No charges for person who killed man walking his dog in a Kirkland crosswalk | Seattle Bike Blog

Last week I shared an article about traffic fatalities and the history of traffic rules. It waa clear that rules were cjanged from pedestrian-focused to autocentric. Unfortunately, this has often fatal consequences. Last fall a man was hit in Kirkland. The driver, protected by decades of favorable law, is getting no punishment. Meanwhile, the man walking his dog is dead.

So in this prosecutor’s eyes, breaking the law requiring people to yield to crosswalk users is not itself proof of negligence. This implies that reasonably careful people are allowed to break this vital traffic safety law, which protects the exact “vulnerable users” the Negligent Driving charge is intended to address. This is a disturbing reading of the law, but one we have sadly seen before.

Another case of a innocent pedestrian killed and no action being taken against the driver. Read more on the Seattle Bike Blog.

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Murder Machines: Why Cars Will Kill 30,000 Americans This Year | Collectors Weekly

A typical busy street scene on Sixth Avenue in New York City shows how pedestrians ruled the roadways before automobiles arrived, circa 1903. Via Shorpy by way of Collectors Weekly

Last week I wrote about my run in with an angry driver and how cyclists often discuss how they consistently are in danger of being hit, injured, or worse. I asked “How often do you go home at the end of the day and discuss how your life has been put in danger?” And I answered every day. My message was clear: Slow Down for Life. Presently, Vision Zero campaigns around the world are working to decrease traffic fatalities to an unbelievable number” zero. The video I shared shows how ridiculous  people think that idea is. Yet there was a time when streets were ruled by people, not automobiles. Drivers were held responsible and it was assumed that people would be in the street so drivers and transit slowed to a pedantic pace. Last year Collectors Weekly published an article about just that. Murder Machines: Why Cars Will Kill 30,000 Americans This Year explores the history of traffic fatalities and looks at a time when the rules and assumptions of the road were very different:

In 2012, automobile collisions killed more than 34,000 Americans, but unlike our response to foreign wars, the AIDS crisis, or terrorist attacks—all of which inflict fewer fatalities than cars—there’s no widespread public protest or giant memorial to the dead. We fret about drugs and gun safety, but don’t teach children to treat cars as the loaded weapons they are.

“The people who really get it today, in 2014, know that the battle isn’t to change rules or put in signs or paint things on the pavement,” Norton continues. “The real battle is for people’s minds, and this mental model of what a street is for. There’s a wonderful slogan used by some bicyclists that says, ‘We are traffic.’ It reveals the fact that at some point, we decided that somebody on a bike or on foot is not traffic, but an obstruction to traffic. And if you look around, you’ll see a hundred other ways in which that message gets across. That’s the main obstacle for people who imagine alternatives—and it’s very much something in the mind.”

Note: there is a video at the end of the article that is somehow both hilarious and terrifying. Be sure to check it out.

Respectfully Sir, My Life Matters

It’s not a war on cars. It is a war for my life. It is a war for his life, her life, and their lives. It is a fight to make streets safer for everyone, not just cyclists. It is campaign to choose safety over speed. Slow Down for Life.

Ask yourself this:

How often do you go home at the end of the day and discuss how your life has been put in danger? 

Chances are the answer to that question will depend on your main mode of transportation. People in several thousand pound metal bubbles probably don’t think about it all that much. After all, being hit while driving a car can be quite painless, especially in settings where speed limits tend to be low. But that is not the case for pedestrians and cyclists. When you are not in a car you don’t have that extra protection keeping you safe in the event of a crash. You are vulnerable In fact, in the state of Washington you pedestrians, cyclists, and other vulnerable travelers are legally classified as a vulnerable user. And vulnerable you are – just look at your chances of survival if hit by a vehicle moving at speed:

An graphic from one of SDOT's presentations on the Rainier Ave Safety Project. SDOT commonly uses this graphic to convey the importance of slowing vehicles.

A graphic from one of SDOT’s presentations on the Rainier Ave Safety Project. SDOT commonly uses this graphic to convey the importance of slowing vehicles.

Now, before you think “he is just a whining cyclist” remember that I ride everyday, walk quite a bit, and currently drive commercially as a courier for a blood center. Before that I drove for a food bank. Before that I switched off biking and driving on a cross-country trek. And dispersed in there I drive when I need to. As I said before, I do not consider myself a cyclist. I am simply an urbanite, and my bike is the most sensible mode of transportation for my daily needs. This is not about cyclists. This is about life.

So let me ask again:

How often do you go home at the end of the day and discuss how your life has been put in danger?

Do you know what my answer is?

Every day. Every single day I speak with another person who walks or bikes and we share our struggle to gain respect and stay safe on the road. Why must we do this? Why do our lives not matter? When will I be able to go home and not worry that my life is at risk because I am trying to live a healthy, sustainable lifestyle?

Case in point: Yesterday I rode home from work along Lake Washington Boulevard southbound from the southern edge of the Arboretum to Colman Park just south of I-90. For the most part I was respected, and people passed me safely. But as I was passing Leschi Park that all changed when two vehicles came up behind me. The first passed safely; the second came far too close. As his passenger door came level with me he began cutting back over, pulling his right rear within a foot of me. Instinctively I reached out and banged the side of his car yelling “HELLO, I AM HERE!” I know banging on people’s cars does not make them happy – car brain usually makes them unreasonably angry. But I will protect myself.

Unfortunately, in this case car brain had completely devoured the man’s mind to the point where his sympathy for the life of another human being disappeared. He not only slammed on his brakes and veered in from of me, causing me to swerve into the grass, but also continued to aggressively swerve, accelerate, and brake to keep me off-road until he was able to pin me at the next cross street. Thankfully, the shoulder turned smoothly into grass without curb or ditch – any obstacle surely would have thrown me on my face. As I come to a stop he rolls down his window.

“Don’t you hit my fucking truck you little asshole! Why the fuck did you hit my truck?”

Naturally, no amount of explanation calmed him or made him realize the dangerous position he put me in. My pleas for respect under limited and shrinking road space, feeling trapped between his truck and the grass, and being forced to ride over a very bad patch of pavement fell on deaf ears. He finished with a threat to flatten my face with his fist (as if he had not already tried this with his truck) and sped off throwing exhaust and gravel in my face.

Fortunately, the ordeal left me only angered but not injured. Later that night at Rainier Valley Greenways 18 community members sat together and discussed precisely what I want drivers to understand: we feel endangered and our lives matter. Please, choose safety over speed. Slow down for life.


Vision Zero in Nevada

This video from Vision Zero Nevada has been floating around cyberspace and I appreciate the transformation a little perspective adds as the questions change. See national traffic data, the international Vision Zero campaign, and Vision Zero Seattle (it’s coming!).

Slow Down for Life.

P.S.

Unfortunately, I was not planning on riding that day and so did not have my camera that I have been using to document all of my rides. If I was recording his face would be plastered all over the internet right now and his dangerous actions would contribute to my future video highlighting my biking experience. I will be more vigilant with recording and next time the aggressive driver won’t be so lucky.

Sunday Funday: Bikepacking Wanderlust

Wanderlust is a word that can often describe me. There is something about adventure and exploration that heightens my senses and makes me feel alive! At the start of 2009 I had never been out of the country and, not counting drive-through trips, only visited 10 states. All the states were in the Eastern US and most in the Northeast. Fast forward to the start of 2015 and I have traveled to 22 states and 9 foreign countries. Not bad, eh? Study abroad and a cross-country bike trip will do that. In appreciation of my wanderlust, I want to share and article about some of the incredible journeys people have taken while backpacking. One man actually biked to the South Pole! One day I will do some crazy trips like these…

 

And in case you were curious, here is where my travels have taken me (asterisks where I lived):

States as of 2009 States as of 2015 Countries as of 2015
Delware Idaho Canada
Florida Illinois Denmark*
Maryland Indiana Dominican Republic
Massachussetts Maine France
New Jersey Michigan Germany
New York Minnesota Italy
North Carolina Oregon Netherlands
Ohio South Dakota Spain
Pennsylvania* Washington* UK
Puerto Rico Wisconsin
Virginia Wyoming

Pronto: 2014 Data Release

I sit atop a Pronto Bike  at UW's arena with Dubs, their mascot, enjoying the attention.

I sit atop a Pronto Bike at UW’s arena while Dubs, UW’s live mascot, enjoys the attention.

Well, Pronto has been around since October 13th – Tuesday was the three month mark. So how are things going? Pronto recently released some trip and membership data for 2014. The highlights from their Tumblr:

  • 5,485 System Users: We had 1,984 annual members sign on along with 3,501 casual users of the system (those who purchased a 24 hour or 3 day pass).
  • 21,026 Total Trips Taken: Averaged out, we’ve had 262 trips per day.
  • 34,931 lbs. of CO2 Reduced: 1,778 gallons of gasoline would emit that same amount of carbon dioxide.
  • 43,010 Total Miles Clocked: We totally made it around the world in 80 days. In fact, we circled the globe 1.72 times. In 80 days. Bam!
  • 1,677,390 Calories Burned: 11,981 cans of cola have the same amount of calories.

Also, check out Seattle Bike Blog’s commentary and keep an eye out for upcoming events and challenges for Pronto Members. The prize for January’s rider challenger is a $100 gift certificate!

Reality Check: Holidays are Over

Wow, what a time! Since finishing my job with a food bank back in early November I have been taking advantage of being (mostly) unemployed. Looking for jobs, volunteering, and working on some things I had neglected were on my to-do list but I also planned to really enjoy my time. And enjoy it I did. From a long Thanksgiving at home to a wonderful Christmas in Vancouver, WA – I could not be more happy with the last two months. Unfortunately, the new year brings with it reality and, as much as I would love to stay unemployed and be a full-time traveling volunteer/adventurer, my wallet reminds me that savings don’t last forever. Since my adventures  meant limiting social media and a blog hiatus, I want to share a few of my adventures: