As a lifetime Mill Valley resident and bicyclist and as a pro bicycle attorney and advocate, I am saddened and a bit outraged to report a serious bicycle versus dump truck accident in Mill Valley on Thursday at or about 5:00 p.m. at the busy Mill Valley intersection at Sycamore Avenue and Camino Alto. This intersection is right across from the Mill Valley Middle School.
The cyclist’s name is Madeline Rose and she has suffered very serious personal injuries in this truck vs. bike accident. On behalf of my firm, specifically my partner George Choulos and myself, we wish Madeline a very prompt and speedy recovery. We know the road will be very hard, and hope you know that other cyclists are in your corner.
Ms. Rose, age 26, was apparently run over by a Maggiora and Ghilotti dump truck which was making a right turn from Sycamore onto Camino Alto just as Ms. Rose passed the truck on the right to either go straight on Sycamore or to turn right onto Camino Alto herself.
As a cyclist who rode to Mill Valley Middle School when I was young (was actually Edna Maguire back then) and to Tam High every day, I felt particular shock and some anger when I learned of this bicycle truck collision. As a long time member and supporter of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, and also a Mill Valley Bicycle Accident Attorney, I fight every day to make motorists Share The Road. I know this roadway intimately and believe I understand the nature of this accident.
Mill Valley is a bicycle-friendly city and is well known as a haven for safe cycling. As paranoid a parent as I am, I rode with my wife and child on this same street on Sunday, so I wanted to comment as soon as I learned of this bicycle crash. This particular accident happened right in front of the Mill Valley Middle School where 900 + students attend, many of whom ride their bicycles to school, as did I and my partner George. All of these cyclists should feel safe when they are out on the road in such a bicycle-friendly town, but we have to know the rules of the road and when motorists, particularly truckers may break those rules.
I have excerpted some California Vehicle Code Sections which may be applicable to this bicycle crash. When I learn more about this crash, I may be able to add more pertinent codes sections or further insight. For starters:
22106. No person shall start a vehicle stopped, standing, or parked
on a highway, nor shall any person back a vehicle on a highway until
such movement can be made with reasonable safety.
This code section may be applicable if the trucker was at a stop and failed to keep a proper lookout for bicycle traffic to his right before he started moving the dump truck. Next:
22107. No person shall turn a vehicle from a direct course or move
right or left upon a roadway until such movement can be made with
reasonable safety and then only after the giving of an appropriate
signal in the manner provided in this chapter in the event any other
vehicle may be affected by the movement.
This code section is most likely applicable to Ms. Rose’s accident. Whether the trucker made a right turn signal and whether he kept a proper lookout to determine whether he could turn with proper safety, before he started his turn will likely be important facts to determine. Next:
22108. Any signal of intention to turn right or left shall be given
continuously during the last 100 feet traveled by the vehicle before
This code section may come into play since the issue of what Ms. Rose could see as she approached the intersection may be critical to determine who was at fault for this bicycle truck accident.
Mill Valley Police officer Graf-Reis said they haven’t yet made a determination of who was at fault. As a bicycle accident attorney, I read a lot of police reports and I am often frustrated to find that cyclists are so often listed on the police report as the party at fault. In bicycle accident cases, the details are critically important and the police are not the final word on fault. Too often police rush to judgment in their report and a careful analysis of the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident, often with the use of highly specialized experts, is often necessary to truly determine fault.
Some people may comment that I as an attorney should not be blogging so soon about this bicycle accident. Please know that I sincerely believe that proving fault does matter. Accountability matters, and only if we have accountability can we change the behavior of motorists and make the roads safer for all of us who share the road. I personally do not believe in accidents. I believe that if it is predictable, it is preventable. Bicycle collisions are almost always predictable, and therefore mostly preventable. If a collision is preventable, then failure to keep a proper lookout is unreasonable behavior or negligence. I am sure that the truck driver is emotionally upset by this crash, but that does not mean that he and his employer should not be held accountable for his driving while on the job.
For now, my heart goes out to Ms. Rose who is said to be in stable condition in the intensive care unit at Marin General Hospital.
Could this bicycle accident have been avoided with better driving by the trucker? Taking a right turn in a big truck is certainly more challenging than in a passenger car, however commercial truckers are supposed to be specially trained to accomplish all maneuvers on our city streets in a safe manner. They are professional drivers and held to a high standard of care. I have handled many truck versus bicycle and truck versus motorcycle cases and the safety requirements for commercial truckers are lengthy, and for good reason. Because trucks can cause so much damage so quickly, the standards for commercial truckers are high. I hope that Madeline Rose or her family knows to call an experienced bicycle attorney soon.
For comments or questions, please feel free to contact me, or if you have any information to provide or to discuss in relation to this bicycle accident or other similar bicycle accidents.
"If it’s predictable, it’s preventable.”
Claude A. Wyle is a partner of Choulos Choulos, and Wyle, a San Francisco based law firm dedicated to representing clients who have been injured by the wrongful conduct of individuals, corporations, public entities, and businesses. Mr. Wyle also frequently sits as a Judge Pro Tem for the city and county of San Francisco.