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"If I had died, there would have been an investigation."
February 15, 2012 1:31 PM   Subscribe

Here's why drivers get away with murder in NYC.
posted by showbiz_liz (143 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thank you for posting this article. It is scandalous how infrequently criminal charges are applied to car drivers.

As a Boston resident (and occasional NYC visitor) I am frequently appalled at how people drive in both cities. I wish there was more citizen advocacy that people could undertake to enforce safer driving. Just a few days ago I saw a car blast through a pedestrian red-light where there were about 10 to 15 people starting to cross the road. I'd love to have a system where I could report that car driver for unsafe driving, but I've no way of doing so.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 1:42 PM on February 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'd like this article better if they didn't start off by calling it murder. Because, you know, It's not.

That being said, it's ridiculous how it seems death/near death is the only thing that will motivate anyone in the NYPD to do something about an accident.
posted by FirstMateKate at 1:44 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


This infuriates me, as I was struck by a car (again) two weeks ago. Right hook, at a T intersection, by someone who simply was not paying attention to the road. Luckily, I only had minor injuries, and she was very apologetic; but I also knew that even in Toronto, the cops would likely not press charges if I had wanted them to.

Much gratitude to the several people who witnessed the accident and called 911, though, as well as to the EMS people who helped me out (best of luck in your labor negotiations).
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:47 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd like this article better if they didn't start off by calling it murder. Because, you know, It's not.

How does "negligent homicide" grab you?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:48 PM on February 15, 2012 [48 favorites]


If you're looking to establish someone's culpability for an injury, a good starting point would be to stop using the word "accident."
posted by brain_drain at 1:52 PM on February 15, 2012 [15 favorites]


Our society has a totally cavalier attitude towards the automobile. If someone dies in the crosswalk because they were crossing on a don't walk signal, well, so be it. I live in an urban neighourhood, and just after we moved in here a city truck struck and killed a man in a motorized wheelchair in the crosswalk. It never was reported in the paper - just another statistic.

I bike and walk, and I really wonder if I will die under the wheels of a car.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:53 PM on February 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


If the penalties were harsher, would the accidents really go down in some place like Manhattan? Or is it just a fundamentally unsafe mix of too many pedestrians and too many cars?
posted by smackfu at 1:57 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]




If you're looking to establish someone's culpability for an injury, a good starting point would be to stop using the word "accident."
posted by brain_drain at 1:52 PM on February 15 [+] [!]


Most collisions are accidents though. They may be negligent and appallingly destructive, but they are accidents.

The hyperbole can get awfully thick when words like murder start flying around. A lot of people involved in collisions with cyclists are really honestly traumatized by it. They're rarely doing it on purpose, although they may often be engaging in really dangerous behavior, knowingly or otherwise.

Whenever we have these discussions I feel like we're arguing against some cartoon villain that smokes cigars and throws beer cans out the window while mowing down liberals in spandex left and right.

Personally I'd like to see driving dealt with as a skilled trade. It's difficult to do well, it's a complex task, and some people are just bad at. There are people I know and love that I am convinced will die in their cars. I don't blame them for driving, they've been taught their entire lives that they should and must drive. But we need to change that attitude if we want to see automobile deaths reduced.

We need systemic change toward a better transport system and urban planning, not demonization of drivers.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:58 PM on February 15, 2012 [15 favorites]


We need systemic change toward a better transport system and urban planning, not demonization of drivers.

It would help if the police would actually investigate crashes involving cyclists, or charge people who leave the scene (which I believe is a felony in New York State). Or is that also demonizing drivers.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:01 PM on February 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


I thought the inflated gas prices would do something to dampen the reckless driving in the city but I think all it does now is enable drivers to feel more entitled to the road.
posted by cazoo at 2:03 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't really know if increasing enforcement in case of death will do much to prevent traffic deaths.

I mean think about it, how many drivers do you think are out there thinking "I could pay a little more attention, but if I do run over someone I probably won't get prosecuted, so there's not really any reason to look to my left here"

That's obviously absurd. No one actually wants to hit someone, and I would be that the vast majority of motorists are unaware of the fact they won't get prosecuted. I think most probably assume they will get into a ton of trouble if they hit and kill someone.

So here's the thing, if you want to actually cut down on traffic deaths, you need to enforce the rules against distracted driving. Actually monitor people's driving and issue tickets when they make routine mistakes. That way, people watch out for the things they need to watch out for in order to prevent death, like paying attention and looking both ways.

Also, robot cars. I think as google's self driving car tech becomes more common, that will lead to a vast reduction in traffic deaths.
posted by delmoi at 2:03 PM on February 15, 2012 [11 favorites]


I've long understood that the best way to kill someone in Oregon and not go to jail is to run them over while sober and claim you didn't see them.

Ideally we would have strict liability for accidents involving automobiles and peds/bikes. I think that would make people a lot more aware when they are driving of the consequences of their actions.

Another thing that would help is a low saying if you perform a hit and run and there's any evidence at all that you might have been drinking... DUI. I read stories often about drivers running someone down, leaving the scene, and sleeping off the drink so when they turn themselves in they are below the limit. Leaving the scene of the crime should, like refusing a breath test, be an admission of guilt.
posted by twjordan at 2:04 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


They're rarely doing it on purpose, although they may often be engaging in really dangerous behavior, knowingly or otherwise.

This is called "negligence."
posted by kdar at 2:06 PM on February 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Somebody driving safely will be incredibly unlikely to ever be in an accident with somebody cycling safely. Please let's not be so quick to go the opposite way and assume you aren't culpable for driving dangerously just because you have had the good fortune not to cause anybody's death.

I knew Mathieu casually from his time in montreal, and the nature of the (non)investigation of his death boggles the mind. the NYPD's approach to this problem is just astonishingly flawed.
posted by cmyr at 2:06 PM on February 15, 2012


I'd like this article better if they didn't start off by calling it murder. Because, you know, It's not.

How could you possibly know that?

If you want to murder someone and don't want to go to jail this is pretty obviously the best way to go about it.
posted by enn at 2:10 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


bad at preview.

delmoi:

the problem is that most driver's view operating a motor vehicle as essentially a right. It isn't. The answer isn't to better investigate and prosecute offenders in accidents, the answer is to rigorously police reckless driving, and remove offenders from the roads.

Obviously yea we also need to be looking to better urban planning and other factors as well, but the whole idea that something is only worthy of investigation if somebody is *killed* is insane. It has nothing to do with the actions of the parties involved, and everything to do with the good or ill fortune of those actions' outcomes.
posted by cmyr at 2:10 PM on February 15, 2012



It would help if the police would actually investigate crashes involving cyclists, or charge people who leave the scene (which I believe is a felony in New York State). Or is that also demonizing drivers.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:01 PM on February 15 [+] [!]


That would be nice, but I don't think it's going to save very many lives. We need less people on the road, and lots of viable alternatives.

Believe me I understand the concern about loss of life. I spend every warm month of the year on a road bike or mountain bike, and the rest of my free time volunteering as a firefighter on a highway where half our work is cutting people out of their trashed cars after other stupid things happen. I GET the concern. I just don't think that ticketing people after the fact is the solution, and I truly do not think that most people involved in collisions are conscious of the risk they're taking.

We'll save lives by getting people off the road, not by encouraging everyone to drive and then punishing them when something goes wrong. Punishment isn't a very good deterrent if people aren't conscious that they're doing something wrong.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:11 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


...and having had passing drivers throw things at me for sport while I'm minding my own business on the sidewalk, it would not surprise me in the slightest to learn that there are people who run down pedestrians for sport.
posted by enn at 2:11 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]




...and having had passing drivers throw things at me for sport while I'm minding my own business on the sidewalk...


People should lose licenses for that crap. Where I am that might happen more if driving wasn't "essential."

But Christ to amend that and my former argument, if there's anywhere where not driving is an option you'd think it would be NYC.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:14 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you want to murder someone and don't want to go to jail this is pretty obviously the best way to go about it.

...and having had passing drivers throw things at me for sport while I'm minding my own business on the sidewalk, it would not surprise me in the slightest to learn that there are people who run down pedestrians for sport.

Just to be clear, are you seriously arguing that a substantial portion of the people killed in automobile-cyclist or automobile-pedestrian collisions are deliberately killing someone?
posted by dsfan at 2:15 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


We'll save lives by getting people off the road, not by encouraging everyone to drive and then punishing them when something goes wrong. Punishment isn't a very good deterrent if people aren't conscious that they're doing something wrong.

Drivers can't help being recklessly careless, so bikes and cars shouldn't share the road?

The answer to drivers running over cyclists is not less cyclists. The answer is getting drivers to realize that they aren't the only users or roads and teaching them to drive accordingly.
posted by bonehead at 2:17 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey bonehead! (Ha, I just wanted to say that.)

I mean getting cars off the road. I guess that would be clearer if I didn't call them "people."
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:18 PM on February 15, 2012


Just to be clear, are you seriously arguing that a substantial portion of the people killed in automobile-cyclist or automobile-pedestrian collisions are deliberately killing someone?

It's probably a very small portion. I imagine it feels substantial enough to the people getting killed, however. Are you seriously arguing that never in the history of automobiles has anyone run someone down with one on purpose?
posted by enn at 2:20 PM on February 15, 2012


As others have mentioned, this isn't just an NYPD problem. Some more examples from my local paper: Here's one from last March, where officers weren't sure what make or model of car hit the pedestrian and left the scene (let alone who might have been driving), but they were somehow positive that the driver didn't really mean it. As far as I can tell from subesquent coverage, they never did identify they driver. And here's one from January of last year, in which an officer describes motorists yielding to pedestrians who have the right of way in a crosswalk as something that could only happen "in a perfect world," while failing even to cite a driver who readily confessed to reckless driving that caused bodily injury to a mother and her children.
posted by hilker at 2:21 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Whenever we have these discussions I feel like we're arguing against some cartoon villain that smokes cigars and throws beer cans out the window while mowing down liberals in spandex left and right.
Those guys are out there though.
I've long understood that the best way to kill someone in Oregon and not go to jail is to run them over while sober and claim you didn't see them.
I knew someone once who actually hit a drunk pedestrian. Not only did she not get in trouble, the pedestrian actually had to pay to fix her car.

Anyway, that's probably not a good way to kill someone. I mean, if you ever are in a position where you want to kill someone, people are going to know about it. And the fact you run them over after getting into an argument it's going to be pretty obvious you intended to murder them.
the problem is that most driver's view operating a motor vehicle as essentially a right. It isn't.
I'm not sure I agree. In a place like NYC you should be able to get around on the subway, but if you live in sprawls-ville U.S.A you need to be able to drive in order to participate in society. I remember reading some legal blog where people thought that there might be some 'right' to drive,

Anyway, while trying to find it I came across this article M.I.A. song ‘Bad Girls,’ lawsuits renew fight for Saudi women’s right to drive -- Of course they mean the video and not the song.

That video is awesome by the way
posted by delmoi at 2:23 PM on February 15, 2012


hilker: Here's one that took place a few blocks from me, where a cab driver was apparently shooting out of a driveway so fast at 6:20 in the morning that the pedestrian he hit on the sidewalk died. He was never charged with anything.
posted by enn at 2:25 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just to be clear, are you seriously arguing that a substantial portion of the people killed in automobile-cyclist or automobile-pedestrian collisions are deliberately killing someone?

An incident happened to me a few years ago that caused me to ponder something like that question. And if I had had time to react to the pickup truck bearing down at me, if I would've swerved right into its path as it pulled away.

And yes, it made me wonder (in the linked essay) how many of those dead animals I see on the road were hit accidentally.
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:28 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Are you seriously arguing that never in the history of automobiles has anyone run someone down with one on purpose?

Of course not. What I am saying is, the chance of these random "run down for sport" killings is almost certainly incredibly low, of the "struck by lightning" type occurrence. I'm not saying it doesn't happen though.

Hey, as someone who predominantly drives in cities (although not NYC), I love bicyclists--it's one less car in traffic after all, and more importantly one car less competing for a parking space at the destination. I just think people need to think carefully about things like "strict liability for accidents involving automobiles" (given the context of the post, I would imagine this is proposing criminal liability, although I could be mistaken). In the vast majority of places in America, automobile drivers substantially outnumber and outvote bicyclists. I don't think the likely endgame here is a regime where the automobile driver is presumed to be guilty of a crime if a collision happens. Frankly, I think a more likely outcome would be banning bicyclists from the streets altogether, an outcome I certainly do not want even as a person who rarely bikes.
posted by dsfan at 2:32 PM on February 15, 2012


Of course not. What I am saying is, the chance of these random "run down for sport" killings is almost certainly incredibly low, of the "struck by lightning" type occurrence. I'm not saying it doesn't happen though.
Here's an incident from brazil. And the one I linked to earlier where the doctor hit someone. There does seem to be a lot of hostility for cyclists in particular from some drivers.
posted by delmoi at 2:42 PM on February 15, 2012


I mean getting cars off the road.

How? One of the biggest concerns people have about cycling is safety. Time and again, surveys show that one of the major reasons for not making more utility trips by bike, commuting, shopping, and so on, is the perceived risk of injury and death. People know how dangerous other driver are. It's not possible to get fewer cars and more bikes on the road by shrugging our shoulders and accepting current driving practices as unchangeable.

Improved enforcement is part of what's necessary. Criminal charges are only a tiny fraction; better civil ticketing for dangerous driving is probably a lot more important. The police do have a role to play and the point is that they're not doing it. Police enforcement does a lot to reduce drunk driving rates and seat-belt compliance. They could do a lot more for cyclist safety too.
posted by bonehead at 2:43 PM on February 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


I just think people need to think carefully about things like "strict liability for accidents involving automobiles" (given the context of the post, I would imagine this is proposing criminal liability, although I could be mistaken).
I do think the fact that cars are so much more lethal then bicycles should be taken into account. I mean cars kill 40k people in the US a year. How many die from being hit by a cyclist, especially when they're in their car. Treating them as legally the same doesn't make that much sense. On the other hand, if a driver can't avoid a collision with a cyclist, that should be a problem too.
posted by delmoi at 2:45 PM on February 15, 2012


As an avid motorcycle rider, I really, really try and keep an eye out for cyclists, but goddamn do they break the traffic laws.

If I'm on a motorcycle, I have to stop at red lights. Why don't bicyclists?

AnecdoteFilter: I was turning on a green arrow last week and a bicyclist cut in front of me and acted like it was my fault that I entered the intersection. FFS, stop at the red light. What are you doing entering the intersection when my green ass Subaru is flashing it's turn signal and slamming on its brakes.

That being said, I live in the new friendliest bicycling city of Minneapolis. Seriously, bike all you want, bike in the winter, just don't cut in front of my car because you find it convenient.
posted by Sphinx at 2:50 PM on February 15, 2012 [11 favorites]


So here's the thing, if you want to actually cut down on traffic deaths, you need to enforce the rules against distracted driving.

I hit a pedestrian once. He just wandered out into traffic with a smile on his face without bothering to see if anyone was coming, apparently assuming any cars there would stop. I was on a motorcycle, and have had 2 knee surgeries thanks to that ass (who then tried to sue me).

I've also come very close to hitting bicyclists who choose to run lights and stop signs, and who venture out of the bike lane inexplicably.

I know it's fun to pile on the car drivers since they're more likely to kill (and no doubt distracted driving is a HUGE problem) but as a frequent pedestrian and bicyclist, it would be nice if everyone involved just fucking paid attention.
posted by coolguymichael at 2:51 PM on February 15, 2012 [11 favorites]


Lots of talk about how the evil negligent drivers need to be monitored, punished, and reeducated. Not much talk about how the same thing needs to apply to bicyclists, or the whole thing falls down. Drivers sometimes drive distracted, but they don't often drive on the wrong side of the road, dart across busy streets diagonally, drive without lights at night, run stop signs and lights as a matter of course. I suspect that enforcement of the responsibilities of a cyclist would go a long way toward wider acceptance of their rights, and cool down a lot of the knee-jerk hatred.
posted by darksasami at 2:51 PM on February 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


Some context for you people: NYC has a city wide speed limit of 30 MPH.

Nobody obeys it.

Even though if the NYPD was interested in, actually doing its job and protecting the residents of they city, they could issue speeding tickets, improve safety in the city, and close a budget hole.
posted by ocschwar at 3:02 PM on February 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


FTA

The NYPD issued more summonses to cyclists than truck drivers last year: truckers got 14,962 moving violation summonses and 10,415 Criminal Court summonses, while cyclists got 13,743 moving violation summonses and a whopping 34,813 Criminal Court summonses. Priorities!

So the derail about irresponsible cyclists needing to shape up before drivers have to take responsibility is even less relevant than usual. Cyclists are being targeted by police and drivers are being ignored.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:02 PM on February 15, 2012 [21 favorites]


Sphinx: If I'm on a motorcycle, I have to stop at red lights. Why don't bicyclists?

STOP signs as YIELD signs for cyclists
posted by RGD at 3:03 PM on February 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


darksasami, the people on bikes are unlikely to kill a pedestrian no matter how poorly they ride. People on foot and bikes really should be able to feel safe enough to not have their lives depend on adherence to a rigid set of rules. It really sucks how much people have decided that streets are for cars in the US.
posted by floam at 3:03 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


"they don't often drive on the wrong side of the road, dart across busy streets diagonally, drive without lights at night, run stop signs and lights as a matter of course. "

darksasami - I am not going to defend those behaviors by some cyclists (although I will argue strenuously for *yielding* at stop signs), but I will point out that the reason all those rules exist is because when cars don't follow them, people die. The scale of the damage cause by reckless and distracted driving is so much greater (by magnitudes) than for cycling.

The strongest argument I generally hear for cracking down on reckless cycling is that it could lead to a driver of a car making a evasive maneuver that could harm someone or some property. Even that argument is, in my opinion, largely the result of the opinion that the streets (and I mean sidewalks and roads) are for auto traffic and everyone else needs to get out of the way.
posted by twjordan at 3:05 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


The NYPD Accident Investigation Squad [AIS] only has 19 detectives, three sergeants, and one lieutenant, but is responsible for investigating fatal accidents for the entire city. But don't worry, there's always at least one detective on duty at all times.

23 people dedicated to accident investigations in a department of 36,000 officers and a city of 8.1 million people. This ratio seems small.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 3:07 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


STOP signs as YIELD signs for cyclists

Reminder to cyclists that it's all well and good that this is the case _somewhere_ doesn't mean you can act like this rule applies to you where you are.

Momentum blah blah blah. You're going to slam into me one of these days and I'm going to make 'ped rage' a thing.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:07 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am not going to defend those behaviors by some cyclists (although I will argue strenuously for *yielding* at stop signs), but I will point out that the reason all those rules exist is because when cars don't follow them, people die. The scale of the damage cause by reckless and distracted driving is so much greater (by magnitudes) than for cycling.

The laws against Jay walking have nothing to do with the damage a human body does getting hit by a car, and those little bars that come down over train tracks have nothing to do with preventing the train from being damaged by the car.

Some laws protect the people that have to obey them.
posted by Gygesringtone at 3:15 PM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Space Coyote: Momentum blah blah blah. You're going to slam into me one of these days and I'm going to make 'ped rage' a thing.

Huh? Rest assured that I won't. You didn't actually look at the site and are arguing about something else.
posted by RGD at 3:15 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was going to reply re: stop signs and cyclists but it's a derail and it's blaming cyclists again, which is a trap we're falling into again. Of course motorists do far more damage.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:19 PM on February 15, 2012


I suspect that enforcement of the responsibilities of a cyclist would go a long way toward wider acceptance of their rights, and cool down a lot of the knee-jerk hatred.

From the article: "The NYPD issued more summonses to cyclists than truck drivers last year: truckers got 14,962 moving violation summonses and 10,415 Criminal Court summonses, while cyclists got 13,743 moving violation summonses and a whopping 34,813 Criminal Court summonses." It certainly doesn't seem like the NYPD is turning a blind eye to transgressions by cyclists.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:22 PM on February 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Having just moved from NYC to Chicago, I find Chicago's pedestrian infrastructure to be even more horrifying. Dense cities should prioritize pedestrians, but most in the US simply do not.
posted by melissam at 3:25 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


STOP signs as YIELD signs for cyclists

The guy who swore and threw his hands up at me certainly didn't YIELD whatsoever. Again, I say, why don't cyclists think they have to obey basic traffic laws. As I said, he had a red light, not a stop sign.

Pedestrians don't cut in front of me on a red light, why should linking to a pro-cyclist website make it okay?
posted by Sphinx at 3:25 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Authorities who refuse to take action when someone injures or kills a member of your family, a friend, or a loved one make the emergence of a culture of honor and violent revenge inevitable.

Think it's tough being a cop now?

Wait til that happens.
posted by jamjam at 3:30 PM on February 15, 2012


I'm a cyclist and a driver. I have some rules for driving:

- Nobody touches me.
- No open containers of liquid.
- No food.
- When I'm busy, everyone shuts the hell up.
- Stop at the white line at every stop sign. Look both ways. Creep forward. Look both ways. Advance carefully.
- Etc.

This makes me an extremely irritating driver, both to those I ride with and those stuck behind me. But too bad. Driving is the most dangerous thing I do on a regular basis and anything I can do to make it marginally safer, I'm going to do. I still have lapses in judgement or awareness -- I'm human! -- but I try to learn from these. I am not a better than average driver, but I know from experience that I'm one of very few who make the effort.

Also, Sphinx, let's be serious. I just got back from a two hour bike ride during which I obeyed all the laws, including stopping at stop signs. I got passed by cars many times on blind, single-lane corners even though I was riding at the speed limit. I got buzzed by drivers driving in the bike lanes or on shoulders. I had near misses with people turning left across my lane. I had near misses with people running stop signs across the bike trail.

The constant whining by drivers about the lawlessness of other road users gets pretty fucking old, pretty fucking fast. Everyone breaks the law. I'd wish they'd all stop it, but they won't. The difference is, when a driver does it, people die.
posted by klanawa at 3:42 PM on February 15, 2012 [40 favorites]


Drivers sometimes drive distracted, but they don't often drive on the wrong side of the road, dart across busy streets diagonally, drive without lights at night, run stop signs and lights as a matter of course.

Again, I say, why don't cyclists think they have to obey basic traffic laws.

Judging by the behavior I see here, a lot of drivers also seem to think they're above obeying traffic laws. There's an intersection near where I live where the north-south street has stop signs but the east-west doesn't, and cars routinely coast through those stop signs; worse, they do it without looking. I can tell because I am usually trying to make eye contact with them to make sure they see me, and sometimes they don't even look up, let alone from side to side. I could also go on and on about drivers accelerating into crosswalks while people are crossing -- despite being not only dangerous but also a 2-point moving violation here, it's extremely common and I have never seen it enforced.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:54 PM on February 15, 2012


(here = where I live, not Metafilter, of course)
posted by en forme de poire at 3:54 PM on February 15, 2012


I'm a lifelong cyclist who used to drive a car before some bad experiences made me give it up.

One of the bad experiences was hitting a pedestrian while making a left on my way to work. I was turning into a blinding rising sun, the intersection was large and not made up of nice 90 degree angles, the crosswalk was partly hidden in shadow, and she was hidden by my A-pillar through most of my turn. I slammed on my brakes at the last second, but clipped her enough to knock her feet out from under her and watch her tumble over my fender and bang her head on the pavement. It's easy for me to say, but it really was one of the more traumatic experiences I've had. She ended up suing me too - which, as far as I know, my insurance company settled. I can understand how a motorist can get involved in something bad with no intent to do harm.

On the other hand, I've been out riding and had muscle cars gun by me in the same lane - grazing the knuckles of my left hand with their mirror. I've been physically forced off the road and over the curb by buses and trucks that pull into me - despite my going nearly the speed limit. I've had minivan dads with their kid strapped in step on the gas and scream obscenities at me when I signal well ahead of them with an outstretched arm and try to move to the left lane to make a turn at an intersection. I've had pedestrians wander right into my path on the designated bike lane and end up giving them a free handlebar ride.

Anyone can make mistakes, but it's selfishness, a lack of respect, and impatience that put you and everyone around you at the highest risk - regardless of how you get around. Unfortunately, "driving like an asshole" isn't exactly something that can get your privileges revoked.
posted by Pseudonumb at 3:58 PM on February 15, 2012 [14 favorites]


Despite what I said upthread, man, do I feel lucky to live in Victoria, BC. I've taken my 7 year-old on bikes through downtown while towing our 3 year-old in a bike trailer. It's not for the faint of heart, but drivers are generally courteous and tolerant... until you get to suburbia.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:01 PM on February 15, 2012


The constant whining by drivers about the lawlessness of other road users gets pretty fucking old, pretty fucking fast. Everyone breaks the law. I'd wish they'd all stop it, but they won't. The difference is, when a driver does it, people die.

Bullshit.

When pedestrians disregard traffic signals and get hit by cars nobody blames the driver unless they're drunk or disobeying traffic signals themselves. I'm sorry that cars are arrogant towards you on the road.

Again, why should cyclists be different? Wheels? biketothefuture.org?

We all use the road. Me. You. That one guy with all the tats and nose piercings. Ernest Borgnine. My dad.

Yes, there are some horrible drivers who don't give a shit about cyclists, yes there are some horrible pedestrians who don't give a shit about traffic rules/laws, and finally yes, there are a ton of cyclists who see automobiles as adversaries rather than fellows on the roadway.

It seems to me that the problem is that bicycles live in this odd zone between pedestrian traffic on the sidewalks and automobile traffic on the roads which they were designed for.

I will stipulate that more drivers need to be aware of cyclists. Driving a car is inherently dangerous. We're not against cycling, (Especially not me! I love biking! Just don't be irresponsible about it like those drivers are) and I live near a college campus and see a metric asston of scooters, and almost to a one, they obey the traffic laws with regards to visibility and running red lights, so I have to ask: Why is it okay for bicycles to disregard traffic laws?
posted by Sphinx at 4:01 PM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sphinx, It's not. And as a cyclist, I don't. Your generalizing is cliche, dishonest, and confrontational.
posted by Pseudonumb at 4:07 PM on February 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


> If the penalties were harsher, would the accidents really go down in some place like Manhattan?

Uh-uh, wrong question. The question should be "There are laws on the books against this sort of thing, why aren't they enforced?"

A secondary question might then be, "If these laws were enforced, would accidents really go down?" My answer is, "Yes."

It would take a few examples, but image what happens someone goes to jail for a long time for, say, crippling someone while drunk driving as seems to be the obvious story in one of those cases that was simply never followed up. What sort of a message does it send to his friends, family? Conversely, what sort of message does it send to you and everyone you know if you maim someone driving, your story is obvious BS, and no one even looks into it?

Consider how much money is spent on drug enforcement, how much on preventing terrorism... and yet there are over 40,000 Americans killed every year by cars, and (hard to tell from reading), at least a hundred thousand crippled for life.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:10 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Gygesringtone: jaywalking and running train controls (really?) were not in the list of laws I was referencing.

I am not sure, but I suspect that jaywalking is against the law due to its ability to impede the orderly flow of automobile traffic. It's certainly not a law that would be in place were there not automobiles barreling down the street.
posted by twjordan at 4:13 PM on February 15, 2012


September 17

Thomas Hobbes, I thought of you
today on the FDR drive if you
want a picture of man
or woman in the state of nature
watch the drivers shift lanes
without signaling and flip you the bird
and shake clenched fists and swear
and scream and honk it's every car
for itself and everyone's in a rush
to go home to nagging spouse
or empty nest or unmade bed
or stiff drink there are days when
nothing less than a dry martini will do

--David Lehman (2000)
posted by .kobayashi. at 4:13 PM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


In the US, traffic fatalities involving cyclists seem to total less 3% of the number accidents involving cars - and there's a lot of double-counting on that 3% side there because most of the cyclist fatalities also involve a car.

I'm having trouble finding good statistics, here but it seems hard to believe that the number of accidents involving a cyclist and no cars can be as much as 1% of the number of accidents involving cars and no cyclist.

Cyclists are not the issue despite people's personal experiences.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:16 PM on February 15, 2012


Sphinx, It's not. And as a cyclist, I don't. Your generalizing is cliche, dishonest, and confrontational.

I don't want to be perceived as either dishonest or confrontational, I'm just a wee bit passionate about how car drivers don't see motorcyclists, and I thought I could use that to post constructively about the bike/car war, and apparently I can't or it won't.

I'm happy to be cliche though.
posted by Sphinx at 4:17 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sphinx,

I'm going to say this as politely as possible. I scrupulously obey traffic laws on my bike, and I have been struck by cars three times in the past four years. All three of those times, I have been in a bike lane. After the first time, the cops told me they likely wouldn't charge the driver. I gave up after that point.

The last person I remember being charged over killing a cyclist in Toronto was fined $110 for dooring them into traffic. The driver who killed Jenna Morrison will likely never face charges. I pass by the intersection where she died several times a week, and I cannot see how she could have been struck without some sort of negligence on the part of the driver of the truck that killed her. In fact her death was quite likely preventable, had one or more steps been taken by city planners, federal regulators, or local officials responsible for enforcement of traffic laws (who, in my opinion, are also responsible for permitting a culture of negligence on our roads).

I cannot be responsible for the behavior of other cyclists, just as you cannot be responsible for the behavior of other drivers (which in my experience has involved witnessing frequent distracted, neglectful, and aggressive driving; as well as being the subject of intimidation and verbal abuse for riding a bike). My job as a cyclist is to get from point A to point B in the manner prescribed by the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. It is not to set a better example, or to make allowances for bad drivers. It is especially not my job to help people not be assholes.

The real issue here is a pattern of poor planning and regulatory permissiveness, and a lack of enforcement towards people incorrectly operating a very dangerous piece of equipment.

So enough with the insinuations that cyclists are responsible for the injuries they receive at the hands of cars.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:39 PM on February 15, 2012 [13 favorites]


I'm going to say this as politely as possible.

Thanks, I'm really trying to be honest and polite here. I'm not trying to stir anything up, I just want to find a common thread with bicycle riders and car drivers, and thought that my years of motorcycling and almost being killed several times by drivers not paying attention would lend a tad of credence to my argument.

However, it seems like that pointing out that the bicycle drivers can also be culpable in an accident makes my argument invalid. Apparently all bicycle drivers are in the right, and all automobile drivers are in the wrong.

So enough with the insinuations that cyclists are responsible for the injuries they receive at the hands of cars.

Can you stipulate that in 100% of situations it's always the drivers fault? Otherwise, the cyclist sure could be responsible. I'm not saying that they necessarily are responsible, I 'm saying that they can be responsible.
posted by Sphinx at 4:56 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you're driving a car, and you maim me, you better go whole hog fucking kill me. That's all I have to say.
posted by weinbot at 5:01 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Last year, at least four senior citizens were killed crossing the street in San Francisco (all with the right of way) in incidents not involving alcohol or hit-and-runs. Unusually, one of those was perpetrated by a cyclist.

Now guess which one those incidents resulted in charges and criminal penalties.

Links: 1, 2, 3
posted by alexei at 5:05 PM on February 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


We need accident penalties that are progressive in the vehicle size and injuries, penalties should rise quickly to automatic suspension of your license.

There should be a substantial license suspension anytime anyone gets objectively injured by your driving. Anyone even behind the wheel in any accident with fatalities should immediately lose their license until the court deems them "not at fault" or otherwise explicitly restores their driving rights.

If you were driving an SUV when you injure a smart car driver, then your suspension should include a long additional period with vehicle weight class limitations, i.e. no driving for the usual number of month plus no driving vehicles heavier than 2000lb for several years.

And heavy vehicle drivers should face license suspension, or weight class restriction, whenever they hit a motor cycle, bicycle, or pedestrian, even if no injuries occur.

We should also convict drivers of negligent homicide whenever possible of course, but near automatic license suspension would result in most drivers taking significantly more care.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:08 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have an easy two mile commute each way to work. It's short enough that it's a pleasure to walk, and a bike would take just as much time to set up and lock up, so I walk it. (A friend also nearly died from a hit-and-run bike accident not far from where I live, so I admit to being scared still of biking on the street.) There are almost no bikers, anyway, either motorcycles or cyclists, which means that my view of car actions is unimpeded by other actors on the road. Almost every other day, I get nearly run over, smacked, or chased by cars. Cars do not use turn signals. Red lights are not a problem, if there is only a pedestrian coming. They will pull all the way through the sidewalk at driveways, forcing me into traffic. Cars will routinely turn left or right off the main road, even when the left turn light has already gone to red. If I am in the crosswalk, cars waiting to turn will frequently honk at the lead car to go (or they'll try to drive around) even if I am directly in their path. I've gotten nearly hit too many times to count and smacked by a driver who was talking on the phone and didn't bother to look at the sidewalk directly in front of her car.

I like a lot of things about cars, even though I don't really drive, but the habits of drivers on the Main Line is not one of them. It's fudging infuriating to have to risk my life crossing the street in the crosswalk, with the light, because someone can't be bothered to put their phone down long enough to turn their head in both directions. I don't understand why there aren't stronger laws or even stronger peer pressure to stop running people over.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:10 PM on February 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


Sphinx, motorcyclists have at least one big safety advantage over bikes: speed. Cyclists are endangered both by the fact that they constantly get passed at high speed and because getting carelessly passed forces cyclists to the margins of the road (hello door!). Motorbikes can keep up with the flow of traffic, so they don't face these specific problems. That's not to deny that car drivers are often a danger to motorcyclists (e.g. getting sideswiped by drivers who don't do blind spot checks) but speed at least means that cars have fewer opportunities to kill motorcyclists.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:14 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


My take is that the problem raised in the article is not that cars are always at fault, but rather that doing everything "right" as a cyclist doesn't actually seem to make it any easier to get the law on your side. I totally agree that we should demand that cyclists are visible at night and behave predictably -- I don't think anyone's going to argue about that. But when even, e.g., the victims of a blatant hit-and-run (with eyewitnesses, and a driver who was likely to be impaired) are nevertheless stonewalled by the NYPD, that points to something deeper going on that we have to address. The point is not that cyclists don't cause crashes also, but that in order for people to have real justice car-bike crashes must at least be investigated, and furthermore, investigated as seriously as a two-car crash.
posted by en forme de poire at 5:15 PM on February 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


Wow, I clicked on this thread hoping it would be good, because that article is really interesting.

But instead it's the same old nonsense about well one time a cyclist was a jerk and blah blah blah.

And that's a damn shame.

People of MetaFilter, you're really disappointing sometimes.
posted by entropone at 5:16 PM on February 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


Some of the special pleading by drivers in this thread reminds me of the equally hilarious and conceptually flawed campaign for "smokers' rights". Nobody is a "car driver" or a "cyclist" as a matter of identity; if you don't like greater responsibilities that come with car driving, you can not drive a car. Whether or not it's part of the solution to this problem, there's really nothing inherently biased or unfair about suggesting that the obligation upon car drivers to obey traffic laws and be acutely conscious of safety should be much greater than that on cyclists.
posted by oliverburkeman at 5:21 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


People of MetaFilter, you're really disappointing sometimes.

The internet as a whole is completely incapable of discussing cycling outside of specific cycling forums. I have never, ever, ever seen it go well, and that includes multiple times here. Ctrl-F "red light" ah there it is. Yep, won't bother reading this one either.
posted by markr at 5:22 PM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Lax crash investigations may violate state law.

Some facts:
*Speeding drivers kill more people than drunk drivers.
*More peds are killed crossing WITH THE LIGHT than without.
*Cyclists received three times the amount of CRIMINAL SUMMONSES than truck drivers.
*Public health departments around the country consider traffic crashes to be a significant public health hazard.

A story:
Every time I called the detective I became more depressed. He was reluctant to answer any of my questions, and when he did the news was always bad. I asked if they had searched for clues in the car- they hadn't and wouldn't. I asked if they questioned the witnesses- they said it was pointless. I asked if they had canvassed for video in any of the two dozen surveillance cameras along the road near the crash site- they had not. The detective never even visited the crash site though it was two blocks from his precinct's station. When I asked these questions the detective would get defensive, he would say- "Are you trying to tell me how to do my job?" Eventually I gave up. I stopped calling after the detective answered my inquiries by saying- "Listen, you should be lucky you're alive."


But yeah, let's talk about the cyclists we saw running a light. That's what this is about.
posted by entropone at 5:23 PM on February 15, 2012 [10 favorites]


You guys all realize that while most people in New York City don't even own a car, the NYPD drive around the city all the damn time? And most officers apparently don't even live in the city. The "windshield perspective" is one of the biggest reasons North American police don't give a damn about anyone who's not a driver.
posted by parudox at 5:23 PM on February 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


Here's a quote I like to trot out every once in a while.
Cycling in the Netherlands is much safer than in the USA. The Netherlands has the lowest non-fatal injury rate as well as the lowest fatality rate, while the USA has the highest non-fatal injury rate as well as the highest fatality rate. Indeed, the non-fatal injury rate for the USA is about 30 times higher than for the Netherlands.

Injury rate per million km cycled: USA 37.5; NL 1.4
Fatality rate per 100 million km cycled: USA 5.8; NL 1.1
From: Pucher, John and Buehler, Ralph (2008) 'Making Cycling Irresistible: Lessons from The Netherlands, Denmark and Germany'.
posted by brokkr at 5:24 PM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


You guys all realize that while most people in New York City don't even own a car, the NYPD drive around the city all the damn time? And most officers apparently don't even live in the city. The "windshield perspective" is one of the biggest reasons North American police don't give a damn about anyone who's not a driver.


Not only that, but this is how the NYPD park.

Thanks for ruining our neighborhoods.
posted by entropone at 5:26 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow:

My number zero rule for biking in New York is to take a lane. If there's no bike lane, then take a lane of the road and treat it as a motorist might treat it: Go at your normal pace, stop at red lights, signal, etc. If the motorists behind you won't like your speed and they can lean on their horns all they want. You're part of traffic now.

It's much more likely for you to be injured or killed while biking in the narrow strip between traffic and parking. If you're in the middle of your lane, you could only get maimed if a motorist actively attempted to run you over, which most simply are not willing to do.
posted by weinbot at 5:27 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've posted this before, and I'm going to post it again for truth: How the Dutch got their cycle paths.

Hint: Cars are the leading cause of accidental death in the US, especially among children. Additionally, increased gas prices.

There is a serious self-policing reverence for gun safety in America. Why doesn't such a thing exist for car safety? When you understand this, then you may start to understand why cyclists have such strong feelings about cars and car safety. hint: guns kill people you care about, cars kill their drivers, strangers, and poor people on bikes.
posted by Freen at 5:27 PM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't really know if increasing enforcement in case of death will do much to prevent traffic deaths.

Disagree. I have no doubt that a huge number of accidents are caused by repeat offenders. People who think nothing of driving recklessly every day, and are never challenged on it, are the ones most likely to eventually cause fatal accidents. Give them a few tickets and the reckless behavior will go way down.
posted by alexei at 5:29 PM on February 15, 2012


Sphinx,

Look at my comments again. I am not talking about absolving cyclists of all blame. I am talking about a pattern of poor planning and regulatory permissiveness, and a lack of enforcement. I am also talking about placing a higher onus of responsibility on the people operating the more dangerous piece of equipment, rather than the more vulnerable party (you, as a motorcyclist, should appreciate this).

I find that discussions in this direction are too easily neutralized by accusations of bad behaviour on the part of cyclists, without consideration of the kinds of bad behaviour by drivers that are too often excused as "how people drive."

I am also tired of getting hit by cars.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:30 PM on February 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


I don't really know if increasing enforcement in case of death will do much to prevent traffic deaths.

There's lots of research that shows that enforcement can work. To wit: Aggressive Traffic Enforcement: A simple and effective injury prevention program.
posted by entropone at 5:34 PM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


the people on bikes are unlikely to kill a pedestrian no matter how poorly they ride. People on foot and bikes really should be able to feel safe enough to not have their lives depend on adherence to a rigid set of rules

Yes, people driving cars need to realize that their car is similar to a weapon in the sense that it can do a LOT of damage to other people. Still, everyone, either walking or bicycling should know that the first person that needs to care for their safety is themselves. The thing about "defensive driving" needs to apply to everyone.

I'm not in NY or in the US, even, but just as anecdata, in my city more times than not, when we hear about someone being run over, it's usually either directly down or a few feet from a pedestrian bridge. I think that sucks, and not just for the person who was run over, but for the driver who is unfairly presented with a situation where he wasn't even supposed to slow down or look for anything crossing the road at that point. One of the things I hate the most during morning rush hour is seeing moms or dads running across the road pulling their school aged kids along, just under the bridge that was probably meant mostly for people like them (as in, near schools). It's even worse when there's a damn policeman or traffic officer stopping the rush hour traffic to let those people (mostly able bodied) through, instead of telling them to get their lazy ass on the bridge.

In any way, I hate driving in this city because most drivers suck at being civil. Yet a lot of pedestrians and bicyclers also suck at being smart about what they're doing. In conclusion, most people are pretty stupid about traffic, and that sucks for everyone.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 5:36 PM on February 15, 2012


sphinx: comparative international statistics concerning traffic deaths are radically at odds with your statements. How do you reconcile this?

additionally, the reason why bicyclists should be able to ride unimpeded has much to do with physics: if you don't have to stop, a human being on a bike is one of the most energy efficient means of travel possible. Our current road and sidewalk infrastructure is prohibitive, yes, but it doesn't have to be. Once again, see the dutch.

When I bike, I don't yell and scream at the people in the cars that just nearly killed me. Why would I? They have shown a reckless disregard for life and are wielding a deadly weapon they clearly don't know how to use.

As a pedestrian, I hate drivers that stop short when I'm crossing the street. That's like swinging a baseball bat at my knees and then pulling back at the last minute.

That said, when I drive, I try my best to act as if I'm carrying a gun, or wielding some such tremendously dangerous piece of equipment. Because I am. Cars kill far more people than guns.
posted by Freen at 5:38 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


If congress has their way, things are might get worse for bicycles before they get better.
posted by floam at 6:19 PM on February 15, 2012


Forget aggressive traffic enforcement, in DC (and probably elsewhere) AAA is actively trying to discourage police from enforcing the laws that exist. (You know its a rip-off and you've cancelled your membership, right?)

The transportation bill that's moving through Congress now is going to do everything possible to go in the same car-loving, bike-hating direction.

Sigh.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 7:18 PM on February 15, 2012


for about 10 years I didn't own a car and rode my motorcycle year round. my safety strategy was the following: 80% of the cagers don't see you and of the other 20% half of them are aiming for you. why would 10% of drivers want to take out somebody on a bike? because during the all too brief summers here in the great PNW there are 20-nothings on full on sports bikes wearing full coverage helmets, tee shirts, shorts and flip-flops, popping wheelies on on-ramps, weaving in and out of 70 mph traffic with no signaling, cutting cages off with impunity to dive for exits etc. etc. etc. so when the rains came and it would just be me out there on my commute, the cagers that remembered, remembered. the same can be said for pedaled two wheels as well especially in crowded urban environments. the point is that there operators of all kinds of vehicle out there who blatantly operate said vehicle in such a way to endanger themselves and others. that said, any operator involved in a hit and run should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
posted by BoZo555 at 7:20 PM on February 15, 2012


In Japan, there is a very very simple hierarchy for liability in road accidents. If you are the driver, and you hit a biker or pedestrian, you are at fault. Period. The driver is always liable. Always. No matter the circumstances. So if you're puttering along in your car, perfectly slowly and safely and some jackass jumps out in front of you and you hit him, you're to blame.

I'm not sure if I really like this system, as it's obviously unfair in situations like the above. But goddamn if Tokyo drivers don't take a lot of care with pedestrians and bikers, which would make sense for the densest population on the planet.

Actually, the annoying thing in Tokyo is that people who ride bikes tend to buzz along the sidewalk, instead of the street, and drivers are pretty impatient with bikers who do drive on the street. But since the earthquake last March (after which most Tokyoites had to walk home several hours due to stopped trains), there has been a HUGE increase in the number of people biking, so the dynamic is changing for the better, at least for bikers.
posted by zardoz at 7:29 PM on February 15, 2012


if you don't like greater responsibilities that come with car driving, you can not drive a car

Your privilege (as someone who lives where there are actually alternatives) is showing.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:16 PM on February 15, 2012


if you don't like greater responsibilities that come with car driving, you can not drive a car

Your privilege (as someone who lives where there are actually alternatives) is showing.


You know what is a privilege, according to our laws?

Driving a car.

And for good reason, because it's a two ton machine that can go 60MPH and do people a serious mischief.

Just because you live where you really need a car does not absolve you in the slightest from the responsibilities that come with driving a car.
posted by ocschwar at 8:23 PM on February 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


I am a bicycle and public transit commuter, urban walker, and sometimes car driver (just to lay all my biases out on the table). The takeaway from this (and in my experience)? Assholes will be assholes, regardless of their form of transport.
posted by ch3ch2oh at 8:33 PM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Just because you live where you really need a car does not absolve you in the slightest from the responsibilities that come with driving a car.

I never said it did. However, due to the past six decades (give or take) of truly atrocious planning, a majority of Americans have no other workable options. "Just take transit instead" is an absurd suggestion to make to someone who lives in Orlando.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:41 PM on February 15, 2012


"Just take transit instead" is an absurd suggestion to make to someone who lives in Orlando.


If that someone cannot drive safely, then "sit home and suffer" is a perfectly reasonable suggestion to make to him.

I vetoed any talk of moving to Florida precisely because the state is infested with people too old to drive safely, and unwilling to stop driving. I want kids and I don't want them squished by a geezer in a land yacht.
posted by ocschwar at 8:44 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


AnecdoteFilter: I was turning on a green arrow last week and a bicyclist cut in front of me and acted like it was my fault that I entered the intersection. FFS, stop at the red light. What are you doing entering the intersection when my green ass Subaru is flashing it's turn signal and slamming on its brakes.
Here's the thing though: If he ran into you you would not have died, and if he ran out in front of you and you ran him over he could have died or been seriously injured.

That's the difference between bicycles and cars. If you mess up while driving a car, people die. Tens of thousands a year. If you mess up while riding a bike, maybe you'll hurt yourself in an extreme case you might kill someone but that's very, very rare.

It's like saying the same rules should apply to people who own super-soakers and people own machine guns. They're just not comparable.

In any event, bicyclists are legally required to stop at red lights. But they're far probably more likely to end up dead if they ignore that rule then they are to get a ticket.
Not much talk about how the same thing needs to apply to bicyclists, or the whole thing falls down.
Again, it's like saying the same rules should apply to an AK-47 as to a super soaker. Except cars kill even more people then guns in the U.S and probably in most countries around the world.
Huh? Rest assured that I won't. You didn't actually look at the site and are arguing about something else.
Eh, a bike is way more maneuverable and smaller then a car. It's really, really easy to dodge out of the way of something on a bike, then it is in a car.
But instead it's the same old nonsense about well one time a cyclist was a jerk and blah blah blah.
There are, like, one or two people with that opinion. I realize opinions that you disagree with are much more salient then ones you agree with, but you should review the whole thread to make sure the average opinion is what you think it is.
posted by delmoi at 8:54 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


"sit home and suffer" is a perfectly reasonable suggestion

Not in this universe.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:58 PM on February 15, 2012



"sit home and suffer" is a perfectly reasonable suggestion

Not in this universe.


And "endanger everyone around you with a machine you cannot control safely" is a reasonable suggestion?

The mere fact that we're having this argument shows just how deranged we've become when it comes to transportation policy.

And it shows that I made the right decision in staying in Boston.
posted by ocschwar at 9:06 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


The mere fact that we're having this argument shows just how deranged we've become when it comes to transportation policy.

Agreed. However, I find it unreasonable to effectively confine someone to their home and remove their ability to earn a living due to poor planning choices that aren't their fault and probably go back to before they were born. This goes back to my original comment, which was that saying that people are free not to drive if they so choose a) isn't really true for a rather large majority of Americans and b) just reeks of privilege.

Boston

Known for its safe and courteous drivers.

At least there's the T.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:24 PM on February 15, 2012


Anecdote: I regularly need to swerve into traffic to pedestrians who step into crosswalks against a "Do Not Walk" signal directly in front of my bike. A bicycle without disc brakes (ie. 99% of all bikes) has a stopping distance that is actually a bit longer than a car at the same speed, and a non-zero chance of throwing the cyclist over the handlebars if you want to test those limits.

Even obeying all traffic laws, cyclists still face significant hazards from ignorant drivers and pedestrians. Don't expect cyclists to be able to stop on a dime, and respect right-of-way rules. Don't jaywalk if there's any kind of vehicle approaching, and don't step into a crosswalk if there's already a vehicle in the intersection.

Also, stop complaining about the Idaho Stop until you realize where it's applicable, and recognize how it minimizes disruption to drivers and improves safety (and sanity) for the cyclist.

I will say that about 99% of drivers are decidedly not assholes*. Keep your expectations low, watch out for the right hook, and then find a suitable target for your anger when a driver tries to sideswipe you while making a left turn while texting.

*Excluding Taxi drivers. About 99% of them are assholes. In DC, I've only seen a few drivers intentionally antagonize cyclists, and about 3/4 of those were cabbies. Also, I have half a mind to slash the tires of the next UPS truck I find parked in a bike lane on a busy street.

And, yes. We don't prosecute vehicular homicides at all in the US. If you kill someone in a construction accident, you'll face a far more severe punishment than you would if you ran them over with your car on the way to the job site.
posted by schmod at 9:30 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's the thing though: If he ran into you you would not have died, and if he ran out in front of you and you ran him over he could have died or been seriously injured.

Yeah, but in the USA, I have this thing colloquially known as Right of Way that cyclists seem to choose to ignore. Like the guy in my above anecdote who chose to violate those agreed upon rules and blame me for his rule breaking.

One of the several things that are awesome about the city I live in is that they have a ton of dedicated bike paths. How would you feel if I decided that my rights said that I can drive my Subaru on these paths and carelessly/dangerously cut people off?

Assholes will be assholes, regardless of their form of transport.

This really sums it up.

I am also talking about placing a higher onus of responsibility on the people operating the more dangerous piece of equipment, rather than the more vulnerable party

I totally agree with you, however both parties will always share a portion of the blame. As it should be. Even if an Aircraft Carrier hits a skateboard, the skateboard rider inherently shares some of the blame. Even if it's a tiny bit.

Why can't we peaceably share the same roads? Wear lights and reflective bits, behave like a vehicle and less like an entitled pedestrian, and we can meet on common ground, that is really all I'm asking for.

Why is there so much hostility? I'm a reasonable guy. Why all the hate?
posted by Sphinx at 10:16 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is there a word like "Godwin" to describe the inevitability of someone going on about how they are always seeing cyclists disobey traffic rules in any thread that so much as brushes against the subject of alternate transportation? It's like how in the comments on a local news article about some environmental initiative, some wag will chime in to point out that its supporters probably use some products that aren't entirely green themselves, and that therefore, via their tangled childhood syllogism, this delegitimizes them and argues for status quo inaction.

The subject of the article was police behaviour, not cyclists'. If there were a working investigative apparatus for dealing with car-bike collisions, presumably it would be able to determine whether the cyclist was traveling responsibly or was one of these chronic scofflaws who people keep bringing up as an argument for... for what exactly? To claim that current tolerance of negligent homicide is acceptable? Nobody ever actually comes out and makes that connection, but really, bringing up the anecdote about the cyclist that ran the stop sign that time is just non sequiteur noise otherwise. Cyclists' (and drivers') patterns of rules-adherence is not the issue in the article!

Sometimes when I read it, it comes off like a transparent attempt to diminish the stress that comes with daily operation of a deadly tool. Like the unfinished argument that goes "some of these people bike poorly, so..." is a necessary conceit the mind subconsciously develops to defend itself from the real animal horror that would comes with constant stark awareness that all it would take for you to kill a stranger slowly and gorily would be to get preoccupied or tired or a little distracted for a second.
Thing is, we all -should- be aware of that contingency, and carry it with us every moment we're behind the wheel, because that's how grown-ups comport themselves when they're operating potentially deadly tools. Why do I get the impression that gun owners are more philosophically advanced than motorists in coming to terms with this?

Either that or some of you are actually sociopaths, but there's just something about this site that makes me want to give its users the benefit of the doubt.

My stats: legal cyclist who's been commuting for ten years without anyone careening into me (on my bike anyway), but I attribute that to my a) good luck and b) constant assumption that everybody else on the road is a sixteen-year-old coming back from the club four Red Bulls and a couple vodka sodas deep, who just got the car from her defense lawyer parents as a "better luck graduating next year" present.
posted by metaman livingblog at 10:22 PM on February 15, 2012 [10 favorites]


We'll save lives by getting people off the road, not by encouraging everyone to drive and then punishing them when something goes wrong. Punishment isn't a very good deterrent if people aren't conscious that they're doing something wrong.

I see what you're saying, but I think you misunderestimate the value of punishment in persuading people certain behaviour is wrong. The best example of this is drunk driving, something nobody really had a problem with until the police started enforcing alcohol checks and the courts started punishing those caught drunk driving and especially those who caused accidents while doing so. Of course, this does mean that enforcing good behaviour by car drivers towards pedestrians and cyclists has to be a police priority, that a criminal investigation becomes mandatory for any accident that wounds or kills a pedestrian/cyclist, that there are public awareness campaigns about safe driving, undsoweiter.

Now the overwhelming majority of car drivers won't be involved in deadly accidents, but of course those are just the tip of the iceberg regarding motorist-cyclist/pedestrian interactions. If people are more aware of what can go wrong, they hopefully drive safer and pay more attention to other road users and hence reduce the number of minor accidents too.

In the Netherlands, the law is such that the motorist is automatically at fault in an accident involving non-motorists, unless it is proved otherwise, to reflect the difference in potential damage each road user can do.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:03 AM on February 16, 2012


If you want to zoom down the road in anything that goes faster than running speed, you need to be held responsible for all of your maneuvers, all of those little moves that show the difference between a good driver (who continues to have the privilege of using the public roads) and a bad driver (who loses that privilege).

Electronics are cheap and always getting cheaper. The goal should be that all road vehicles (including bicycles, which should not be allowed on sidewalks) will eventually need to carry black boxes and transponders. These things need to intercommunicate, so the bike knows there's a truck about to swing right and the truck knows there's a bike zooming up behind. Between the two of them, the truck driver and the bicyclist should be able to receive appropriate alerts and respond before someone is hurt. If someone is hurt anyway, the black boxes should show what happened, and each black box should know the license plate of every vehicle involved. Cops wouldn't be able to say there's no proof of what happened and who's to blame.

The black boxes would also show your insurance company how much you should be paying for your insurance: if you regularly run stop signs, exceed the speed limit, and race through crosswalks and past schools, you would find yourself unable to insure your vehicle. They could adjust your insurance rates monthly based partly on that month's driving, and then send you a bill or refund immediately, so you'd be getting useful feedback on your driving.
posted by pracowity at 2:06 AM on February 16, 2012


Cambria Gordon, also known as Cami Gordon, wife of 24 creator Howard Gordon, got only 6 months probation and 360 hours community service for killing a pedestrian with her car while she reached down to pick up her cellphone from the floor.

posted by GregorWill at 2:43 AM on February 16, 2012


Why the fuck are we arguing about who to blame? I thought the article was about reducing traffic deaths. That means a change in policy toward traffic deaths, mostly accidental ones. Sometimes, a court may have to decide which individual involved in an accident is at fault, and sometimes, that decision will be hard to make; but I don't see anyone proposing to just assume that the driver of the heavier vehicle is always at fault, nor the lighter one, nor the pedestrian.

Although they do that in Tokyo. In accidents where only one party is in a car, that one's at fault. It makes drivers very concerned about their behavior.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:39 AM on February 16, 2012


if you don't like greater responsibilities that come with car driving, you can not drive a car.

I bike to work every day when it's over 20 degrees, and then I take the T, but I have to point out that this statement is simply not true for 90% of the US.
posted by Aizkolari at 5:30 AM on February 16, 2012


Again, it's like saying the same rules should apply to an AK-47 as to a super soaker. Except cars kill even more people then guns in the U.S and probably in most countries around the world.

Slight derail: I bet this could be a good development metric to track for countries coming out of civil wars or other insurgencies. As soon as more people are dying from cars than guns or explosions, you're starting to do better for yourselves.
posted by Aizkolari at 5:41 AM on February 16, 2012


this statement is simply not true for 90% of the US.

I understand that in a practical sense, it would be an absurd imposition to expect most American car drivers to stop driving cars. My point is just that driving a car is still a choice rather than a question of identity like sex or race or orientation; it's therefore not in principle discriminatory for a law, or its enforcers, to demand a higher standard of drivers than of cyclists.
posted by oliverburkeman at 5:45 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also re: this conversation about people should be expected to have a sense of responsibility when it comes to driving...

...it shouldn't be too much to ask for people not to drive homicidally. Research shows that using your cell phone while driving makes you more at risk for a crash than being drunk. Yet people still do it - "Oh, sure, it's dangerous, but I'm a good driver."

No, I'm sorry, you ought not do that, and you ought to get a greater punishment than 6 months probation and 360 hours community service for killing somebody through your negligence.

Even if you live somewhere with bad transit options!

What the fuck is this conversation?!

People die!
posted by entropone at 5:51 AM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


"It’s the sixth largest standing army in the world, it has officers stationed in scores of foreign nations and it can shoot down small aircraft. The question for us today is if its officers can do more to keep New Yorkers safe on our own streets and deter drivers from killing hundreds and injuring thousands of innocent people every year?"

Hold on. Go back to the part about foreign nations and shooting down planes. What?
posted by odinsdream at 5:51 AM on February 16, 2012



The mere fact that we're having this argument shows just how deranged we've become when it comes to transportation policy.

Agreed. However, I find it unreasonable to effectively confine someone to their home and remove their ability to earn a living due to poor planning choices that aren't their fault and probably go back to before they were born.


No, this is confining someone to their home because they cannot drive without putting the rest of us in danger. I.e. perfectly reasonable.
posted by ocschwar at 6:06 AM on February 16, 2012


Not only that, but this is how the NYPD park.

Thanks for ruining our neighborhoods.


Okay, I'll accept that I may have just missed/fallen for it, but... that was a joke, right? I mean, you're making a joke in complaining that NYPD cars are parked and station spots are designed so cars can immediately dispatch instead of backing out or negotiating a parallel, correct?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:09 AM on February 16, 2012


No, it's not a joke, and no, they're not parked in station spots. They're illegally parked on the sidewalk, usually for like two blocks around a station. more. And it's not an isolated incident. And, for the most part, this isn't parking for vehicles that are getting dispatched, it's parking for cops' personal vehicles during their shift.
posted by entropone at 6:14 AM on February 16, 2012


I am an avid biker now that I moved to South Florida. I lived in NYC for 23 years where I did not own a car. I walked and took the subway everywhere I went. I also go for frequent walks in suburban South Florida too-hot weather permitting, where pedestrians are almost unseen.

I have never been hit, or almost hit except for instances where I was being negligent.

I also commute via car 30 miles per day, and do service work all around South Florida. I have put over 50,000 miles on my car in less than two years.

I have never been hit, or hit someone except for instances where I was being negligent.

I am a jaywalker and a bicyclist who does not obey red lights. I do however, obey the laws of physics which state that an object of X mass traveling at Y speed will kill or maim me. I respect THAT law far more than some self righteous "But I had the right of WAY"argument.

I do personally know people who have been struck repeatedly by cars as pedestrians or on their bikes, and I don't think it's at all coincidental that these people also make terrible drivers. People who don't pay attention while out and about just don't pay attention... it doesn't matter if they're behind the wheel, walking, or riding a bicycle.
posted by Debaser626 at 6:38 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


However, due to the past six decades (give or take) of truly atrocious planning, a majority of Americans have no other workable options.

Yeah, there's no arguing that transportation planning has been stupid. City employees from the mayor on down should be required to live in the city and take city transportation to and from work, but of course the people who would be required to implement such a rule are the city employees who would be against it. That "atrocious planning" was made by people who drive cars, who intend to always drive cars, and who don't give a rat's ass about public transportation and the people who depend on it.

Nonetheless, most major cities do offer bus and train service. (Here is a map for Orlando, FL - PDF.) When you choose a home in one of those cities, you make a decision about the kind of transportation you can use. If you choose not to live near enough to a decent bus stop or train station, you choose not to use, support, and promote public transportation.
posted by pracowity at 6:52 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I do personally know people who have been struck repeatedly by cars as pedestrians or on their bikes, and I don't think it's at all coincidental that these people also make terrible drivers. People who don't pay attention while out and about just don't pay attention... it doesn't matter if they're behind the wheel, walking, or riding a bicycle.

What the fuck are you talking about? Go back and read the article, and then read the comments.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:51 AM on February 16, 2012


Hmm. I'm a person with dyspraxia, which means that my ability to drive is somewhat impaired. When I lived in Europe I biked everywhere, which was kind of a miracle to me. I can't imagine doing that here. Bicycle infrastructure in the US seems to be built for jocks, you know the super-coordinated athletic folks. Not me. It's not safe for me to ride in a painted-on bike line or on a road with cars. It's really not that safe for anyone. And it bizarrely makes bikes a menace to people like me trying to cross the street since it's basically anarchy for bikes in the US. It's freaking hard enough for me to cross certain intersections where there is a "walk" sign , but cares are turning into the walk lane. Add in bicycles that don't stop and it's even more miserable.

This has forced me to understand why the elderly people in Park Slope protested against bike lanes. People are going to be hostile to bikes as long as the environment makes them a menace. We need REAL bike lanes, not painted-on crap, that allows ALL kinds of people to ride, not just athletic young people. And they need their own traffic signals (with places to lean on when you have to stop) to drive in the fact that bicycles are legitimate forms of traffic.

The US is absolutely hell for anyone who can't drive or can't drive well. And as the population ages, that group of people is going to grow. It's all about poorly funded public transportation, infrastructure that makes being a pedestrian hellish, and lack of legitimate bicycle infrastructure.
posted by melissam at 8:38 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


[At this point if you can not talk about this topic without hurling invectives at people or turning this into the same boring cars vs bikes argument please take a walk and come back when you can. Thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:52 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


My point is just that driving a car is still a choice

In the same way that having a job is a choice, yes.

No, this is confining someone to their home because they cannot drive without putting the rest of us in danger. I.e. perfectly reasonable.

Keep beating that straw man.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:25 AM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just because we have developed the built environment the same way for 50-60 years does not mean we need to do so for the end of time.

Here's my anecdote for the thread: In the 90s, I lived in a bike-friendly college town. Like many people, I indulged in the dreaded "Idaho stop." The one time I was hit by a car was also one of the few times I came to a full and complete stop at a four-way stop sign. If I had not stopped due to the LEOs in an adjacent parking lot (there were no cars stopped at the intersection that would have had the right of way), I would not have been shoved to the ground by the car going the opposite way that did not stop for the sign. The driver, BTW, was driving on a suspended license. Fuck cars.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:37 AM on February 16, 2012


They're illegally parked on the sidewalk, usually for like two blocks around a station.

The police in my city will often park in a bike lane when a perfectly reasonable - and legal - parking spot (or other place where they are permitted to stop) or two is open right nearby.

They should really be called "bike (or until we need them for something else) lanes". In the winter here, they use them for the snowbanks.

I also was nearly struck by a cop running a red light across me while I biking straight through on a green in a bike lane last summer (along one of the major cycling arteries in the city). He or she DID put on his or her lights halfway through, so I guess that that counts as legal?

When a BBC statistics thing, cataloguing every death on every road in the UK from 1999 - 2000 was posted on Metafilter awhile ago, I was struck (no pun intended) by the link that there seemed to be between cyclists who were determined to be at fault for a crash and previous criminal histories (under "Did You Know" tab "Dangerous Driving"), second only to truck drivers in how often they have criminal histories, which researchers believe may make someone more predisposed to maneuver a vehicle in a dangerous manner. I wonder how much relation that has to how (and perhaps why?) some people cycle with no apparent regard for other road users. There certainly aren't the same impediments to picking up and riding a bike as there are trying to do the same thing with a car (to say nothing of economic impediments) and when considering the ride share of bicycles versus cars, it may carry some significance.

(Which is not at all to victim blame or to point out any inherent predisposition in cyclists to behave dangerously, but an interesting correlation for sure.)
posted by urbanlenny at 10:43 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a bicyclist and moped rider, I've had cars SWERVE AT ME AND TRY TO RUN ME OVER because, you know, im not driving a car. That's attempted murder - every time I wish I had a handgun to empty into them.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:49 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


What the fuck are you talking about? Go back and read the article, and then read the comments.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:51 AM on February 16 [+] [!]


Ok... now what?
posted by Debaser626 at 11:13 AM on February 16, 2012


@one more dead town

To me it seems as though you are the one beating the dead horse.

Taking away someone's license anywhere in the USA for some time is a reasonable response to repeated or egregiously bad driving. Anywhere in the USA, it doesn't force you to walk, ride a bike, or use public transit, nor does it force you to stay at home. You might need to ask friends or family members for rides, or get a taxi(which is available in many small towns), but you can get around without driving yourself everywhere in the USA. Poor people, young people, disabled people and the elderly do it everyday. If you have demonstrated that you don't safely operate a motor vehicle, it is not ridiculous that you be prohibited from driving yourself for some period of time. If this were enforced more often, maybe we would have more sane transportation priorities in the USA, because people would be forced to realize what an incredible privilege driving a motor vehicle is, and take more care when doing so.
posted by GregorWill at 11:20 AM on February 16, 2012


you can get around without driving yourself everywhere in the USA

Not without spending vastly more time, vastly more money, or, for most of the land area of the U.S., vastly more time and money. Extra time and money are luxuries most Americans don't have, so this claim is false for most Americans.

To me it seems as though you are the one beating the dead horse.

No. My initial statement in this thread—that it reeks of privilege to say you can just not drive a car if you don't want to—stands pretty well on its own. Saying that you can just move, or just find a better job, or whatever, shows you don't know how most people in North America actually live.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:33 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


No. My initial statement in this thread—that it reeks of privilege to say you can just not drive a car if you don't want to—stands pretty well on its own. Saying that you can just move, or just find a better job, or whatever, shows you don't know how most people in North America actually live.

No. Your initial statement in this thread--that Americans need to be able to drive, no matter how poorly they understand the privilege inherit in such an act--is ridiculous.

And your statement shows that you don't know the privilege that you have--not knowing how many in the US don't have the money or ability to drive a car, and are stuck bumming it with friends or family, or riding a bicycle along dangerous roads for half an hour or more to work.

Not without spending vastly more time, vastly more money, or, for most of the land area of the U.S., vastly more time and money

Yes, not being allowed to drive is a punishment. It is a punishment that should be meted out more often in the USA.
posted by GregorWill at 11:52 AM on February 16, 2012


Your initial statement in this thread--that Americans need to be able to drive, no matter how poorly they understand the privilege inherit in such an act--is ridiculous.

That was not my initial statement in this thread, no matter how much you want it to be.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:57 AM on February 16, 2012


I am not understanding the implied correlation being made above between having "no choice" but to drive and socio-economic status, especially when studies commonly link poor mobility and poverty. So, in fact, having enough money to own and regularly drive a car in the first place (and US census numbers estimate that the average person in the US spends nearly 20% of their income on transportation) is coming from a position of "privilege".

In my experience, anyway, all of the people who regularly make the excuse that they don't have any other option but to drive a car lack not options, but imagination. They're too busy making excuses to not bike (or take public transportation) to actually bike or take public transportation. As such, they also tend to "other" people who do bike because of how foreign a concept it is to them. I suspect that that's one of the things going on with the discrepancy in enforcement: cops don't tend to ride bikes.
posted by urbanlenny at 12:16 PM on February 16, 2012


Throughout the thread you seem to be against the idea that car drivers need to understand and respect the privilege that comes with driving a car, and against the idea of suspending drivers licenses for any reason.
posted by GregorWill at 12:18 PM on February 16, 2012


Sorry, that should be:

In my experience, anyway, all most of the people who regularly make the excuse that they don't have any other option but to drive a car lack not options, but imagination.

FTFM ;)
posted by urbanlenny at 12:20 PM on February 16, 2012


GregorWill: " You might need to ask friends or family members for rides, or get a taxi(which is available in many small towns), but you can get around without driving yourself everywhere in the USA. Poor people, young people, disabled people and the elderly do it everyday. "

As someone who lives in Maine, I can tell you that this is a load of shit.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:29 PM on February 16, 2012


@dunkadunc

I don't understand. So in Maine you can't get around without driving yourself? People don't have friends or family they can ask for rides? There is no taxi service anywhere? Everyone in Maine drives themselves everywhere? Even children? Severely disabled? Multiple DUI? Elderly? No extremely poor people who can't afford a car?
posted by GregorWill at 12:45 PM on February 16, 2012


South Florida has "public transportation." I put that in quotes, because when I came down I had no job and had to use it. Due to a situation I idiotically put myself in, I arrived with absolutely nothing, no money and no food.

I very quickly abandoned the idea of getting a career furthering job, and literally pounded the pavement looking for work. I walked until my feet bled, so desperate I was to work. As I was applying for everything and anything, I kept hearing the same thing: "Do you have reliable transportation?" I figured once I procured a job, I would be able to get someone to loan me money to ride the bus, borrow a bike, or call around for rides, so I pretty much said: "I can be here on time." On a few occasions this led to the CAR question, and I was informed that getting rides, Palm Tran (a South Florida bus company), and a bicycle were not considered to be reliable transportation. Within a short while, I began to see why. People flake out on you, ask for $5 per trip in gas (not doable on a $200 per week after tax paycheck), as far as a bike, it rains so unpredictably during the summer and it freaking POURS when it does come down....and my God the HEAT, +110 Heat Index and high humidity, plus a 15 mile ride in a work uniform? No thanks. Palm Tran does exist, but it is an underfunded and little used form of transportation. Buses come twice an hour during the day, and if you are a distance away from important stops (malls, train stations, etc.) where they recalibrate their schedules, the bus can show up anywhere from 15 minutes early to not at all. It also pretty much ceases running after 7 PM, so good luck if you're working late. Taxis, I took once, and only once. Being that everything is so far away, it was something like $40 for the ride from home to work, which translated into most of my pay for that day.

All of that said, I know people who have lost their privilege to drive for years and years (and it is a privilege, something I thank this thread for reminding me), and their lives are incredibly smaller and more difficult than someone who has a car. But they made extremely poor decisions through an insane amount of DWIs and accidents, and I help out where I can to give them rides because of where I have been.

Back to the article, It's not murder, it's ego or carelessness. "This is my space, get out of it" from the people driving and those struck. The city planners can do a better job of protecting us from us, with better roads, paths, and funding for transportation, but good luck getting that done. This isn't A1A with the Spandex wearing $6,000 bike owning riders. We're talking a busy 3-lane highway, with the 20 poor people on their $75 Huffys vs. the thousands and thousands of cars who traverse that same roadway bearing all types of people. Pay attention, whether you're driving, walking or biking.... Don't expect anyone to stop for you. Wave and smile if they do, and brighten their day. Walk away if they don't. Be aware of your surroundings and what people are doing/not doing around you, not what the law states is right. I'd much rather be happy (and alive) than right.
posted by Debaser626 at 1:30 PM on February 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


In my experience, anyway, all of the people who regularly make the excuse that they don't have any other option but to drive a car lack not options, but imagination. They're too busy making excuses to not bike (or take public transportation) to actually bike or take public transportation. As such, they also tend to "other" people who do bike because of how foreign a concept it is to them. I suspect that that's one of the things going on with the discrepancy in enforcement: cops don't tend to ride bikes.

Hmm, have you really ever lived in middle America? I was at a meeting with some other Dyspraxics in Chicago and we were talking about how enormously lucky we are because a lot of people who live in exurbia or rural areas are almost homebound. I feel somewhat mobile in Chicago, but there is no way for me to get to my company's office in the exurbs (I am primarily a telecommuter, but I need to go out there about once a month) without mooching off a coworker. When I plug into Google Maps for directions it says "Your search for transit directions from X to Y appears to be outside our current coverage area."

I was also visiting some family in the Gulf Coast recently and I basically couldn't go anywhere on my own either. I like to think I have a lot of imagination too. Sometimes I take a car service, but it's quite expensive.

So for someone like me, if I want to be able to be independent, I have to live in one of the US's few cities with decent public transportation. And even then, my quality of life is slightly impaired because of miserable pedestrian infrastructure and poor transit coverage to certain neighborhoods. In Europe I never felt like a second-class citizen, but here I sometimes feel like I'm not even a real adult. I'm now enrolled in a rehabilitative driving program for people with various disorders. It's honestly a little scary that people like us are so desperate to drive, people who have had strokes, just gotten out of comas, lost an eye, or are completely deaf. I don't think we'd be in the class if we felt we could live a full life without driving, but sometimes I feel like it's unfair for us to be out there on the road.
posted by melissam at 1:42 PM on February 16, 2012


Hmm, have you really ever lived in middle America?

I'm Canadian, so no. I do live in the fourth-largest city in Canada (and am from the third-largest, Vancouver), though, and am referring the experiences I have had in those cities, both of which have pretty good public transportation and increasingly good cycling infrastructure.

I don't think that enough people really realize (and embrace!) how much of a choice they DO have in where they live. Last year I spent $450 on transportation (including any bike repair, taxis and the bus), which is way, way, way less than 20% of my income and leaves a lot of money left over to spend on where I live (which is not really that expensive either). I chose to live where I do; other people - but obviously not all - do have the ability to make that choice consciously as well, but most are unable to do the math on how much that cheaper house in the suburbs costs them when they factor in the cost of transportation over all the years they have to continue to commute to work. If you figure that the average person (not household) in the US is spending 20% of their income (at an average of $8758 per year) on transportation per year, that single person over their say, 30 years of working can spend around $262,740 on transportation, which is almost as much as the average new house price in 2010 in the US. And that's just for a single member of a household - think of a dual-income family.

Is it feasible, affordable, practical etc for everyone? Definitely not; I'm not saying that. Is it feasible, affordable, practical for a heck of a lot more people than are currently doing it? Definitely.
posted by urbanlenny at 2:11 PM on February 16, 2012


I don't understand. So in Maine you can't get around without driving yourself? People don't have friends or family they can ask for rides? There is no taxi service anywhere? Everyone in Maine drives themselves everywhere? Even children? Severely disabled? Multiple DUI? Elderly? No extremely poor people who can't afford a car?

Yes, that's what I'm saying. You can't get around or exist in Maine without driving yourself. You clearly haven't been here.

Many people do not, in fact, have friends or family they can ask for rides. Other people have to work. The distances are often great. Schedules don't match.

There is no taxi service, unless you want to pay for one to come in from the city fifty miles away. Working people can't afford that. There is no public transportation. The economy is absolutely shot, something they do everything they can to hide from you if you go to a Disneyland like Bar Harbor or Old Orchard Beach.

The severely disabled are homebound, and don't get out.
People with multiple DUIs end up not able to work, have to move away, end up homeless, or just fade away.

The elderly drive, even they shouldn't. There's lots of old people with huge dark glasses going 25 in a 50 because they can't stay on the road if they go any faster. It sucks, but there aren't any other options for them.

Yes, everyone in Maine drives themselves everywhere. It really stinks, it's a complete failure on the part of our government that we don't have walkable communities* and public transportation, but yes. It's like that.

*the death of our walkable communities, by the way, is largely due to people from the eastern metropolis buying up the houses in town centers for summer homes. you lose the critical mass of working-class year-round people and the community dies. there goes the store, the gas station, the post office, the boat shop, the garage. it might be pretty and picturesque, but nobody really lives there anymore. everyone lives in spread-out houses across town and has to drive 15 miles to buy groceries. if you can't drive, you can't live.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:26 PM on February 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's all well and good to think of the poor people in Maine who have to drive everywhere, but the article was about New York City. There's no excuse for the NYPD to fail to prosecute people who kill its citizens. If the perpetrators are New Yorkers, they can learn to love the subway. If they're not, then a PSA campaign should warn people entering the city that "dangerous driving will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law", and visitors can choose to drive carefully or not at all. In any case, NYC shouldn't put up with dangerous drivers just because someone in Maine needs to drive to work.

Perhaps we need a graduated licensing system where bad drivers can be banned from driving in dense urban areas.
posted by alexei at 2:45 PM on February 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Why is there so much hostility? I'm a reasonable guy. Why all the hate?
posted by Sphinx at 1:16 AM on February 16 [1 favorite +] [!]

you've gotta be kidding me.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 3:05 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's why drivers get away with murder in NYC.

...

I've long understood that the best way to kill someone in Oregon and not go to jail is to run them over while sober and claim you didn't see them.

Not just NYC, not just Oregon, it's everywhere in America. Shameful.

Victims have to resort to civil litigation to see any sort of justice, and that's a very different sort.

My number zero rule for biking in New York is to take a lane.

Again, not just NYC. Take the lane everywhere.

If I'm on a motorcycle, I have to stop at red lights. Why don't bicyclists?

Cars and motorcycles are made to stop and start. Bicycles are not.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:03 PM on February 16, 2012


Yesterday: van runs over a man with a cane in a crosswalk. No citation issued.
posted by alexei at 4:26 PM on February 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes, I was almost killed by a taxi and while two people were cited, no one was even ticketed. I'll refrain from sharing details until my case winds its way through litigation, but it's a shitty, shitty system for enforcing laws against dangerous activity by car and truck drivers.

You can't mindlessly operate a deadly weapon and get off with "oh, sorry, it was an accident."

Yesterday: van runs over a man with a cane in a crosswalk. No citation issued.

I know trigger warnings are passe, but if you've been in a bone-breaking car-on-pedestrian accident recently, you may want to skip the video.
posted by mrgrimm at 6:03 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anecdote: I regularly need to swerve into traffic to pedestrians who step into crosswalks against a "Do Not Walk" signal directly in front of my bike.

True story: A couple weeks ago I was riding my bike home from work. In a bike lane, approaching a major intersection. The light was red and there were 3 or so cars stopped at the light headed in the same direction as me. A woman suddenly opens the passenger door of one of the stopped cars and gets out, into the bike lane.

Now, I was already slowing down for the red and far enough away that I saw this coming. So I modified my speed assuming she would cross the bike lane and get over to the sidewalk.

In the meantime, the light turned green. But instead of getting out of the bike lane, she started walking IN it, in the same direction as me, without once glancing behind her to see if there was anyone coming. Not only that, the bike lane sort of merges into a right turn lane for cars, so after a few steps she was actually walking in a lane of traffic with no regard to that fact.

So I've been making an effort to be less of an asshole cyclist, so rather than yell "HEADS UP!", I decided to nicely say, "Excuse me ma'am, you're in a bike lane." Really, I said it in as nice a tone as I could. Her response was to get this snarky defensive look on her face, pause, snort, and say,

"Well, so are you!"

o.O

The police in my city will often park in a bike lane when a perfectly reasonable - and legal - parking spot (or other place where they are permitted to stop) or two is open right nearby.

I pass a fire station on my bike commute to work every morning. I would say about 80% of the time, there is someone's personal car parked in the bike lane in front of the station. It's a busy, downtown, poorly-maintained, one-way street and this forces me to have to merge into traffic to get around it. Pretty much every day. I have considered saying something to the guys, but I feel like they're fire fighters and they're heroes and how dare I complain about their behavior so I don't.
posted by misskaz at 7:43 PM on February 16, 2012


More maiming today in Toronto, Canada. Two people waiting by the crosswalk were mangled by tumbling car wreckage from a speeder <> left turn collision.

And it's summarized as an "accident", it's bottom-page news, and two people may never walk again. Nothing like that time some bike rider knocked a pedestrian down.

Metaman's subconscious defense angle makes perfect sense here.
posted by anthill at 7:19 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


derp
posted by anthill at 7:20 AM on February 17, 2012


Bus driver 'used vehicle as a weapon' to ram cyclist off road

Wonder what would have happened had this not been filmed on CCTV?
posted by setanor at 9:48 AM on February 17, 2012


Update on the story of the van driver who ran over the man in the crosswalk: after significant public outcry, the police have agreed to give him a ticket.

Yeah.
posted by alexei at 1:48 AM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


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