Flutterby™! : Dangers of Cycling

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Dangers of Cycling

2009-08-04 19:06:00.268508+00 by Dan Lyke 4 comments

I had dropped the following note off in an email to a mailing list I'm on, got a few "thanks, that made me think" messages in response, and didn't think much of it 'til Warkitty today posted some commentary on an op-ed that ran in their local paper that offended a whole bunch of Chattanooga cyclists.

Anyway, this note was in reaction to the sentence of 4 months in jail and 800 hours of community service for a San Mateo county Sheriff's Deputy who fell asleep at the wheel and killed two cyclists and injured a third. There was outrage from some in the cycling community at that sentence, which can seem fairly light, but I saw it in a different light...

When I was much younger, I was driving an automobile in a semi-industrial area, at or below the speed limit (no, really, I believe it was a 35 zone, it was in a corner where I was probably below 30), came around a corner, and there was a toddler standing in the middle of the road, situated such that he was obscured by the side pillar of my windshield until the very last minute.

When I got to him, he wasn't breathing and I couldn't find a pulse. Luckily I had recently had my BLS certs renewed, including infant and child CPR, and through a number of miracles he survived.

I wasn't charged with anything. Mitigating factors may have included that the parents of the toddler had been on television the previous week complaining about people speeding by their house (which was opposite the cement plant and just down from the sailboat factory).

As I said, I faced no legal repercussions. However, since that accident two decades ago I have been an *extremely* cautious driver.

I don't think there's any penalty which would have acted as an incentive to me to be more attentive. I'm fairly sure that the deputy in this most recent incident will never get in a car again without hearing the thuds of his vehicle hitting those cyclists. So I'm both fairly sure that he won't re-offend, and that any stronger punishment won't serve as a deterrent.

I think there's a strong cultural component that needs to focus on the automobile as a potentially dangerous weapon that kills more people every year than guns, I think we need a consciousness that understands that a car is a deadly scary device, but I don't think that harsh punishment of the contrite will actually lessen the number of automobile related injuries and deaths.

[ related topics: Bay Area Political Correctness Law Chattanooga Automobiles Bicycling ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2009-08-05 04:06:20.242262+00 by: ebradway

And yet another danger...

#Comment Re: made: 2009-08-05 16:35:06.291468+00 by: warkitty

There is an element in the cycling community that seems oblivious to logic. Any mention that riding on the road with cars is inherently dangerous gets them riled up and screaming that we need enforcement and punishment for cars that hit cyclists and, well, they forget how easy it is for real accidents to happen through no fault of the driver. Yours is an example of that.

Now, I'll grant that the article was in poor taste and that many who DO resent cyclists being on the road will take it as encouragement to be aggressive because I suspect their reading/comprehension skills are as challenged as the cyclists. Still, the hue and cry for this officer's blood is not going to make drivers more aware of their surroundings and it's not going to ease tension on the road. The reaction IS however souring the minds of many locals against cyclists in general, so it's actually having an opposite effect.

Then again, the illusion of safety may play a part in the issue. Most people have the illusion that they're safer driving themselves than taking public transportation, for instance. In reality, public transportation (ie the subway in NYC) is statistically much safer than driving.

Kinda makes me wonder about the statistical safety of cycling in different areas.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-08-05 18:54:33.137761+00 by: ebradway

re: statistical safety of cycling in different areas.

I know if you look at the number of cyclist deaths in Boulder County as a rate per unit of population, Boulder seems considerably more dangerous. But, if you factor in the rate of cyclists per unit of population, the number shifts. I guess it would have to be the rate of accidents per unit of cyclists - but then areas with very few cyclists would have seriously skewed results.

I find parallels between cyclists and motorcyclists. There are plenty of cyclists (and motorcyclists) who ride as though they own the road and are immortal. They tend to create much of the bad feelings with car drivers. Of course, there are car drivers who feel like they own the road, as well. Based on who pays the most taxes, it's probably the semi-truck drivers who really own the road!

#Comment Re: made: 2009-08-05 20:01:59.202409+00 by: Dan Lyke

I always view the semi-truck drivers in the same vein as I view network admins: These are people who practice an activity orders of magnitude more hours per year than I do. They've seen it all, probably reacted to it all, and to them (whether I'm in a car or on a bicycle) I'm mostly just a commodity level hazard.