Farid Javandel was on his way to work Monday morning, on his regular bike commute from Albany to Berkeley, when an oncoming driver struck him head-on at a stop sign, sending him hurtling onto the pavement and crushing his bike beneath her SUV.
Javandel runs Berkeley’s transportation division and has worked for the city for 13 years. He’s also an avid cyclist and public transit user — so much so that he took BART home from the hospital Monday after he was cleared to leave.
“I almost took a Bay Wheels bike from the hospital to MacArthur station, but I didn’t have a helmet with me,” Javandel told Berkeleyside on Tuesday. As someone who works in the transportation field, he takes alternative modes of travel to heart. “We’re trying to tell people to get out of their cars — we need to be willing to do that ourselves.”
Javandel was waiting at a four-way stop sign when the driver struck him Monday morning. He was left with bumps and bruises as well as a sprained wrist, he said. But he came out of the experience feeling lucky: “I got up and walked away from it. I feel pretty fortunate in that regard.”
Initially, it was a reader who alerted Berkeleyside about Javandel’s close call, and local advocacy group Walk Bike Berkeley also posted about the incident on Twitter. Berkeleyside contacted Javandel for the full story.
He said he had been westbound on Solano Avenue in Albany, waiting to turn onto Pierce Street, when the collision happened. He had come to a full stop and signalled that he planned to turn left when a southbound driver coming off Pierce came into his lane.
“I had just enough time to see them coming my way,” he said. He yelled and tried to get the driver’s attention. “There really wasn’t enough time to react and get out of the way. I just felt the car hit me and then I felt the pavement hit my shoulder and my head.”
Javandel was wearing a helmet, which he called “a good thing,” but he was still dazed from the impact, which sent him flying up the hill. He initially called his wife to let her know what had happened rather than dialing 911.
As he got his bearings, Javandel realized he and the driver had ended up more than 20 feet from the intersection where the collision happened. He looked around for his bike and spotted it — underneath the vehicle that hit him. It was totaled.
He said the driver had signaled her intention to turn left, so he was watching for that, but he wasn’t expecting her to turn into oncoming traffic. As time slowed down and she got closer, he kept thinking she would see him.
“I figured they would swerve or stop or something,” he said. “They didn’t.”
The driver did remain at the scene and was cooperative with the investigation, Javandel said. But she did not give him any explanation. First responders arrived quickly and the two of them did not communicate directly for any length of time.
Javandel said, given the hour, it’s possible the sun could have been in the driver’s eyes.
He also said, anecdotally, he has heard the concern that people these days are driving more carelessly than they may have in the past.
“If everyone drove carefully and followed the rules, we wouldn’t have any crashes — because no one crashes on purpose,” he said.
Javandel said he has been commuting to Berkeley by bike for more than a decade, and has had close calls before. But he’d never encountered a driver turning into the entirely wrong lane into oncoming traffic.
Javandel also noted that he is diligent about stopping at stop signs and obeying all traffic rules, particularly as the city’s transportation manager. Flouting the rules would be dangerous. And it would also not be a good look.
“In this case, I was stopped at a stop sign signaling a left turn, waiting my turn,” he said. “But people do strange things sometimes. You can’t always predict it.”
Once, he added, his son came home to report having seen a driver in Albany using the bike path on Buchanan Street.
“You do what you can. People make mistakes,” he said. “They do wacky things. The more we can do to reduce the chance of things going wrong the better.”
That’s why cities, including Berkeley, are embracing the Vision Zero program, which has the goal of ending collisions resulting in severe injury or death by 2028. The program looks at behavior and engineering solutions that can help make the streets safer for everyone.
Berkeley has already had six official traffic fatalities this year, in addition to a man who had a heart attack and died recently while riding his bike on the pedestrian bridge near Aquatic Park.
To learn more about what Berkeley is working on in the realm of transportation, tune in to the city’s Transportation Commission, which generally meets on the third Thursday of the month.
Berkeley is also part of a regional effort to overhaul the San Pablo Avenue corridor and add improvements for pedestrians, cyclists and transit. Those efforts are continuing.
Berkeleyside has asked the Albany Police Department for details about the crash and driver and will update this story when they are provided.
Update, Oct. 27: A spokesperson for the city of Albany said the police report is still under review but confirmed that the driver was found at fault in the collision. No arrests have been made.