Time for a little reality check: A cyclist hit by a passing pickup truck pulling two trailers had to take her case all the way to the Kentucky Supreme Court to affirm her right to the road.
The court struck down a ruling that essentially blamed the cyclist for being on the road when the vehicle hit her, according to the League of American Bicyclists.
When I read about all the laws being passed to support cyclists, “share the road” license plates being printed and road signs posted, it's shocking to learn how people — including judges — view cyclists' rights to the road. Non-existent.
It brings home to me why laws, such as the Washington's HB1108 that prohibits passing when a bicycle is in the oncoming lane, are necessary to protect cyclists' rights.
Here's a link to the bicycle ruling in Kentucky. If you don't have time to read it, here's some of the facts:
In 1999 (the Supreme Court made the ruling Nov. 23, 2005), Pete Dailey was driving his pickup truck pulling two flat-bed wagons on a road in Bourbon County. Dailey moved to the left to pass Nollaig Previs on her bicycle, then cut back before the second trailer cleared. Previs' handlebars got caught by the second trailer, dragged the bike under the trailer and threw Previs into the ditch.
She sued and the case went to a jury, which ruled in favor of the truck driver. The next day, the foreman told the judge that the jurors had discussed matters that weren't brought up in their instructions, “namely, whether a reasonable bicyclist would have pulled off of the side of the road to allow a large vehicle to pass.”
During the trial, pickup driver Dailey had testified:
“My thought is, when I pass a grown person — whether it be a lady or a man — I have no thought of trying to protect her. I mean, once I started passing her, I felt it would be her obligation to allow me around her.”
The cyclist appealed the case to the Court of Appeals, which sided with the lower court in saying there had been no misconduct by the jury. The Supreme Court agreed on the misconduct decision, but strongly rejected the notion that the case should have gone to a jury in the first place. The pickup truck driver never submitted evidence that the accident might not have been his fault.
The Supreme Court ruled the driver's “legal duty” was to pass only if he could do so ”without interfering with the safe operation” of her bicycle:
”Apparently, Dailey believed that it was soley Previs's obligation to make sure he safely passed her. Clearly that is not the law.”
The League of American Bicyclists says the decision will be binding on all similar cases in Kentucky and could be cited in other cases across the US.