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.
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.
On Friday Cascade Bicycle Club organized a memorial ride for Sher Kung, the woman who was killed last week while riding on 2nd Ave in Seattle. After an odd start with riders broken into groups of 10 everyone stopped at the plaza adjacent to the crash scene. Speakers from Cascade, the mayor, and a friend of Sher recalled her intelligence, passion, and commitment. I already shed tears for a woman I never knew when I first visited the ghost bikes – this time it was the sight of her friends and family in tears that struck a chord.
It is easy to think about this as “just another tragedy” when thinking about it in the larger picture of urban planning and transportation but to the people who knew Sher this is life changing. I pray I never know what it feels to lose a loved one in this way. Still, my presence was important. A number of people asked me what the demonstration was for as we prepared in Westlake Center and, after hearing my explanation, naturally asked if I knew Sher.
No, but she’s one of us.
Cyclists must unite. We must stand together. We are a diverse group and we hardly agree on appropriate cycling clothing, let alone urban cycling etiquette and the best bike infrastructure. But we all agree on one thing: we need to make cycling safer for everyone.
Thankfully, after the speakers and a moment of silence the Seattle Police Department agreed to escort us for the remained of our ride to Occidental Park. Hundreds strong, we rode solemnly down 2nd Ave. The irony of our privilege and safety on such a monstrous road was not lost on us. As wonderful as it was to own the road we can only hope tomorrow’s opening of a two-way protected bike lane will signal the end of these vigils…
Here are some photos from the event. In my opinion Komo News had the best video coverage: check it out here or look for footage from other local stations.
Another ghost bike…the only bikes I HATE.
Mourners gather to honor Sher Kung.
We fill 2nd Ave thanks to SPD.
EDIT (9/9/14 @ 23:40):
I forgot I took this video. While there was no remembrance song, which would have been so beautiful, there was a very soft, almost serene chiming of bike bells. Perhaps in some ways this was the best…