biker down – Bike Intelligencer http://bikeintelligencer.com All bike, all the time Wed, 11 Nov 2015 18:11:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Rider Down: How to kill a cyclist and not be charged … http://bikeintelligencer.com/2010/08/rider-down-how-to-kill-a-cyclist-and-not-be-charged/ http://bikeintelligencer.com/2010/08/rider-down-how-to-kill-a-cyclist-and-not-be-charged/#comments Mon, 30 Aug 2010 15:34:33 +0000 http://bikeintelligencer.com/?p=4345 Words do mean something...

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Good idea: Offer a reward for info about a hit-and-run bicycle death.

Bad idea: Suggest that drivers who kill cyclists will not be charged as long as they stop to report the incident.

From The Oklahoman, today’s winner of cycling-insensitive prose.

The day after Spencer’s [hit-and-run] death, [another] bicyclist Clyde Riggs was struck and killed by a car while riding in the 5100 block of E Britton Road. That motorist stopped, and no charges were filed.

Entire story here.

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Unexplained Rider Down: What killed Jan Lipson? http://bikeintelligencer.com/2010/07/unexplained-rider-down-what-killed-jan-lipson/ http://bikeintelligencer.com/2010/07/unexplained-rider-down-what-killed-jan-lipson/#comments Tue, 20 Jul 2010 19:03:01 +0000 http://bikeintelligencer.com/?p=3894 Will anyone care enough to investigate the real cause of Jan Lipson's accident?

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A 59-year-old cyclist died — according to the San Jose Mercury News — “after losing control of his bicycle and colliding into a tree on Highway 9.”

We wonder if the adjective “apparently” might be judiciously added here.

The truth is that, without eyewitness accounts, it’s impossible to say so glibly and quickly what might have happened here. Mechanical problems (bike frame failure, flat tire, equipment lockup)? Swerving to avoid an errant motorist? Pavement issues (pothole, oil)?

Why bother to ask? Because the victim was an experienced cyclist described as a “brilliant” and inventive high-energy physicist. At the time of his death, Lipson was chairman and chief technical officer of C8 MediSensors in San Jose (which a Google search reveals to be something of a mystery itself).

Normally in a transportation fatality, a situation like this would be ripe for forensics investigation. Since it’s a lone cyclist, however, we wonder if there will be any investigation at all.

UPDATE: “As of Monday, authorities did not know what caused Lipson to lose control of his road bicycle. Lipson was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, according to CHP Officer Brandie Dressel.”

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Rider Down: Why it’s always the cyclist’s fault http://bikeintelligencer.com/2010/05/rider-down-why-its-always-the-cyclists-fault/ http://bikeintelligencer.com/2010/05/rider-down-why-its-always-the-cyclists-fault/#comments Thu, 27 May 2010 16:04:49 +0000 http://bikeintelligencer.com/?p=3225 A subtle but ingrained bias against cyclists governs how police, the justice system and media treat car-bike accidents.

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It’s funny how these things happen in bunches. A couple of days ago we suggested, after charges were dropped against an Ottowa official who killed a cyclist, that the prosecutor had decided there was no case because the cyclist at the time had been dying under the influence. That is, his blood alcohol level exceeded the allowable limit — for drivers.

Aftermath of Toronto cycling fatality last September — Toronto Star/Pawel Dwulit

If only the cyclist had refrained from drinking before he was rammed to death hanging onto the hood of the vehicle for dear life — well then, justice might have been served. As it is, the cyclist has been convicted posthumously of all sorts of crimes.

Our point, of course, was to show the subtle and ingrained bias against cyclists in our society. Say that driver had killed a pedestrian in the crosswalk in front of his Saab, and it later turned out the walker had been drinking. Obviously the driver would have to be exonerated, and the pedestrian got what he deserved.

The Montreal case’s tortured reasoning was still resonating when we ran across the following headline: “Man riding mountain bike hits car.” It turns out that a cyclist riding along a sidewalk apparently went to cross the street without realizing that a car was turning into the exact place he was riding. This is what is normally called a collision. If two cars hit each other in an intersection, it’s assumed that till things get sorted out, the fault has yet to be determined. We cannot recall seeing a headline stating, “Man driving car hits van,” because such headline would imply that the car driver was at fault.

But it gets worse. The cyclist “hit the passenger-side front end of the car, breaking the windshield with his arm.” Compounding his assault on the car’s front end, then, the cyclist also had the temerity to karate chop the windshield.

To extend its bias to its logical conclusion, the headline should have read: “Man riding mountain bike hits car, uses arm to break windshield, and has poor taste to bleed all over everything.”

Unfortunately, the cyclist did not die on the spot, causing the driver what will undoubtedly be the huge inconvenience of a lot of paperwork. Meanwhile, drivers everywhere feel less safe around cyclists, cowering in fear that a bike will come out of nowhere to attack their cars.

Before the inbox starts choking, the issue here is not whether the cyclist was at fault in the incidents. We do not condone drinking and riding, and although biking on sidewalks is usually legal, it can be unwise.

The issue here is the characterization of the accidents to lead the reader to believe that the cyclist was automatically at fault. Especially when 38 million American drivers lack the knowledge to pass a written driving test.

In our experience, if there is the slightest suspicion that the cyclist caused the accident, police and media have no qualms about making the call almost immediately. It’s only when the driver is clearly, beyond reasonable doubt, at fault, that “the case remains under investigation.” An investigation that typically lasts months and is all but forgotten by the time it is closed. (There are exceptions — to the “forgotten” part at least.)

If you doubt this principle, consider what happened in Ionia, Michigan, where an 8-year-old girl “died Tuesday after she rode her bicycle into an intersection and was struck by a car, police said.”

To their credit, the police stopped short of saying she “struck the car.” Still, the wording suggests that if only the girl had not chosen to ride into an intersection, all would be well. Her fatal decision was to ride a bicycle where a car also happened to be.

Undoubtedly in the four hours or so between the accident and the news report, the police wrapped up their investigation in record time. Girl on bike. Driver in car. Must’ve been the girl’s fault. Mark it an 8, Dude.

Not all hope is lost, however. In Illinois a judge handed out a 9-year sentence to a driver who killed a 65-year-old cyclist. And a Santa Clara (CA) County district attorney won a vehicular manslaughter case against a driver who had killed a cyclist, then tried to alter the evidence to cover up culpability.

Moreover, from across the pond comes a report, “Aspiring model hurled into barbed wire fence after car runs her bicycle off the road.”

Now there’s a headline for you. And the photos ain’t pretty either.

At least we now know what it takes to get a fair shake in a bike accident: 1. Be an aspiring model (or actress, or newscaster or whatever. Just look good, OK?). 2. Get sliced to ribbons. Makes for wonderful photo ops. 3. Most of all, don’t die.

Because if you do, there will be only one version of what happened. And it won’t be yours.

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What Happened in Quebec? http://bikeintelligencer.com/2010/05/what-happened-in-quebec/ http://bikeintelligencer.com/2010/05/what-happened-in-quebec/#comments Sat, 15 May 2010 15:03:17 +0000 http://bikeintelligencer.com/?p=3053 Mystery surrounds a pickup-cyclist tragedy, but at least the rider's version will get told.

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A pickup collided south of Montreal with a group of six triathletes riding to a training event, killing three. One headline called the accident “incomprehensible,” but anyone who rides extensively knows it’s hardly that.

Far from incomprehensible, tragedies like this usually involve substance abuse, or road rage, or driver error. These were experienced cyclists riding together, not a solo rider who may not have known what he or she was doing.

It’s possible that the cyclists initiated the accident. Perhaps they got tangled up and crashed and the motorist couldn’t avoid them. Coverage mentions an unpaved shoulder along the route.

But in most cases, if cyclists were to blame, the driver would’ve pointed the finger at them right from the start, and so far none of the coverage has suggested that.

What does set this incident apart is that the driver was a volunteer fire fighter who gave first aid at the scene.

Alcohol was not involved, police said.

It would appear, given the humanitarian actions of the driver, that road rage was not involved.

That means something went tragically wrong. Hopefully we’ll find out exactly what. Police investigations often take months and get forgotten in the process.

One good thing: At least they did not all die. That means we’ll have someone else’s version of the accident than the driver’s.

Meanwhile, in England an unrepentant road rager faces at least 13 years in jail for mowing down a cyclist and then saying he was more concerned about damage to his car than the death of a rider.

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Another Bike Rider Down http://bikeintelligencer.com/2009/02/another-bike-rider-down/ http://bikeintelligencer.com/2009/02/another-bike-rider-down/#respond Fri, 13 Feb 2009 15:21:16 +0000 http://bikeintelligencer.wordpress.com/?p=27 Ballard News-Tribune tribute to a road racer and commuter, Kevin Black, who was killed riding on 24th Avenue Northwest in Ballard the morning of Feb. 5. It’s still unclear what exactly happened, and we’ll update you as the police conclude their investigation. Riding in any metro area is perilous, but my observation from years of […]

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Ballard News-Tribune tribute to a road racer and commuter, Kevin Black, who was killed riding on 24th Avenue Northwest in Ballard the morning of Feb. 5.

It’s still unclear what exactly happened, and we’ll update you as the police conclude their investigation. Riding in any metro area is perilous, but my observation from years of commuting is that the roads are more dangerous today. A number of factors contribute, but the overall issue is impatience. People are in too much of a hurry and make snap decisions while driving. Partly this is because drivers, especially younger ones, feel invulnerable due to air bags. They know they can walk away from any accident, no matter what happens to the pedestrian or bicyclist or other vehicle they hit.

In general I’ve found Seattle drivers to be mostly courteous and accommodating when it comes to cyclists. But I’ve also had my share of close calls and just plain rudeness. The goal as I once put it: To become uninvisible. Kevin Black fell tragically short on that one.

We could all do with slowing down — cyclists included.

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