Monday, May 11, 2009

The Cyclist vs. Motorist Issue

As many people know a couple of weeks ago Daniel Hersh was struck and killed on Shore Drive in Virginia Beach while out on an early morning ride. The police determined the accident was not due to reckless driving, excessive speed or alcohol. Therefore no charges were filed against the driver. As you could image this sparked quite the debate on both the VCA and MABRA google groups. The majority of the outcry was for justice to be done.

It is quite the tragedy every time a cyclist his hit by a vehicle. We know how aggressive some drivers can get and how obnoxious they act toward us. It seemed there was a period of time that I would get into a confrontation each time I went out on the roads. "Get on the sidewalk", "Nice shorts", "Hey look its Lance"... These obnoxious drivers all have one thing in common...THEY SEE US! They are probably not the drivers we need to worry about. Sure they raise are blood pressure and make us angry. They give us something to complain about, and yes they sometimes pass too close at high speeds. But at least they see us.

The driver that killed Daniel Hersh claimed she didn't see him. That is scary because how do you fix that. Reflective vest...he had one, flashing light...reportedly he had one, riding far enough to the left for drivers to see us but far enough to the right so they can pass...sure. But what if they still don't see us? What if they are still distracted? Should they go to jail because they are negligent drivers? Many people on the email groups are saying just that. PRESS CHARGES! As a firefighter I have seen many accidents that seem to have just happened. Maybe caused by a momentary lack of attention. Also as a driver I have had momentary lacks of attention which could have resulted in the death of a cyclist had a cyclist been where I was at that time. Here is a list of things that taken my attention from the road. Are you free from these distractions?
  • Talking on the phone
  • Changing radio stations
  • Singing along
  • Yelling at the kids in the back seat
  • Eating
  • Picking your nose (don't deny it, I've seen you do it)
  • Watch the person in the car next to you pick their nose (see I told you)
  • Checking out the "hot" runner
  • Texting
  • Daydreaming
  • Sneezing
  • Drop something on the floor board and try to pick it up
  • Read a map or program your GPS
I could probably go on and on. The bottom line is that drivers are distracted and we probably won't ever change that. So do I think the driver that killed Daniel Hersh needs to be prosecuted? Probably not. If they cops said it was an accident it was probably an accident...although a very unfortunate accident. Anyone of us could be in her shoes. No one is free from distractions. The hope is that unfortunate accidents like this opens eyes to some of the things that can distract drivers and make them more aware. This driver is not going unpunished. She is living her own personal hell I am sure.

What can cyclist do? Well I get just as frustrated with us as I do with the motorist. We expect to be treated as if we belong on the roads, yet too often we are our own worst enemies. How many group rides have you been on in which the group is taking up a full lane, plus passing each other for a sprint on the next lane? How many times have you seen riders cut in front of cars and then yell at the them when they honk their horn? How many riders have you seen run red lights because no cars were coming? I have been on rides in the county with fewer then 6 riders in which I yell "car back" and no one attempts to get single file. We have a right to the roads, but we do not own them. The attitudes of many cyclist need to get better before this problem can resolve itself. Our aggressiveness on the road only leads to further animosity and increased aggressiveness by the motorist.

What can be done? Ride safe and ride nice! That's my new motto. Be nice to the motorist. Assume every honk is a friendly honk and wave. Say "thank you" to the cars that give us the right away regardless if they were required to or not. Showing everyone that we belong on the roads is the first step to show the cities that we deserve safer roads. Acting like we own the place will be the fastest way for the roads to be taken away from us.

Ride safe and ride nice!
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