everywhere. Our legal system is so f-ed up.
Sometimes taking the lane is absolutely necessary. On one short section of my commute I take a full lane for 1+ miles. The road is two lanes with a 30 mph speed limit. I found out the hard way that staying far to the right was much more dangerous than taking the full lane. I actually get honked and yelled at less being in the middle of the lane.
The problem is that on a four lane road in an office “park” most motorists travel 50+ mph and they come in clusters of five to eight with a minute or more between clusters.
The road can seem very safe until a hoard of road ragers come barreling through. They’re always fighting for the lead, passing on the left AND the right, oblivious to cyclists until its too late. Then the silence, until the next hoard, can be deafening.
There’s a good video demonstration of this somewhere that I’ve seen before. The rider first sticks to the gutter, and you can watch each car approach fairly close, then try to squeeze pass making only minor lane changes but never fully moving out of the way. Then they show the rider fully in the lane, and when the first car in the line has to change lanes, then the cars behind them also fully change lanes to pass. It’s almost magical how well it works and how much safer it appeared when they took the lane.
The hard part is trusting the first driver at each line of cars. For this reason, my dynamo lights are always on when I’m on the commuter bike, and I generally wear orange jackets. I don’t find the whole reflective vest and 10 flashing lights necessary, but staying in a predictable place and wearing visible colors surely helps.
On this particular street, speed limit is 25 MPH. There’s some jockeying for position when traffic is lighter but it’s not too horrible. I’ve seen the situation you’re talking about too, though and known how uncomfortable that can be.
“Taking the lane” sounds like theft to me. The lane belongs to the overtaken vehicle (in this case a bicycle), and its operator can maintain control of it or not as he/she judges appropriate. As noted, it remains the responsibility of the the overtaking vehicle operator to pass in a safe manner, even if the bicycle operator fails to make it clear that more space is needed. Which is why the trucker’s employer lost and will have to pay higher insurance premiums.
An especially timely post for me. I was side swiped by a passing car at 6am this morning while on my way to work. 4 lane road, 8% hill grade, I was taking my lane, wearing reflective material, 2 turbo flashers on the rear, headlight and white flaser on the front, but she “never saw me”. I’m banged up, but alive and happy to be so. My biggest problem is dealing with my rightious anger. I’m furious, but need to get past it or it will ruin riding for me. Sometimes it seems no matter how many precautions you take and how careful you are, it’s not enough to overcome the inattentive/distracted factor.
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Gah, I completely understand the anger and empathize! Glad you survived that encounter. I’ve had a couple of very close calls from truckers who pass and then swerve into me (thinking they’ve already passed?)
“Taking the lane” may not help much in a situation like that. That killer trucker would still likely pass a cyclist dangerously even if he were out in the lane. And then, if the trucker wants to be in the right lane, his steering the truck back into the right lane impatiently, before the pass is complete, as the road curves right, would cause the back set of wheels to cut even more sharply across the cyclist’s path than it did in the video. So I don’t see lane-taking as a panacea here. It’s pretty clear that the victim would still be alive had he bailed onto the sidewalk for a moment, however.
What the video shows clearly is a driver who caused the death of a cyclist through grossly negligent operation of his vehicle.
Robert, I agree absolutely that the video shows an extremely negligent driver. The cyclist was punished in spite of his legal and safe riding.
I ride this section of Mission as do hundreds of other people. I assure you, lane taking works perfectly fine here. Mission Street is a state highway with very heavy truck traffic from the gravel quarries north of Santa Cruz.I know it’s not a panacea, and people do get rear-ended while occupying the middle of the lane (as attested by another commenter to this post).
This is not a reconstruction of the John Myslin death. In that collision, the north bound truck made a right turn on to Bay Avenue. This truck in the above video doesn’t make any turns.
The incident in the above video appears to be of a southbound truck at the Bay/Mission intersection. The double trailer truck crosses the intersection and the second trailer rides up onto the sidewalk. I have seen this happen many times. So, if anything, this must be a reconstruction of Chris Rock’s death or of the injuries sustained by the woman who was hit the week before Chris Rock was killed. In both those incidences, the truck and the cyclist were headed south on Mission Street (without any turning movements by either party).