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San Diego trolley impact death highlights dangers of bicycling on urban streets

In the early morning hours of March 9, a Barrio Logan man was struck and killed by a trolley. The precise details of the accident are still unclear, but witnesses claim that the man was riding a bicycle and wearing earbuds, and that he failed to see the oncoming trolley bearing down on him because his attention was focused elsewhere.

In October 2015, a 66-year-old Michigan man died of head injuries after being struck by an electric trolley-bus in Santa Barbara. Ultimately, the pedestrian was found to be at fault for the accident, since he stepped off the curb only two to three seconds before the bus arrived—the driver had no time to stop.

These incidents serve as a grim reminder: the fact that pedestrians and bicyclists generally have the right-of-way on American roads does not absolve them of responsibility. There were almost 2,400 pedestrian deaths in 2015, a 6% increase from the previous year. Pedestrians and bicyclists alike are advised to travel without earbuds or earphones in their ears, especially when walking or biking on traffic-heavy roads. Listening to music while walking or biking lowers an individual’s awareness of what is happening around him or her. Electric trolleys and trains are substantially quieter than their diesel- or gas-burning counterparts, and a person walking or biking on urban streets should use both their ears and their eyes to make sure it’s safe to cross roads or railroad tracks.