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Fatal crash with bicyclist is second for truck driver

Original post made on Nov 16, 2010

The Nov. 4 fatal collision of a bicyclist with a tractor-trailer at the Alpine Road/Interstate 280 interchange was the second time in a little over three years that the driver and that truck had been involved in such an incident.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, November 16, 2010, 2:34 PM

Comments (34)

Posted by re-investigate the first killing
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 16, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Did they clear the truck driver the first time because of his statement alone? What did other witnesses say? Unfortunately, they likely did not get a statement from the victim before he died.

I hope the cops reopen the investigation of the first killing to compare with what happened in the second killing.

Posted by palo alto since 1960
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 16, 2010 at 5:41 pm

To "re-investigate the first killing", please reread the story carefully. It does state the the first accident (not killing) was recorded, "In the Santa Cruz incident, a video originating either from a surveillance or street camera showed that Vera was not at fault." So why are you ranting about a killing that needs to be reinvestigated...??

Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 17, 2010 at 7:41 am

As someone who rides through that interchange frequently, I know that rigs drive consistently at very high speed there, and on Alpine Road in general. The bike lane ends at the interchange and cyclist are completely at the mercy of drivers. I have never witnessed a cyclist riding irresponsibly at that interchange since they are all aware that their lives are at stake, but I have seen numerous incidents of reckless and potentially deadly driving, particularly from rigs and other heavy vehicles. Vis-a-vis the Santa Cruz incident, a video camera cannot determine who is at fault in a deadly crash between a bicycle and a big rig, so that investigation should be re-opened. We put down animals that kill humans, usually because humans encroach on their territory and pose a threat to them or their new born, but we allow killer drivers to freely roam our roads. Anyone feel comfortable sharing the road with Mr. Vera?

Posted by cyclist 2
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 17, 2010 at 9:11 am

Can someone explain how this possibly happened? I've read the bike was hit on the left side of the truck. Here, it says the truck was going to make a right onto the on ramp going south on 280. I don't understand how the cyclist got hit. (But I don't know how that interchange works.) I guess we will have to wait for the police report to really know, but I'm wondering how it could have possibly happened?

Posted by commuter
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 17, 2010 at 9:17 am

Most likely the bicyclist was heading straight up Alpine (uphill) and moved to center of the lane to avoid the cars coming off the I-280 off-ramp. The truck driver tried to pass the bicyclist on the right to get to the I-280 on-ramps. The driver passed to closely and hit the bicyclist with the left side of the truck.

Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 17, 2010 at 9:26 am

If the cyclist was hit on the truck's left side, it means the cyclist was using the only option cyclists have at that particular stretch, riding on, or near the solid white line separating the right lane leading to the 280 on-ramp from Alpine Road. I, and all cyclists I see and know do it all the time. Rigs and trucks traveling traveling on the right toward the 280 on-ramp come damgerously close to my bike due to their width, and the faster they go and the more reckless the driver is, the closer they get to my bike. Often it's a matter of inches. Nearly any contact at that point would be fatal to the cyclist. I and any other rider I know exhale a huge sigh of relief when we get through that interchange in one piece.

Posted by commuter
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 17, 2010 at 9:32 am

The Mercury-News reports that the trucking company paid a $1.5 million settlement in the death of the Santa Cruz school teacher in 2007. Also, the truck driver has a record of "numerous" other crashes. I don't know how many crashes a professional truck driver is allowed to have before he is permanently removed from public streets. Web Link

Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Nov 17, 2010 at 10:28 am

I can see that the usual suspects theory is alive and well here. The fact that the driver was involved in another crash says nothing at all about his driving abilities. There is no reference anywhere about other crashes other than the Santa Cruz one. He had 2 moving violations which seem common place. Settling out of court to avoid a prolonged civil case is all too common and means nothing at all.
All possibilities are open including the fact that he may have been at fault or the biker might have been at fault. Since the difference in height and shape of the trucks and bikes, in certain light conditions those smaller than the truck will perceive no distinguish features since defining lines are not present (like one would with a smaller object ) and momentarily confused, head in the wrong direction. Momentarily, near you you have an undistinguished wall, not a shape. This perception, of course, difficult to understand but it exists commonly and has been well documented.
Another fact is that even with the utmost care in the world, a larger vehicle cannot physically see smaller objects or people on its sides or on the back of it. It's physics. That is why I think we should support bike lanes everywhere. But to say that those involved in accidents with bikes are automatically at fault is not true. We simply don't know all of the sorts of possibilities that exist since there are no witnesses. Could the tragedy have been the work of another vehicle?
Specially suburban bikers who do not have to contend with city traffic (buses, pedestrians, big rigs, cars, etc...) seem to be oblivious to danger and that lack of awareness has provoked many an accident. We should make it safer for bikers (and on a personal note, pedestrians). That means giving them their lanes and their crossings. They should only ride where they can be seen and not expect a miracle of 360ยบ vision.

Posted by commuter
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 17, 2010 at 10:37 am

If the truck driver was passing the bicyclist on the bicyclist's right side (the most likely explanation), then the bicyclist would have been right in front of the truck driver for some time before he hit her. Very difficult for him not to see her.

Posted by lawman
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 17, 2010 at 10:43 am

commuter: Your comments are spot on!

Posted by CrazyCalifornians
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 17, 2010 at 10:44 am

Look, the law may say "bicylist had the right of way" but in fact when the size difference is THAT big and bicyclists want to go out there and mix it up with vehicles, the only rational solution is that bicyclists must look out for themselves. On the open waters, the boating rule may give the sailboat right-of-way over the oil tanker, but every sailor knows that the rule is meaningless and it's his/her job to stay out of the way of the tanker. Any other approach is suicide. The Bay Area has so many bikers but almost no special-purpose bikeways. I find that amazing.

Posted by pa cyclist
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 17, 2010 at 10:46 am

To "pedestrian in traffic":
Settling out of court means "nothing at all"??? Yeah, well, maybe if they settled for a pittance, but nobody forks over $1.5 million for nuisance value. A sum that great is only agreed to when the defendant is certain of liability and fears a much worse outcome at trial.

Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Nov 17, 2010 at 11:00 am

A truck or bus driver seating high up CANNOT see anything immediately in front of it. I still think that settling even for a large amount may mean that the outcome is either uncertain or an insurance company has the prerogative of forcing a settlement despite the facts. We know that that's true in medical cases and I think that given a jury that may be biased towards some popular theory I think that settling is understandable.
What's the fact is that a camera recorded the accident and a police investigation concluded that the driver wasn't at fault. Liability is a different matter.
I noticed in passing that the victim's family is suing for monetary damages, but nowhere it's noted that they are pressing for criminal charges.

Posted by Joyce
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 17, 2010 at 12:05 pm

I like the comments made by "CrazyCalifornians", name sounds little crazy to me but the thought process makes a very good point. Best example would be the right turn by vehicles on a green light and the pedestrians in the other direction get the walk signal these two are such deadly combination. As pedestrians start walking across the road. Cars don't stop a lot of times they think it's green and end-up hitting/worst even killing the pedestrian(s).

SO lessons learned: It really doesn't matter who is at fault, if you are going to lose your life give-up the fight for right of way at that moment, then slow down, get the vehicle's license#, call the cops, then report to DMV. All these can be done if you are cautious & stay alive and not worry about those two seconds of your life and want to get ahead of the bad driver!

Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Nov 17, 2010 at 2:19 pm

There is always also the un-american possibility that nobody was at fault and a combination of factors unrelated to a human's fault caused the accident. We just really don't know. No doubt the police investigation will establish the cause of the accident. It's not who's right it's who is going to be dead wrong. In the case of this accident I think that the middle narrow bike lane is a recipe for disaster, the so called disaster waiting to happen.

Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 17, 2010 at 2:39 pm

CrazyCalifornian espouses the typical American attitude towards different-sized vehicles. It makes sense to other Americans, but in Europe the situation is very different. Although the bikes and the trucks are the same size there, they have much much lower fatality rates for bicyclists. They have different rules regarding right of way and liability, and that truck driver would likely not still be driving there.

I have heard the two philosophies described as "Hulk Hogan" vs "Spiderman". In this country we have the "Hulk Hogan" philosophy that might makes right and those little bicyclists and pedestrians should stay out of the way of the big trucks. In Europe they have the "Spiderman" philosophy that "with great power comes great responsibility". The larger your vehicle the more careful you must be. Combined with a strict liability law you have a very different environment. It is hard to get someone in this country to understand what a difference that can make over the course of a generation, but the statistics tell the story. It is embarassing that other countries have made such strides in safety while we have not.

Posted by pa cyclist
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 17, 2010 at 2:43 pm

pedestrian in traffic:
No, we DON'T know it's common in medical cases to get a settlement over a million dollars unless liability is quite clear. This never happens anymore (if it ever did) unless the defendant is seriously worried that damages could go quite a lot higher at trial. It may be a FoxNews truism that plaintiffs can extract huge damages on shaky facts, but ask any tort lawyer and you'll learn it isn't so. The insurance companies have learned well not to settle iffy cases because they fear this encourages lawsuits.
BTW - "liability" and "driver not at fault" are not different issues, at least not when i went to law school.

Posted by Dennis
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 17, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Do to the vulnerability of cyclists and pedistrians it is totally their responsibily for their own safety on todays crowded roadways, no matter who has the right of way. It is almost as if some riders have a death wish in exerting their right to ride their bikes wherever they please, but it is just plane idiotic to ride on Alpine, Page Mill, Foothill Expressway, and other roads on which the risk is too great for the ride. It is just a matter of fact. You will always lose, period. And the bigger the vehicle or truck the less apt it is able to slow down or change direction. Cyclists, if you want to stay alive, lessen your chances and stay off this high risk roads, wear light clothing, have a light front and back, and have a bike in such mechanical condition that you can move quikly to move out of trouble if the moment arises. And don't wear ear phones while riding. Through my observations only about ten percent of riders follow these rules. It again is a death trip on the road if you don't. In addition alway stop at intersections and in any dangerous conditions such as on Alpine stop in a safe position then proceed when all threatening traffic has past. It is up to you, traffic and roads are what they are, and if you fail to realize this you will always end up the loser, and often a dead one.

Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Nov 17, 2010 at 2:52 pm

I don't know where Donald has been in what he calls *"europe" but he is not right. In most of Europe , laws are similiar to the US laws, but vehicles are smaller and in the great majority of Europe no sane cyclist would put him/herself in harm's way by biking with the big rigs, the TIR crowd.

* He must be referring to small flat countries, like the Netherlands where population density forces very well planed traffic

Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Nov 17, 2010 at 3:04 pm

BTW - "liability" and "driver not at fault" are not different issues, at least not when i went to law school.

Glad you are so precise because I was really wondering when people realize that liability and criminal responsibility are two different things. I wrote ".... concluded that the driver wasn't at fault. Liability is a different matter"
of course you are right. People can settle without admitting liability (I expect that's the case).

Since I don't watch Fox News I don't much about what they say, but you seem to know and I am not disputing that.

Posted by Bicycle victim
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 17, 2010 at 3:29 pm


How about pedestrians that get run over by bicycles on a trail at the Baylands? Is that the pedestrian's "responsibility" too?

Drivers and bicyclists have just become too careless in general, regardless of the route.

Posted by daniel
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 18, 2010 at 7:55 am

The bike lane on Alpine disappears at that interchange and the cyclists are completely at the mercy of the drivers. There's no place to hide. On the right is a lane that becomes the 280 on-ramp, and on the left is Alpine Road, where traffic comes fast and furious. The only space where a cyclist will not be in traffic's way is a solid white line, delineating Alpine from the on-ramp lane. Those saying that cyclists should just defer to cars have never cycled along that stretch and don't know what they are talking about. I have had many close encounters with wide trucks and rigs on that stretch because they were drifting to the left(toward the delineating line) due to excessive speed, inattention or sheer recklessness.

Posted by Kathy
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 18, 2010 at 8:18 am

If it is so dangerous there then why do bike riders continue to ride there? I don't care how nice the ride is, don't put your life in danger. I feel very sad for all involved.

Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 18, 2010 at 8:37 am

It's just as dangerous to cycle in Palo Alto, where cars parked on bike lanes force cyclists to weave in and out of traffic lanes and reckless driving causes frequent hits and near hits. It's more about the culture of over-sized vehicles driving far too fast, not paying attention(talking on cellphones while driving is a huge part of the problem) and not considering bikes to be part of the roads. Cyclists who don't obey road rules exacerbate the problem, but on that particular stretch, cars are in control, and if drivers drive the right way, no cyclists would ever be injured or killed at the Alpine/280 interchange.

Posted by commuter
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 18, 2010 at 9:49 am

The Mercury-News says the truck driver who killed 2 bicyclists is also accused of killing a car driver: Web Link

Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Nov 18, 2010 at 10:21 am

Commuter, if you want to be honest you should have let us know what exactly the Mercury News reported instead of spinning dishonestly the contents of the article. The truck driver was never "accused" as you put it of " killing a car driver " Here is what you should have mentioned:
"... a vehicle driven by Annette McDaniel.
The Monterey County Coroner's Office reported at the time McDaniel had been weaving in and out of her lane and crossed the center line before colliding with a large truck. She was killed in the crash."
Was the the truck driver was responsible for her weaving in and out of her lane and crossing the center line" ?

The apparent necessity that some people have to put the truth in jeopardy so that facts conform to their view of life is perhaps what made the company (Randazzo) settle the Santa Cruz case. There is no hope for fairness and justice when people choose to ignore reality.
We don't know if Vera was at fault in the Alpine accident, but in 20 years of driving having a big truck just 3 accidents ( 2 not at fault and the recent one we don't know yet) is a good record. A truck driver cannot see smaller objects (cars, people, bikes, motorcycles, etc) on the sides, the back and in front if they are not in the line of vision, no matter how careful the driver is . That is why authorities and experts recommend extreme caution when near such a vehicle. However, even a car would not have been able to avoid the two accidents Vera wasn't at fault - in one case the biker didn't have the right of way and in the second someone was weaving in and out of traffic crossed the center divide. How is that the responsibility of other drivers? Probably the result would have been less tragic had the vehicle been a car but nevertheless the driver was not at fault. We don't know what responsibility the driver had in the Alpine accident yet. We will know. and maybe he is responsible but inflaming public opinion as a way of clouding the facts so that we conclude what is agreeable to our ideology is neither just nor a learning opportunity.
We all know that there are problems with the Alpine intersection- not safe for bikes or pedestrians. So why is it that we continue having bikes or pedestrians on it instead of a massive pressure to make it better? It may not be possible , of course. So, what are you going to do about it?

Posted by Peterbilt
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Bicyclists dont belong on Alpine Road.

Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 18, 2010 at 1:18 pm

"Bicyclists don't belong on Alpine Road." This statement means that cyclists don't belong on roads period and should basically ride on their driveways, since Palo Alto streets, for example, are probably more dangerous to cyclists than Alpine Road, with the exception of the Alpine/ 280 interchange. Bicycles belong on roads, with the exception of freeways and expressways, just as much as cars, and from my experience with that particular interchange, which I passed today on my bike on the way to Woodside, is that collisions between trucks and cyclists can be easily avoided if the drivers are careful. I have noticed today for the umpteened time that big trucks and rigs drive way too fast on Alpine Road which isn't conductive to fast traffic. There is no reason for a big rig with a long trailer to do 55-60mph on a road like Alpine.

Posted by Dennis
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 18, 2010 at 1:29 pm

In response to "Midtown" resident he or she is going into another area, proper ettiquite on trail and off road areas. In any altercation, no matter who technically has the right of way, it always defaults to the bottom line; that is whoever has the most to lose in way of injury or death has the ultimate responsibility to avoid the situation, even with irresponsible bicylists. It again is a sign of the times, and a very real one concerning personal and public safety.

Posted by Oshkar
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 18, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Agree with Peterbilt that bicyclists dont belong on Alpine Road...I've experienced them in groups intentionally blocking traffic and running through stop signs & lights. The problem is with them.

Posted by cars don't belong on Alpine Road
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 18, 2010 at 5:41 pm

If some car drivers cannot drive safely on Alpine Road, then all cars should be banned on Alpine Road. Clearly, cars and trucks are the aggressors, not bicycles.

Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Nov 18, 2010 at 6:16 pm

cars don't belong on Alpine Road,
this is a silly argument. nobody is the aggressor. Please stop this rightness by attributing imaginary aggressions. just like bikers and pedestrians cannot bike or walk on the freeway for physical reasons (not aggression certainly) some roads should be off limits to vehicles which cannot navigate them in a safe manner for whatever reason. Actually the reason is the same as for bikes on the freeway. It's too dangerous because of the physical attributes of larger vehicles, that's all.

We should strive for good lanes and roads for bikers, pedestrians and all vehicles and forbid them on roads which cannot be improved sufficiently for the use.. It's the same for pedestrians who are forbidden to walk (except in an emergencies) on Junipero Serra and Foothill expressway, though there are lanes for bikers. Is that because we should consider bikers on the bike/shoulder lane in those roads to be aggressors?
If instead of wanting to convince people that car drivers are aggressors and bikers peaceful users of the road, why don't you focus your efforts in understanding the physical conditions of the road, cars' and biker's behavior and give a PRODUCTIVE 2 cents of opinion where it's likely to do some good?

Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Nov 18, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Motor vehicle roadways are designed for motor vehicles.

Across and parallel to Alpine Road where this accident happened is a bicycle path.

Yes, a bicycle path designed for bicycles.

Now, what do you suppose would happen to me if I drove my car on the bicycle path? I'd get busted by the cops and properly so for misusing a facility not designed for my use.

The same should be applied to bicyclists when dedicated infrastructure exists for them. If you drive on the motor vehicle roadway - not the bicycle path you get busted.

Taking logic one step further, the truck driver and/or truck owner should be suing the estate of the bicyclist, not the other way around.

Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Nov 18, 2010 at 8:14 pm

Mrs Ward was using the road lawfully. Until bikers are forbidden on that stretch of Alpine they can use it. The investigation will determinate what happen and I hope that it can shed light on the difficulties of sharing the road instead of accusations without analysis.

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