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Watch out for the left cross


University of Iowa football player Josh Koeppel miraculously escaped serious injury when the driver of a pickup truck made a left turn in front of him at an intersection.

Koepple’s motorcycle slammed into the front of the truck, and he was thrown into the air, landing on his side in the roadway. It appears in the video that he never made bodily contact with the truck which was fortunate.

This type of accident, (For want of a better word.) is one of the most common causes of serious injury and death to both cyclists and motorcyclists.

The driver of the white pickup truck does not even slow as he makes the left turn, and will no doubt plead that he didn’t even see the motorcycle and rider.

While not excusing this act of gross negligence, it is probably true the driver didn’t see the approaching motorcycle. Watch the video a second time and you will notice a black car, followed by a light colored car waiting to turn left in the opposite direction.

Josh Koeppel was probably hidden from view behind these vehicles as he and the white truck approached the intersection, giving the driver the impression the road was clear, which is why he doesn’t even slow.

Once he starts the turn he is now looking in the direction he is traveling, no longer looking for oncoming traffic.

It behooves the cyclist or motorcyclist to look for vehicles in the center lane making a left turn. (A right turn in the UK.) Assume the driver has NOT seen you, rather than assume he has.  


I wrote about this very scenario previously 


Reader Comments (23)

Good advice, Dave....and an excellent reminder. Thanks.


September 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLoving the Biike

Cyclists need to read the book ''Traffic" by Tom Vanderbilt. A large part is concerned with cognitive psychology as it applies to driving.

September 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdvenable

accident, (For want of a better word.)

The word that we used in my driver training (Young Drivers) was "collision."

September 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJeff H

That is exactly how I was hit in 1986. The driver's statement to police said that the <evening> sun was in her eyes so she went ahead and made the left turn. I kid you not, those were her exact words. That admission of culpability did little to sooth my aches and pains or to straighten out the mangled mess of my bicycle.

I was fortunate. I survived, insurance paid for a new bicycle ( Fuso # 985), my injuries healed, and I continued to race for a few more years. I know or knew too many others who were not as fortunate. One must ride, drive, or walk as though all other drivers do not see you or will do something stupid. It may not always prevent an accident but it will certainly lessen the chances or the severity.

Think about what circumstances make it difficult for you to grasp everything within a situation and actively strive to keep yourself out of those conditions. Be seen and be safe.

September 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJim

Lucky guy indeed. I don't want to start up a helmet debate, but is he wearing one? When he stands up, there isn't one on his head...

September 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNeil

Lurker here. Thanks. It helps to be reminded of this, over and over again.... as both a driver and a cyclist.

September 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbystander

The politically correct term in Canadian media for the last few years has been "crash", not accident. Many people aren't comfortable with this because "accident" tends to exonerate any blame, but in most cases one or both parties are responsible.

The crash in the video likely happened because the pickup truck driver didn't "see" the approaching bike, or more likely, totally underestimated its speed and distance from the intersection. Car drivers just aren't programmed to notice bikes.

September 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

This is exactly how I was hit a month ago. My bike was totaled and my knee is still a bit sore, but I'm incredibly lucky to be okay.

I also flipped through the air and landed on my hands and knees.

Very surreal to see this footage.

September 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermattio

Hi Dave, I agree with you and the others, you have assume that EVERY driver doesn't see you. I am constantly monitoring parked cars, left turns, cars passing me etc... I automatically figure they don't see me. The driver in the truck sits higher up in position than cars and therefore usually can see over the top of cars. But, like some of the others, people just do stupid stuff ( like go ahead and turn even though the sun is in my eyes ). Unfortunately, the motorcyclist or cyclist is the exposed one that bears the brunt of injury. Stay safe evereyone !

September 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

I was traveling to work @ 6:30 in June, bright as could be, on my 1972 Motobecane Le Champion I bought used in 1973. As I approached a residential side street, a car came from that side street. I was not sure if he was going to stop or not and I was focused on his "car language". I was traveling at about 21 MPH on a street with a bike lane, a car lane in my direction, a turn lane for the side street, and two other lanes the opposite direction.

As I started to cross into the entrance of the side street, a car suddenly was in front of me. Just like the video. I had enough time to say "oh sh.." when I hit the front fender. I remember thinking, “oh good it is over” when I felt the windshield break under me. But no, next thing I knew I was flying through the air wondering what to do. Landed on my stomach. She said she didn't see me.
There is not a straight part on the fork, even the crown is twisted and dropout bent. The top tube and down tube were wrinkled.

I received a broken humorus, scapula, 12 rib left side, punctured lung and road rash. I have a 10-inch plate in my arm with 7 screws and after a year I am starting to get feeling back on the outside of my arm. I have floaters in my eyes from hitting the pavement and a scar in my left eye that distorts my vision.

She was uninsured and disappeared, never showing up in court.
I was 59 at the time.

September 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersjx426

This type of accident is deadly. The difference in speed is 50/60MPH if each is traveling at 25/30. Which is why having a headlight at night is so important. Even a small "blinky" weighing 25grams or so might save your life. Just leave it on the handlebars, and if by chance you're caught out at night, there it is!

September 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoug P

"and will no doubt plead that he didn’t even see the motorcycle and rider"

Isn't that equivalent to pleading guilty? Aren't road users obligated to see other road users in this situation?

September 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

I've learned that you have to pay attention to the line of site, especially for people making left turns. Don't let other cars hide you from view.

September 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRider

I think the one who designed traffic light for the intersection is stupid.
In Thailand crossroad intersection the traffic light will operated like this:

Case 1 the green light will show only on one branch of the intersection at a time,
it means that the cars can go straight forward or left turn(for Thailand will be right turn
as the British). All the other three branches of the crossroad the traffic will be red.
In that way accident shown in the video clip would not happen.

Case 2 the green light will be show on two opposite direction, allowing the cars
to move straight forward only. Those waiting for left turn will be waiting for the green
light. When the red light stop cars from moving straight forward, then the green light
signals will allow car of the opposite direction to turn left at the same time.

ps. I think horn like airzound could be helpful for the case shown in the video clip.
Because at least you can be heard, even though you may be invisible.

September 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBkk

We were always taught to be aware, ride defensively and assume you will have to stop at anytime. Drivers these days have mostly not ridden on 2 wheels and so do not have that all round awareness but as cyclists we need to assume responsibility for ourselves as well. And I have also been knocked off the same way because somebody turned right (in the UK) across a stream of moving traffic!

September 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Wood

Thanks for the post, Dave. I have a friend who has significantly reduced use of his left leg after a "left hook" SUV vs. motorcycle accident. The driver planted her bumper into my friend's femur and tore his leg half-off. Thanks to quick emergency response and talented doctors, he can walk again. I don't think the driver faced any penalties beyond a small traffic citation.

While I have had close calls on my bicycle, I have been careful and fortunate so far.

September 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBo

With all due respect, you have to take in to consideration that
shitty things can happen to you at anytime in your life no
matter how cautious "paranoid" you are. Wake up in the morning
and just except that fact that you may harm others and someone
may harm you, enjoy the time you have and stop trying to sugar
coat the realities that is your mortal life.

September 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlocals only

The only thing I can't figure out is WHY someone had a video camera trained on that intersection at the moment of impact? Was this from a "camera in the sky" or from an individual. Just strange that it would be on when there appeared no reason for it to be on. But...glad to see that the motorcyclist was able to walk away from this crash. Looked deadly, that's for sure.

September 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermaltese falcon

Maltese Falcon,
It is a police car video; you can see the hood of the car. When the clip starts he is slowly approaching the intersection, when he sees the crash, he pulls over to the left to stop immediately in front of the downed rider.

September 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDave Moulton

At first, the first thing that crosses my mind was "How can this happen!?, was the bike riding the wrong way?", as on my country, traffic lights are rigged so this can't happen here, on similar way as a previous poster described.

Anyway, probably the van driver was looking/focusing on on the direction where he was intending to go rather than on oncoming traffic, and BOOOM GOES THE BIKE!...hope he's alright.

I had A LOT of close calls due to inattentive road users, it is unbelievable how people can operate their vehicles (bikes alike, albeit not as destructive) in such a fashion.... just check this out:


the guy seems to follow the road just fine, albeit not on any particular lane...

Now just put a bike and let he run over it: his excuse: "I didn't saw him" "it veered on me"... etc, you name it, and probably if there aren't any witnesses, he's gonna get away with it....

funny thing, there's not a bike what's in front...yep! a full package indeed, with bells and whistles and you can see on the foreground the flashing lights on the crossing too, it's neither small nor particularly fast, and it's no less than IN FRONT of the so called driver... guess the result.

Lesson, if you're deaf and blind, you shall not drive, but anyway, how can it be that the guy seemed to follow the road, you tell me.

September 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTom

Ouch, scary video.

I'm a long time bicyclist and motorcyclist (though I sold off my last motorcycle in 2007). I've commuted daily on both forms of two wheels for many years - as well as zillions of fun rides.

As mentioned, the "left hook" is the most common accident scenario. Many drivers don't seem to even register a bike headed towards them. I'm guessing the black car in the video blocked the drivers view a bit.

I also cringe at the dude riding in shorts and no helmet. Yeah, we ride bicycles with shorts and not much protection - but our speeds are much slower and we're not fully mixed in with the flow of traffic (for most of the time).

Motorcycles are cruising at the speed limit (or higher) all the time. Mr. Paranoid was me, so I rode with full leathers, back protector, full face helmet and road race quality boots and gloves.

How often did I need the protective gear? Never. No crashes or accidents for me. I still felt better with all of it in place. Bit of insurance and confidence booster.

September 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDan O

Yep, this is the one. I had my first very close call when a driver approaching from the opposite direction turning into a development flat out did not see me - even though I was dressed in "screaming yellow" and visibility was perfect. Her car came so close I went vertical. Upon coming back down - the rear wheel folded & snapped. She pulled over in a state of shock having not seen someone until it could have been too late. Her poor 13 year-old daughter was equally horrified - at the prospect of having to drive someday and with her moms total lapse of awareness. It may help her someday. Here's to hope. I know from now on, I'll be more defensive in similar environments.

November 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlby King

Here Dave, Happy Holidays from CT:


November 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Graves

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