Occasionally cyclists involved in bike-car crashes reach out to us for resources, information, or just to vent. On Monday a local cyclist contacted us after being involved in a hit-and-run crash with a Philadelphia taxi. Fortunately he was not seriously hurt. A witness grabbed the taxi's license plate and called the police. The victim's experience, however, is a familiar one:
"...since no police officers arrived on the scene and since I was unable to flag down an officer I reported to the precinct office's behind Whole Foods. The officer on duty gave me a PA Driver's Accident Report which I am to fill out and send in to Harrisburg. After it is filed in Harrisburg I have to pay to get an official copy of the incident report which I can then take into the precinct office and file a complaint regarding the taxi driver leaving the scene."
"This is all very frustrating primarily because if a police officer had shown up we could have directed them to the taxi almost immediately, however now it will be days if not longer before any kind of complaint can even be made."
Bicycle crash victims who are not seriously hurt in Philadelphia face this all the time. Getting the police to show up is often an interminable wait. Police are no longer required to respond to crashes when there are no injuries involved and both vehicles can be driven away. (Getting the police to count your inoperable bicycle as a "vehicle" may be difficult.)
What to do if you find yourself in this situation?
- View this Philadelphia Police Department press release for more information on "minor accidents."
- View this brief guide on what to do if you're in a bicycle crash.
- Buy a helmet camera and gather your own evidence (also useful for those arty, sped-up bike ride videos you see projected on the wall at art gallery openings).
Hit and run crashes are serious and deserve law enforcement's full attention. A 2003 report from NHTSA noted that nearly one in five motorists who hit a bicyclist or a pedestrian flees the scene. Those numbers are even higher in Philadelphia; PENNDOT places them at one in four. The latest hit-and-run incident involved a 9 year old girl on a bicycle in Parkside.
The Taxi and Limousine Commission should also take reports seriously, and enforce a zero tolerance policy for professional drivers who leave the scene of crashes.