Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Changing a Culture of Negligence"

I attended the Cascade Bicycle Club's Traffic Justice Summit this evening. I was late, but I got there in time to hear the testifying by head-on collision survivors and friends and family of cyclists killed by cars.

Ilse has commuted by bicycle for 15 years, three years on the same route. She was hit head-on at 10am by a driver who had crossed over to her side of the road. He had a prior record she said, and two years later killed Tatsuo Nakata, an aide to a Seattle Councilmember.Tatsuo was crossing  a street in West Seattle in 2006, and was well-known and beloved by many.

Michelle spoke of Kevin Black who was killed by a negligent driver according to the final Seattle Police report. There is no law on the books according to County and City officials, so the driver got a ticket in the mail with no appearance in court.

Another man spoke of being struck on Hiway 305 on Bainbridge Island in 2004. He was thrown 85 feet and by that and this man's weight the police calculated the driver was going 48 mph. He had "extensive damages" to his body. The driver was on a hands-free phone and looked down momentarily to see who was calling. According to the driver behind her, she veered into the cyclist. The injured cyclist said: "It has to be against the law to step into a car and not pay attention."

Two others spoke of their friend Carrie who left their house to go cyclotouring. Their friend was a very experienced cyclist, a racer, who was struck by a driver going 55mph. Carrie was struck several days into her tour on a straight road, during daylight hours while Carrie was riding on the shoulder of the road and wearing bright clothing. The driver was deemed 100% responsible, and got a traffic ticket only. Carrie was kept alive so that her organs could be donated per her request, but never stood a chance. Her boyfriend's back was broken in four places as well. It was Emily, Carrie's friend, who declared that she was not an activist prior to this July, but that she is in this fight for Traffic Justice till we prevail saying we must be about "changing a culture of negligence."

Another man was struck by the driver of a stolen car going 65 - 70 mph. He has, he told us, diminished brain capacity and a skull that is one half titanium. More specifically, he told us he had 1/4th the brain on that side left.

My take is this: the Vulnerable User legislation that the Cascade Bicycle Club is spearheading is not a cure-all. But it does one very important thing. It makes negligence inexcusable. This changes the dialogue and hence drivers' awareness so that cyclists are acknowledged to have a right to the road. That right then must be legally respected, and drivers will know there are consequences. That's a good start.

For more on what Oregon has already done, chronicled on film, go here.

For more on the proposed Vulnerable User legislation in Washington State, go here.

For a post on randonneur John Vincent's story of how he was struck on a brevet this year, go here.

For more on a Texan who was killed a few weeks ago, go here.

For more on changing a culture of negligence, I think we all need to go to our own driving habits first, and then do our part to make driving attentively the rule of law.

Keep it attentive,