What’s that you say? Festivus was yesterday? Oh well. I’m always a day late and a dollar short but as shocking as it may seem, I still have something to gripe about. Two nights ago in the wee small hours of Sunday morning there was a vehicle crash not far from our house. It took place on a quiet suburban road through a development. The speed limit there is 25 mph and there is a stop sign half way along the road. This isn’t a big through traffic street and only someone local would have occasion to drive down it. The vehicle in question flipped upside down and wound up on its roof. On. Its. Roof. Think about that for a moment.
I learned about this crash from the Facebook page of the local fire department. Part of the caption read “This is another accident in a busy week of accidents (over 10). Please be careful out there!”. Stating what I believed to be the obvious I commented that at least speed and alcohol were probably involved if not some form of distraction. (Again . . 25 mph road through a development . . upside down car.) I was pounced upon by the masses! “How do you know what happened!?” “What makes you an expert?” “That is just ignorant. You don’t know any of the facts.” Fair enough. I don’t, and I took my comment down but did read the other comments. All hoped everyone was okay (including me). Most comments seemed to indicate this was just one of those things that can happen giving the driver the benefit of the doubt and removing all culpability.
Meanwhile, whenever a cyclist or pedestrian is killed by even the most flagrant violation of the traffic laws, within seconds the comments in the posted news story blame the victim. It’s always the same tired old comments: “Bicycles don’t belong on the road.” “Cyclists run stop signs.” “Cyclists don’t obey traffic laws”. Every goddam day I watch people propel their multi-ton death machines down the highway with a heavy right foot while texting, drinking, playing with the radio without any regard to taffic laws, speed limits. Drivers ignore traffic lanes, safe following distances or the potential for road hazards be it a downed tree limb, truck tire, or a human being on foot or bike. Yesterday alone in the rush of holiday traffic I watched no less than 12 cars flat out run red lights.
These were not lights that were yellow that changed part way through but solid red lights. Even a 4 year old knows red means stop, green means go. It’s a pretty simple concept. But “cyclists break the law” so it’s okay to run over them now and then.
My personal favorite driver idiocy this week was Saturday morning. I was traveling across the Commodore Barry Bridge when a woman passed me in the left lane. She was not driving anywhere close to the speed limit (much faster). As she passed, I glanced over and saw her flipping through a magazine while driving. What the hell!? Really!?
Police commentary on bike crashes when they happen aren’t any better and facilitate victim blaming. In a recent example a cyclist was killed in New York City while riding in a bike lane doing apparently nothing more illegal than having “a loose fitting helmet”. What!? Why is that even in the report? What has how his helmet fit have to do with the fact that he was run down by someone in a vehicle while riding in the bike lane? I can see the thought process. “Wow! That’s guy’s helmet doesn’t fit. I’d better take him out before that loose fitting helmet flies off, hits someone’s windshield, and interrupts and important text message”. LOL.
Meanwhile, I’m equally appalled that cycling advocacy groups are leading the charge to prevent more self-driving cars. More specifically, they are opposed to most of the AV Start Act. If you are unfamiliar, the AV Start Act (Autonomous Vehicle Start Act) is a law still pending in Congress that would update Federal law around safety standards and requirements for self-driving cars. The law has other provisions as well, but the cycling community is concerned because the standard is being driven (a little pun there) by the automotive industry. Naturally there is worry that they will ignore other road users to pave the way to quickly get self-driving cars out there. I understand the concern though I’m certain companies like Mercedes Benz and Ford probably don’t have a special programming division charged with the code responsible for wiping out anything on two wheels. Nobody wants their product to kill people. The cycling community concern revolves around the death of Elaine Herzberg in Arizona in March. Mrs. Herzberg was killed when a self-driving Uber vehicle failed to recognize her in a cross walk and struck her. Meanwhile, the on-board human who was supposed to be keeping a watchful eye for such things was busy texting.
Again, I get the advocacy groups concerns around the builders of AVs making their own rules. That said, humans have not set the bar high for road safety. Once behind the wheel, drivers dehumanize everyone and everything else on the road. The most important thing is to get where they are going as fast as they can whether there is any need to rush. It’s important to win the race but not so important that you can’t take time while flying down the highway to send an LOL! or important emoji in response to a critical text conversation. Drivers are rushed, angry, and emotional. They are the lowest common denominator of safety. I’m all for the self-driving cars in even their buggiest form. It can’t be worse than what I see every day in 70 miles of commuting or even just going to the grocery store.
Be careful out there. Practice defensive driving and defensive pedaling.