Monday, February 2, 2009

When will laws protect cyclists and pedestrians?

I have been noticing that many cyclists, including myself, don't feel law enforcement cares about cyclists or pedestrians. We all read about high profile crashes (calling them accidents ignores the negligence involved in most of these incidents) where the perpetrator gets away without even a citation. In one case in Kansas a sheriff's deputy was killed by a young driver who was playing with his phone and radio. A clear case of negligent homocide, the driver wasn't even cited for a traffic ticket.

A recent study of New York City records looks at the 1020 pedestrian and cyclist fatalities that occurred from 1994 to 1997.
Using police records, the authors found that “drivers were largely or strictly culpable in 74 percent of cases where sufficient information existed for culpability coding, and were largely, strictly, or partly culpable in 90 percent of the known cases. Hit and run, turning into pedestrians at crosswalks, and speeding were the top three driver faults in killing pedestrians and cyclists.”

The police cited motorists for traffic violations in only one-fourth of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities, although motorists were involved in 98 per cent of these fatalities and were unquestionably at fault in at least half.

In only one percent of fatalities did the police issue summonses to motorists specifically for violating pedestrian and bicyclist rights of way (such as failing to yield in crosswalks or driving in bike lanes).

This unfortunately bolsters my feelings that cyclists and pedestrians are second class citizens. It used to be a bad joke in 1970s fiction that if you wanted to kill someone just get drunk and run the target over. Sadly now you just play with your radio and claim "I didn't see him, officer" and you can get away with killing a cop. Witness this incident that happened over the weekend to one of the bloggers I follow. Luckily with the number of witnesses willing to testify the police are following up. But anti-cyclist bias is strong and isn't just in New York. Here are a few stories from Portland, OR an area renowned for its bicycle friendly policies. In Tuscan, AZ, a lawyer couldn't even get police to investigate a case of assault by passing car with a baseball bat.

Then I read statistics on how drivers of Hummers have five times as many traffic tickets as the average driver. These actions have reinforced the poor training of our aggressive drivers. They have noticed these developments as well, but with an eye for abuse. Isn't it grand how we coddle our polluters and killers. This is unacceptable, why should we let lawbreakers get away with killing our children. Why don't we make sure that dangerous driving like this is punished?

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