Bike versus Car
For the most part, I’ve tried to keep this blog nice and light, and I’ll be back to that after this gets posted. But As most of you know Friday was the sentencing for the Mandeville driver who tried to kill at least 4 cyclists, and I unfortunately have to say something about it.
It’s a reality that if you’re a cyclist in an urban area, you’re going to have a run in with a car. All of us who ride on the streets accept that, and we do what we can to be safe. We wear helmets, have lights on at dusk and dawn, take the lane when we need to but are respectful of cars for the most part. We all know there’s some complete tools riding bikes out there, who make it tough for the rest of us. And we all know that everyone — bikers and drivers — make mistakes from time to time, and accidents do happen that truly are that — no one’s fault, but the inevitable result of too people in one place.
The incident in Mandeville was different. That was the result of one person intentionally trying to hurt someone in a vulnerable position. And it resulted in this.
A driver got mad that a couple of bike riders had the audacity to be descending side by side, above the speed limit down his street. So he passed them and slammed on his brakes. My friend’s face destroyed the back windshield. That’s my friend’s blood all over the back of the car.
After this incident, we really saw the best and worst of all sides in the debate. I’ve seen way to many comments by folks who claimed that bikers shouldn’t be on the road, and that the bikers had it coming, that they were too close to the car in front of them. If you have said this, or you think it, you’re an idiot. Bikers have every right to be on the road. In fact, all the motor vehicle laws started out as applying to bikers, when there were no cars. And at the end of the day, getting where you’re going an extra minute early doesn’t justify killing someone, just because they are wearing lycra and you think they are in your way.
Likewise, there were a lot of bikers who were out for blood. The driver’s personal contact information got circulated on the internet, and he apparently received death threats. If you threatend the driver in anyway, again, you’re an idiot. The criminal justice system exists to take care of nutjobs like the driver, and it did. 5 years for a white collar professional with no priors is a pretty surprising sentence. And now he’ll have plenty of time to figure out if the remorse he exhibited at his sentencing was genuine.
But I also saw some of the best of people after this. I ride on Mandeville a lot, and I’ve got to say, this gave everyone a wake-up call. There are still aggressive groups of riders riding all over the city, but everyone on a bike got a stark reminder if what can happen if you piss someone in a car off, whether they deserve it or not. And it may just be me, but it seems that drivers are more respectful as well. Because everyone realizes that things got too bad, and they went to far, and it’s time for both of us to take a breath and remember that we do have to share the road.
I really haven’t done this story justice, so if you want to read more about, well, everything, check out Red Kite Prayer — a great blog by a reporter who really shepherded the media coverage of the trial.