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« The private self and the public image | Main | Mandatory Helmets: The Deeper Issue »
Friday
Jul022010

Outrage and bringing about closure

Over 40,000 people are killed on US roads each year; people should be outraged, but they are not.

If these were yearly war casualties in Iraq or Afghanistan, people would be marching on our capital demanding an end to the war.

However, the average person is indifferent; these are just statistics, reported maybe once a year, and then forgotten.

There are over 4,000 pedestrians killed each year; again where is the outrage? These are just ordinary folks, going about their daily lives. Suddenly, they are mowed down while crossing the street, and they are gone. Outside their family and close circle of friends, no one really cares.

By comparison to these large numbers of casualties, there are around 700 cyclists killed each year on US roads, and cyclists as a group are outraged.

Cycling deaths being less common get reported more often, whereas every driver or pedestrian fatality does not. Riding a bicycle creates a common bond between strangers even. We recall our own experiences and near misses, and we realize, “This could be me.”

This was my feeling when I read this morning about Stan Miller, a 48 year old cyclist, run down and killed by a drunk driver. Sadly it takes a driver being drunk to be charged in such a case; where there is no alcohol involved often the driver walks free and no one held accountable.

After the article there are many comments in the form of tributes from people who knew Stan. Others express anger at the police and the system for allowing such crimes to go unpunished.

Then of course there is the inevitable “Cyclists shouldn’t be on the road,” comment from a member of Joe Public. Maybe the 4,000 plus pedestrians killed per year should stay on the sidewalk; they only get killed when they attempt to cross the street. Of course, comments like this only enrage us more.

I hope people who knew Stan Miller will channel their anger and frustration in a positive way. Write to the County Prosecutor and make sure this repeat drunk driver is held accountable. When this person comes to trial, show up in large numbers and sit quietly and respectfully in court.

This made a huge difference in the case of a Los Angeles doctor who went to trial for an act of road rage against cyclists. The large numbers of cyclists who showed up for that trial made an impact on the outcome.

Often when a cyclist is killed other cyclists use that incident to get laws changed. Just this week in New York State, a new safe passing law was enacted, dedicated to cycling advocate Merrill Cassell who was killed last November.

What better way to bring closure to the family and loved ones of a cycling victim, to either see someone held accountable for their death, of if that can’t happen then let it be the cause of positive change making it safer for others to ride their bikes.

Reading about Stan’s death saddens me, but it will not stop me from riding my bike. I cannot allow fear that some drunk or inattentive driver may run me down from behind, stop me from experiencing the joy and wellbeing that cycling gives me.

Somewhere today a motorist will die in his SUV, and a pedestrian will also die. Outside of those people’s family and friends, no one will give a shit.

I am both proud and grateful to belong to a small section of our society who care enough about each other that we are affected by the still relatively rare event that one of us is killed

 

                        

Reader Comments (10)

What new law in NYS? I am a cyclist in NY, and I heard nothing about it?

IMHO, the police are just as dangerous as the drivers! I've been hit THREE times, twice I called the police. And in neither case was ANY action taken. In fact, it took 45 minutes for the police to respond to my worst hit - and this was on a main road during rush hour, and THREE patrol cars passed by without even looking! Obviously, by the time they responded, the culprit was long gone. I have YET to get the police report! And that was in October of 2009!

July 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRica

Just read the law - the shame of it is that this is right in my backyard and didn't even KNOW. And I've been working with my hometown's government to make it more bike-friendly. Well, even though it's not 3-foot, it's better than what there is right now!

July 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRica

I agree with the sentiment, but actually, about 34,000 people are killed on the roads each year - the number has been declining steadily for years.

July 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commentert1

Rica,
The article only came out yesterday so it is not surprizing that you had not heard.
t1,
I stand corrected on the figures, but don't forget gas prices went sky high in 2008, and now with high unimployment people are driving less.
Dave

July 2, 2010 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Thanks, Dave. Better, by far, than I said it. Dodger @ www.1200km.com


PS - I wonder how many people will blow their hand off this 4th of July weekend. Will anyone besides family and friends care?

July 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDodger

There is outrage about war because war is a public policy issue and as such affects us all collectively whether or not we know of an individual who is killed.

Drivers and peds who are killed are isolated incidents. I'm sure that the family of those lost is enraged, but there is no reason for a critical mass of dis-interested citizens to take up arms.

Cyclist are (as you put it) part of an unspoken community, and we can and do collectively express outrage against poor traffic enforcement and infrastructure. Cycling is out of the mainstream enough for it's participants to feel a fiduciary obligation to eachother... driving and walking are not.

July 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

Dave,

Very well put, I could not agree more.

Cheers.
Jan

July 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJan

Well this is getting depressing. Instead of moaning constantly on a blog, why not write about the joy's of cycling; the racing, drama, friendships ect... Instead of reminding us all of how depressing the odd incosiderate motorists can make our sport. Unless moaning on this blog is going to actually change something, then please stop it. Your probably wondering why the hell am I writing this, it is because I used to enjoy your blog very much :)

July 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Agree with Mike.
I don’t ride thinking about dying, but I do live preparing to die.
Cycling happens to be a part of it. I’ve spent a lifetime seeking balance; still haven’t achieved it (ref. “Stay Hungry”).
Same with Happiness: Spend a lifetime pursuing it; achieve it and what’s left to pursue?
Think about it…what else is there?

July 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

I find it hard to believe that motorists killing cyclists go entirely unpunished - if a driver is the direct cause of a death, how do they get away without manslaughter charges (or whatever)?

I like your point about number of deaths on roads vs. number of deaths in war - funny how people don't usually manage to put things into perspective.

July 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge

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