Posts Tagged ‘accident’

Dear Steve Emerson,

April 6th, 2012 by hughillustration

Hi Steve,

We have a policy of not publishing comments that contain threatening words. Your comment submitted today threatened to run over cyclists at the next Critical Mass, so I can’t publish it as is.

However, I would like to give you a personal response, since this issue has been on my mind a bit, in the wake the tragic accident in which a cyclist hit and killed an elderly pedestrian, possibly as a result of his own negligence and poor riding skills.

So let me make both a logical and a moral objection to your comment. Logic first:

The number of Bay Area pedestrians who die each year as a result of collision with a bicyclist is, on a 10 year average, ZERO. It happens so rarely that it’s not a blip on the statistical radar.

Meanwhile, the number of Bay Area pedestrians who die each year as a result of collision with motorized traffic is, on a 10 year average, 100. (For injuries, including paralysis and other life-altering damage, the number is about 800.)

If your concern is public safety, your emphasis on one rare event involving a bicycle is irrational and illogical.

On the moral front, I’m sorry to point out that you have no credibility, since you express outrage at the death of one innocent person while threatening the lives of dozens of other innocent people. That’s a glaring contradiction, assuming your concern is for the safety of others, and it does not speak well to your sense of civic responsibility.

Therefore, I conclude that your concern is not safety. Rather, it seems likely that your real concern is a cultural resentment against bicycling and what it represents. Bicyclists and pedestrians are beginning to get a larger share of the traffic funding, and policies around parking and street design are shifting to reflect our needs and our presence (though the shift is not nearly dramatic enough, in my opinion). Assuming you yourself are a motorist, I imagine that you interpret this cultural shift as threat to the relative privileges you enjoy as a person who drives.

I propose that you drop this antagonistic stance against a change that after all cannot be derailed. Why not join us? Get out of your car, organize your life so that you’re not behind the wheel for hours each day, and start cycling and walking as your primary means of transportation. You may find, as I have, that this creates a positive change in your life, leading to greater health, a reduction in stress, and social connections to others which are rewarding and pleasurable.

If you like, you can join us on the last Friday of the month at Critical Mass — no one is ever turned away, and the very least you would learn about the ideas and lives of those you profess to oppose. And if you’d like to re-word your comment in a more constructive manner, I’m happy to publish it, even if the views expressed do not accord with my own.

Good luck, Steve!


PS: Now that I’ve written this, I think I’ll publish it on our blog. Thanks for the instigation!

Risky Cycling: Not the Problem

December 28th, 2009 by hughillustration

Ghost Bicycle @ 20th/R & Ct. Ave. NW in Memory of Alice Swanson

When there’s an accident involving a car and a bike, many people make the common-sense assumption that risky behavior by the cyclist is probably to blame. Everyone knows that bicyclists all ride without helmets, don’t have the proper lighting, and are running red lights and stop signs with increasing frequency. If there’s an accident, it must be the cyclist’s fault, right?

That assumption is almost entirely false, a new UK study has found:

The study, carried out for the Department for Transport, found that in 2% of cases where cyclists were seriously injured in collisions with other road users police said that the rider disobeying a stop sign or traffic light was a likely contributing factor. Wearing dark clothing at night was seen as a potential cause in about 2.5% of cases, and failure to use lights was mentioned 2% of the time.

Those are some pretty tiny percentages — hardly the type of numbers that would justify a strong police bias towards the assumption of bicyclist guilt in everyday accidents. Meanwhile, the study reports that more than 25% of accidents occur when the motorist strikes the bicyclist from behind — and that figure rises to 40% for collisions that take place away from intersections.

With adult cyclists, police found the driver solely responsible in about 60%-75% of all cases, and riders solely at fault 17%-25% of the time.

This is a study of accidents in the UK, and these numbers would likely shift around some if this same study were done in California. But it’s a pretty good indication that the key to preventing bike accidents and reducing the loss of life on city streets is not to freak bicyclists out about the dangers of biking — insisting they wear hideous florescent outfits and dorky helmets, for example — but to educate motorists about the need to share the road, and build infrastructure that alerts motorists to the presence of people on bikes. Lives depend upon it!

[photo by dbking, CC attribution license — thanks!]