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Posted by on Nov 6, 2012 in Uncategorized | 11 comments

Insurance Company Plays Rough

Here’s an unusual case: Cyclist was riding the wrong way on the sidewalk and is hit by an exiting motorist. GEICO denies liability in Texas, claiming that the cyclist was a fault. Shades of things to come, or just an anomaly?

Kyle, a junior, was riding westbound on the sidewalk in front of the school on Sept. 19. As he approached the driveway in front of the school’s main entrance, Brian Shuck, a parent, pulled out to make a right turn onto Southlake Boulevard.

. . .

When Shuck filed a claim with Geico, his insurance company determined he wasn’t “legally liable for damages” because Kyle was riding on the sidewalk and “failed to yield the right of way,” according to a Sept. 24 letter from Amanda McCorcle, a Geico agent.

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/11/05/4389795/southlake-teenager-keeps-riding.html#storylink=cpy

11 Comments

  1. What does Texas law say about riding the wrong way on a sidewalk?

    • Most states leave laws regarding sidewalk cycling up to individual municipalities.

      According to the linked article:
      “Kim Leach, spokeswoman for the Southlake police, confirmed that bicycles can travel in both directions on the sidewalk.”

      If the police know what they’re talking about then it sounds like the insurance company is in the wrong.

  2. Insurance companies are predisposed to deny claims for whatever reason they can concoct. It’s a fact of life–they are to take in much more money than they pay out in claims.

    Regardless of the motorists’ compulsory check of both directions of the sidewalk, regardless of the rider’s travel direction, regardless of his being on the sidewalk instead of using the travel lane (which, by law and by practice is the safer place). If the insurance company can find a reason to not pay, they won’t pay.

  3. Based on the description, I’d say the kid and the adult each bear about half the responsibility for the crash. But it would depend on what the relevant law says.

    As a junior in high school, the kid ought to be riding in the road. In my opinion, the sidewalk is not a safe place for someone that old to be riding a bicycle. If he was 6 and tootling along at 4-5mph, okay, but 16? I’d been riding in the road for 8 years at that age.

    He’s probably riding on the sidewalk from fear of the road (his own or his parents). People are afraid of the wrong things when it comes to cycling. I would never let my daughter ride on the sidewalk against traffic. While it’s not exactly suicidal, it’s certainly not smart.

    • I’ve ridden that road. It is a seven lane road with a median and fairly heavy, fast traffic. Including in front of that high school. It isn’t especially difficult to ride, but few in Southlake ride it – well, other than me. In truth, the kid is very unusual for riding a bike at all. Not too long ago, the big story was that someone was keying Hummers in the student parking lot.

  4. The last time I checked,here in Richardson, Texas sidewalk
    cycling was only allowed if you were ten or younger.

    • Cliff,

      If you follow the link you will see the local police representative quoted as saying that it is legal to ride on the sidewalk at that location.

      Of course, just because something is legal does not mean that it is a good idea!

  5. Two comments:

    1. Why on earth was a car driver allowed to drive his car onto school property? We can’t tolerate that sort of thing.

    2. Although legal in this case, riding a bicycle on the sidewalk is almost always a Very Bad Idea. It scares the pedestrians, particularly elderly people. They tend to be understandably opposed to being endangered by high-speed bicycle traffic. For example, see:

    http://www.toronto.ca/cycling/safety/sidewalk/sidewalk.htm

    One advantage of proper cycle infrastructure is that it reduces sidewalk cycling by addresing the safety concerns that lead people to cycle on the sidewalk in the first place. One example in New York led to a reduction in sidewalk cycling from 46% of the total down to only 4%. See:

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2010/10/22/results-of-the-new-ppw-speeding-down-cycling-up-big/

  6. I would have to do an on-site reconstruction to know for sure, but I have some comments that tilt in favor of the motorist (and in favor of the insurance company’s position):
    – I have reconstructed a somewhat similar bike-car collision, Photographs and time-motion analysis of that other collision show that the bicyclist would NOT be in the motorist’s view if a motorist did a normal, proper scan before proceeding to pull into the other street.
    – One should EXPECT a wrong-way cyclist to be invisible to cross traffic at intersections. They travel at sufficient speed (15 mph = 22 feet per second) that they go from invisibly far away (and likely behind objects that obstruct vision) to the point of impact very quickly.
    – The scan that a motorist makes when emerging from a side street works well to detect traffic coming from the expected direction, in the travel lanes, even when that traffic is going faster than cycling speed. But that scan occupies ALL the motorist’s ability to look (can only be done in one direction at a time) and process visual information. No law you can write, no electronic thingie you can put in front of the driver, will change any of that.

    For these reasons, a law that emphasizes to cyclists their need to ride where they can be seen is ultimately more fair, and more likley to result in safer cycling. It’s not what this kid wanted to hear, but being on the sidewalk does not confer any immunity from the hazards of being invisible.