Crash Incident Description
We were on the south-west corner of Huntingwood Avenue and Warden Avenue. The old lady cyclist, est 70 yo, riding an old yellow 20″ bicycle was heading north. I had followed her from the Chinese grocery store Da Zhonghua at Warden/Sheppard. She was a stable and safe rider and did not ride very fast. She wore no helmet and was getting a bald spot on the crown of her head. At Huntingwood, North/South Warden had a green light. But a grey minivan, pulling an empty green open trailer, eastbound on Huntingwood but wanting to turn south on Warden, was blocking the complete pedestrian walkway and 2′ in front of the line markings. The grey minivan, old white male driver, had a red light and was intent on watching southbound traffic. As I watched the driver’s head it was clear that he never once looked southbound to see if there were any pedestrians or cyclists.
What To Do if a Car Driver Does Not Acknowledge You
Now at this juncture is where I would diverge from niceties and etiquette. While crossing roads as a pedestrian or cyclist, I watch driver’s heads and gauge their center of attention. Did they see me, are they looking before they make the turn? I not only want to see that their head is turned to my direction, but also that they acknowledge that I am or will be in front of their car.
Today, the old Chinese lady did not acknowledge that the driver knew she was there. She was fast enough to hop on her bike and ride in front of the car, fast enough that I could not stop her, and that my yelling at the driver was 3′ too late. While the driver did stop at the red light because of oncoming traffic, he did hit the old lady with his car, which knocked her off her bicycle onto the ground. She did not hit her head. Her two bags were knocked off her bicycle.
Why Did the Driver Not Look?
We are human. Humans are habitual. The driver might have been in a rush. Of course he did not want to crash into oncoming southbound traffic, as that would have put him and his car in physical danger. On the other hand, pedestrian or bicycle traffic going northbound presents no physical danger to him or his vehicle. While he might have just been careless, he could have experienced what is called “Inattentional Blindness”, where the driver literally sees right through you. In this case the driver did not even turn his head to the right to scan for pedestrians or cyclists. This is simply sloppy and dangerous driving.
Inattentional blindness, also known as perceptual blindness, is a psychological lack of attention that is not associated with any vision defects or deficits. It may be further defined as the event in which an individual fails to perceive an unexpected stimulus that is in plain sight.
The old Chinese lady was ok. Her head did not hit the ground. She was otherwise physically unharmed. No harm done. The driver got back into his car and drove off. All turned out Ok. It could have been much worse, but it was a preventable crash that should not have happened. Both the driver and cyclist could have prevented this crash. I hope that both the driver and cyclist learned something today and that they will be more careful in the future.