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Friday, November 15, 2013

Does The Law Go Too Easy On Drivers Who Kill Cyclists?

(tom cochrane/Flickr)

(tom cochrane/Flickr)

Daniel Duane, contributing editor for Men’s Journal, recently posed a provocative question in the New York Times: Is it okay to kill cyclists?

His answer: An even more provocative “yes.”

Duane cites statistics to claim that even as cities work to create new bike lanes, laws are stuck in the past. Drivers are rarely punished for hitting cyclists, even when the drivers are at fault.

“If you kill a cyclist, if you’re driving a car and you run over a cyclist, unless you are blatantly drunk enough for somebody to give you a breathalyzer test, or flee the scene, your chances of being prosecuted are virtually none. This is true, believe it or not, even if you’ve clearly run a stop sign, or even a stop light, or clearly been speeding,” Duane tells Here & Now’s Robin Young.

Guest

Transcript

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW. Daniel Duane, contributing editor for Men's Journal, recently posed a provocative question on the op-ed pages of the New York Times. The headline read: Is it OK to kill cyclists? And Daniel's answer, an even more provocative yes.

Daniel cites statistics to claim that even as cities work to create new bike lanes, drivers rarely are punished for hitting cyclists, even when the drivers are at fault. Daniel Duane joins us now from the studios of KQED in San Francisco. And Daniel, you've got a cycling city there, but the director of the San Francisco Bicycling Coalition told you something interesting about bike accidents recently. What was that?

DANIEL DUANE: She told me that to her knowledge, the San Francisco Police Department had never charged a driver in the case of a cycling fatality without clear evidence of DUIs, drunk driving, or hit and run. And the San Francisco Police Department I believe has since confirmed that.

YOUNG: Which means what?

DUANE: What that means, and this is not unique to San Francisco, this is fairly consistent across the country, is that if you kill a cyclist, if you're driving your car, and you run over a cyclist, unless you are blatantly drunk enough for somebody to give you a breathalyzer test or flee the scene, your chances of being prosecuted are virtually none.

This is true, believe it or not, even if you've clearly run a stop sign or even a stoplight or clearly been speeding. I've - in the past week, since the publication of that op-ed, I got barraged with emails from - and quite a few of them are awfully poignant from the sort of relatives and loved ones of people who have been killed by cycling, circumstances you just wouldn't believe, you know, a driver with no license, blatantly swerving off the road.

And in all of these cases, even when there is no question that the driver did something like, let's say, ran a stop sign in order to hit the cyclist, it just doesn't matter.

YOUNG: Well, you cite other stories, a 2011 story when a man drove into a 49-year-old cyclist from behind on a road just outside Seattle, ran over him, killed him, and the police issued an unsafe lane change citation. There's another case near Santa Cruz, California, a northbound driver lost control, veered across southbound traffic and killed a 40-year-old librarian cycling in the southbound bike lane. No charges.

States are passing laws that are putting extra responsibility on drivers to avoid harming cyclists. Vulnerable user laws, what are these?

DUANE: This is one of the more interesting parts of the issue and the debate. So the reason that it is functionally legal to get - to kill cyclists, the reason drivers pretty much universally get away with it, even when they are blatantly at fault, is sort of a confluence of the ways in which our laws are written and the tendency of jurors to identify with drivers, not cyclists.

The two obvious laws under which to prosecute a driver would be vehicular manslaughter or reckless driving. Both of these carry potentially life-destroying penalties, so let's say in the case of vehicular manslaughter, I think in some cases it can be as high as six years in prison.

It's very hard for a jury to sit there and look at somebody who just really didn't mean to kill that person and convict them of a crime that is going to destroy the driver's life, as well.

YOUNG: Well, I'll jump in to say to underscore that that one of the letters that came to the New York Times after your article appeared challenges you on this notion that drivers don't pay for killing cyclists. Masdak Bradbury(ph) from Madison, Wisconsin, writes it's never OK to kill cyclists, but no one knows this better than those who live every moment with the overwhelming guilt of having done so.

This seems to be what you're saying is that people sympathize with the drivers who might have ended an innocent life.

DUANE: Sure, that's right. That is a fair point, right. None of us - nobody but a sociopath actually wants to kill a cyclist. You know, a woman in England actually sent an email to my personal email account making the same point, explaining that her father had accidentally killed a cyclist in the '70s, and he had really never gotten over it.

So that is fair. I think it's a meaningful part of the conversation. I just think it's also important to remember that in no other part of our justice system do we - do we accept the idea that lingering feelings of guilt are adequate punishment for negligence that takes another person's life.

YOUNG: Well, but to pick up with what you were saying, you spoke with Ray Thomas(ph). He's an attorney in Portland, Oregon, who specializes in bike law. And he's the one who told you that jurors identify with drivers. And if there are convictions that have penalties of up to six years in prison, jurors think there but for the grace of God go I.

So what would these new laws do to try to get around that attitude?

DUANE: One way of thinking about vulnerable user laws is that they are a way to try to define penalties for killing cyclists that are light enough for juries to convict but severe enough to both satisfy our sense of justice and to make all of us think twice when we get behind the wheel of a car.

You know, a fairly typical penalty scheme would be, say, a one-year loss of your driver's license and either a $10,000 fine or 100 or 200 hours of community service, so not enough to ruin your life but definitely enough to make you think oh boy, I sure wouldn't want that to happen.

YOUNG: Right. Well meanwhile, you're thinking I sure wouldn't want to be the one hit. You begin your piece by describing how you had discovered cycling, and you were going to join those people with the wind in their hair and the smile on their face biking everywhere. And I think it was in the very first moment of having that thought, like minutes after, that you literally saw an SUV hit another cyclist and then got your front wheel stuck and went down.

DUANE: Yeah, this was sort of an anomalously horrible first ride, but I had signed up for a triathlon to try to get in shape, and I had never done anything like that, and I hadn't ridden a bike since I was a kid. In the very first block of that ride I saw an SUV hit another cyclist.

He did get up, and the car stopped, and I concluded that it was reasonable for me to keep on riding. And then I think it was one or two blocks later I got my wheels stuck in the sort of the trough in the pavement in San Francisco next to the light rail tracks that run up the middle of the road, and the next thing I knew I was sort of face-down on the asphalt.

YOUNG: Well, then you started talking to people, and as you say, the anecdotes mounted. And I could give you one, too. I had a dear college friend, the great Mike Serventi(ph), killed by a cyclist. We had a cyclist killed right outside our office; a lot of people saw it. You started hearing a lot of stories about people getting killed on bikes. And you've decided to, what, bike in your basement? Is that just to stay on a stationary?

DUANE: I'll put my bike in my car - this is very Californian I suppose, but I'll put my bike in my car and drive 20 minutes outside of the city to a particularly quiet, country road, and I've recently found some dirt fire roads that seem like an even better choice.

But yeah, for those mid-week training sessions, I do it in the basement.

YOUNG: Daniel Duane, contributing editor for Men's Journal, his piece "Is It OK To Kill Cyclists" ran in the New York Times. We'll link you at hereandnow.org. By the way, you also got reaction from people who said, well, wait a second, I'm the little old lady who keeps getting hit by cyclists in New York. So there's a pretty robust debate right now as to who's more dangerous.

DUANE: Yeah, there really is. I stepped on a much bigger landmine than I anticipated.

YOUNG: Daniel, thanks so much.

DUANE: Thank you very much for having me. I appreciate it.

YOUNG: Part of that landmine is that Daniel also wrote that cyclists need to ride safer. Your thoughts on all of this, we'd love to hear them at hereandnow.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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  • Lee

    As a completely car-free bicycle driver whose neck, arm & legs were broken by a motorist turning left into my right of way who continues to bicycle daily, I am increasingly appalled by the behavior of car-riders, particularly when they try to pass me when I am clearly signaling a left turn. We need far fewer cars & far more bicycles. The cars are cooking our planet, keeping us isolated in idiotic suburbs, making offensive noise, and keeping us lazy.

    • Jasmine Warren

      That is great that you would like to be car free, but for people who need cars this is an offensive statement that you have made. People with families to take care of need a dependable vehicle to get food, take people to school and work. When going out of town do people use a bike? No they either drive or ride a bus. I love the idea of having a car that does not pollute the air and they currently working on that. To put it simple, an individual can have a bike but a family of five needs a car.

      • Kevin O
        • Josef Högberg

          I was just thinking about how it looks in USA, I have not yet visited USA and do not know how the infrastructure looks. I live in Sweden and take the bike everywhere because the infrastructure supports it. The video from Copenhagen shows this very vell – it is easy to take the bicycle, even in bigger cities.

      • Craig Volpe

        I agree that it is unrealistic to expect society to be car free. I think a more realistic approach is a compromise between the two. I ride my bike when it’s practical, and drive my car when it’s not. I think it would be great if more people took this approach, as well as laws being changed to better accommodate cars and bikes safely coexisting. Negligence resulting in death should be harshly punished, whether it’s negligent drivers or cyclists.

    • Craig Volpe

      Fewer cars and more bikes would be nice, but until that becomes a reality, I think it would be more productive to advocate laws that make it more fair for bikes and cars to share the road. Complaining that there are too many cars and hoping that changes probably won’t accomplish much. Let’s aim for peaceful coexistence instead!

  • Tim Rohe

    This was one of the first reasonable articles on cycling safety that I’ve heard in a while. Most articles are stridently either pro or anti cyclists and any valid points being made get lost in rhetoric. I agree with virtually all of the points made by Mr. Duane; that motorists who kill a cyclist should face tougher penalties but I also agree with Robin’s, albeit last minute, point that cyclists need to ride more safely. I do not own a car and either bike or take public transportation, but when I bike I have more problems with fellow cyclists who are far too aggressive. Cyclists must be realistic; yes, many motorists suck, but there’s nothing to be gained by playing chicken with a car and insisting on the right away, even when you are in the right, when the motorist clearly is not going to give. If it comes to a fight between a car and a bike, the bike is going to win. Also, I believe a cyclist not wearing a helmet should be treated much like a motorist not wearing their seat belt and should be open to a (modest) fine. And I say this as someone who has been known to forget his helmet when running to the store. I witnessed an accident where the cyclist was on the side of the road clutching their bleeding head afterward. Another cyclist pulled up next to me and said something along the lines of, “F’ing cars!” But why was this guy riding on a major road without a helmet? Yes, we need better laws to protect cyclists and some poor victims are truly blameless, but there are a lot of things cyclists could do to protect themselves as well.

    • Craig Volpe

      Well said, but I’m pretty sure you meant to say the bike is going to lose!

      • Tim Rohe

        You are correct. Edited that now.

  • SQ

    Simply put, the one at fault should be held accountable. As a biker who also drives in Oregon I see both sides. Those at a disadvantage need to commute defensively and smartly. I view bikers flying through stop signs and red lights daily. They make abrupt lane changes without signaling. And coming into winter I am see many who need to get lights. At the same time drivers need to ‘see’ bikers more. In the end if BOTH parties followed the rules & were consistantly held to the law by local government there would be fewer tragedies.

    • S David H de Lorge

      Same goes for both drivers of cars. Somehow we still get an incidence of some reckless ones, and some wrecks. It’s statistical.

      Leaves me thinking we need dedicated bike paths, with protective barriers. Then cost really enters the picture.

  • Eric Winckler

    I just heard the last 5 minutes about killing cyclist being killed. I live in Maine where there are many who love to bike all over the state. I get so nervous when coming up upon one or more cyclist with the idea of giving them the 10 foot clearance when you pass them . But on these country roads here it is almost impossible to give them that much room with these curvy and narrow roads. I think it is great when there is special places where they can have ride ways made into the road. I would love to bike my self but am afraid to bike where the dangers are real. I am thankful for the lights and reflectors that many use. I wish I was brave enough to start biking again. Eric Winckler , Maine

    • Craig Volpe

      Laws vary state to state, but are you sure that your law states that you must give 10 feet of clearance when passing a bicycle? In many places, the law is worded more along the lines of when going above a certain speed, you must give enough room when passing that if the cyclist fell over you would not run them over. It might be inconvenient to slow down to the speed of the bicycle on a curvy section of road, but are straight sections really that scarce there? Speaking of which, what do you do when you’re behind a slower car or farm equipment? Do you think all slow moving vehicles should be prohibited from using the roads? Hopefully they can build more of those special riding lanes you speak of to make bicycling safer for everyone.

      Okay I looked it up and Maine law states you must leave 3 feet when passing and only when it is safe to do so. http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/Statutes/29-A/title29-Asec2070.html

  • S David H de Lorge

    A leader of Ride Fresno (whatever its proper name), a middle-aged woman, was struck and killed several years ago. Even before that, watching bikers in bike lanes while watching drivers on an arterial four lane road leaves me appalled. The risk seems to vastly outweigh the benefits, at least to this alternately risk-averse and risk-taking writer (depending on the personally intuitive scariness of perceived danger).

    Query: What are the risk calculations made by these regular riders? Do they also like to climb sheer cliffs?

    The odd bit is that deliberate bike riders (in contrast with the impoverished obligatory riders) seem to be associated with higher intellectual status. At least, they tend to be alert to mitigating dangers to the environment. They seem to have extraordinary regard for personal health and fitness. How do they not reflect on the daily risk of riding so near unpredictably unreliable drivers? Is there a conformist failure to evaluate risk? Do they just grit their teeth and bear it? Please ask.

    • Craig Volpe

      I think this a good question, and as a semi-intellectual, risk-averse, deliberate bike rider I will try to answer, or at least give my own reasons.

      I am generally very risk-averse, and despite being very aware that there are real risks when riding a bicycle, I do it anyways. The main differences to me between riding a bike and something risky like climbing a sheer cliff are matters of principle, as well as of purpose.

      I imagine the reason why most people would climb a sheer cliff is precisely because of the inherent risk. They are doing it for entertainment and they probably enjoy the adrenaline and sense of accomplishment that they get from doing something dangerous and difficult. As for purpose, the reason they are likely climbing the cliff is in itself, rather than as a means to accomplish some other purpose.

      On the other hand, the reason I usually choose to ride my bicycle over driving my car is because it’s a means to accomplish some other ends (getting somewhere), and it’s a choice I make stemming from my principles. Those principles being, “behave in a way that would most benefit society if everyone behaved that way.” Because I believe it would benefit society if people biked instead of drove when practical, I try to live by that, even if it means I have to take on some risks to do so. For the most part, I don’t like the idea of other people’s irresponsible behaviors dictating how I choose to live. Rather than compromising my principles, I choose to do the activity while mitigating those risks as much as possible. I always wear a helmet, use multiple lights, and try to follow safe bike riding practices as much as possible.

      If I could magically make bicycling a zero risk activity, I would absolutely do so. On the contrary, I think many people who choose to climb the metaphorical “sheer cliff” would have little desire to climb it if there were zero risk involved. I would imagine there to be a much stronger correlation between cyclists who ride dangerously and sheer cliff climbing than there is between the latter and the type of cyclists you’re describing. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a correlation between those cyclists and stubbornly adhering to principle.

      Does that answer your question?

      • S David H de Lorge

        Thank you. It would be nice to see it discussed by the journalists reporting the story.

  • Cliff Tebeau

    Mr. Duanes articles and your radio coverage can only help educate the cycling and driver public about this ‘health’ issue; as you pointed out, both parties come away injured or dead. Cyclists without helmets and adequate lighting should be warned or cited for unsafe behavior. As described, the situation for motorists is another example of ‘justice for criminals system’, and ironically assisted by the trial juries.

    I view this overall situation as another example of failure of the CJ-system to enforce the laws governing the permitting (liscense) and permission to own and operate an auto.
    Public safety cries out for strict enforcement, prosecution and full accountability for drivers who harm cyclists or pedestrians with prosecuted unlawful driving violations.

    Mr. Duane mentioned that juries are reluctant to impose harsh punishment on convicted defendants; and the injured or dead victim (and their families) leave the courtroom with another sense of loss.

    I suggest that the System re-adjust; that all unlicensed drivers face mandatory jail time plus loss of owned vehicle, and deportation if not a legal citizen; if state laws require liability insurance and proof cannot be shown, impose the same penalties. All drug (including Alcohol) violations should be fully prosecuted, with jail time and vehicle loss after the first offense. Criminals and reckless drivers will find it harder to drive without their cars; and the state and local communities can finance the costs of these enforcements with the proceeds from selling the vehicles.

    As a cyclist I have come close to serious injury or death at the hands of a motorist several time, such that when and where I ride is restricted by choice. I have friends that experienced injuries and losses due to reckless driving.

    I believe that a lot of this legal mess and misery could be avoided by just enforcing the existing driving laws.
    Cliff M. Tebeau

  • gjh

    As a long time cyclist and motorcyclist, I think the blame lies primarily with the cyclists. I have a dozen close calls a year where a cyclist rides off of the sidewalk into traffic, runs a stop sign or signal or rides at night without lights or reflectors. And that doesn’t even begin to touch on the rude and inconsiderate behavior. Juries are people that have had the same experiences.

    It’s unfortunate when cyclists get injured or killed, but they accept some risk when they choose to compete with 2-ton vehicles in a limited space. The simple fact is that roads are made for cars, and you can’t expect the rules of the road to be changed just to accommodate bicycles. Cyclist go slower and they are darn hard to see. I think that it is up to the cyclists avoid situations where accidents occur. All cyclists should have to wear hunter orange or green, and have to have a front and rear light operating on the bicycle at all times. Visible license plates should be required, and major violations should result in confiscation of the bicycle.

    • Craig Volpe

      I agree that bicyclists should be required to take precautions to account for their reduced visibility and vulnerability, such as using lights and wearing a helmet. I also think it’s an intriguing idea to confiscate bicycles, although ultimately I think it makes more sense to issue fines, which is already the norm. After all, why should someone who gets their $10,000 bike confiscated be punished 100X more than someone with a $100 bike?

      However, it’s very unfair to say “you can’t expect the rules of the road to be changed just to accommodate bicycles.” Of course you can! And that’s how the laws are written. It is not a “simple fact” that the roads are made for cars. They are actually made for vehicles, and the laws are written in a way to accommodate different vehicles as much as practically possible. It’s all a matter of reasonable compromise. With most roads, unless there are alternatives, it would be unreasonable for bikes not to be allowed on them. And for the most part, road rules that accommodate bicycle and other slow vehicles (farming equipment and animals for example) simply amount to an inconvenience to drivers of cars, since they have to slow down when they encounter a slower vehicle until they have a safe area to pass. That inconvenience posed to drivers is trumped by how unfair it would be to prohibit slow moving vehicles on roads. Instead, the laws are written to minimize that inconvenience to drivers, such as bikes being required to ride on the shoulder except for when it poses a hazard, or bikes being required to use a bike lane when one is available. There are also cases where the law does favor cars. Because slow vehicles pose a significant safety risk, bicycles and other slow moving vehicles are usually prohibited from being used on freeways.

      As far as your argument about cars being heavier than bikes, that really doesn’t hold up, because if we follow the logical conclusion we would only allow semi trucks or heavy machinery on roads that are currently shared with cars and other vehicles. Really, the speed difference is the main legitimate difference, and the laws are written in a way to account for that.

      And as for your first paragraph? It sounds pretty prejudice to me. Would you agree with juries blaming a black victim, simply because they had negative experiences with other black people? Even if it is true that bicyclists are more likely to break laws than drivers, which is debatable to begin with, that doesn’t mean the law or juries should favor drivers. Why not make it simply be whoever is negligent is held accountable, whether they are a driver OR a cyclist? If a cyclist runs a light and gets hit by a car as a result, I don’t think anyone here is arguing that the driver should be held accountable. The issue at hand is cases where the driver runs a light and hits a law-abiding cyclist, and the fact that they often have little to no punishment despite being negligent.

  • Jasmine Warren

    When I was attending Ole Miss, some bikers we just out of control. Flying through stop signs and riding on the side walk nearly clipping people. The city of Oxford finally installed bike lanes for the bikers, but on campus bikers were not being courteous of pedestrians or cars. I know there are people who accidently hit bikers and those that do it because of irresponsibility. The biker communities need to be more harsh on their fellow bikers who think they can just have the entire road and not share with motor vehicle drivers. But that’s just here. I don’t know how it is else where. I think having a bike is a great way to save money on gas in a college town.

    • Craig Volpe

      I believe not only should the biker communities be more vocal about the negatives of irresponsible bicycling, but police should also be more vigilant about punishing cyclists who don’t follow the law. Can we agree that we should simply be more harsh towards negligence, whether it is a driver or a biker?

  • etragedy

    This
    is a huge problem for Vermont where the roads are narrow, twisty, and
    hilly. By the time a bike comes in view drivers often have to go left of
    center – BUT, a lot of times that puts them in danger of a head on
    collision from a car coming over a hill or around a bend in the opposite
    direction… or suddenly brake and still hope not to hit the bike, but
    risk getting rear-ended. It’s gotten me to the point of wondering if
    ‘sharing’ the road is even a good idea. Bikes may just need separate
    paths altogether.

    • Craig Volpe

      Separate paths would definitely be ideal and eliminate many of the problems of cars and bikes sharing roads. However, until that time comes, it is only reasonable for bikes and cars to share the roads, and do it in as responsible a way as is practical. Cyclists should ride as far as possible to the side of the road as is safe, and drivers shouldn’t drive so fast that they wouldn’t be able to stop in time if there was an obstruction in the road. And it’s not just to avoid accidents with bikes. When going around a blind corner or dip, you should be able to stop in time if you came upon a car accident with cars stopped in the road. Cyclists should also make an effort to make themselves as visible as possible (lights and reflectors), as well take reasonable safety precautions in the case that they do get in an accident (helmet). Drivers should also slow down when they come upon bicycles and only pass when it is reasonably safe to do so. When you’re “coming over a hill or around a corner” is NOT a safe time to do so.

  • Stacy21629

    Are there penalties for bikers that fail to obey traffic laws in non-fatal collisions? As others have alluded to, most bikers I see do NOT obey traffic laws – riding on sidewalks, riding against traffic, no lights, no helmets, no signalling, cutting across intersections, ignoring stop signs. It’s terrible when a cyclist is hit and worse when they are killed but I know I would be furious if I faced a serious penalty for hitting someone that darted out in front of me or jumped the curb from the sidewalk. I strive to be a safe driver, but can’t account for others’ stupidity, especially if my car is far bigger than them. At least if another driver is stupid they are protected by an equally large vehicle.

    • Craig Volpe

      Yes, of course there are laws against bicycles doing that sort of stuff. In a case like that, the cyclist would be at fault. But let’s not confuse the issue at hand. The article is about cases in which the driver was negligent, and how often in those cases they are not punished.

  • Dean

    I would like to see a comparison of penalties for drivers involved in car-car fatal accidents vs car-cycle. My gut feeling is they are similar. The Duane seems to indicate that cyclists deserve special treatment when in fact they should get equal treatment. I live on a rural road that in frequented by cyclists that is very hilly and curvy. I have come on cyclists riding in the middle of the road on a blind curve or dip and have had to swerve into the opposite lane to avoid them. I’m just fortunate that there was no one coming the opposite direction. Would the cyclist be at fault in that situation?

    • Craig Volpe

      My feeling is that a car should never go so fast around a blind curve that if there were something obstructing the road, the car wouldn’t be able to stop in time without hitting it. If you had to swerve out of the way around the blind curve, you were probably going to fast around it.

  • Pete

    Car drivers have to be guilty by default, if they hit a cyclist. Every type is breaking the law on the road, intentionally or unintentionally. But car drivers running the much more dangerous vehicle. They are the ones, who injure and kill other people, not cyclists or pedestrians.

    So they SHOULD be one ones, who have to take much more CARE on the road and they have to be much more defensive on the street and should get a higher penalty, that the rest learns, that it is not ok to kill people on the road.

    • Craig Volpe

      That’s silly. If a law-breaking bicyclist hits a law-abiding driver, why should the driver be responsible? Clearly, if the accident is found to be the cause of negligence by one party, they negligent party should be the one accountable. In the case where both parties are found negligent, then perhaps it would make sense for the vehicle that can potentially do more damage to be more harshly punished, but I think even that idea is debatable.

      • Pete

        That’s not silly. That system is the reason, why the Netherlands have the lowest death rate in the world! In most car/bicycle accidents, the car driver is at fault and there is always an investigation, after an accident. If the cyclist is really at fault, then the cyclist have to deal with it. Even in Germany, the car driver gets at least 25%, because of the potential danger of his vehicle.

        With that pressure, drivers will move more carefully.

        • Craig Volpe

          Your response is much different than your original assertion that car drivers HAVE to be guilty because they are using a vehicle that is potentially more dangerous. Now you’ve responded that if a cyclist is really at fault, then they have to deal with it, which is basically the same thing I said.

          The new silly thing you’ve said is that specifically because of that system is the reason the Netherlands has the lowest death rate in the world. Silly because it’s not true (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_and_dependent_territories_by_mortality_rate), and doubly so because even if it were true, it would be a result of a complex mix of many different contributing factors. I’m sure having investigations after crashes and strict punishments for negligent drivers helps, but to say that is THE reason is absurd. Do you really think that if that policy were changed, that bicycle fatalities in the Netherlands would suddenly be very high?

  • tomheld

    In Wisconsin, prosecutors typically issue citations in these crashes, similar to what Duane reported from around the country. Here is one rare prosecution, with a plea agreement on a felony homicide by negligent use of a vehicle. http://theactivepursuit.com/plea-agreement-set-for-driver-who-killed-troy-tousey/

  • washingtonsquareparksucks

    I got hit on my bike by a passenger in a livery cab who opened the car door without looking . I flew 2 car lengths and broke my back L3 L4 , dislocated my jaw and was horribly bruised , I cannot work or do much of anything for probably another 2 months and its been 6 weeks so far. The car left the scene and noone even took his plate number. The guy who opened the door came forth but is basically not liable. NY is a no fault state which means most likely my lawyer will get my medical bills paid. But its up in the air as to whether I will be able to recoup the devastating loss of income. I am self employed and do not qualify for disability. It was an accident but I certainly was not at fault and the guy did not look when he swung that door full force open while double parked without looking. I am lucky to be alive. I will recover in time but it is really unbelievable that the car took off while the EMT s were there and not one person got a plate number or called the police. I was knocked out.
    There must be some criminality and financial rewards to people who are taken out like this, BTW.. i was hit on a NYC street that has TWO citibike docking stations within the one block. And yes, I was going with traffic, being careful and on the right side. Anyhow, this must be changed especially if there are going to be so many more riders in NYC. Every rider should know that the laws do not protect them

  • Anita Sandall

    I had a cyclsit break the law in a busy central London Rd today and who vented his road rage on me. (He drove into me as he was not looking at an indicating car already making a turn in a road; slowly thakfully). He got up and started kicking the front of my car. I did accept his apology and we did laugh about it – but then he turned rather nasty in the evening and quite late at night and contacting me from a mobile I did not know. (he had given me his number and vice versa). I am left wondering how one deals with reporting and recording the alarming and increasing number of incidents that one sees daily – aside from the reports of the numbers of cyclists dying here. Being a cyclist myself I see both sides – and always feel awful for people cycling well and within the laws – yet at the same time find it increasingly alarming – not just dodging the ‘death wishers’ (cyclists who don’t seem to care how dangerously they ride) but also notifying some sort of central body who can care take management of the perilous and terrifying conditions that one witnesses not every day – but every single journey at the moment. I was OK – but shaken up after the incident – and no body was hurt – but had my young daughter been in the car I would have been very tempted to call the police, who of course would not be able to respond. Any views from over there muchly appreciated.

  • TSummers

    My father was killed on his bicycle this summer by a driver who just “didn’t see him.” It was an older highway frequented by bicyclists, around 1 in the afternoon on a clear day, and my dad was wearing orange. Even the investigating officer doesn’t know how the driver didn’t see my dad, who was obeying all the laws and out of the way. A clear case of negligence and here we are, months later, no charges. A brilliant, kind man who gave his life to others is gone, and no one has to pay for it.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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