The War on Cyclists and Pedestrians is Getting Ugly

Tom Reel/Express-News via Tuscon Bike Lawyer

That's Kylie Bruehler at a memorial service for her parents, killed while riding on the shoulder of a highway by a pickup truck that somehow drifted off the road, hit them from behind and dragged them two hundred feet. Although the driver was speeding, no charges were laid; he wasn't drunk and it was considered an "accident." Meanwhile, the Governor of Texas vetoed a bill that would have mandated a minimum clearance from "vulnerable road users", saying that the existing laws give enough protection. The Governor wants to be fair to everyone:

The truck that took out Kylie's mom and dad, WOAI news

"While I am in favor of measures that make our roads safer for everyone," Perry said at the time of his veto, "this bill contradicts much of the current statute and places the liability and responsibility on the operator of a motor vehicle when encountering one of these vulnerable road users."

But as one Texas politician noted:

"Right now, if the driver of a motor vehicle destroys private property, they have to make amends," said state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio. "If you destroy life, that is not the case. ... It's just called an accident."


Over at copenhagenize, Mikael has some ideas for billboards, and tells us that the laws are different:

Denmark and the Netherlands place the blame firmly on the automobile in accidents, unless it can be proven otherwise. The idea is simply that the person in the most dangerous vehicle has the most responsibility.

But they don't do that in Texas or anywhere in North America. As Veronica Flores wrote,

Bicyclists on the road treated no better than deer.

All over the world right now, there is a war on cyclists and pedestrians.

On Tom Vanderbilt's Blog How We Drive, he writes:

Given that academic studies attribute the vast bulk of pedestrian-car crashes to driver --not pedestrian -- behavior, I'm always amazed by the sheer torrent of anti-jaywalking stories in the country's newspapers, reflective of an old bias against non-vehicular modes.

He is referring in particular to an article in the Boston Globe:

On any given day, at any given intersection in Boston, pedestrians cut off drivers on the notoriously clogged labyrinth of city streets. They wander off narrow sidewalks to avoid a puddle, a dog, or one another, without regard to an oncoming 10-ton truck. They take over thoroughfares en masse, in little urban coups d'etat. Daring individuals step out and stare down drivers defiantly, like toreadors in a bull ring.

Right. And drivers don't speed, talk on cellphones and light cigarettes and always have their eyes on the road.


In San Francisco, where I have been terrified while sitting in a cab that was almost flying, it was going so fast, and where the traffic lights appeared to be perfectly synchronized for travelling on city streets at sixty miles per hour, and everyone seems to be re-enacting the chase scene from Bullitt, a columnist writes:

Seriously, how often have you seen someone there walk out into traffic against the light, confidently assuming that the car will stop?


After a cyclist died in Toronto this summer, the cycling community rose up in anger and closed down the city. Cyclists and drivers were on their best behaviour for a few weeks after, you could feel it on the street. Being loud about cyclists' place in the city worked.

It is time for pedestrians and cyclists to stand up for our rights as a legitimate form of transportation. Cars kill pedestrians and cyclists, not the other way around. Put the blame where it belongs.

Tags: Bikes | Biking | Copenhagen | Texas | Toronto


treehugger slideshows