Sorry Mate, I Didn't See You | Bleader

Sorry Mate, I Didn't See You

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I just came across a post by the Chicago Bicycle Advocate, also known as lawyer Brendan Kevenides, on what he calls the "unseeing eye defense"—what the British refer to as SMIDSY, or "Sorry Mate, I Didn't See You." Kevenides says:

It is often raised in intersection cases and it goes a little something like this: The motorist asserts that he or she entered the intersection while carefully looking in all directions before beginning to turn. No bicyclists were seen. As the motorist executes his or her turn, however, the bicyclist materializes, seemingly out of nowhere. The defense asserts that the collision itself notwithstanding, the motorist was careful, not negligent and, therefore, should not be held responsible for the bicyclist's injuries. This was just one of those things . . .

He's currently representing a client who was hit in what's often called a "left cross": the driver turned left into the cyclist—who was going straight and had the right of way—because she didn't see him. Incredibly, she believes that not seeing him absolves her of all responsibility. According to Kevenides she left a phone message for the client in which she says, "I'm sorry, but I don't believe I'm at fault. . . . Best advice I can give you is 'be more careful'."

Which is particularly infuriating—leaving aside the totally ridiculous argument that not paying attention means you're not at fault—because most cyclists are careful, but it doesn't always help. Every time I go through an intersection where a car is waiting to make a left turn I keep an eye on it the entire time, hoping that the driver sees me and, assuming he does, that not hitting me is sufficient motivation to keep him from turning anyway.

It isn't always. Last night I was biking north on State Street and stopped at the intersection with Ohio to wait for the light to turn green. When it did, a car in the left turn lane coming from the other direction tried to sneak out in front of the oncoming northbound traffic but got held up by pedestrians crossing in the crosswalk. I kept going straight since I had the right of way, and I have a big, flashing headlight so there was no way he didn't see me. Still, he started slowly moving forward a little before I reached him, and didn't stop even when I was directly in front of him—I had to yell at him to stop him from hitting me.

Maybe he was distracted by the traffic control aide who was at his window screaming at him: "Why would you do that? Blocking the intersection with your ignorant self! Why would you do that?!" I'm pretty sure she was just upset that he was blocking traffic, not that he almost hit me, but it still made my night.

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