Sunnyvale Fatality: Car vs person on a bike this morning

Numerous sources have reported a fatality involving a person riding a bike at 8:20 this morning at Fremont Ave and Mary Ave in Sunnyvale, CA.

Fremont Ave & Mary Ave Sunnyvale CA

My condolences to the victim and his or her family and friends. Sunnyvale PD reports that this was not a student.

This very busy intersection with multiple features heavy and sometimes chaotic school, work, gas station and Starbucks traffic at this time of day. You can see the sucky road geometry in the Google Streetview I copied, but the Santa Clara D.A. should investigate any entitled jackass hurtling through this intersection fast enough to kill somebody on a bike, regardless of how much guilt this driver feels at the moment. Sunnyvale police report that the driver is cooperating with the investigation.

The city of Sunnyvale will begin design work soon to reduce Mary Avenue from four lanes to three between this intersection all the way to Maude Avenue north of here. A street space allocation study in 2013 found the existing four lanes are over capacity for the existing and projected traffic. Council approved reducing Mary between Fremont and El Camino Real to three lanes and adding bike lanes on either side of the road.


  1. Not too far from home. Lotsa traffic there, but usually well-behaved. (The complex intersection at Wolfe, El Camino and Fremont is very concerning, however. Bicycles southbound on Wolfe can either get right-hooked by cars turning right on Fremont and squeezed as Wolfe narrows from 3 lanes to two in the same area.)

  2. This is the nearest big intersection to my house. Let’s wait to find out what happened before blaming anyone. Regardless, the penalty for making a mistake while riding on our roads should never be death. I’m glad they’re adding bike lanes to Mary – these will be most welcome.
    I’d love to also see left turn pockets for cyclists, and a reduction from 3 to 2 lanes for cars driving east on Fremont. For example, add a turn lane and striping for cyclists turning left from Fremont (eastbound) to Mary (northbound). That would help turn these mega intersections into more livable ones. We always seem to forget that cyclists need help with left turns as well as straight through maneuvers.

  3. Saw this from Sunnyvale PD:

    On 4/27/15 at approximately 0701 hours, Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety Police and Fire personnel responded to the intersection of Mary and Fremont for a report of a major injury traffic collision involving a motor vehicle and bicyclist. Upon the arrival of emergency personnel, a pedestrian was found on the roadway and was not breathing. Emergency personnel declared the adult patient deceased at the scene. The deceased was not associated to any of the schools in the area. The involved driver and vehicle were located at the collision scene.

    The collision is currently under investigation by the Sunnyvale DPS Major Accident Investigation Team (MAIT). Any witnesses to the traffic collision are requested to contact MAIT Investigator D. Le at (408) 730-7109.

  4. The bottom line is that both bicycles and cars need to be aware of each other. Bicycles as pedestrians seem to think that since they may have the right of way that they are seen by motorist and with that said demand it their right of way…Wake up and remember a car weights 4000 lbs…and being stupid will kill you…I ride a bike and I obey the law and respect the one who can kill me.

  5. Rick, it’s a comforting thought to believe that the people who get hurt or killed while riding a bike could have prevented it by being more deferential to people driving cars. You can be as defensive as humanly possible and that won’t keep someone from turning left in front of you, running you down from behind because they were doing something else or even intentionally hitting you because they didn’t think you should be on the road.

    If it makes you feel better believing otherwise, go ahead. But don’t expect me to believe that load of b.s. because I know that not insisting on our right to travel our streets on a bike or on foot will only mean we’ll get more victim-blaming.

  6. I still haven’t seen any details about this collision and resulting death. I’ve had no real trouble with this intersection except for the size and time it can take to cross it. I wonder about the report of pedestrian especially when there was a bike at the scene.

  7. I heard on the radio that the incident was caught on camera by the gas station. I haven’t been to the site, but I’m thinking at 7AM it may have been someone turning into Starbucks…just a guess. There are many busy commercial driveways in this area

  8. Sunnyvale PD just released this:

    Media Contact: Captain Jeffrey Hunter (408)444-7091

    Case#: CR15-3027

    SUNNYVALE, Calif. – On 4/27/2015 at approximately 0701 hours, Sunnyvale Police and Fire personnel responded to the intersection of Mary Avenue and Fremont Avenue on report of a collision between a motor vehicle and a bicyclist. The bicyclist, identified as Yanwen Liu (77 years old) of Sunnyvale, was declared deceased at the scene. Through the investigation, witness statements and evidence collected at the scene it was determined the bicyclist had failed to comply with the roadway controls at the intersection causing the collision. The motor vehicle was traveling at a safe speed for the conditions and complying with the rules of the road. There have been no other factors identified at this time.

    The collision remains under investigations by the Sunnyvale DPS Major Accident Investigation Team (MAIT). Any witnesses to the collision are requested to contact MAIT Investigator D. Le at (408)730-7109.

  9. Ladyfleur, Rick is correct. I am a person with twenty years 200,000 under his belt on a motorcycle. that first thing to remember we are now living in a three dimensional world as far as roads go and bicycle are hard to see. The rule that I live by is โ€œNever assume you have the right of way even if you do.โ€ Forget about the tough talk the campfire that will get you killed faster that anything etc. With turns stay about a half a car length back so you let car comment to where he is going that will give a chance.

  10. The dead guy usually gets the blame in an accident, he can’t tell his side of the story.

    When I ride a bike I assume: 1) I’m invisible to most drivers, they don’t see me. 2) those who do see me will try to run me over.

  11. Kudos to the Sunnyvale PD for the quick investigation. It seems that in most cases in the news, “under investigation” lasts until most people have forgotten about the incident.

  12. I would love to know the details here. This looks at first like a left hook from the picture, but not enough context seen to draw a conclusion.

    In all my years of cycling, this stretch of road has taught me to take the lane the most. Where the lanes are added and dropped, I believe being in the far-right bike lane not only corks right-turning motorists but it sets you up for subsequent right-hooks as drivers turn into the gas stations and malls as the lanes drop. In my Utopian world, the right lane would be sharrowed through the intersection (and the “40” speed limit paint would be eliminated from the right-most lane, especially where drivers have typically only accelerated to 25-30 at the point the lanes are marked with it).

    I worked extensively with Sunnyvale as they implemented the bike lanes on Fremont here, and the best I was able to get was to convince them to put in a right-turn-only lane at Bobwhite (when heading eastbound), yet they insisted on pushing the cyclist back to the far right on the other side which actually puts the bicyclist out of view of drivers coming out of Floyd. Further, at the post office, they insisted on hashing that outrageous ‘paint-based bulbout’ which confuses drivers and shows that bicyclists are supposed to suddenly transpose themselves back to the far right as soon as they’re dropped into the middle of the added lane in what I call a “mixing zone”, where LOTS of drivers are aiming to turn right either into the post office or at the intersection. I told them it was only a matter of time before they would start seeing more bicyclists being hit on this road as a result of this asinine design (that was done with the best of intentions, to be fair).

    Here’s how I position along this stretch:

  13. “…the bicyclist had failed to comply with the roadway controls at the intersection…”

    Which controls? The signals, the lane markings, or both? If a left hook, what was the duration of the yellow cycle? If outside of the marked bike lane, was it compliant with CVC 21202 exception 4?

    Lots to imply with that sentence as written, but again, I would LOVE to know the details. My condolences to the family of the bicyclist, and also to the driver who I’m sure hadn’t set out to intentionally kill someone.

  14. Not seeing any entitled jackasses here, just a sad accident. Sounds like the cyclist was turning left from Mary northbound on to Fremont westbound. If the light had just turned green for Fremont traffic, I would expect the driver to have seen what was happening and not started across the intersection. When traffic warrants it, I often cross this intersection with the pedestrian lights even though I’m on my bike, especially if my kids are riding with me.

  15. The cross streets of Fremont are all hazard zones for slow bike riders There is about 4.5 seconds from seeing the yellow on the cross street to cross traffic getting the green. For a slow 10 mph elderly cyclist on a mountain bike, the street is too wide to clear the lanes in just 4.5 seconds (you cover roughly 15 feet /second, and there are 3 lanes each way, plus left turn lane, plus center median, at about 12 feet per lane.

    If your front tire reaches the street side of the crosswalk when the light turns yellow, you need to cross 100 feet to clear the far lane of Fremont. If you are at less than 15 mph you will not make it.

    So even if you had entered the intersection on a green, at 10-12 mph, the cross traffic may have a green before you clear. The law is that when the light turns green, cross traffic must wait for the intersection to clear before entering.

    I wish the coverage of this was more explicity what it means by “failed to comply”. Where was the cyclist when the light turned yellow? Did they actually enter the intersection on a red? In any case, I hope Sunnyvale looks at ways to make these crossings safer.

  16. Robert this was just was I was thinking also. I am not buying all the claims out there that paint him as some kind of careless scofflaw. He was 77. You don’t make it 77 by being super careless. Risk adverseness increases linearly with age until ~60, then even starts to accelerate. By the time someone is 77 they are typically pretty darn careful about everything, sometimes to the point of being paranoid. Note pedestrian collision rates are heavily skewed to the older population, even though they are the most risk adverse and the most experienced. A big part of the reason is that they are just slower.

    Two things struck me as suspicious. (1) Instead of just coming out and saying he ran the light, as some have assumed, they said he failed to comply with the intersection controls. Why be so vague? (2) They also originally reported him as being a pedestrian. Typically that would only be reported if he were walking his bike at the time, not riding it.

    I could see a scenario in which he knew he couldn’t ride through the intersection in time to make the light, so he was using the crosswalk and walking his bike, but was still not fast enough to make it all the way across in time. The intersection control he failed to comply with would be that of not being able to clear the crosswalk before the sign went red.

    Road infrastructure is purposely designed by traffic engineers for those in there prime, with sharp senses and fast reaction times, in order to shave seconds from travel times and squeeze out every drop of LOS they can. The problem is we have an aging population. The roads in their current condition are designed for a decreasing fraction of the population, with the rest being increasingly marginalized.. The aging population needs to have some reasonable accommodation and some reasonable safe transportation options. The price for being slow should not be the death penalty.

  17. To me it looks like the motorist was making a U-turn on Fremont to go west, while the cyclist was riding south on Mary.The bike was hit a glancing blow while the rider went up the hood and windshield before tumbling off.

    But,”failure to comply with the roadway controls” may mean that the cyclist was riding on the sidewalk, and ignored a “Don’t Walk” light. I can’t picture how that would result in the resulting crash scene, though.

  18. Has anyone thought about reaching out to the Sunnyvale PD for clarification? If it came from SVBC or an influential blogger, in the name of helping prevent further tragedies, I think they’d at least explain why it’s vague…

  19. I saw this update from Sunnyvale PD:

    [quote]Monday April 27
    Fatal Collision โ€“ Mary & Fremont
    Time: 0701
    Officers responded to Mary & Fremont on a report of a major injury collision involving a vehicle and a bicyclist. The bicyclist was declared dead at scene. The preliminary investigation indicates the bicyclist entered the intersection against the red light. [/quote]

  20. 7am is even before the reported time of the collision at 8:20. The statement says “preliminary”. Preliminary at that point would likely be random speculation from the windshield perspective, or from the claim of the surviving member of the collision who is not exactly unbiased. At that point they would likely not have found and studied the video evidence.

    After advocates found video evidence in a previous case that showed the investigation was a complete sham, the police are now careful to scoop up video evidence from local businesses before anyone else can see it, so their conclusions can not be challenged.

    I will only believe what I see in the video evidence. If their conclusions are correct, they should have no problem releasing the video.

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