Did you happen to read about the recent cyclist killing in San Francisco where a woman was killed by a motorist, sparking a protest when the driver wasn’t prosecuted due to police not finding any surveillance footage of the incident? Phew. That was a sentence! And how the police officer in charge parked his squad car in the exact same bike lane where the killing happened when he came to berate the protesters? Which then led to the protesters digging up the footage themselves in less than 10 minutes that showed the driver was in the wrong?
Well, it sparked a lot of discourse in the US about cyclists’ rights, highlighting this extraordinary fact:
there’s not been a single prosecution of a driver for killing a cyclist in the US to date, outside of cases where the driver was DUI or did a hit and run.
In other words, where a driver was in the wrong, but wasn’t drunk and didn’t flee, but killed a cyclist, they got off with – at worst – a $42 ticket for an unsafe lane change. Seriously. How can this be?
The bad blood with cyclists is so ingrained that police don’t want to investigate the crimes, juries don’t want to convict and the general population want the whole issue to go away…and to just blame the cyclist and deem us all a bunch of righteous granola-chewing pains in the asses.
Which is just plain dumb. As I tell anti-bike people, why are you complaining? Every cyclist on the road is one less car holding you up at traffic lights! Cities can’t sustain any more car traffic. Bikes are the future. They have to be. As a New York Times columnist wrote last week,
“Cycling isn’t sky diving. It’s not just thrill-seeking or self-indulgence.
It’s a sensible response to a changing transportation environment with a clear social upside in terms of better public health, less traffic and lower emissions.”
The blind-sidedness of our culture is illustrated by this, too. New York cyclist Casey Neistat was recently fined $50 for not riding in a bike lane. He made the point that the bike lane was clogged, but the policeman told him he “ALWAYS” needed to be in the bike lane. His point was ignored. So he made this incredibly powerful video.
This is kind of what cyclists are having to do – make their point, so that the atmosphere can shift. We have to do it ourselves because the rest of our community is moving too slow.
This means building a good impression, too. This video by Sydney Cycleways inviting us to cycle graciously is right on. Cyclists can’t be expected to be taken seriously if they don’t play the car game.
I also do this thing. It’s possibly a bit naughty. But a point needs to be made in the absence of a police force or culture that’s happy to support me. When I get cut off in a bike lane or by (invariably) a cab turning left, I bang the car with my fist. Loud and hard, although not enough to cause damage. From inside the car it sounds like I’ve been hit. Ostensibly I’m alerting the driver, “back off”. But I know I’m also shocking them, hopefully into thinking about the consequences of their behaviour, which I think they’re shut off from, hermetically sealed as they are in their safe, climate-controlled chassis.
I also do this. Again, naughty. When a driver tosses a cigarette butt from their window and it nearly takes out an eye, I pick up said butt and toss it back through their window. I’ve done this a few times over the years. Ostensibly I’m returning something they seem to have dropped.
Perhaps I am just a granola-chewing pain the ass…
If you’re keen to do some more reading, check out this article on putting an end to cycle rage from The Guardian.
What do you do to make a point? Do cyclists shit you? Can you see that we need to all work together on this because it is the future?