Oregon State Police blames vulnerable victims while driving deaths spin out of control — Front Page – BikePortland.org

When you read this, do not freak out. Do not think “Kevin is on the highway, this could happen to him.” Because this could happen to anyone. Our entire society is dictated by the automobile. More people die in auto accidents than most of our major fears – murder, terrorism, plane crashes. Automobiles are deadly yet we are numb to their destructiveness. If you want your loved ones safe, tell them to eat healhty, get exercise, and AVOID CARS. We MUST stop blaming people who walk and bike – they are making the safe choice, the healthy choice, the socially-beneficial choice yet we kill, maime, and then blame them everyday.

Also, since I know some of you will still worry note that I avoid major highways whenever possible, try to time my riding to avoid times of heavy traffic, and rarely ride after dark.

 

Just some of the Oregon driving carnage of the past two weeks.(Photos: Oregon State Police) This is an editorial. The Oregon State Police issued a relatively rare safety message to the media today. In light of three collisions in the past nine days that resulted in the death of someone trying to walk or roll…

via Oregon State Police blames vulnerable victims while driving deaths spin out of control — Front Page – BikePortland.org

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.

Rainier Ave Safety Project – Final Meeting Tomorrow, 11/18

You’ve seen the news: Rainier Ave and MLK Way are dangerous. The entire Rainier Valley is dealing with tragedy and loss in the wake of major “accidents.” Vehicles have gone through shops. 10 people were hospitalized after one collision. A 7-year old girl was sent to the hospital after a September hit-and-run and is still recovering.

People in the Rainier Valley have demanded change for years; plans to apply a road diet to Rainier date back to the 70s. SDOT traffic engineer Dongho Chang is confident it can be implemented successfully, and SDOT is finally moving forward, promising implementation by Spring 2015. Last week they engaged the community to discuss a greenway from Mt. Baker to Rainier Beach. This week SDOT Director Scott Kubly promised a hundred passionate community members that “We’re going to do a safety project. We need to make Rainier Ave safer.”

SDOT’s last feedback session will be 11/18 at the Ethiopian Cultural Center (8323 Rainier Ave S) from 4:30 to 6:30PM. Come tell SDOT we want safer streets. Tell them we want a road diet. No, tell them we need it. Together we must demand change. The lives of our friends, family, and children are at stake. Every day lost in another roll of the dice. Who will be the next victim?

More Coverage from KUOW.

EDIT (2014.11.21): My volunteer group’s letter to the editer, above, was just published in the South Seattle Emerald.