Monday, August 20, 2007

It Was All Because of the Cyclist

Or, the NY Daily News goes "Post"-al on Cyclists
August 20, 2007

Imagine my surprise when I read this article in the NY Daily News written by Denise Romano, and posted by Mike Pidel on ebikes, the electronic exchange for cyclists in New York.

Pidel is always sending along news stories about cyclists being hit and killed, maimed or injured, much to the dismay and morbid curiosity of others on the email exchange.

(We all stood up for him recently when someone asked him to "please stop" sending news items about dead cyclists. But for those of us who want change, documenting the accidents and how shoddily the evidence is presented on behalf of the (usually) dead cyclist is part of the gist for our foment. So we managed to out-shout the poor guy with proclamations about the importance of scientific inquiry and knowledge.)

Well this article just elucidates how well the NY Post and its perennial dislike for cyclists has somehow managed to rub off its lack of journalistic balance on the normally upright NY Daily News.

The first part of the article proceeds on an even keel, indicating that the number of cyclist accidents (not fatalities) in two boroughs have risen.

But it quickly diverges from there: The article does not cite whom those cyclists had accidents with, though we are led to assume from the one example given, in which it was clearly the cyclist's fault that they were struck because they did not look when they entered the intersection, that each and every cyclist in this statistic was hit by a motorist.

Though they might also have been hit by trucks, vans, motorcycles, scooters, racing fire trucks, racing cop cars, emergency vehicles,-- or even those illegal flashing light poseurs who say they are part of some one person "volunteer" fire emergency squad--as they go through red lights for their doctor appointments and happy-ending rub downs.

The article goes on to say that these type of accidents have risen by 188 percent in the 94th precinct which includes Greenpoint and Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Teresa Toro, transportation chairwoman of Brooklyn Community Board 1, whose district includes the 94th precinct apparently is concerned about the dangers to cyclists. The article goes on:

"Toro said that something needs to be done before more lives are lost.
'Please, people, look around and be more careful, she said, 'This worries me a lot.'"

The article also points out the number of cyclist injuries have increased in the 90th precinct as well:

"In the 90th Precinct, there was a 38% increase in bike injuries, with only 32 occurring from January to July of 2006 and 44 occurring during the same period this year. Also in the 90th Precinct, the number of injuries that happened during all accidents decreased, but the number of injuries in bike accidents remained steady."

Now I apologize ahead of time for criticizing a fellow journalist, because they are in the main, my friends, and I can't be sure if the lack of clarity is Romano's fault, or the fault of her editor for leaving important facts on the cutting room floor.

What Romano's simple article missed was the fact that cars have gotten safer--but only for the people inside the car. That's why as a general rule, and it is pretty well known among traffic safety experts, fewer people are being hurt inside cars. But outside cars they are just as vulnerable.

Nowhere in the article does Romano say who decides whom was at fault at the scene of the accident. Was it the dead cyclist? Well, I guess he sure isn't going to say he was at fault. My bet is on the driver of the car that killed him!

It would help if we, as readers, could discern from the information given, how those reports are filled out, and how accurate they tend to be and be our own judge as to whether this sudden increase in cyclist injuries is related to cyclist behavior--or the behavior of motorists. Or maybe even to the possible prejudice or error of the form-filler-outer. We don't even know to begin with which agency or person is responsible for that determination. Is it the accident investigation squad? The ambulance driver? Or the police officer questioning the driver while the cyclist is being loaded into an ambulance?

Romano concludes that because 17 out of 29 of the accidents occurred where the cyclist was at fault, that means cyclists need to be more careful.

Let's be generous and give the authorities the benefit of a doubt and assume (big leap of faith here) that 58 percent of the accidents occurred because the cyclist did not look both ways. What about the other 42 percent? Shouldn't the motorists in those accidents be more careful? Does the fact that two additional cyclists over 15 were determined to be "at fault", does that mean that the remaining 12 motorists--42 percent-- who were determined to be at fault, that they shouldn't be more careful?

Now let's say two of those mentioned "at fault" were dead cyclists (we know at least one was). Okay then, you could hardly go by what the driver said. That makes it now 15 out of 29, closer to 5o percent of all drivers don't need to be more careful--but cyclists do!

It reminds me of no-fault insurance, which pays for accidents even if one party is at fault. But then we're talking about car-to-car accidents, where both occupants are shielded by iron and steel. Why should motorists be excused and cyclists not?

Come to think of it, shouldn't a motorist exercise more caution around cyclists, the same way they should around pedestrians (right of way), or children? Shouldn't the preponderance of evidence be weighted according to the size of the vehicle and the amount of damage it can inflict, thereby increasing the burden of responsibility on the vehicle (car or truck driver) that can cause more damage to the other more vulnerable party (cyclist)?

Let's put it another way: if you are driving an 18-wheeler truck at 80 mph on the highway and you see a Mini Cooper in front of you, do you give them more space? Or do you push the big fat nose of your 18-wheeler right up that Cooper's little butt and hope for the best?

What would you say if I said that 58 percent of all Mini Cooper---18-wheeler accidents were the fault of the Cooper drivers?

Well gosh darn it, those darn Cooper drivers, they are so out of control, and we know what they're like, all wild, irresponsible, architect, artist, freak types who don't look both ways when they enter the intersections.

That must be it!






No comments: