Tuesday, July 7, 2009

When a cyclist dies

I don't know the details, just saw the headline: Bicyclist fatally hit by SUV outside Bremerton.
I was talking to a friend about it: I thought I'd make a bunch of armbands (out of old tubes, no shortage there) and pass them out--whenever a cyclist gets run over, we wear the armbands for a week when riding. He thinks it would reinforce the 'bikes are dangerous' mentality. Personally, I think the 'ghost bike' is really effective, though of course only in that one location. Opinion? Informal survey, evanspc/gmail.


Ted Diamond said...

There's also the cyclist killed on Dexter recently.

Yes, I'd wear one. Don't know how visible it would be, though.

Andrew said...

I has a sad.

Bikejuju said...

I was just reading a similar conversation here http://realcycling.blogspot.com/2009/07/delivering-message-about-cyclist-deaths.html

My feeling is that we need to strike a balance between conveying the message "bicycling is dangerous," which keeps people off bikes, and "we are outraged" which is a totally appropriate response. I remain mixed in my thoughts about what the best way to do this - I am sure that one way to do it is through channeling anger and grief into advocacy - Cascade Bicycle Club is working on passing a law like Oregon's to increase penalties for drivers hitting cyclists or pedestrians, I am sure they would welcome our energy and support.

Kevin Connors said...

I agree that the best way to channel anger, grief and fear is into advocacy. After all, cyclists are being injured and killed in accidents, not by intentional acts of drivers. I believe most of these accidents, especially the fatalities happen because of unsafe roadway conditions for cycling. This is what needs to change. We need better conditions, and we need to advocate prioritizing them.

Phil Evans said...

I'd go so far as to say that most all deaths are unintended. But if you ever *do* need to off somebody, use a car since the law overwhelmingly favors the motorist--reach for the bag in the back with the ringing cell phone and drift over the fogline. Yes, advocacy is great, but you all know how it feels to get missed by inches once again by someone doing something other than paying attention, then go home to read your mail about a new trail being built in east tallywack. Not bagging on it, you know? I support Cascade too, though I don't completely buy the "danger" angle--a small subset compared to the "give me convenience or give me death" group who might someday ride (a Segway). Seattle is great, but it ain't Italy. Guess I has a sad too. But phooey, I'll still be out there every day, waiting to be teleported to the galaxy where 95% ride, the pacelines go on forever, global warming and obesity don't exist, and the #1 killer of young adults is something like choking on a whole watermelon.

Ted Diamond said...

Wow, if we're not careful, this will turn into a discussion.

If we are concerned about conveying the impression that cycling is dangerous, we lost that battle when we started wearing helmets.

Cycling is dangerous when mixed with motor vehicle traffic, certainly more dangerous than becoming part of that motor vehicle traffic. I think all of us are willing to accept that danger, because of the varied wonderful things cycling brings to our lives. And it's in our interest to have others join us, so we can advocate/militate for facilities to make cycling less dangerous. But each person who decides whether or not to start cycling regularly will, and should, make their own personal decision about whether the benefits of cycling outweigh the risks for them. Some will decide they don't.

For those who do ride, we are as varied as the reasons why we ride. Personally, I'd like to wear a token of concern and grief for fellow cyclists who have fallen. And it will make me feel better when I see someone else wearing one. And if it causes someone to stop and say "why's he wearing that" and try to find out, so much the better.

None of this is to downplay the importance of advocacy. Over the past couple of years, my commute from West Seattle has gotten materially better, thanks, I am sure, to Dave Hiller and the CBC's great work, and to a bike-friendly city administration. I'll continue to support their work in any way I can.

But I don't think wearing an armband will detract from that work.

poser said...

Well then let's have a discussion! :-)

Here's a lengthy essay on how dangerous cycling is. Lot's of statistics - and I imagine that a real data analytic guru (happen to know any of those Ted?) might do a better job than I determining if these figures are skewed or not.

Regardless, Ted, you said:

"Cycling is dangerous when mixed with motor vehicle traffic, certainly more dangerous than becoming part of that motor vehicle traffic."

- and I'm not sure if I agree with that statement. I've always felt that being a part of motor vehicle traffic was the dangerous part, whether your in a car or on a bike. Just being on a bike isn't, in my opinion, the dangerous part. That would be the perception - that the bike is the dangerous part. My own anecdotal experience is certainly skewed towards the cars being the dangerous element (until maybe this last mountain biking trip - yes I'm looking at you Rod & Crim!)

On the subject of wearing a token of grief:
Personally, I don't think that visibly mourning fallen fellow cyclists is going to make a dent in the perception that cycling is dangerous either way. And regardless, we need to elevate the discussion to the point where the average person (driver, cyclist, whoever) is hearing it. If black arm-bands (or ghost bikes, or whatever) do that, then we are, in a small way, achieving a bit of the advocacy we need. But advocacy is absolutely what the doctor ordered.

Here in Oregon, my wife and I help raise money for the BTA. They help get the laws passed that keep us protected on the road and help secure funding to improving infrastructure for bikes; eventually regular non-cycling folks feel more empowered to try cycling because of the safer environment (or the perception that things are safer); more people cycling on the streets begins to equal more awareness, more allies, more funds for lobbying, changing cultural norms, less cars on the road, etc...

Well, this is the theory anyway. I guess Cascade is that organization for you in Washington. I'd throw my energy behind empowering them, if I were still in WA. They have the best chance of moving the needle, right?


btw - things are much better in Seattle now then the 16 years I lived there. Every trip I take up there I see new bike infrastructure projects going in everywhere. And far more folks on bikes than when I was there (and way more cute girls on bikes too, dammit!)


Kevin Connors said...

I would agree with poser that wearing a symbolic item like an arm band wouldn't go far to change the attitude of drivers. Instead, it would help change my attitude. It would be a constant reminder that this thing I'm doing could kill me at any moment.

Look at it any way you can, cycling is definitely dangerous. We can deal with danger by being safe as we ride. I don't know about the recent accident on Dexter or the one in Bremerton, but two accidents I do know about (Kevin Black in Ballard and the guy on the U Bridge last summer) were accidents the rider could have avoided with better caution.

Myself, I'm fed up with all this. I'm moving to southern Oregon where there are far fewer cars - which I hope translates to safer riding for me. We'll see...

Ted Diamond said...

I'm with you, Kevin. If it weren't for the need to have a job, I'd be back in Central New York in a heartbeat. I seriously have been thinking about this for awhile. The best times of my life, cycling-wise, were in Syracuse, Ann Arbor, and Crete, and the worst times were in Philadelphia, and now in Seattle. I appreciate all the efforts to improve Seattle for cycling, but when it comes to 2 wheels, I am a country boy.

Ted Diamond said...

Seriously, Kevin? Southern Oregon?

Rodrick Megraw said...

Don't let your guard down in Oregon. I did some riding in rural Oregon between Corvallis and the coast last summer and had an open tall-boy beer thrown at me from a passing pickup truck. I also saw a huge number of giant RV's and big trucks, and drivers who think bikes do not belong on the road. While I was skeptical at first, I now have part of my commute on a street (15th Ave S) with sharrows (painted bike markers on the pavement that are supposed to say "yes, you can ride a bike here!") and it has done wonders as far as getting cars to accept bikes as legitimate users of the street.

Ted Diamond said...

Chad, to the best of my knowledge, you have the longest bike commute of any of us (or of any one else in the world, I think!)

Any thoughts?

Kevin Connors said...

Yeah, really Southern Oregon. I happened to have the great opportunity and encouragement from the family to look for opportunities outside of the city. I took a job in Grants Pass in May. Looks like we'll move down sometime in August.

Incidentally, I am nearing my first 1,000 miles of riding in the area of Medford, Ashland and Grants Pass. The riding is simply amazing. Endless, nearly empty roads, in the country.

Ted Diamond said...

Man, that's just a stone's throw from Ashland! Next time I take a class at UBI, you & I will have to go riding together. I couldn't agree more about the wonderfulness of the roads down there -- they're in great shape, and traffic is very light.