That Belmont PD press release

There’s been local discussion about a news item regarding a car-vs-bike collision in Belmont, CA. Some people apparently don’t understand what’s missing, so I’ll try to explain.

belmont cyclist injured

Driver makes a left-cross turn on Ralston at Chula Vista in Belmont, CA and sends a guy on a bike to the hospital. Belmont PIO takes the opportunity to remind cyclists to be careful, which I suppose is fine as far as that goes, but fails to remind those operating the more dangerous vehicle to do the same, even when the operator of the more dangerous vehicle was apparently at fault in this incident.

Take your pick on why this is so:

  • Motorists are mindless dangerous beasts and beyond reason, so talking to them is a waste of time and effort. Only those of us on bikes have brains, and hence willingly receive helpful instruction.
  • Motorists are presumed to be adults who know better, while infantile cyclists must always be goaded into responsible behavior.

Press release pasted below. Thank you to Mike S, who frequents these pages.

Bicyclist Injured in Collision with Motorist

Driver turned in front of bicyclist
Post Date: 04/20/2015 3:04 PM

Contact: Captain Patrick Halleran

A bicyclist was injured Saturday afternoon when he collided with a motorist, who had turned in front of him on Ralston Avenue.

On Saturday, April 18, 2014 @ approximately 1:40PM, Belmont Police and Fire units responded to a report of a collision between a motorist and a bicyclist on Ralston Avenue at Chula Vista Drive. Upon arrival, first responders found a 29 year old Belmont man lying on the ground. He was treated at the scene by Belmont Fire Department Paramedics and transported to an area hospital for non life-threatening injuries. The bicyclist was not wearing a helmet at the time of the collision and was on his cell phone. The driver, a 90 year old Belmont woman, was not injured.

The cause of the collision is still under investigation, but it appears the woman was westbound on Ralston Avenue and made a left turn onto Chula Vista Dr. and into the path of the bicyclist, who was riding eastbound on Ralston Ave.

While the California cell phone law specifically applies to motor vehicles, the Belmont Police Department would like to remind cyclists to drive defensively. Talking on a cell phone and other activities, such as carrying packages and bags can reduce your reaction time to unexpected hazards. Also, while not required for adults, wearing a helmet is always recommended.


  1. While I have some empathy for the cyclist, I cannot have much sympathy because he was on his phone. Years ago, a group of friends and I were standing on a sidewalk. The next thing we know someone is driving down the sidewalk INTO us, because he dropped his phone and bent over to pick it up. I have been a vulnerable user victimized by a crash started because of cellphone use. Current cellphone law is not adequate, it should be as serious as a DUI; the same is true for cyclists. It is monumentally stupid to ride without a helmet and to distract yourself with a phone; he had it coming by lowering his defenses. Similarly, I doubt 90 year old grandma had a good sense of depth perception, and that probably was a HUGE factor – which the cyclist could have compensated for is he wasn’t distracted.

    The cyclist has my empathy, I know how much this must suck. Hopefully he learns a valuable lesson, and hopefully he doesn’t have any brain damage after getting into a crash without a helmet. Hopefully that old lady has a come-to-Jesus moment where she realizes that maybe she should stop driving. Who knows though?

    P.S. 100% Truth -> “Motorists are mindless dangerous beasts and beyond reason, so talking to them is a waste of time and effort. Only those of us on bikes have brains, and hence willingly receive helpful instruction.” Further reason why I hope the cyclist’s brain is okay.

  2. “he had it coming by lowering his defenses.” really?? and this – “Similarly, I doubt 90 year old grandma had a good sense of depth perception, and that probably was a HUGE factor – which the cyclist could have compensated for is [sic] he wasn’t distracted.” is incredulous.
    First you ASSume she has poor depth perception (90 years and driving might belie your position) and second, you PREsume that the cyclist would somehow know this and act accordingly.
    If you ride a bike, I ASSume your brain is in your back pocket.

  3. Hal, there is no legal standard for taking someone off the road, you just have to wait for them to fail a driving test, become legally blind, or hit someone/thing. It is pretty reasonable to assume that she mis-judged the distance and the cyclist’s speed and cut him off, causing him to hit the side of her car (like he did).

    Furthermore, I didn’t assume anything about the cyclist other than his distraction and it was due to his distracted biking (on the phone) that he is now hospitalized. Perhaps he was only listening to music, perhaps he was actively texting and not even looking at the road. We have no way of knowing, but the fact is that even listening to music with one headphone in, or none, is more distracting than no active cell-phone use.

    Your aggressive and poorly thought-out reply indicates some level of personal emotional investment, like perhaps you use your phone while biking with no helmet and took offense to my very logical judgement call. I am sorry my well-thought out judgement that values my personal safety offends you. I normally wouldn’t resort to ad hominem attacks, but you already took it to that level. Please consider removing your brain from you back pocket when riding, it will help me ride with greater ease knowing there is one less mindless and one more mindful biker on the road.

  4. So the guy may or may not have been distracted.
    That doesn’t excuse the 90 year old ‘lady’ for not paying attention to whatever is in front of her bloody car.

  5. Did they ask if she was wearing her prescription glasses and whether she had a valid license ?
    Because I doubt a 90 year old can see anything without glasses.

  6. But you cannot ignore the cyclist’s responsibility for his own actions. If you let your guard down even for a second that is on you, if you get overly aggressive and think “I can totally beat that red light” that is on you. I have made mistakes while riding and been generally very lucky because I am present in what I do and I can compensate for my mistakes. If you take yourself out of the present moment by using your phone that is on you and nobody else.

    Another critical issue is what I just mentioned, the state lacks effectively mechanisms to get unsafe drivers off the road, largely because driving is viewed as a right not a privilege. It isn’t just older drivers, it is young ones too like the assholes who were spinning donuts in the middle of the road on my way home the other week, or the guy the week before going the wrong way down a one way road. Fact is, I have seen cyclists doing that same sort of idiotic stuff. If you are using a vehicle then you need to use it properly, regardless of how many wheels or how much it weighs. Need I mention that cyclists kill pedestrians too? It is a vehicular foodchain with cats and children at the bottom and semi-trucks acting as T-Rexs.

  7. The law is clear. The driver is at fault. It is irrelevant what the cyclist was doing as it was not illegal and not the cause.

    Not being defensive enough may lead to personal harm but is not a crime.

    Stop blaming the victim.

    They no doubt know full well that they could have avoided the unsafe driver in this case had they been more aware.

  8. Bikes are vehicles and hands-free laws should apply to them as well as cars. It isn’t victim blaming to point out that it is idiotic to ride a bike or operate a car while distracted or otherwise unable to focus on the road.

    Definitely not a crime to be in-attentive, but it can lead to crimes as we see here – the driver being inattentive combined with the cyclist being checked out has led to the cyclist going to the hospital.

    The law is clear, but unfortunately the courts and cops are biased against cyclists and crashes like this just give them more ammunition.

  9. It is victim blaming. The driver is at fault. The driver’s fault is not up for debate it is one of the facts in evidence. You are blaming the victim for the driver’s actions. Whether the cyclist could have avoided the illegal and dangerous actions of the driver if he wasn’t on the phone is not the point. The driver performed illegal and dangerous actions that lead to a crash.

  10. ” Whether the cyclist could have avoided the illegal and dangerous actions of the driver if he wasn’t on the phone is not the point.”

    That is exactly the point. If he wasn’t on his phone he could have seen it coming and slowed down, stopped his bike, turned, or did a myriad of other things. I have near collisions all the time because of drivers not paying attention and not driving safely, I am still alive because I pay attention.

  11. Does wellsuited for life also blame rape victims for being out alone in bad neighborhoods or not carrying a gun?

  12. It isn’t even clear if that would have made a difference. What you are doing wellsuited is victim blaming. You are part of the problem. Am I blunt enough to get through or will you restate you premise again?

  13. Nope. and that analogy is about as fair as me calling you a rapist for making that comment. I’m not calling you one, merely making a comparison that neither comment is fair or even topical. Ad hominem attacks don’t make you look good in conversations, they only make you look less educated. A vehicle crash =/= rape anywhere in the world and to make that comparison is insulting to rape victims.

    I am not putting all the blame for this on the victim, merely recognizing that they had a role in the crash as much as the driver did. Cellphones have been shown to be as distracting as driving drunk, would you still be defending him if he was biking drunk without a helmet? Personally I wouldn’t, because biking drunk is about as stupid as driving drunk.

    You are part of the problem for enabling people to be reckless on our roadways. Do you use your phone while you bike/drive? I have seen multiple cyclist crashes happen in SF and around the bay area because someone is on their phone, either the cyclist or the pedestrian who walked into the bike lane without looking. Who is to blame there? The pedestrian or the cyclist? That is a fair analogy to this car hits bike scenario, moreso than Max Power’s moronic rape analogy. In the case of bike hitting pedestrian state law says the vehicle is to blame; just like in this case. But are you as a cyclist going to say that pedestrian isn’t slightly to blame for walking out into a street without even looking? I split the blame relatively equally, and apparently I am a rarity for that.

    I love how black and white you all are about there, where it must be someONE’s fault, and only one person’s fault. That kind of thinking has served humanity well and gotten us into all kinds of messes. Perhaps you’d all be better to consider that truth lies somewhere in the grey area in between these two extremes.

  14. The driver is at fault. Failing to yield to oncoming traffic. The cyclist had priority. The 90 year old individual should not have been operating a motor vehicle.
    Teenagers and seniors have the highest rate of collisions according to the CDC and Triple AAA.
    So why are we scapegoating the cyclist? Especially when we should be working on creating sustainable infra. where 90 year old people don’t *Have* to drive and can instead walk, ride a bike, or take public transport.
    Shame on those who blamed the victim.

  15. We are not scapegoating the cyclist, only wellsuitedforlife is 🙂
    Though he does seem to like spreading fault around to everyone, so maybe that’s fair.

  16. You touch on a bigger issue, that our roads which were originally designed for bikes, pedestrians, horses, and lightrails, have been co-opted for use by cars. Nearly every major city in America saw a gutting of public transit as infrastructure money flowed to highways and other things designed with cars in mind.

    Agreed that we need better infrastructure for bikes, pedestrians, and better public transit. But all the better infrastructure in the world won’t make people more attentive, it can merely lessen the risk. The best defense is keeping your situational awareness at a maximum, which goes for everyone on our roads (pedestrians, bikes, cars, deer, you name it). Roads are not safe and cars kill more people every year than guns. Would you take your eyes off someone with a loaded gun for even a second? I wouldn’t and that is how I view all cars, like someone who could snap and kill me. Maybe I am being paranoid, but I am alive and have yet to be hit by a car. I don’t think it is victim blaming to recognize that people should be present in what they are doing and not distracted, to call it that is to enable distracted driving.

  17. Max, we have come a long way from ad hominem attacks. Thank you for that. And thank you for recognizing that is is fair to assume that all vehicles on the road should be mindful in what they are doing.

  18. Yes, yes. Just because I criticize your argument, I’m making an ad hominem attack.

  19. I don’t read that wellsuited is scapegoating the victim, just making a valid point that full attention on the roadways is what helps you prevent collisions in situations like this. I also think the BPD was pretty sensitive in their writing of this press release, but agree they left off the final sentence reminding drivers to be particularly cautious around the pedestrians and bicyclists in front of their windshields.

    We can certainly say that 90 years old “should” be too old to drive, but I recently saw a Ford marketing person explaining that the first person to live to 150 has already been born, and their goal as a company is to enable people to drive as long into their senior years as possible. Frankly, I’m less afraid of 90-year-old women driving than I am of 22-year-old boys.

    One of my childhood memories is my mom and sister and I accompanying my grandma into the DMV in Massachusetts. She could barely walk with her walker. When we got to the counter for her license renewal, my mom and sister tried in vain to convince the inspector to deny her renewal. The lady had her put her prescription glasses on and read the chart via the machine, while we stood behind her frantically shaking our heads no and trying to convince the inspector to fail her. She passed, and backed her Ford Taurino into another parked car in the DMV parking lot as we left.

  20. It seems that the phrase we’re looking for is “contributory negligence.” This does not apply to the strawman of rape since it only concerns acts of negligence, not active malice.

    Maybe one could argue that a bicyclist on a cell phone is not being negligent, since he is not breaking any laws, but it may well be unsafe. Determining what actions are and are not acceptably “safe” (ignoring the “don’t ride at all, drive a tank” safety arms race) might need to be judged on a case by case basis depending on many factors, much like the California Basic Speed Law.

  21. What is relevant in this discussion is that the driver made an illegal maneouvre – “the woman was westbound on Ralston Avenue and made a left turn onto Chula Vista Dr. and into the path of the bicyclist”. That was the crime. End of discussion.

    If the cyclist had not been on the phone, and assuming that might have made them more attentive, it would not have made a blind bit of difference to the fact of the motorist hadn’t turned across their path (clearly without being attentive). Unless the bicycle had a teleporter fitted, and you have to own a *very* high end bike to have that.

    Why have so many people been so quick to try and attribute some form of negligence to the *victim* (remember that, wellsuitedforlife?) in this matter?

  22. Failing to yield to oncoming traffic applies to ALL vehicles equally, including bikes. For all we know she may have had the space had the cyclist braked a little; which the driver may have assumed they would as that is what cars do when someone cuts them off. Without being there we have no idea about spacing, we know that the cyclist was the one distracted party and had no safety gear on.

    My point has always been that he could have hit his brakes and been fine despite being cut off, if he wasn’t on his phone and distracted. Any cyclist on here who is pretending that they haven’t had a car do this to them is a damned liar or has only been riding for a day, or perhaps is a anomaly of luckiness. Cars do this ALL THE TIME, they do not care about us. But hey, those of us to PAY ATTENTION are still riding because he know when to apply our brakes.

    D, look at what you typed, fix your typos, fix your grammar, fix your argument and – based off how personally you seem to be taking my hard-line stance on biking while using a phone – maybe get the hell off your phone while operating vehicles too.

    The law that was broken, or should have been broken *if* the hands free law applied to bikes like it does to all other vehicles, would have been distracted driving. Cellphone use is more inhibiting than driving drunk; D. would you still have his back if he was riding wasted and got hit? I hope not, sine BUI is pretty serious and reckless as hell.

  23. Remember the old woman to left her house never meant to hit someone, she is also a victim here D. She will likely have PTSD for years after this, and maybe the cyclist will to. This kind of an event victimizes both parties in different ways. To refer to only one party as the victim in a traffic crash is to ignore the plight of the other party and to ignore the responsibility of the first party.

    I have empathy for that old woman to hit him, that must be an awful feeling. I wish I could empathize with the cyclist but I have a hard time empathizing with someone who would go out into the middle of a shooting range, put on a blind-fold, and run around randomly hoping a bullet doesn’t hit them. Cars kill three times as many people a year as guns, If anything, my analogy DOWNPLAYS the danger you face driving, as crazy is it may sound.

    If you would gladly stare down the barrel of a gun and then bait them to pull the trigger I cannot have much empathy for you – unless this is a death-with-dignity type situation.

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