Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Millbrae Ave Collision

I finally decided to post this. The key actual takeaway for readers - if you are involved in a traffic incident - GET A POLICE REPORT. No matter what.
Here you go. I was headed to SFO for a meeting about their bike lanes. In retrospect it seems ironic we were having a meeting about those lanes when the real death trap is Millbrae Ave.

I decided to get off the train at Millbrae and save two bucks. Could have gone to San Bruno and saved some headache. I actually started from Rollins to save the hassle of the train track crossing. I hit the red light at the exit from 101S - in retrospect maybe I run the light to get a "free" crossing of the overpass.

I set up in the far left lane. There are three lanes crossing the freeway and they are marked - South McDonnell (where I was headed), "local traffic" (meaning the roads to the hotels), and the right lane is for the heavy traffic to 101. I was "following the lane markings" as well as avoiding having to cross the freeway onramps. The light turned green and I headed across - dead center of the left lane, the only legal lane for where I was headed.

I regretted having the cross bike which was slower to get off this overpass and slowly just decided I am just trusting my fellows on the road.

A driver coming from Millbrae who had clear view of me for several hundred feet nonetheless did not register my presence. He was also headed to S. McDonnell (which basically goes to airport service buildings - I rarely see cars headed this way). Shortly before reaching me he decided to get on 101 N instead and looked away from where his car was headed at 30 MPH to see if the right lane was clear (note this implies he needed to change lanes twice in a hundred feet or so). He looked forward again, saw me, hit his brakes but hit me anyway. I bounced off the hood and back onto the pavement. My right shoulder sublexed but went back in quickly.

He was frantic, I told him to back off. He started to grab my bike and put it in his car and I said we have to wait for the police. After some debate I relented to clear the road and instructed him to pull over so we could call the cops. He said "can't we just handle this ourselves", and I said "I'm getting the feeling you are a pretty nice, decent guy. But you are a very bad driver. And we cannot let emotion take over - injury accident means we get a police report - period. Not personal - just protocol". He said "I was a good driver until today" and I said "never confuse luck with skill" then told him to take a deep breath and let's be thankful together we both see another day.

The cops and ambulances showed up anyway. Drivers on the overpass called it in before we could.

Refused transport to the hospital. I self-diagnosed as "can wait until urgent care in the AM and will go to the SFO meeting". He was relieved but I said you weren't paying for it unless you were uninsured, and your rate increase won't be affected by a thousand dollars here or there. He fussed a lot about his financial situation and I said "you were 3 yards from bankrupt and in jail - this too shall pass."

I'm going to call and let him know my medical status either way but financially it all goes to his insurance. And I'll be following up with the Millbrae cops to get a copy of the police report to see if there is any fault determination.

Rear wheel destroyed, frame bent. "Luckily" since I expected to be locking the bike outside I had my poorly size CX bike and not my custom Seven. BoxDog is writing it up.

SFO on the other hand - those guys are GREAT. They had taken prior feedback, had great suggestions to address everything, and took our newer feedback. I am 95% sure all the soft hits will be gone. Super nice guys and very willing to listen and probably react.


BikeBoy said...

Ditto your takeaway advice. Always, always get a report - otherwise, it can easily become a battle of opinion once the "nice guy" driver goes home and convinces himself he might not have been at fault... Witness statements can be very helpful too.

thielges said...

Glad to hear you survived without too much trauma. The guy who hit you really tried hard to weasel out on the police report. Getting a report also makes sure that your mishap shows up in the stats. Please follow up with the PD findings when you get the report. From your description it sounds as if the driver failed to take adequate effort to see you. If he simply slowed down he could have avoided the collision.

Ma said...

Glad to hear that you came out of that all right -- quite scary! I had a car incident earlier this year (left turner who "didn't see me" as oncoming traffic), and didn't have the presence of mind to get a police report at the time -- I was so surprised to not be hurt -- but it turns out you can file one after the fact if you've gotten all the relevant info for the driver. The Mountain View police were most helpful when the "nice" guy who destroyed my commute bike then failed to respond when I followed up with the damage estimate. Still, it would have been better to call the police at the time of the accident...

John C. Baker said...

Ouch! Just saw this. Why'd the guy try to put your bike in his car? Was he going to "play ambulance" and drive you to the hospital? Any determination of fault yet? I know in car-car, the rear-ender is usually at fault, but I hope they don't try to lay an "impeding traffic" thing on you.