Friday, April 22, 2016

Ramming Speed Friday: Happy? Earth Day Edition

This past Sunday cyclist David Cassidy was struck and killed by an SUV on Paris Pike outside of Lexington.  While tragic in itself Cassidy was friends and riding partner with Mark Hinkel who was struck and killed almost a year ago by a drunk driver.
Right off the bat I’m going to say if you want to blame either of these men for their own deaths you need your head checked.  And your heart.  They were human beings.  If you’re going to turn the fact that they were cyclists into some politically slanted diatribe or some crass capitalist propaganda then I have no polite words for you, and I think you really need to take a long look at yourself before you continue to interact with other human beings.
I didn’t know either one of them, but likely I’ve passed or been passed by them on some big organized ride in the Bluegrass region.  I’ve been in their shoes.  Well, right up until the last second of their lives.  I have had many close calls on the road while riding my bike.  I ride responsibly.  I obey the laws for the most part.  And I am hyper alert when I’m on the bike.  I ride strategically to prevent motorists from pushing me into dangerous situations, and I avoid dangerous circumstances if at all possible.  And I’d still been clipped twice by cars and nearly killed more times than I can count.  And that’s not melodrama or exaggeration.  I’ve had to pull over on my bike and stop riding until I was able to compose myself and move on down the road after being buzzed, cut off, and (in some cases) intentionally intimidated by some motorist.
Kentucky is one of the unhealthiest states in the nation.  Yes, we have narrow and curvy roads.  The argument goes that our roads are not safe for cyclists because motorists come around blind curves and over hills and hit cyclists before they can see them.  When I was learning to drive my father drilled into my young and dumb skull that if I were to hit something with the car I was driving it would be my fault.  The default answer to every one of my hypotheticals was “you were driving too fast for the conditions.”  A deer jumps out?  You should know deer could jump out and slow down to anticipate it.  A car stops suddenly in front of me?  I shouldn’t have been following so close.  I come upon a slow moving cyclist in a blind curve?  I shouldn’t have been driving so fast on a curvy road with poor sight lines.
Morally the motorist has a greater obligation to watch out for more vulnerable users.  Of course cyclists and pedestrians should not behave irresponsibly.  But how many times are cyclists and pedestrians doing everything they’re supposed to be doing to obey the law and are stuck and killed by motorists?  Too often. 
The problem is truly a car problem.  Sure, a cyclist could crash into a pedestrian or another cyclist and kill them, but that’s far less likely than the damage motor vehicles inflict upon cyclists and pedestrians on a daily basis in our world.  Even rarer would be the case of a pedestrian bumping into another pedestrian on a sidewalk and seriously injuring or killing them.  It just doesn’t happen often enough to warrant expending brain power on arguing the “danger” pedestrians and cyclists pose to the rest of the world.  Motor vehicles and their operators on the other hand…
I’m not going to break down the numbers, but click over to the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center and take a look.
To put it in quick perspective, in 2013 there were 743 cyclist deaths where a motor vehicle was involved (I wasn’t able to find a total number for non-motor vehicle related crashes.)  On the other hand, there were over 32,000 fatalities in 2014 in motor vehicle crashes.  Does it seem like it’s a bike problem or a car problem?  Did bikes cause motorists to crash and die in even a small percentage of those 32,000 fatalities?  Probably not.  And it definitely seems like a car problem.
One thing that really rankles me (and I didn’t intend for this post to stray into such morbid territory, it truly as supposed to be an Earth Day post) is when some well-meaning internet troll says they really love to see people out biking but they’re scared to death a cyclist is going to fall over in front of them and they won’t be able to stop.  For whatever reason this is a standard comment that is well-taught in Internet Troll College. 
First off, just drive responsibly.  Don’t worry about me falling over.  Give me plenty of space when you pass and it won’t matter.  Drive a reasonable speed and it won’t matter.  Put down your goddamn* phone and it won’t matter.  If you can’t stop for an object (living or not) in the road then you’re driving too fast.  Full stop.  No, don’t even try to argue with me.  If you hit something in the roadway it is likely because you were driving too fast for the conditions.  Stop being a whiny baby and own it.  And put down your goddamn phone.
Drive.  For the love of God when you get behind the wheel give the activity your full attention!  You’re piloting potentially thousands of pounds of glass and steel along a narrow ribbon of asphalt.  You are not a Jedi.  You are not a fighter pilot (most of you).  You don’t have the reaction time of the Flash.  You are not as good a driver as you think you are.  Stop being a menace on the road.  Take the phone out of the equation.  We all got along just fine before cell phones.  We waited until we got home to chat with people on the phone.  Just because you can carry the cursed thing around in your pocket is no reason to mentally check out every chance you get. 
There is no good reason for cyclists to die on the roadway.  I don’t care if you agree that they should be there or not.  I don’t care if they aren’t where you expect them to be or want them to be.  Cyclists are human beings too.  They have families.  They do important work.  They just want to live their lives just like you.  And they are no threat to you on the road.  That few second (at most) delay in your car drive is not the travesty you make it out to be.  Take a deep breath.  Engage your patience.  Pass safely.  And put down your goddamn phone. 
From an Earth Day past
*People who know me well may gasp at my use of language.  I want to iterate that I feel strongly enough about distracted driving that I don’t care what you think about my choice of words.  It pisses me off that so many people do not take driving seriously and think it’s okay to play with their goddamn phones while driving.  I truly feel that cell phones are the work of the devil and have no place in civilized society.  I keep trying to wean myself off of mine.
I also want to say that my intended audience are those internet trolls.  I use "you" a lot knowing that most people who read my blog (hi to both of you!) don't behave the way I describe or at least understand these issues from the viewpoint of a cyclist.  In this case "you" is all of us when we drive like maniacs.


  1. Well said. It is unfortunate and tragic the way the cell phone has taken control of people's lives. Imagine how many lives would be saved if people would simply put them down while driving.

    1. I wish there was a way we could keep the functionality of cell phones (they are useful at times) but go back to the way it was before we had them. At my house I really want to institute a ban. When we walk through the door we just stick them in a drawer until we leave again. They distract us from too many important things and not just while we're driving.

  2. Thank you for a frank and honest discussion on the most serious problem of distracted drivers. No apologies necessary. You said it like it is.

    1. Thank you! I think its more serious than most people are willing to admit.