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Neither cyclist nor truck driver found at fault

Original post made on Sep 27, 2011

The full and final report on the death of Lauren Ward, 47, of Los Altos Hills will likely remain unavailable to the public, but the California Highway Patrol investigative team has concluded that Ms. Ward was not responsible for her death on Nov. 4, 2010, when her bicycle and a tractor trailer truck collided on westbound Alpine Road at Interstate 280.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, September 27, 2011, 11:23 AM

Comments (31)

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Posted by wide straight road
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 27, 2011 at 11:47 am

This is a wide, straight, uphill road. The truck was moving much faster than the bicyclists for a significant period of time. Very hard to believe that the truck driver did not see the bicyclist in front of him up the road. Why didn't he pass with a larger amount of space?


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Woodside High School
on Sep 27, 2011 at 12:16 pm

I think that the CHP is being quite clear enough:

... concluded that the rear tire of Ms. Ward's bike collided with the front bumper of the truck, Mr. Maskarish said.


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Posted by cross country cyclist
a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Sep 27, 2011 at 12:23 pm

"...the San Mateo County crime lab concluded that the rear tire of Ms. Ward's bike collided with the front bumper of the truck..."

How can a rear tire collide with a front bumper? She would have had to be going backwards for that to happen. The San Mateo County crime lab's conclusion makes absolutely no sense.


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Posted by Ladera Cyclist
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Sep 27, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Actually, it's pretty easy. The truck was accelerating from the stop sign. The bicycle was in front of the truck, riding (probably) towards the white line that separates the onramp from the PV through lanes. At the point of collision, the truck is going *faster* than the bicycle. Hence the front bumper of the truck collides with the rear wheel of the bicycle.

Bicycle loses. Very sad.


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Posted by wide straight road
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 27, 2011 at 3:26 pm

The cops are saying that the truck driver ran over the bicyclist from behind, while trying not to bias the jury.


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Posted by What were they thinking
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 27, 2011 at 4:06 pm

I'm sure hoping there is some misquoting going on here because these words suggest a ridiculous conclusion.

1) "The report also did not blame the truck driver. The truck and bicycle came into contact "while the bike was still in an upright position," a CHP statement said."

Excuse me. If the bike was no longer upright would it have been the overtaking driver's fault?

2) "the San Mateo County crime lab concluded that the rear tire of Ms. Ward's bike collided with the front bumper of the truck, Mr. Maskarish said."

A rear tire does not collide with a front bumper unless the bike is going backwards. Otherwise, this configuration is known as the overtaking vehicle hit the overtaken. Overtaking is ALWAYS at fault.

This is a crazy dangerous stretch of road because a) most people don't understand what's going on with the bike lane moving to the center while vehicles are acelerating to the ramp and b) it is usually in shadow under the bridge. Maybe it's time to put some of those glued in pylons to make things more clear.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 27, 2011 at 4:26 pm

The rear tire of a bicycle "collides" with the front bumper of a truck the same way a chin collides with Mike Tyson's fist.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 27, 2011 at 7:06 pm

bumbers wrap around the sides on some vehicles. a rear wheel of a leading vehicle could strike the side of the front bumper and not meen the rear vehicle is running into the lead vehicle. There isn't enough information here to determine if that is a possibility in this case.


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Posted by johngsater
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 27, 2011 at 8:55 pm

The truck, which has an extended front end, had "very significant" blind spots for a "significant time that they were in proximity," CHP Capt. Mike Maskarish said in a telephone interview. "In this case, we just can't determine which party is more at fault."

So I guess if you can't see in front of you, it is alright to run things over.


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Posted by let it go
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 28, 2011 at 6:49 am

Can't you people just chalk it up to an unfortunate accident without standing on your damn soap boxes? It was a tragic accident...now move on.


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Posted by not enough
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 28, 2011 at 10:11 am

Commercial vehicles -- really, any vehicles used on public roads -- should not have "very significant" blind spots that prevent them from seeing bicyclists, young children, people pushing strollers, etc. I realize that not everyone can afford the video cameras that come as standard equipment on new cars, but how much do mirrors cost?

Maybe Joe Simitian would like to hear about this!

Also, repeat offenders should be more carefully scrutinized before being allowed to continue driving. Anyone who kills a pedestrian or bicyclist should have his/her professional license revoked.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 28, 2011 at 10:19 am

Why is it somehow unacceptable for the people investigating a case like this to admit that, after a thorough examination of the facts and the available evidence, they don't know enough to blame anyone?

Is there something wrong with coming to the conclusion that you don't know what happened? Would you rather that they extrapolate, just leap over the blank spots in their understanding and blame the driver?

Might as well hog tie him, give him a weight belt, throw him into a river and if he floats, he's guilty. It's as reasonable as anything else if you don't actually know what happened.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 28, 2011 at 10:55 am

Not Guilty:

if someone collides with your car and is killed through no fault of your own should we revoke your license? The driver was not at fault in either of the two previous accident and there is not enough evidence in this case to determine who was at fault. What is so hard to understand about that?


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Posted by not enough
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 28, 2011 at 12:37 pm

*Professional* license.

Not driver license. What is so hard to understand about that?


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 28, 2011 at 1:28 pm

What is hard to understand is how you can justify taking someone's privileges away without meeting the high burden (in a civilized and advanced society) of proving that person's guilt in the face of a serious and months-long investigation that could not reach that standard.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 28, 2011 at 2:28 pm

not enough:

it doesn't matter whether it's professional or not. In fact that's even worse. You're advocating taking away someone's livelyhood because someone else crashed into them and the person at fault, died. That's absurd. I ask again how would you feel to have the same standards applied to you in your profession in a situation where you were not at fault?


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Posted by not enough
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 28, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Oh please. Driving is not a right, it is a privilege. You have to take tests to obtain a license, and your license can be revoked.

I am not suggesting that the truck driver be forbidden to drive a car. Only that he, and anyone else who kills pedestrians and/or bicyclists, no longer be allowed a professional license.

In a "civilized and advanced society" there are consequences to repeatedly murdering others.


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Posted by not enough
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 28, 2011 at 2:46 pm

What would you rather lose, your livelihood or your life?


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 28, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Not enough - It's pretty clear that we're ships passing in the night on this.


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Posted by Ladera Cyclist
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Sep 28, 2011 at 3:35 pm

It's unfortunate that the CHP has determined that they are unable to identify the immediate cause of the fatal accident.

Beyond this, however, we know that:

-- The driver of the truck was a licensed commercial truck driver.

-- He had driven that particular vehicle for a long time, so he should know where its blind spots are, and he should know how to maneuver the vehicle safely.

The truck should never have been on Alpine Road to begin with. The truck was overweight for unincorporated San Mateo County roads, and the driver was cited for this. A competent commercial truck driver should have been able to operate his truck in accordance with the laws. FACT: If the truck driver had followed the law and not driven his truck illegally on Alpine road the collision would never have happened and we wouldn't be having these conversations.

It is unreasonable that the truck driver never saw the bicyclist. I drive (and ride) that road frequently. There is plenty of visibility as you come up to the stop sign. A truck driver will have even better visibility than a car driver given his/her altitude advantage. The truck is slowing down from a speed of at least 35 MPH to a full stop before proceeding through the intersection. A recreation cyclist is going maybe 15-18 MPH. I believe that if he was watching the roadway as a driver is supposed to, he had to have seen the cyclist.

A Santa Cruz Sentinel news article at the time of the crash states:
" The trucker told the CHP the collision happened as he was moving from the right westbound lane into a lane that turned right onto southbound Interstate Highway 280. Vera told the CHP he had his right blinker on and was looking at his right rear view mirror, but when he looked forward he heard a "bump." "
(Web Link)
Why exactly was the driver looking at his right rear view mirror if he wasn't looking for a cyclist? If you are in the right lane at that stop sign, there is no automobile traffic that can come at you from the right side there (except for the cellular tower access, and that 'road' was to the right front of the truck).

The simplest explanation is that the truck driver either was completely inattentive, or that he did see the cyclist and he lost her in his blind spots.

Now we will have to wait and see what happens in civil court.

By the way, I also just heard that the proposal to add bicycle lanes to the Alpine Road / I-280 intersection has been turned down in the current funding cycle. They need to await "another funding opportunity". I hope we get this fixed before we have another fatal accident.


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Posted by Aloysious
a resident of another community
on Sep 28, 2011 at 4:43 pm

"...the rear tire of Ms. Ward's bike collided with the front bumper of the truck, Mr. Maskarish said."

Mr. Maskarish must be a new, special kind of nitwit.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 28, 2011 at 7:01 pm

not enough:

the driver didn't kill anyone. The car driver that crossed the center line killed herself. Bike rider that crashed into him killed himself. Neither was intentional. Neither was the driver's fault. You see the distinction? You're talking about punishing someone for something that wasn't their fault.


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Posted by Thomas
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 28, 2011 at 11:09 pm

I am not sure it has been pointed out on any threads regarding this tragic accident but Ms. Ward had actually written a "letter to the editor" on this very topic to the Los Altos Town Crier on January 21st, 2009. The letter can be accessed on line by entering:

"Los Altos Town Crier, Rules of the Road: Respect and Understanding"


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Posted by some guy
a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2011 at 9:15 pm

It's comforting to know that if I run over and kill a bicyclist, I can just say I didn't see them and that's that. Except that I have no connections in law enforcement.

I wonder how long this post will be here...


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Posted by Aloysious
a resident of another community
on Sep 30, 2011 at 4:52 am

"I didn't see" are the magic words that facilitate getting away with vehicular homicide.

Having monumental nitwits as crash investigators helps a ton.


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Posted by Carole Mawson
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 2, 2011 at 11:13 am

I wonder when the police will ever admit that the driver actually hit the bicyclist and was at fault- not even in the case in which a driver has already killed two other people!


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 3, 2011 at 12:20 am

Carole:

When will people like you come to understand that the driver did not kill two other people - they ran into him. And when will you realize that given the lack of physical evidence and no witnesses that a determination of fault is not possible?


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Posted by A Person
a resident of another community
on Oct 3, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Question? Why is it so important for so many people on this list of assign blame? It seems that the CHP investigated this very thoroughly and were not able to do so. Why do so many bicycle advocates wish so fervently that the truck driver was to blame - so much so that they will accuse a man of murder?

I think this is very strange behavior. Perhaps the only person who really "saw" and "knew" what happened was the victim herself. And we will never now what she saw. I am so sad for her family and their loss. But I would not condemn someone who is potentially innocent because I want to believe that bicycles = good and motor vehicles = bad.

Very, very sad behavior, folks.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 3, 2011 at 4:17 pm

I will admit here and now to the fault of stereotyping, but it astounds me that people with the wealth to live in upscale communities in south San Mateo County are also apparently unable to appreciate the incredible and essentially unknowable complexity of the real world.

Incongruity rules.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 3, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Maybe unknowable was a little strong. Investigators do solve crimes, but they also are charged with admitting that they have not found a crime, which is the case here.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 3, 2011 at 7:38 pm

Joe:

what is really incredible from these commuities is that so few of them are able to accept responsibility for their own transgressions or those of their children, yet they are more than willing to insist upon one taking responsibility for something that may not be their fault. Interesting, no?


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