Unbelievable video taken today at site of Joy Covey’s fatal accident

Unbelievable that just a few days after Joy Covey lost her life, we see someone turning right in front of a cyclist at the same intersection. I rode up there again today, wanting to get an idea of how the sun might have affected visibility at the time of day the accident occurred, and hung around for quite a while, maybe 30 minutes, letting the video run and observing how cars and cyclists interacted. In this case, not well!

The cyclist was wearing a light-colored jersey and had a flashing front light. No fog (sorry about the fuzzy video; apparently I hadn’t wiped the lens clean). Did the motorist not see the cyclist? Or mis-judge the speed? You would think there would be a heightened sensitivity with greater care taken in making that turn. There is clear visibility for over a quarter mile on the downhill (north) side, so there’s no rocket science involved in making that turn. You make sure there’s nobody in sight coming up the road, then make the turn only when there’s nobody on the uphill (south) side.

I agree that it’s a dangerous intersection, requiring extra care for those turning into or out of it. But with that extra care, I think virtually all accidents are avoidable. Of course that’s expecting too much, so this intersection might be in need of serious redesign, perhaps adding roadway on the west side (right side when heading uphill/south) so that you could realign the entire roadway further west, giving a better view of traffic to someone on Elk Tree Road, and possibly even a left-hand turn lane incorporated on southbound-Skyline. It’s a whole lot of trouble for a lightly-used intersection, but this may have been the third serious (and second fatal) accident there.

More video, shot a couple minutes before what’s shown above, giving the motorist’s point of view. Many had questioned whether a motorist can actually see much up the hill. Yes, they can. If they’re looking. Make sure to run it full-screen so it’s a bit more realistic, since a car window is just a bit bigger than 3 inches across. And especially note the car at the end of the video, which never stops at all as it enters onto Skyline from Elk Tree Road. Is it really possible the driver gave anything more than a cursory glance before heading onto Skyline?

20 thoughts on “Unbelievable video taken today at site of Joy Covey’s fatal accident

  1. Mike,

    I mentioned a light is no talisman protecting you, but this is really disconcerting. It was an overcast day, wasn’t it? And still this happens less than a week after the tragedy? I wonder if it would be possible to find out who the driver is and present this video? I mean really, was this person looking at his/her cell phone while the turn was being made?

    1. I watched it again a couple of times. Mike you just missed by a literal “hares breath” the most sickening sight of your life. I thank you for your patience in filming this. Should we equip bikes with air horns?

  2. Hey, I saw the video several times. I think the driver saw the cyclist, likely due to the flashing lights, and determined they could get out of the way. Notice that you hear the acceleration and sliding of the tires as the car is getting out of the way. Frankly I much rather have this situation than what happened to Joy, which is that the driver most likely didn’t see her.

    Clearly the best scenario would have been for the driver to wait for the cyclist to go by, but my main concern at this point is to get us cyclist visible to drivers. Then we can deal w/ driver courtesy. When a driver doesn’t see you and turns in front of you, it is really a problem, since neither you nor the driver have a clue what or when it is going to happen.

  3. People just seriously misjudge how fast bicycles travel. Most times you see people chugging along at 5-10mph, so people look down the road see a bicycle 100 meters away and think they have plenty of time.

    1. John, that area has several extremely popular local cycling routes. Even on weekdays there’s a lot of recreational cyclists up there. On weekends it is littered with cyclists. On few popular climbs up to Skyline (e.g. Kings and Old la Honda) there is way more cyclists than cars on the road. Anybody using that side street is very likely a local and totally used with cyclists on the road and the speeds they are traveling at. Excuses about those drivers misjudging speeds cyclists are traveling at are totally lame and unrealistic.

      1. Alex I ride up there as well, I’m not trying to “excuse” that people misjudge, it’s just the way it is that people do misjudge the speed of bicycles. We as cyclists just need to be aware of it and take that into account while we are riding.

    2. Regarding someone thinking a bike is traveling that slowly, sometimes a motorcycle isn’t much easier to see than a bike, and I would think spotting something moving at all would trigger a reaction in your brain that says “OK, stop, re-evaluate, there’s something there.” And that process should take long enough that the cyclist is now very much closer to you. I would think.

  4. The feature at the foot of the stop-sign is not very visible in the video, but it’s an ad-hoc memorial. If the memorial alone doesn’t give you pause, then at least oncoming traffic should. You may feel “safe” in your car, but killing or injuring someone else will wreck your life financially and emotionally.

    Short of an engineering solution, driver, motorcyclists, and cyclists will have to change their behavior, or we’ll be discussing the third serious accident there next Spring.

    I’m working on my Old La Honda time, and decided to slow at Elk Tree yesterday while descending Skyline. I rode with flashers(front and rear) even for a PR attempt, and I decided that slowing here is the best way to make sure I have plenty of Skyline descents in my future and pay respects to Joy.

    1. You’re worried about your times? That’s the problem. Too many frenzied riders trying to get PR’s and making riding a ridiculous contest instead of riding for its own sake. This yahoo mindset has done more to foster ill will than anything. As someone who was born here on the peninsula and has been riding for 40 years through the towns, hills, and streets the worst thing to happen, besides more cars and people, is the influx of ego centric “top gun” riders “littering” our spaces, trying to go faster, making their precious times and all else be damned.
      This isn’t to say Joy’s collision isn’t an utter tragedy. This is a plea for the peloton clones and their roided brethren to turn off the “spin cycle” and ride for fun, for transport, for pastime, safely and slowly.

      1. I see your point but do not agree. “PRs” on Strava are not the problem. Stupid is the problem. It is a rare “PR” attempt that ends in tragedy, but as motivation, it has encouraged many to get fit, to find and push their limits, and to compete, either with others, or themselves. People going for a PR on Old LaHonda are far less dangerous than the people “riding for riding’s sake” coming back down, in the wrong lane. And regarding Joy, did you look at her Strava rides? Nothing rocket-worthy among them. Just a fit 50 year old woman enjoying the outdoors.

        Sure, there are idiots playing percentage games on descents, but there were always idiots playing percentage games on descents. Back in the 70s it was common for the crowd I hung out with the descend 84 assuming there wasn’t going to be a car coming up (because they were riding over the center line). And some didn’t make it. Darwin at work.

        The bicycle is a wonderful thing. It’s a self-powered extension of our souls. Life goes by at just the right speed on a bike, whatever you choose that speed to be. There’s no one right way to enjoy a bike. For some it might be challenging a time, trying to get the PR. For others it could be a social thing, an outing with friends with ice cream at the end. And for still others, it’s a chance to get away and commune with nature, to see and smell things on a bike that you would never see or smell entombed within a car. Why should we judge one to be better than the other? Why should we let the “why” of someone’s cycling have something to do with an accident caused by another? –Mike–

      2. Old La Honda is one of the most popular ascents on the Peninsula. The fastest anyone has managed is a very safe 13mi/hr over 3.3 miles at +7.3% grade (Olympian Eric Heiden). I ascended around 9 mi/hr, and the only danger at that speed is dehydration :). I mentioned the PR only because my lights are heavy, and cost me some time, but I considered that worthwhile.

        Descending OLH is treacherous because of its narrow roadway, many driveways, and poor sight lines, so many responsible riders turn North on Skyline, past Elk Tree, to access safer descents on HW84 or Kings. I simply said that I would slow at Elk Tree, and I recommended the practice to prevent future accidents. If you ever ride Skyline, I hope you consider it.

        1. It is possible to ride uphill so fast that, on a route with traffic, it would be dangerous. Thankfully they shut down the roads for the Tour de France.

  5. Agree with John. Drivers are not used to seeing bikes moving ~30-35 mph as they often do coming down that stretch of Skyline. It’s not surprising that they’d misjudge how much time they have to cross a bicycle’s path.

  6. I think Eduardo and John might be correct in their assessments. However Eduardo, you might want to reconsider characterizing almost killing someone as a “courtesy” issue–to me a “courtesy” issue is inadvertantly letting a door close on someone when you’re exiting a building. This was clearly a case of near murderous negligence or misjudgement. How the heck does someone living on that part of Skyline not understand that road bikes have been part of the environment for decades?

  7. Just look at the clock on the video – the driver saved 3 seconds, and he could have easily misjudged the time he had to make the turn. It is also not clear if the cyclist applied his brakes when he saw the car make the turn. If he continued at his original speed, it might have been even closer, or worse.

    1. I really would have liked to have superimposed a timeclock into the video, but didn’t have the time to figure out how to do that. Yes, the cyclist may have slowed down a bit, hard to tell. I think what the driver was doing, what drivers all have a tendency to do, is try to find a “hole” to punch through the traffic. They get impatient so instead of doing the safe thing of waiting until it’s completely clear in the opposite direction, so they can focus on the direction they’re turning into, they “just go” when the chance comes up. Maybe that’s what you have to do in-town sometimes, but on Skyline??? On the busiest of days, it’s not going to be more than a minute before you have a completely-clear road to the north (the downhill side). And when you do, you have at least 15 seconds to scan the uphill side looking for traffic that would be coming towards you as you turn.

  8. Someone is another forum stated that drivers seeing a single light on a bike have difficulty gauging speed from it because unlike car headlights, there’s no convergence of beams going on. There may be some truth to this? What’s one to do then? Helmet light and bar lights?

    1. I am considering combining my Serfas Thunderbolt flashing front light with a Niterider 220, a new super-compact yet still very bright light. The idea being that the Thunderbolt is visible from a wider angle, but the Niterider will have more punch. Together it should be pretty tough to miss. And it might also help with the “convergence” issue, although it’s likely they’re too close to each other to accomplish that. –Mike–

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