News

Hit-and-run driver strikes cyclist

Police hunt for the driver of a white Volvo in late-morning accident

A male bicyclist was struck in a hit-and-run accident on Cowper Street on Tuesday (July 19) morning, Palo Alto police and fire officials said.

The man, who is in his mid-50s, was riding his bike across the Cowper intersection at Oregon Expressway at 11:27 a.m. when the accident occurred. He received minor injuries and was released at the scene, Acting Fire Battalion Chief Jason Amdur said.

Police Detective Sal Madrigal said the unidentified driver of a white Volvo was traveling southwest on Oregon Expressway and made a right-hand turn onto Cowper Street when he or she collided with the victim and sped away.

The victim was riding his bike across the Cowper intersection, he said.

The driver and the vehicle's license plate remain unidentified at this time, Madrigal said.

Anyone who might have witnessed the incident is asked to call the Palo Alto Police Department at 650-329-2413.

Comments

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Posted by accident?
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 19, 2011 at 3:36 pm

How do you know the crash was an "accident" and not caused by negligence like DUI or distracted driving? Fleeing the scene suggests more than an "accident".

I'm glad that the victim was not badly hurt.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2011 at 3:49 pm

All traffic collisions are caused by distracted driving, negligence or faulty vehicles and can be called accidental unless of course someone deliberately tries to hit something. That is what the word means.


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Posted by accident?
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 19, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Calling a DUI or distracted driving crash an "accident" is a cop out. A crash that is a direct result of the driver's willful negligence is no accident.


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Posted by Old Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 19, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Aren't most laws passed with the backing of special interest groups ie insurance companies? Distracted driving laws have nothing to do with the public good, they have to do with being able to sue for negligence. There are lots of things law makers and enforcement could do ie catching real criminals, to further public good, that either don't generate enough governmental revenue or aren't back by special interest.


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Posted by accident?
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 19, 2011 at 6:01 pm

DUI and distracted driving cause real injuries and fatalities to innocent people. This is not just an insurance issue of you are one of the casualties.


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Posted by Marty
a resident of Portola Valley
on Jul 19, 2011 at 7:45 pm

The man was riding his bicycle acroos an intersection. I thought cyclists were advised to walk their bikes across intersections. Vehicles turning right seem to be particulary dangerous for cyclists. I don't know who was at fault here--did the cyclist not look before entering the intersection? Did the car driver not look?

I drive along Alpine Road almost every day and am horrified at the devil-may-care- riding of some cyclists, old and young.


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Posted by accident?
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 19, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Who is advising bicyclists to walk across every intersection? That kind of advice is dangerous.

Cowper Street has a traffic light and I have never seen a bicyclist run that red light. If the bicyclist had the green, then the car driver ran a red light to hit him. The car driver violated numerous laws: running a red light, failure to yield, hit & run. 3 strikes and you're out.


Like this comment
Posted by Bikes2work
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Jul 19, 2011 at 7:58 pm

That intersection is part of the County system. It has a video camera. I don't know if they save the footage.


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Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 20, 2011 at 8:16 am

Marty, a resident of Portola Valley- I ride along Alpine Rd several times a week and am horrified at the devil-may-care-driving of many drivers, old and young. I have never witnessed irresponsible riding on that rod, since it could very well mean the last ride for those cyclists and none of them is suicidal.


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Posted by Anne
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 20, 2011 at 8:36 am

Both drivers and cyclists are responsible for their own safety and others' on the road. Use of common sense by both sides would help solve many of these issues, but that's unlikely to happen...


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Posted by No, I'm right. You're wrong
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2011 at 8:51 am

Most if not all drivers turning right are looking left for oncoming traffic and don't look for us on the right; it happens to me daily, that and cars not looking while backing up in parking lots. Once a person enters a vehicle they are by nature complete self centered, careless idiots.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 20, 2011 at 10:52 am

Back to the incident in question... Cowper/Oregon is a non-standard intersection and the event was not well described. The driver turned right from the expressway onto northbound Cowper, plain enough, but right on green or right on red? The cyclist was "riding his bike across the Cowper intersection." Crossing Oregon with light green for Cowper? More likely crossing Cowper while on Oregon Avenue, the "frontage" residential road closely paralleling the expressway. It's controlled by a stop sign and well hidden by a thick hedge. Proceeding southwestbound through that stop sign you can't see when a car may be making that right turn off the expressway blithely whipping into your intersection at 12 mph. Perfect place for surprises. I suspect each party is blaming the other, but will travel more carefully in the future. And so will we, for awhile maybe.


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Posted by cyclist
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2011 at 10:53 am

The cowper/oregon intersection is not a simple one, so from the story above it is not clear how the accident happened. On the north side of Oregon there is a parallel street, Oregon Ave., at Cowper on the south side of Oregon there is also a short parallel street, Anton Ct. Drivers on Oregon, do not look for traffic on these side streets when turning. The side streets do have stop signs. I bike through this intersection twice a day, every day, and I have seen cars turning with no attention to cyclists or pedestrians. I have seen cyclists do really dangerous things too (like crossing over to the left side of Cowper to wait for the light to go north bound across Oregon, which puts them squarely at odds with car traffic turning onto Oregon in place where drivers do not expect them). This is a dangerous intersection and everyone needs to be vigilent. That said, there is no excuse for a hit and run driver. Drivers must take responsibility for making sure any thing or any one they hit.


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Posted by George K.
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 20, 2011 at 11:00 am

There is a little confusion about bicycle operation in comments above. Bicycles are moving vehicles, like cars, and as such bicycles are ridden through intersections just like the other parts of the road.

The confusion is coming in because of the crosswalk issue. Cyclists who are riding on the sidewalk (when it is legal) are normally advised to walk their bikes in the crosswalks. There is a good reason for this. A bike can get into a crosswalk and in the way of a turning car much faster than a pedestrian, and the car might not have time to react. If the bike is in the street, the car driver will either see it ahead or will have passed it and hopefully taken notice as the driver prepares to turn. But a bike on the sidewalk can be a LOT harder to see, with trees, parked cars, etc.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 20, 2011 at 11:54 am

Correction. The hedge I mentioned ends quite a ways back for precisely this visibility issue. No excuses for the parties not seeing each other sooner, unless some other vehicle was in the way. So far I'll conclude distracted driver, followed by panicked driver.

As to the George's crosswalk issue, I cringe at southbound cyclists on Alma, by necessity on the sidewalk riding the "wrong" direction, startling any driver looking left and turning right onto Alma from Loma Verde or Colorado or the 30 (at least) similar intersections. Overwhelmingly such cyclists are aware of the danger and make eye contact with drivers or swing behind nosed-out vehicles waiting to turn. I'll generally regard cyclists (and drivers) as knowing what they are doing and each realizing that anyone else on the road is fallible. Pedestrians on the other hand can be utterly clueless.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Not talking about this particular intersection as I am not familiar with it, but any car waiting to turn right at an intersection should not be overtaken by a bicycle going straight on the inside in exactly the same way as any vehicle should not overtake on the inside a vehicle waiting to turn right. If a bicycle is approaching an intersection where a vehicle is waiting to turn right, then they should wait behind that vehicle or overtake on the left, just as any other vehicle.

There are no special laws for bicycles, they are the same as all other vehicles on the road. If a car ahead is turning right, then all vehicles behind must wait before overtaking. It is not only road sense, but common sense.


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2011 at 1:01 pm

"Resident" - the opposite is usually the bigger problem. If a bicyclist is stopped at a red light, then car drivers should not try to pull around their left side them cut them off to turn right. This is dangerous and illegal and it happens all the time.

However, that does not sound like what happened in this crash. The description sounds like the bicyclist and car driver were on perpendicular streets and one of them ran a red light (perhaps making a right turn on red without stopping and checking for traffic first).


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 20, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Pertinent to bicycling in general, a courteous cyclist stopped at a 3-minute red light will adjust position one way or another to allow motorists to safely make a right-on-red.


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Posted by Victim
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2011 at 1:39 pm

I am the cyclist who was hit by the car yesterday. Except for cuts/bruises/soreness and a number of hours at the emergency room yesterday I seem to be OK. There are a couple on inaccuracies in the story. First, I'm a woman, not a man. Secondly, both I and the car that hit me were on Cowper Street heading north at the Page Mill intersection. I approached the intersection at a careful speed (less than 10 mph) and the light was green. I noticed that the pedestrian signal counter showed 23 seconds so I knew there was enough time to safely cross the intersection. I proceeded into the intersection and a white car (which was also northbound on Cowper) came up abruptly from my left and cut directly in front of me in order to make a right turn onto Page Mill. This happened in an instant with no warning, the car cut so closely in front of me that the rear of the white car struck the front wheel of my bike and threw me to the ground. I'd like to thank the man in the van who immediately stopped to help me and the Palo Alto police and fire personnel who came to my assistance and were wonderful. Fortunately, there do not seem to be any serious injuries at this point but it could have been much worse--or even a fatality under slightly different circumstances. If you witnessed the incident or have any knowledge of the driver/car please contact the Palo Alto Police. Thank you.


Like this comment
Posted by George K.
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 20, 2011 at 1:52 pm

@victim Glad to hear that you are probably going to get through this with minimal damage. This kind of car behavior is all-too common. There are drivers who are too impatient to drive 15mph behind a bike to make their righthand turn, and they think they have enough time to get past the bike and turn.

I see this all the time on the Stanford campus when I come up to an intersection where the bike lane ends up in the middle between a straight/left lane and a righthand turn lane. Rather than just wait (literally) 3 seconds for me to get further ahead, cars will pass me on the left and cut right through the (solid line) bike lane to get into the right lane.


Like this comment
Posted by snail
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 20, 2011 at 1:56 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 20, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Dear Victim,
Thank goodness you are ok.
I have spent the entire week narrating to my 15year old (one month to driving permit) as I drive, hoping he will absorb something. In particular, I described exactly why the law says automobiles MUST safely merge into the bike lane prior to turning right. You are (thankfully living) proof as to why this is necessary.
Best wishes to you.


Like this comment
Posted by George K.
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 20, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Snail, keep in mind that you are given a license to drive, not a license to get to places quickly. You've given an excellent illustration of what causes many accidents and cases of road rage: the egotistical idea that you have a right to get somewhere quickly and that anyone who gets in the way of that right is, well, wrong.


Like this comment
Posted by snail
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 20, 2011 at 2:09 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by George K.
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 20, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Snail, you misuse the word "right." I agree with you. Neither does gravity have a right to keep your Gremlin from floating away, nor a concrete barrier have the right to stop you from driving through it. Your gas tank does not have the right to become empty and prevent you from driving the Gremlin to Jack-in-the-Box. Yet all these are realities you deal with every day when you get into your car. It would benefit you to consider them.

Cyclists, do, however, have a right to be on the road, according to CA law: "Bicycle riders on public roads have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists," as stated on the CA DMV website.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 20, 2011 at 2:44 pm

My thanks to the victim for clarifying this local news item. We readers are often left without "the rest of the story." Of course if the hit & run driver wants to chime in here with their side, I'm sure the authorities will be interested.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2011 at 2:50 pm

One thing that tends to be forgotten is that all drivers are licensed and pass a written and behind the wheel test to get their license. This means that all drivers should know how to drive correctly and put this knowledge into effect. Conversely, any fool can get on a bike and ride.

Most adult bike riders are also drivers at some time and should know that they need to ride their bike like they drive their car. Many drivers haven't been on a bike since they were kids and forget what it is like to be a cyclist.

I am pleased to hear that the victim is unhurt. I hope the driver is found and dealt with.


Like this comment
Posted by snail
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 20, 2011 at 2:53 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 20, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Thanks George. And I'll try keep myself from being baited across that double yellow-line. Bikes are near and dear to me. Heaven help the child or the elderly or the disabled who get in such an impatient person's crosshairs.

I can't help but wonder how the original news article was so erroneous. Perhaps it's purposeful misinformation to weed out unreliable or false witnesses? Not sure whether to expect the staff to explain. I do appreciate Palo Alto Online News and these discussion forums.


Like this comment
Posted by What the... ?
a resident of Portola Valley
on Jul 20, 2011 at 3:17 pm

"last ride for those cyclists and none of them is suicidal"

How about the cyclist I encountered near Sky Londa last week who was wearing camo?


Like this comment
Posted by snail
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 20, 2011 at 3:17 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by friendly cyclist
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 21, 2011 at 12:19 am

Thank you, "Victim", for clarifying what happened. Sure hope that the PAPD is able to nab the hit and run driver, and nail him/her for not pulling behind you to make the right turn.

However, every cyclist should know that this is actually such a common cause of injury crashes that it has a name, "the Right Hook". It's particularly dangerous the light is green and drivers are turning into higher speed/volume roadways -- they are always looking left, and a vehicle to the right of them which is going straight is just plain invisible!

But you don't have to be a victim just because most drivers are clueless. BEFORE you get to the intersection, make sure you are aware of traffic coming from behind you -- check over your left shoulder. If the traffic signal is green, move a little to the left of where the bike lane would be. You might think this is dangerous, but actually it is _SO_ much safer than hugging the right curb and being completely invisible.

What happens is that the driver actually sees you and responds to you as he/she would to a motor vehicle making the same manuever (i.e., slow down and move right to turn behind you rather than in front of you).

See helpful diagram and text for Collision Type # 6, the Right Hook, in the classic web site, "How not to get hit by cars"
Web Link

While you can't prevent all crashes, you can sure reduce your chances of getting injured by drivers if you ride smart and share the road safely.


Like this comment
Posted by member
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 21, 2011 at 10:55 am

This castes a new light on the Volvo set. They will hit and run just like anyone else.


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Posted by accident?
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 21, 2011 at 11:26 am

Thanks to the victim for clarifying what happened. The original article was very confusing (and wrong). The clarification makes a lot more sense. Clearly, the Volvo driver committed multiple crimes in this case.

Someone driving north on that section of Cowper is most likely a local resident. Do any other residents remember seeing a white Volvo in the neighorhood? Please call the police if there is any possibility that you know who it is. There may or may not be noticeable damage to the car.


Like this comment
Posted by Albert K Henning
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 21, 2011 at 12:53 pm

just for clarification:

the intersection in question is Oregon Expressway and Cowper. Cowper does not intersect Page Mill.

Cowper, at that point, slews south of NW, but not quite WNW. I'm assuming the bicyclist and the car were both "westbound" on Cowper, or maybe 'northwest bound', not 'northbound'.


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Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Jul 21, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Victim says she was on the Cowper intersection with Page Mill? Does she mean Oregon expressway? It is indeed awful that this was a hit and run and no excuse for it.
and the driver didn't stop. It is however possible that she/he didn't see Victim because of the direction of the light and glare at 11:27 am which would be hitting the driver right in the eyes ( I was a car crash victim of another motorist with this scenario and was hurt in the accident). A bike or a pedestrian is small and not particularly shiny, so care must be taken both to be seen and to make yourself seen. Unhappily, in most of California there is a right turn on red.
Btw, was Victim on her bike walking the bike, biking on the pedestrian's crosswalk or biking on the road? And where was she when she was hit?


Like this comment
Posted by accident?
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 21, 2011 at 3:05 pm

At 11:27am when you are facing north (or north-west), then the sun is behind you, right? That excuse of the sun being in the driver's eyes does not cut it.

The victim says she was at the light first, then the car came up behind her and cut her off. The driver should easily have seen her first when approaching from behind and again when turning. The excuse of not seeing the bicyclist doesn't cut it here either. If the driver really did not see the bicyclist, he (or she) would have run into the bicycle from behind, not hooked it when turning.

Most likely, the driver was speeding and misjudged how close they were cutting off the bicyclist. There is no right-turn-only lane at that intersection, so the turn is fairly sharp and car drivers need to slow down a lot to safely turn right on to Oregon.


Like this comment
Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Jul 21, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Nobody was facing north, that's not the direction of Cowper. I know people say north but it's not north or south.
As a victim of a very very serious accident I, for one am not excusing a hit and run. But if victim was crossing right at the beginning of the crosswalk, then she may not have been very visible.(at that point the sun would have been about southeast). If she was in another position it would be different. Victim says "rear of the white car struck the front wheel of my bike". That makes me think that she biking on the crosswalk close to the beginning of the pedestrian crosswalk (which is kind of pushed in) into Oregon expressway and the beginning of which is also not very visible from Cowper. If Victim was biking on Cowper crossing O. E. she would have been much more visible. She is really not telling us many of the details of the accident. But, regardless, I hope the driver is made responsible for not having stopped and dealt with the situation.


Like this comment
Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Jul 21, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Was Victim behind the car on Cowper, was Victim ahead of the car or was Victim on the side of car sharing the lane? Or was Victim biking on sidewalk ? Was Victim biking on the crosswalk or was she on the road (where bikers belong)?. Did the car stop at the intersection or just turned into O. E. without stopping? The light was either red for both or green for both. Sounds as if Victim is saying green for both.
Hit and run I don't excuse but all facts about that accident are not coming out. I agree with Anne and George K. I'm glad biker is ok.


Like this comment
Posted by So
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Pit,

Reread the victims description and logic it out.
This scenario is not uncommon.


Like this comment
Posted by accident?
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 21, 2011 at 6:48 pm

I agree with the last posting. Car drivers intentionally cutting off bicyclists is very very common, especially when the bicyclist is going straight and the car driver is turning right. Just wait 2 seconds for the bicyclist to clear the intersection. You might save a life. And avoid committing a felony.


Like this comment
Posted by So
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Victim,

Do you know if you damaged the car and can you describe the damage?


Like this comment
Posted by another biker
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 22, 2011 at 8:07 am

I think it's worth re-reading what "friendly cyclist" pointed out concerning the "right hook":
"But you don't have to be a victim just because most drivers are clueless. BEFORE you get to the intersection, make sure you are aware of traffic coming from behind you -- check over your left shoulder. If the traffic signal is green, move a little to the left of where the bike lane would be. You might think this is dangerous, but actually it is _SO_ much safer than hugging the right curb and being completely invisible."

Many bikers - particularly those with less experience and/or more of a fear of cars - ride on or close to the sidewalk/side at all times. This is not always the safest thing to do. For young kids or anyone biking slowly, this is probably best. But for many of us, driving closer to the center of the lane is actually safer. We can be better seen by drivers and also better see and respond to cars backing out of driveways and parking spaces.

We are ALL responsible for watching out for ourselves and others, no matter if we are driving, biking or walking.

And based on my many years of biking in various conditions & locations, my logical assumption is that the driver of the car in this particular situation doesn't even know he/she hit anyone. They probably never noticed the biker, even as/after they collided. Some people are just clueless. A car almost hit me a couple weeks ago as I rode (correctly) through an intersection, making a left-hand turn. The car across from me was making a right-on-red and barely slowed to look to his left (my right) before continuing on without anywhere near a full stop. Fortunately, he saw me when a few feet away and I had already initiated evasive actions. So no harm done. I've been hit by a car in a similar situation in the past (left-on-red in Tokyo). So I know that I as a biker need to watch out for myself. And when I drive I am conscious of bikers and pedestrians.

BTW, I would bet that very few drivers who hit bikers have much experience biking. And I'd also bet that most bikers who don't wear a helmet have never been in an accident, or even a near-miss. Off the subject a little...but kids who don't wear helmets are not just breaking the law. They are putting themselves in a great deal of unnecessary danger. Just as with the drivers who don't know how to deal with bikers due to lack of experience biking, bikers who lack experience driving may not know how to interact with drivers...


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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