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Is it OK to Kill Cyclists? How About Pedistrians? People Continue to Die and We’re Left Asking Why?

Since the publishing of the “Is it Ok to Kill Cyclists?” op-ed in the Sunday NY times (11/9/13) by Daniel Duane, there has been a number of responses as the article has made the rounds through bicycle blogs and other related publications.

The main point of Duane’s piece, although not entirely clear (at least not to this blogger) was to illustrate how drivers rarely face criminal charges after hitting and killing cyclists, even when the motorist is at fault. The opinion gave some vague examples but didn’t do a good job of finding details about why motorists aren’t prosecuted or if cyclist fatalities are even investigated.

In fairness to the author, Daniel Duane did appear on a radio program to clarify his position and continue to champion the cause that drivers seem to be getting away with murder.

Here and Now on WBUR.org
Does The Law Go Too Easy On Drivers Who Kill Cyclists?

There was also a well done NPR piece over the weekend that brought up a discussion about whether the bikes should be treated like cars in regards to current traffic laws and how cities are designed, especially with the rise in the popularity of bike sharing programs.

WNYC-Gabfest, aired November 15th, 2013

The Pedaling Revolution Edition -Episode #65

On this week’s episode of Gabfest Radio, Political Gabfest panelists Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz discuss what happens if healthcare.gov doesn’t work by Nov. 30, and whether bikes should be treated like cars.

The radio program used Duane’s piece as an example that it’s NOT, OK to kill cyclists while citing the opposite side of the coin, People who apparently think it’s perfectly fine (to kill cyclists) and uses the old argument that we deserve it because of our blatant violation of traffic laws. (laws designed for motor vehicles) Case in point, Christopher Caldwell from the Weekly Standard.

Drivers Get Rolled
Bicyclists are making unreasonable claims to the road—and winning
November 18th, 2013

Cyclists like the ones in New Hampshire, whose reckless riding and self-righteousness have earned rolled eyes nationwide and the nickname of “Lycra louts” in England, have tested the public’s willingness for compromise. As bicyclists become an ever more powerful lobby, ever more confident in the good they are doing for the environment and public health, they are discovering—to their sincere surprise—that they are provoking mistrust and even hostility among the public.

Read more: here.

Mostly this op-ed is an excuse to continue the defensive gross generalization of cyclists being mostly rich middle age liberals who are not blue collar enough. Caldwell venomously spews:

“They are, to judge from their blogs, more aggrieved by delivery trucks parked in bike lanes than drivers are by delivery trucks parked in car lanes. This may be because proportionately fewer of them have ever met a person who drives a delivery truck.”

He does make a few points that roadways are outdated and don’t include the physical space for bicycles. Also, there are some valid points that biking is healthy for both people and the planet, but most cyclists are just too self righteous and think they own the roadways so therefore it’s Ok to run a few over.

Somehow it seems that if you choose to ride a bicycle as a form of transportation, you’re somehow expected to act like cars and be their equal, but if your hit by one, then your treated like less than equal. In an attempt to reclaim a sense of humanity, that actual lives have been lost, letters to the editor of the NY Times evoke similarities to pedestrians.

In direct response to the Daniel Duane piece…
From the Opinion pages of the NY TIMES

Caution: Danger in the Traffic Lanes
By: David Berman
November 10th, 2013

No, it is not O.K. to kill cyclists with impunity, but neither is it O.K. to kill pedestrians, which happens a couple of hundred times a year in New York City. The problem is not a cultural predisposition against bicyclists; it is that nobody obeys traffic laws anymore, and that’s at least partly because nobody is enforcing them.

Read more opinions: here.

The Duane piece hit especially hard in NYC due the fact that there have been a number of pedestrians killed in the last month, many of which are children 12 and under.


elmhurstcrash_web_2013_11_11_q1_santucci_i
Last week was a Three Children Is Too Many, vigil and rally in Queens to bring attention to lives lost at the hand of reckless driving.
This was eloquently captured by Streetfilms.org including an emotionally moving speech given at the rally from the parents of 3 year old Allison Liao.

Good thing Allison Liao wasn’t a cyclist yet, cause she’d be an over privileged latte drinking liberal who never meet any hard working truck drivers, according to the mindful rants of Mr. Caldwell.

Then of course in the rare instance if you live from being hit by a reckless driver, you might only loose a leg. Here in NYC, we are also reeling from a recent ruling that there will be no criminal charges to the driver of a taxi that jumped the sidewalk and plowed into a British tourist.

Back in August, 23 year old Sian Green was rammed into by a cab in Midtown and pinned under the vehicle. The Cabbie initially claimed he was fleeing from an angry cyclist who “ran into his hood” which some how forced his foot onto the accelerator, which launched the cab onto a sidewalk full of people. Ms. Green had both legs mangled and one had to be amputated below the knee cap.

Welcome to New York City tourists, watch your step. And watch out for those over paid millionaire bike messengers in their fancy lycra. They might spook cabbies to drive on the sidewalk.

tourist+taxi+crash+midtown

Last week we found out the District Attorney, Cy Vance, won’t pursue a case against the cabbie Mohammed Himon due to lack of evidence to build a case. This coming after a month long investigation by the NYPD.

From Streetsblog:

No Charges From Cy Vance for Cab Driver Who Maimed Tourist Sian Green
by Brad Aaron

The cab driver who hit a cyclist and drove onto a Midtown sidewalk, severing the leg of British tourist Sian Green, will not be charged with a crime by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.
Here is a statement from Joan Vollero, Vance’s deputy communications director, released to the media today:

“Following a thorough, two-month-long investigation by the District Attorney’s Office and the NYPD, we have concluded that criminal charges cannot be filed in this case. In making this determination, prosecutors who are specially trained in vehicular crimes reviewed all available evidence and took into consideration relevant sections of the State’s Vehicle and Traffic Laws. They conducted interviews with multiple eyewitnesses, the taxi driver, the bicyclist, and injured parties, reviewed all available video surveillance, listened to numerous 911 calls, and retrieved the taxi’s ‘black box’ data. We are sensitive to the trauma faced by Ms. Green and others injured in vehicular crashes, and notified the attorneys and representatives for all parties last week of this decision.”

Read more: here.

The Brooklyn police responded quickly to the rising pedestrian death toll by putting up these flyers.

nypd-safety-tips

Why bother with pesky traffic enforcement when you can randomly slap up a few pieces of paper and tell pedestrians to protect themselves with reflective clothing and flashlights anytime after 4:30pm. This flyering campaign sends a powerful message to motorists that it’s ok to speed and drive recklessly because the public has now been properly informed to walk around in fear.

The source of the flyer picture is Ben Fried from Streetsblog who pointed this out:

According to the city’s 2010 pedestrian safety study, driver error is the main cause of nearly four out of every five serious pedestrian injuries. The 78th Precinct (Brooklyn) issued zero speeding tickets and three tickets for failure to yield to pedestrians in September. We’ve received no reports of flyers posted at gas stations or on windshields, reminding drivers to obey the speed limit, yield to pedestrians, and refrain from driving distracted.

Source: Streetsblog.

I mean cops have a lot to do here in NYC besides investigating crashes and enforcing moving violations. They’ve got to park in the bike lanes they so vehemently urge cyclists to use.

050611papa2

Hey, they had good reason…I mean where else can you get a slice for $.99 of such a famous NYC institution
050611papa Papa John’s pizza.

Look when it comes to prioritizing traffic violations, I think the NYPD has it figured out as illustrated in this recent tweet photo from @brooklynspoke:
111813nypd
Obviously this officer is prioritizing where his fellow co-workers get such a good deal on pizza slices.

This photo was taken on Jay Street in Brooklyn, which is a major access point for the Manhattan bridge cycling path and also a place where motor vehicles relentlessly violate the law by doing illegal U-turns. Brooklyn Spoke pointed out in his tweet:
Picture 7

A study showed in 2011 the biggest offender of traffic laws on Jay Street was…you guessed it.
jay1k-1-web The NYPD.
This according to the NY Daily News: NYPD breaking traffic laws on downtown Brooklyn’s Jay Street, study find.

Look, if you’re a motorist and you think it’s OK TO KILL CYCLISTS, the best way is to just flee the scene of the crash like what happened this morning in Williamsburg:

DNAinfo:
Cyclist Killed in Hit-and-Run in Williamsburg, Police Say
by: Trevor Kapp and Aidan Gardiner
November 18th, 2013

WILLIAMSBURG — A bicyclist was killed early Monday when a vehicle crashed into him under the Brooklyn Queens Expressway before fleeing the scene, police said. The 32-year-old, whose identity was not immediately released, riding on Meeker Avenue when a vehicle hit him near Frost Street about 4:30 a.m., the NYPD said.

Read more of the article: here.
extralarge (at least these cops don’t need crappy corporate pizza. They’ve got real food super close by)

If there is any silver lining to all these traffic deaths and articles/opinions about them, it’s that people have started talking and information is starting to reach the public.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a report that shows traffic fatalities had increased in 2012. Streetsblog DC reported NHTSA’s findings that showed 33,561 people died in 2012 (pedestrians and cyclists) which is a 3.3 percent increase from 2011.

fatalities

But cheer up…people dying in motor vehicles is at an all time low.

We maybe able to take lessons from other cities, outside of the US. In London they are dealing with six deaths of cyclists in the last two weeks. The Daily Mirror reports:

No arrests have been made over any of the incidents, but they have prompted calls for a safety summit.
Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (Pacts) executive director David Davies wrote to Mr Johnson last week, calling on him to act.
“The boom in cycling in London has many benefits and we support it but the tragic events of the past few days show that there is a need for urgent action,” he said.
“We are therefore calling on the mayor to convene a cycling safety summit to see what can be done immediately to make cyclists safer.
“It is essential that actions are based on good evidence and well targeted. We must avoid knee-jerk reactions and measures that might be counterproductive.”
Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne said the Met is doing everything it can to prevent deaths on the road.

Read: London cyclist deaths: SIXTH person killed in collision with HGVs on capital’s roads in TWO weeks

1000280_10151985929293959_1815816582_n

Cyclists in London are planning on staging a huge Die-In on the last Friday of November, to draw attention the the numerous deaths haunting a city with a rise in the popularity of biking. This event will also correspond with Critical Mass.

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