This post is Part II, continuing yesterday’s diatribe meditation on use of the word “accident” to describe a preventable negative interaction between a driver and a cyclist or pedestrian.
The conversations I often have after someone on a bike is hit tend to circle around the premise that riding a bike is an inherently risky choice of transportation.
1) First, a reminder of the point I made in Part I: The word “accident” often used in these incidents does NOT apply when someone is in error.
2) If something does happen it’s not “caused” by riding your bike!
You could be in a vehicle/vehicle collision, a vehicle/pedestrian collision, a lightning strike or an earthquake. Your choice to bike didn’t create the situation–the driver’s behavior (or yours) did.
When pedestrians get hit by a driver while in a crosswalk no one says, “You know, walking is so dangerous. People really shouldn’t do that.”
They talk about whether the walker or the driver wasn’t paying attention or was somehow at fault, but they don’t blame walking itself. (Nor do they blame driving, you might note.)
If I am riding my bike in the street, following state law and all local ordinances, if anything happens I am not at fault solely because of my choice of vehicle.
Yet that is what you hear when something happens–not, “Drivers and people on bikes should be aware of the laws concerning how to share the road” but rather, “Bikes should stay out of the way of cars.”
And so often people say “cars” instead of “drivers” in sentences like the previous one.
We’re talking about people, people–not their vehicles. It is people who make the choice about whether to behave safely, predictably, and legally. Let’s put a face on this problem and face up to it.
So do we all give in and quit riding our bikes and walking? Heck no—we need more people to get out there.
- One study found that the more riders on the road, the safer it gets for people to ride; the same is true for walkers.
- In Portland, OR they had a 28 percent increase in cycling from 2007 to 2008–and in 2008 they had their lowest rate of traffic-related fatalities ever with zero bike-related fatalities.
- And it’s worth noting that in one study competitive road cyclists reported safer driving behavior than did drivers who have no cycling experience. (I can personally attest that I’m a far more attentive driver and pedestrian now that I bike for most of my transportation.)
Conflicts between people riding bikes and people driving cars aren’t a new problem. The first automobile crash in the United States occurred in New York City in 1896, when a motor vehicle collided with a bicyclist.
Maybe now—116 years later—we can start to get a handle on this if we all drive, bike and walk more mindfully. Here’s to more fully aware drivers, bikers and walkers (aka “people”) on the road and fewer collisions (not “accidents”!) in 2012.
- Mindful Driving, Mindful Biking, and “Accidents”–Part I
- It Pays to Pay Attention
- Don’t Do This! A Post in which I Complain about People on Bikes
- That Was No Accident
- Stickman Knows: A safety campaign from the Spokane Regional Health District encouraging greater awareness by all of us who share the streets
- Friday the 13th, Or, Why Some People Need to Lose a Driver’s License (on my personal blog, Bike to Work Barb)
- 3 Words for 2012 Biking
- Thanks, Mr. Pickup Driver. I Mean That.
- Real People on Bikes: A Rose by any Other Name
- Can you honestly say that you drive, bike and walk with full mindfulness and awareness of your surroundings close to 100% of the time?
- When you talk about something happening that involved a vehicle with an engine other than the human kind you use on your bike, do you refer to the car or the driver?