Sunday, April 12, 2009

R-e-s-p-e-c-t , R.I. P.

I love this town. I love cycling. I love the cycling community here. There are many different cliques within the throng of self-proclaimed cyclists here. That is really my favorite part of the Cyclocross events and the Annual Harvest Moon Ride, and the many other bike-related goings-on. So many different kinds of riders, from different backgrounds come together and unite. We can have fun and revel in the fact that we do have one very important commonality: a love and appreciation for all things two-wheeled. A love for the road, and riding, and the people, and breathing fresh air, admiring and enjoying the great outdoors, healthy competition, and general goodwill towards our fellow humans and our lovely planet.

This recent story I read on NPR about a car involved in a hit and run, killing three of the four passengers, got me riled up and thinking, "what about all of the injustices cyclists, especially the daily commuters, have to face and deal with on these treacherous roads?". Every death is a tragedy, but it truly seems like the newsworthy stories are only ever about drivers. Before I continue,allow me to state that I was deeply saddened by the loss of this young man and I ache for his parents. Just as I feel grief for the loss of two of my family members who died in and at the mercy of motor vehicles. I am in no way discounting this tragedy because it is about car drivers. This story simply re-opened my own car vs. bike wounds and I just need to rant a minute. That being said...

There seems to be a bias against cyclists involved in motor vehicle collisions. One rarely hears about accidents involving car vs. bike. Yet, you can't throw a rock in this town without hitting a cyclist who has been hit by a car. Usually from behind or T-boned, and usually in a hit-and-run situation. From what I gathered today, searching stories and opinion forums online, most people, cops included, are completely IGNORANT about the rights of cyclists on the road, and they feel that cyclists hit were probably impeding traffic (and the unsaid sentiment is that they deserved to get hit!). There needs to be more press about car vs. bike encounters. Harvey Milk style! Put a name, face, and life story on each and every cyclist on the road if that's what it takes to make drivers finally see us and respect us as peers and fellow human beings.

I understand that drivers have to deal with misfortune and "accidents" and danger as well, but at least they are surrounded by steel framing and aluminum, plastic, and air bags. We are flesh and bones, blood and tears. No extra padding other than hopefully a helmet on our heads. Nothing to take the impact of the car's inertia. Just our spinal cord, muscles, cells, nervous system, and maybe our back wheel. We [hopefully] have families and friends who love us and want us to come home safe and in one piece every day from our commute from work or school. For some reason though, the standards of law don't seem to be in the little guy's corner. Procedure when assessing the scene is not the same when ticketing a Car vs. Car collision and a Car vs. Bike collision. Majority of the time, the driver of the motor vehicle gets off with minor tickets, citations, a slap on the wrist. The drivers involved in Car vs Bike fatalities barely seem to rack up "Negligence" citations let alone "Involuntary Manslaughter". I am stumped, baffled, and utterly amazed at that FACT (check these stories from a few years ago). It seems so cut and dry in my mind, if you hit a biker with your car, you should suffer some consequence so you won't do it ever again. Pay a hefty fine, do bike related community service, apologise to the victim and their family in person, something that will have lasting affect on them so they will tell their acquaintances about their recent burden and why it's so important not to hit bikes and the humans riding them. That sounds good right? It seems like a no- brainer to determine that if a human driving a motorized vehicle strikes and kills a bicyclist (or pedestrian, or another driver), that person must suffer the consequence. Period. They just stole a life from someone and that some one's family. That is not ever acceptable. That doesn't go away. That act can't be erased. You can't call that a simple, innocent accident. That was negligence on their behalf. They were not present in that moment, not aware of all of their surroundings. They did not have the foresight to consider the fact that they are in a lethal weapon and the cyclist in front of them in traffic is a human too, just on a different set of wheels. I don't care who you are. I don't care what you drive or ride. We all need to be safe and responsible on the road. We all need to own our actions and all repercussions. We all need to take a different perspective and put ourselves in other people's shoes. And we all need to agree that to take a life is the ultimate offense against humanity. It is wrong. No apology or prayers or legal jargon will be able to turn back time.

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