Thursday, May 21, 2009

A question of safety.

I wasn't sure if I wanted to talk about this here, but Darcie Twittered the article to me (I had already been reading about it at work), so I'm going to comment. The safety of my new bike commute is something that I have wanted to talk about anyways.

I may have only rode to work twice, but my experience with cycling goes way back. Over 30 years ago I was where M is, a passenger on a bicycle being peddled around Minneapolis. First in a pack kid carrier (hello not safe), and later in a seat far more primitive than the one M rides in. This was long before bicycle lanes and helmets for little kids. As I got older, bicycles and people who were serious about them surrounded me. As a tween, I went on a serious road ride with a group of family friends. My first traffic ticket was a bike ticket as a teen. I had to go to bike traffic school in my home town. I have been in one relatively serious (and solo) bike crash. It is only as an adult that my interest in cycling (and virtually all other exercise) has waned. Basically, while I am fresh to part of this, I feel comfortable commenting with some experience.

Riding a bicycle is safe. In some respects, it is safer than riding in a car. We take chances every time we get in a car just the same as a bicycle, or a walk down the street. When M rides in the car, she is buckled in a properly installed high end car seat. When she is on my bike, she is buckled in to a high end bike seat, wearing a helmet. When I drive, I wear my seat belt, I adjust my mirrors, and I drive defensively. When I ride my bicycle I wear a helmet, I ride defensively, and I pick routes that have less traffic and marked bike lanes. I follow the rules of the road no matter what I am driving, and as a cyclist, I follow the rules of the road and assume that no one sees me, no one is going to yield to my right of way, and that I am always at risk. In both cases, I use the occasional colorful word when appropriate. (though there is a lot more "fudgsicles" these days)

The route that I ride on has industrial and truck traffic, but it is not heavy when I am riding. Among other things, it is a two (car) lane road with right side bicycle lanes. I know the section of road where the accident occurred and if that were part of my commute, I'm not sure I would be doing what I am. It is a one way street with the bike lane on the left, where right of way and blind turns cause issues.

What happened was tragic. Unfortunately a lot the commentary has turned to "evil truck" and "irresponsible cyclist". The fact is that blame may not be easily assigned, as is often the case in any accident. The bottom line is that a woman lost her partner, and others lost a friend. The truck driver may not be getting a citation, but that doesn't mean that they won't live with that event for the rest of their lives. Anyone who has been in an accident where there was a fatality knows that never leaves you, no matter who is to blame.

The good news is that this isn't something that you read about every day.

What I am asking is that if you drive, watch for the cyclists (and motor cycles and scooters), and remember that they have a right to be there too. If you bicycle, even for fun, let your elected officials know that you use the resources and you appreciate them. Let them know that investing in safe infrastructure is good for everyone. Encourage them to do more to ensure everyone's safety. Follow the rules of the road, signal your turns, be nice to pedestrians.

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