A man riding a bicycle north on Route 1 in Fairfax County, Va., was struck by a Fairfax County police cruiser making a right turn on red onto the highway Sunday morning, two videos of the event show. The cyclist suffered minor injuries, police said. After reviewing the videos and interviewing the cyclist and the driver, police then charged the cyclist with failing to pay full time and attention, as part of Fairfax’s renewed efforts to reduce pedestrian fatalities.
Police identified the cyclist as Thomas Crawley, 55, of Alexandria. He could not be located for comment. The officer’s name was not released.
Fairfax Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. said that Crawley was in the roadway, bound to obey the laws which apply to vehicles, and that he was going the wrong way on the highway — north in the southbound lanes — and didn’t exercise caution before entering the intersection.
A video shot by a motorist driving south on Route 1 in the Mount Vernon area near the Mount Vernon Plaza shopping center, captured the collision and was posted on Twitter on Sunday afternoon, then published by the Covering the Corridor news site Wednesday morning.
Fairfax police responded soon after by posting their own in-car video of the event and a news release disclosing the charge against Crawley, which incited a raft of condemnation on the police Twitter page.
The charge came a day after Roessler and others held a news conference just blocks away from the collision site on Route 1 to launch a “Street Smart” initiative to reduce pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. Fairfax has had eight pedestrian deaths this year.
The cyclist was on a mixed-use path that runs along Richmond Highway when he reached the intersection with Fordson Road. The southbound traffic had a green light, and the officer was stopped at a red light. But the motorist’s video showed that the pedestrian control signal was a solid red hand, or “Don’t walk,” Roessler pointed out.
“The officer is stopped,” Roessler said. “The officer is waiting and checking to make sure the crosswalk is cleared. All of a sudden, the bicyclist makes no attempt to stop and goes right into the crosswalk . . . He’s going the wrong way. He’s going against traffic. He’s going against the red pedestrian signal. Once that bicycle enters the roadway, they’re subject to all the vehicular laws.”
Roessler said a patrol supervisor decided to charge the cyclist after interviewing him and the officer. The charge of “failure to pay full time and attention” is a county code violation, often used to charge a motorist who rear-ends another car.
“We all have an obligation to exercise due caution,” Roessler said. “This person, it’s clear on the video, made no such attempt.”
Colin Browne, a spokesman for the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, said the problem arises when the traffic signal is green but the pedestrian signal is red. “It’s an engineering failure that’s leading to a situation that shouldn’t happen,” Browne said. “And the police response has been perhaps more defensive than it ought to be.”
Browne noted he had once been hit while cycling by a vehicle turning right on red. “That exact conflict happens all the time,” he said, where drivers are looking left to check for oncoming traffic, but forget to look back for pedestrians.
A news release issued at Roessler’s news conference Tuesday offered numerous tips, including: “When making a right turn on red, drivers should stop and then look back to the right for pedestrians and bicyclists before turning.”
State Sen. Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax) said: “I’ve been saying for years that Route 1 is the most dangerous highway in the commonwealth for pedestrians and cyclists. Those of us who live in the area have been diligently waiting to get this road improved for decades.” Surovell said that the state had allocated $500 million to improve Route 1, also known as Richmond Highway, but most of the money has yet to be spent, and “every year more people die.”
In 2008, a Fairfax County police officer killed a motorist at the same intersection. Ashley McIntosh was driving across Route 1 from Mount Vernon Plaza when she was hit broadside by a car driven by Officer Amanda Perry, who was traveling northbound on the highway headed to a call. The tragedy led to “Ashley’s Law” being enacted in 2011, requiring officers to have their lights and sirens on, or yield to traffic, when entering an intersection with a red light.