Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ride of Silence Rolls on Wednesday, May 18th

It's hard to talk about bike safety sometimes.

On the one hand, Friday's story about a truck crashing into and dragging a person on a bike was an unhappy reminder that cars are sometimes dangerous for people on bike.

On the other hand, as we advocate for bicycling, we shouldn't get carried away by a myth that bicycling's dangerous. Biking is a safe, healthy choice for most people. And, in fact, the more people who bike, the safer and healthier we would be in aggregate as a society.

In fact, historically to normalize car driving, we have significantly understated the risks of driving and overstated the risks of bicycling.

We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that it's the cars that are dangerous, principally to other users of cars. It was true in 1937 (hot type on paper) and it's true in 2011 (in a tweet): driving a car is dangerous.

Consistently, though, as users society accepts the risks of driving, with roadway casualties nearly reckoned the acceptable "cost of business," and flinches from those of bicycling. Getting in the car is no big deal - even though it kills 40,000 people a year. It's more often people inside of cars who get hurt.

Nevertheless, as yesterday's story about a truck crash and drag illustrated, once a collision occurs, a person on a bike is significantly more vulnerable. Roadway engineering, traffic laws, and car body design together bias outcomes in favor of the car and its driver.

Maybe going to City Council's not your style, politics not your game. Here's a different way to show that bicycling and safety for the people who bike are important to you. If hundreds of people showed up, that would get some attention!

On Wednesday, May 18th, the Salem 2011 Ride of Silence will be at 6pm. John Henry Maurice and Joanne Heilinger of the Salem Bicycle Club will lead the ride, which departs from the "red lot" downtown. Since 2003 "the mission of the world wide Ride of Silence is to honor bicyclists killed by motorists, promote sharing the road, and provide awareness of bicycling safety."

Hopefully Doug will post some thoughts on the ride. His discussion of the Red Pickup driver is interesting, especially the information on the number of people convicted of driving with a suspended or revoked license. In a world of facts, that alone would put to rest several myths!


Walker said...

The post on red-pickup guy makes me wonder why we don't require people operating dangerous weapons like motor vehicles to produce a valid license before purchasing fuel, each and every time. Our no self-serv law makes this easy to implement, and since our whole system of punishments for most motor vehicle crimes hinges on revoking the license to drive, doesn't it make sense to make that revocation more meaningful and effective?

It might not be 100% effective, but it would probably cut down the problem substantially at little or no cost.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

That's a great gut-n-stuff candidate!

Bar servers and grocery store clerks must check ID for alcoholic beverages, so it's not like there's no example of a similar system.

The debate on such a bill would be really interesting to have - I wonder if the debate on the bag ban is making any measurable difference in advance of an actual law.