Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

11 March 2008

If I'm run over by a bicyclist, you know why

Chicago is a bicyclers' city. We have miles of bike paths and our mayor is an avid cyclist. He also has an idea of making Chicago like Paris with bikes for rent all over the place. I like that idea. I live on the far north side of the city and work close to the Loop. I also need to drop off the kid each morning and I'm not doing that in a bike every day in the morning and evening. But I would love to have access to a bike to get around my work neighborhood without having to bring my home bike into the office.

BUT...

The latest idea from the City Council is to crack down on drivers. Why? Because bicyclists have been killed and hurt by reckless cars. OK? I can get down with that. But the increase in wanting to protect riders comes after a rider went through a RED light and a SUV struck him and killed him. Apparently driving on a green is bad in the bicyclist world. Seriously, I saw bicyclists on TV say something like "You can't always believe everyone will obey the law." Um, that's what the rules of the road is all about. Yes, I don't hit the gas the millisecond the light turns green...I've seen too many cars run red lights for me to know better. But if my light is green and the law says that a bicyclist needs to stop on red, then I'm assuming it's ok to drive.

The article linked above says that the City Council wants to target bicyclists too, but so far that hasn't happened. Instead us drivers are targeted. I wonder if I hit a bicyclist who weaves in and out of traffic lanes if that is all my fault or not.

That said, I do admit to not always looking before I turn, but I feel like I do it 99% of the time. If I hit someone because I wasn't looking, fine, arrest me, fine me. But if I hit someone because they run a red light, stop sign, or ride in front of me while I'm driving, I don't think so. There needs to be a balance to responsibility on the road. When I'm riding my bike, I don't dart into traffic and usually do stop at reds and stop signs. I know if I hit a car, I'm probably going to lose.

Technorati tags: cycling

2 comments:

hmmm, i'm not sure about the balance of responsibility when you consider that there isn't a balance of risk. as you say so eloquently, if you hit a car on your bike, you're probably going to lose. when the stakes are: driver - some surface damage, possible cracked windshield, and emotional distress, vs. bicyclist - probable injury, possibly severe, and potential fatality - i tend to think that the greater onus of responsibility has to lie on the person wielding greater power vs. the person who is more vulnerable. but that's how i see the world in general, so your results may vary. the alternative seems like social darwinism to me - to put it in hyperbolic terms, "stupidity (of the cyclist) punishable by death". i guess i feel that we smarter people do owe a certain amount of responsibility to look after to dumber people, particularly when a number of circumstances can always shift us from one category into the other at any time.

Maybe it is social darwinism...But if I'm obeying the law and a bicyclist runs a red as in a recent incident, I shouldn't get a fine/be arrested because they came out of nowhere. In the recent incident, the driver did not face charges.

I want bicyclists to be safe and I agree that cars don't belong in their lanes and we need to look out for bikes before opening our doors. But they need to be safe as well. Stop at red, wear bright clothing at night, and use a headlight.