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Police are notorious for absolving drivers of criminality in fatalities involving bikes and peds. In what may be the latest instance of this, there is the case of a cyclist struck and killed last night by an SUV in Bay Point. Here is how it was reported:

A 34-year-old bicyclist died Monday night after running into an SUV, the California Highway Patrol said.

According to the CHP, the bicyclist was going east on Canal Road but was in the middle of the road and not in a bike lane. A 51-year-old Pittsburg man driving a Ford Explorer also was going east on Canal Road and was behind the bike, when the bike abruptly made a left-hand turn and plowed into the right-hand side of the SUV.

There are some troubling issues with this narrative. A cyclist is expected to move out of the bike lane into the middle of the road when making a left-turn. If he had already taken the lane, then his left turn was not necessarily abrupt. Of course, it would be helpful to know whether the cyclist signaled his turning intentions, but unfortunately he is not around to give his version of events. The CHP also reports drugs/alcohol may be involved, but that does not excuse a dangerous passing maneuver. Unless there are some other details not being released, this is looking like a case of investigators having windshield-bias.

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Blame the victim

A driver illegally crosses a double yellow line to pass, and fatally hits a bicyclist coming the other direction. Of course, the CHP says the driver was not at fault:

The accident unfolded after a vehicle moved toward the center of the road to pass one of the racers, CHP Sgt. Andy Hill said. As the driver moved to pass, she failed to see a second racer, riding near the middle of the road in the opposite direction, Hill said. The car was traveling about 35 mph and the bicyclist about 30 mph when they collided, according to the CHP.

“Unfortunately the (victim) was not riding on the far right side of the lane. He was riding in the middle of the road where the yellow line is,” Hill said. Hill said both parties contributed to the collision. Cyclists are required to ride as far to the right as possible, he said, while cars are required to have appropriate space before passing. Authorities have not identified the driver, a 35-year-old woman from Esparto. No charges or arrests have been made.

It is disappointing (but not all that surprising) that the CHP misinterprets both the 3-foot passing law and CVC 21202. CVC 21202 permits cyclists to move to the center of the lane for any number of reasons: to avoid hazards, or when the lane is substandard width. As in so many car-bike collisions, the police in this case found creative legal interpretations to absolve a driver of her dangerous and illegal behavior.

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