Bicyclist Run Over by Car on Pedestrian Bridge

There’s a bridge called the Berkley Pedestrian Bridge in the Norfolk area that’s intended for pedestrian and bicyclist use. If you’ve ever been on the bridge you can see that there is a corresponding part of the bridge for vehicle travel; that there is a caged and protected area for pedestrians and bicycles to keep them safe.

Why did Kelly Howell get run over on her bicycle by a car on the pedestrian portion of the bridge?

Thank you VDOT. Apparently the bridge tenders who work on the bridge are contracted VDOT workers, and up until Tuesday were allowed to take their vehicles to and from their post by driving on the pedestrian portion of the bridge.

Apparently there are signs on either end of the bridge to warn people that there may be vehicles in the pedestrian area, but it’s a pedestrian bridge, and it is very narrow. There is no way that two vehicles could pass on the bridge.

If you watch Kelly Howell’s stunning video that was taken from her bicycle mounted camera, you can see exactly what I mean.

As you can see, Kelly is riding along as if it’s a normal day on the pedestrian bridge. There are pedestrians, there are other bicyclists, and then all of a sudden the car is coming at her; and there is simply no place to go. Even if Kelly had stopped on her bicycle completely it seems likely, given the speed of the vehicle, that she still would have been struck by at least the mirror of the vehicle.

More importantly, if you look at the vehicle very closely you can see that from the point where she could have seen the video until the time of the actual impact is about three seconds. Three seconds is really no time at all when faced with an emergency like this. Maybe Kelly could have brought her bicycle to a stop if she had reacted a little more quickly and tried to stop; however, it’s likely she still would have been impacted by the vehicle which was taking up at least 75% of the available space on the bridge.

As a bicyclist myself, I fault VDOT 100% for this situation. Yes, I’m biased in favor of the bicyclist. I admit that. However, there seems no reasonable explanation for ever having allowed vehicular travel in the bike and pedestrian area. There’s simply not room; it’s not very visible at all around the curve to be able to see if there’s even a vehicle coming at you.

And as of Tuesday, VDOT has changed the policy, and regular vehicles are no longer allowed on the bridge. Workers have to either walk to their post or take a motorized cart. Anybody who’s ever been in a golf cart knows that’s a much safer way to travel in a restricted area like this. Not only is a golf cart much narrower, so it could probably have passed by Kelly no problem, but it also would stop much quicker and it also travels a little slower. There are many ways that this is going to make sure that everyone who uses the pedestrian area of the bridge is safer.

I’m also extremely concerned about the police response in this situation. Apparently the vehicle did stop because of the accident, and Kelly and the vehicle’s driver exchanged information; however, the police were not involved on scene. The vehicle driver has a duty by law to call the police if there’s any personal injury or property damage when you have an accident.

Apparently Kelly called the police some hours later, after she had gotten home, and the police response was that they cannot investigate because they were not called to the scene.

Have you heard of hit and runs? This is what happened. The driver in this case is almost certainly guilty of leaving the scene of an accident. At the very least, it’s an investigation that the police should have undertaken whether or not the driver had any duties to contact them earlier. Drivers of vehicles have a lot of duties they have to undertake if there’s an accident, depending on the nature of that accident. It may be too late to do much investigation about the accident itself, since all the damage and the people have been moved, but they can definitely investigate the fact of whether or not there actually was a crime committed here by the driver. The driver may be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to $1,000.00 fine, yet the police department, simply refused to investigate that issue.

I’m a defense attorney at heart, and I definitely fight for the little guy and want to protect the people’s rights. This is a case where I’m torn a little bit between being a bicyclist who wants to protect the victim who was struck and being a defense attorney who helps drivers when they’re in a sticky situation.

Photo by: VaDOT

Andrew Flusche

My name is Andrew Flusche. I am a traffic and misdemeanor defense lawyer in Virginia. I limit my practice to traffic tickets and misdemeanor defense, so I know the ins and outs of these offenses. I literally wrote the book on reckless driving in Virginia which you can get on Amazon here or download for free here. I opened my practice in 2008 after earning my Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. Since then I have earned over 600 5-star reviews from happy clients on Google, Yelp, Facebook, and Avvo. If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor offense in Virginia, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Your initial consultation is always free, and you'll talk directly with me about the details of your case.
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