Pet Peeve #3,207 “It was just an accident”

This sort of lazy misuse of the word “accident” makes me so mad. From KTLA

Bicyclist Killed in Possible Road Rage Accident.

Seriously, if it was “road rage” then it stands to reason that it was not an “accident”. Why does it make me mad? Because it’s indicative of a far too common apologist attitude when it comes to crimes being committed by automobile drivers. Far too often motorists get away with recklessly, sometimes intentionally, maiming or killing cyclists, pedestrians, motorcylists, and yes, even each other because “it was just an accident”.

The English language is a rich and varied tapestry, full of synonyms with gradated meanings. Stop calling it an “accident” every time a car crashes. I know that the media is careful (for the most part) not to assign or imply blame, but they should also be more careful not to implicitly absolve (alleged) perpetrators of blame which is exactly what the misuse of the word “accident” does.

Dayton City Commission unanimously passes Livable Streets Policy

From an article in the Dayton Daily News:

From now on, whenever a street is scheduled to be built, rebuilt, resurfaced or repaired in the city of Dayton, traffic engineers and planners must consider pedestrians, bicyclists and bus riders as well as cars in their designs.

Adoption of the policy, the first in the region, got top billing in this month’s National Complete Streets Coalition newsletter, released Wednesday, Feb. 17. It will also fulfill a critical requirement in the city’s first application — submitted today — for Bicycle Friendly Community status with the League of American Bicyclists.

Now if they could just get a handle on the almost-daily shootings.

Read the full article here.

OBF Safer Passing (“3 Foot”) Bill to be Introduced Monday

What follows is a press release from Ohio Senator Teresa Fedor. I just hope that:

A) The bill passes, and
B) It will be enforced once it does.

I’m dubious about the latter, though. I’ve seen too many reports from states that do have a “3 foot law” where a cyclist is hit by an overtaking motorist, yet no charges are filed against the motorist. Progress is slow, I suppose.

PRESS RELEASE

From State Senator Teresa Fedor
11th Senate District

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Ursula Barrera
September 23, 2009 (614) 466-5204

Senators Teresa Fedor and Mark Wagoner to Announce Bicycling Safety Bill Local cyclists and Ohio Bicycle Federation Representatives to Attend

Columbus, Ohio — Senators Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Mark Wagoner (R-Ottawa Hills) will announce the introduction of a bicycle safety bill September 28, 2009 at 10:30 on the west lawn of the Statehouse. The legislation will define a safe lateral passing distance of three feet when a motor vehicle passes a bicycle or other non-motorized vehicle. The Ohio Bicycle Federation President, Chuck Smith, will be in attendance to speak in support of the legislation. Local riders and those injured by the failure of drivers to observe a safe passing distance will also be in attendance.

“Cyclists often do not feel safe riding in their neighborhoods or to work because of unsafe distances between cars. We must make Ohio streets safer for our over one million cyclists,” said Senator Fedor.

Senator Fedor, joined by Senator Wagoner for part of the journey, completed her 3rd Annual Bike to the Capitol tour during Bike to Work Week. The ride reinforced the need for bike-friendly communities and safer roads for those who use bicycling as an alternative mode of transportation. The tour took Senator Fedor from Toledo to Columbus over a 3-day period on a “Campaign for Healthy Kids and Communities”. The event was geared toward raising awareness about quality physical and health education standards in schools, alternative means of transportation and bicycle-friendly communities.

For more information on bicycling issues, check out the Ohio Bicycle Federation’s website at http://www.ohiobike.org/

My Sentiments Exactly

I found this image at Mellow Velo.


You own a car, not the road

Click photo to embiggen

I wish someone made a bike jersey with that slogan emblazoned across the back. I’d buy one.

Postscript: KM over at Mellow Velo says he got the photo (he thought) from Drunk Cyclist. I contacted Big Jonny, but someone sent him the photo and he has no idea who owns it, either.

I’ll continue to attempt to solve this mystery. I hate not giving credit where credit is due.

Bombshell at Landis’ Trial

Over the years I’ve had mixed feelings about Greg Lemond. When he won his Tours de France; the way he won (overcoming a 50 second deficit on the final stage, a time trial, to defeat Laurent Fignon by 8 seconds) and under those circumstances (after being accidentally shot by his brother-in-law with a shotgun, nearly bleeding to death, and still carrying 37 shotgun pellets in his body, some in the lining of his heart) elevated him to near-mythic, super-human status. Over the ensuing years, some of his comments about doping in the sport, particularly those directed at Lance Armstrong came across (to me at least) as sour grapes or as a former athlete trying desperately to reclaim a piece of the spotlight.

Now there’s this news story. Very briefly; apparently, according to Lemond, Landis phoned him, they conversed and Landis admitted to having doped. But wait, there’s more. From the article:

LeMond went on to reveal that he told Landis that keeping dark secrets can ruin one’s life, then relayed his own story of being sexually abused as a child, a story LeMond said he had shared with only a few people and never talked about publicly until Thursday.

Then, Lemond gets a threatening phone call, the caller purporting to be the uncle who’d abused him. The call is traced back to Floyd Landis’s business manager, Will Geoghegan, who was promptly sacked and who admits to (and naturally apologises for) having made the call, saying he was upset and had had ‘a beer or two’. Really, Will? You did something that despicable and utterly stupid as the result of having ‘a beer or two’? That is some scary-ass brew!

Holy-fucking-guacamole! Could this whole mess get any more sordid and bizarre?

If you believe Landis (which is becoming harder and harder to do), it’s all either:

  • A) Ineptitude on the part of the French testing facility or,
  • B) A massive French conspiracy not just to take him down, but to get him to turn snitch and incriminate Lance Armstrong.

Given the events of the last few years (Virenque, Pantani, Ullrich, Hamilton, Basso, et al.), Lemond’s assertion that virtually the entire pro peloton is doping is seeming more and more plausible. It’s utterly heart-breaking.

Treatment, stiff penalties best ways to reduce DUIs

As a follow-up to my previous post, I’m reprinting this article from the Cincinnati Enquirer. Thanks for the link, Jon.

A sunny Sunday morning, a straight, flat road and a group of enthusiastic bicyclists. It seemed a perfect summer morning until, police say, a car crossed the centerline, crashed into the group and killed local residents Amy Gehring and Terry Walker.

And then the police account took an all-too-familiar turn: Alcohol or drugs likely contributed to the crash.

INTERVENE EARLY

Besides heartache and furor, the July 16 Crosby Township tragedy caused a restless search for appropriate punishments – and possible prevention. But the interest and energy come too late. The time to prevent such disasters is before an impaired driver slips behind the wheel of the car.

On that point, at least, it is possible to find answers.

The statistics behind such tragedies shed light on the problem of drunk driving and may help shape prevention efforts. It’s a pressing public-health concern – in 2004, 16,694 Americans died in alcohol-related accidents, a fourth of all traffic deaths.

Centers for Disease Control says three-quarters of those convicted in DUI cases are frequent heavy drinkers or alcoholics. And one-third of drivers arrested for or convicted of driving under the influence are repeat offenders.

Those statistics contradict the rhetoric that most DUI offenders were simply innocents caught in a one-time circumstance. Most, in fact, play Russian roulette with alcohol and vehicles. And a large number don’t stop drinking the first time they’re caught.

STOP THE DRIVING

And most convicted drivers with suspended licenses don’t stop driving. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, half to three-fourths of drunk drivers with suspended licenses continue to drive – poorly. A third of second-time DUI offenders and half of third-time offenders with suspended licenses received violations or were involved in crashes.

In a sense, what that all adds up to is what doesn’t work – why many drunk drivers don’t stop drinking or driving.

But there is growing consensus on prevention that works.

MADD, the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and the National Commission Against Drunk Driving all agree mandatory treatment programs are at least partially effective.

They promote recovery – the only real long-term solution to a problem that exhibits itself as a crime but is at heart an illness – and they reduce recidivism. MADD reports that DUI offenders who enter treatment show a 7 percent to 9 percent drop in recidivism.

TAKE THE CARS

Limiting offenders’ access to vehicles – not just their possession of driving licenses – also helps. In California, first-time offenders whose vehicles were impounded had a fourth fewer crashes and repeat offenders had 38 percent fewer. Studies in Maryland and California show that alcohol-triggered ignition locks reduced repeat DUI offenses by 65 percent to 90 percent.

And taking an all-around tougher stand reduces impaired driving as well – mandatory license revocation, lowering the blood alcohol calculation to .08, mandatory substance-abuse assessment and sobriety checkpoints on roadways.

RECOGNIZING WHAT WORKS

States are beginning to build consensus on some aspects of DUI law. Now all states have adopted 21 as the legal drinking age, and two-thirds allow police officers to take the license of drivers who refuse a breath test. Many states have lowered the limit for blood alcohol concentration from .10 to .08 and a dozen states penalize underage drivers for any measurable amount of alcohol in their systems.

In a nutshell, the effective approach is to require treatment, limit access to vehicles and – especially – act decisively on the first offense. “We cannot wait for a repeat offender to be caught a second time by the legal system,” the National Commission Against Drunk Driving states on its web site. We couldn’t agree more.

I agree with what the article has to say, although I do wonder if the money and resources spent on mandatory treatment couldn’t be put to better use (a 7 percent to 9 percent drop in recidivism isn’t too impressive). I’m all for treatment, recovery, and rehabilitation, but, treatment is only truly effective if the person actually wants to get better. On the other hand, 7 to 9 percent is better than nothing.
The good news is: Statistically, alcohol related traffic fatalities are on the decline, albeit a very slow and gradual decline.

Ohio Senate Unanimously Approves House Bill 389

Good news for Ohio cyclists!
Adapted from an e-mail sent by OBF Chair, Chuck Smith:

The Ohio Bicyle Federation‘s House Bill 389 Better Ohio Bicycling Bill was approved by the Ohio Senate Wednesday night by a unanimous 33-0 vote. The bill now goes to Governor Taft (ed: and he’s an OBF member!) for his signature.

HB 389 makes the Ohio Revised Code governing bicycle operation conform more closely with the Uniform Vehicle Code, which has been made more bicyclist friendly over a period of several years. With HB 389, the Ohio Revised Code becomes a good framework for bicycle operation throughout our state.

For full information on the bill, go to www.ohiobike.org/hb389info.html.

What is the Price For Taking a Human Life?

Here is the aforementioned rant, read or skim the previous post for an idea of what I’m all worked up about.

Apparently here in Xenia, Ohio (the self-proclaimed “Bicycle Capital of the Midwest”) it’s $17,175.91 and 60 days in jail, if the victim happens to be a cyclist and the weapon an automobile.

Each time I hear about one of these (all too common) tragedies my sense of outrage and disgust rises exponentially. Have we, as a people become so blinded by our love affair with the automobile?

Automobile “accidents” are the leading cause of death among our 16-20 year olds; not guns, drugs, AIDS, or cigarettes… cars. If people were being killed and maimed at a similar rate by any other means (about 42,000 Americans killed per year), the public outcry would be overwhelming; but hey, we love our cars, we gotta drive, we’ve got places to go, we’re busy people!

Now, I’m not some radical proposing we do away with cars altogether, but what I am suggesting is that we hold ourselves to a higher standard. I’m sick of people acting with wanton disregard for anything other than getting to their destination as quickly as possible, killing someone then shrugging their shoulders and saying, “It was just an accident.”

If drivers faced serious punishment and extended jail time for killing or maiming someone through negligence, carelessness, or downright aggressiveness; I don’t think they would be so cavalier about buzzing by at 70MPH six inches from my handlebars. And maybe, just maybe, the streets would be safer for all of us.

Senate Bill 158 (Ohio Right of Way Bill)

To keep myself from going off on a wild, frothing at the mouth rant, I’ll just pass this message along (for now). Expect the rant to be forthcoming.

Below is a copy of a message from Dayton Cycling Club president, Chuck Smith.

DCC Friends,
I attach below a report on an appeals court upholding the inadequate punishment for the motorist responsible for the death of cyclist Bob Bachtel. As you remember, Bachtel was killed during the 2004 Calvin’s Challenge in Cedarville, OH.

We in the OBF have passed the article along to the Ohio Right-Of-Way Working Group of which we are a member. This group produced Senate Bill 158 which has been introduced into the Ohio Senate. The bill would make sorely-needed increases in the penalties for right-of-way violations that result in serious injury or death. We are submitting the article for possible use in testimony before the Ohio Senate Transportation Committee.

For more information on the working group and SB 158, go to our OBF web site at:
http://www.ohiobike.org/rightofway.html.

– Chuck Smith
_______________________________________________

APPEALS COURT UPHOLDS SENTENCE OF DRIVER CONVICTED OF VEHICULAR HOMICIDE IN 2004 VEHICLE/BICYCLIST ACCIDENT

The Second District Court of Appeals recently issued a decision on the appeal filed by Bradley Johnson, the driver of the pickup truck who struck and killed Akron cyclist Bob Bachtel on May 1, 2004. Johnson was convicted of vehicular homicide and appealed his sentence which consisted of (1) 180 days in jail (with 120 days suspended), (2) $1,000 fine, to reimburse the Highway Patrol for its investigation costs, (3) $16,175.91 in restitution, (4) 5-year license suspension without occupational driving privileges, (5) mental health counseling, and (6) an unspecified term of community service. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s sentencing with respect to the jail time, restitution, license suspension, and counseling. However, the court did remand the case for reconsideration on the issues of the fine and community service. The court of appeals found that it was error for Judge Goldie to characterize the fine as reimbursement to a law enforcement agency.
In addition, the court found that Judge Goldie was required to set a specific term of community service. Accordingly, Johnson will be re-sentenced on these two issues; however, the remainder of the sentence will stand.

Bachtel was killed while participating in the Calvin’s Challenge, an ultra-marathon race near Xenia, Ohio. Johnson crossed a double yellow line to pass a group of cyclists who were signaling for a left turn, and struck Bachtel as he was completing his turn. The Highway Patrol also determined that Johnson was traveling in excess of the speed limit at the time of the crash.

Late Night Ride Report

So, last night around 2AM I headed out for a ride. It was much cooler than it has been, actually necessitating tights and armwarmers.

As always everything is very serene and quiet, especially out in the country. I come to a stop sign and there’s a car approaching from my left (the direction I’ll be turning). I decide to wait for him to pass, despite there being plenty of time for me to go. He briefly flashes a searchlight in my direction, (it’s a county cop) then pulls along side to speak to me. He asks if I’ve seen a couple of guys on dirtbikes (which I took to mean motorcycles).

“Nope, sure haven’t.”
“Well we’ve had a report of a couple of dirtbikes flying up and down this road, I don’t know if they have lights or not, so be careful and watch out.”
“OK”

And we went our seperate directions. As I’m riding away, something dawns on me; if there had been dirtbikes (or any other vehicles, for that matter) “flying up and down that road” at any time during the last 30 minutes, I would surely have heard them. Remember, these are quiet country roads, you can hear a motorcycle or a loud car miles away. This pointed to only three conclusions that I could think of.

A) The ‘dirtbikes’ were a fabrication, a mere pretense to speak to me and see what I was up to.
B) Some dimwit called the police because I was terrorizing the area, gliding along silently on my fixed gear (if I were up to something, would I be so well illuminated?)
C) There were actual dirtbikes, but it took the Sheriff’s Department so long to respond that they were long gone by the time he arrived.

So, for those of you keeping score at home, I saw/said hello to:
1 Deer (who ambled across the road ahead of me)
1 Bunny (who dashed across the road ahead of me)
1 Raccoon (bumbling along the edge of the road)
1 Cat (sitting at the edge of the road, watching, disinterested, as I passed)
Assorted cows and horses (going about their cow and horse business)
1 Sheriff’s Deputy (the only one who actually spoke back to me)

“Bike Helmet Idiocy” or “One Reason Why Our Kids are Fat”

The local TV news has a feature where someone from the newspaper highlights stories they’re working on for tomorrow’s paper. Tonight one of the stories was about a big increase in the number of kids injured while riding bikes. According to them 128 kids were treated at Children’s in Dayton for injuries suffered while riding bikes this year through May. (Here comes the idiocy) Most of those injuries were fractures, and most of the kids weren’t wearing helmets. No mention of how many were head injuries (the conspiracy theorist in me says this is because it’s too low a number to instill enough fear, or sell enough helmets). Plus if it were a significant number, why not tell us?

Where is the logic in this? Most of the kids broke (I’m guessing) arms and collarbones, why the obligitory helmet reference?

It’s like they quote the injury statistics to prove how dangerous bike riding is, then put forth helmets as some sort of panacea.

Scare the parents into not letting their kids ride their bikes while simultaneously lamenting the rise of childhood obesity.

It really does irritate the piss out of me how the news can’t mention the word bicycle without also mentioning helmets. Like the guy a few weeks ago that was hit while riding at night, with no lights, down the median of a busy road. He died of massive chest and abdominal trauma, but the news fixated on the fact he wasn’t wearing a helmet. No mention of the various unsafe (and illegal) things he was doing which led (directly) to him being hit, just that he wasn’t wearing a helmet (which was of no consequence).

Not once will they mention rider (or driver) education or Effective Cycling courses, no… helmets, helmets, helmets.

They passed a mandatory helmet law in Dayton for kids under 16, but no thought is given to adressing the real cause of the injuries (things like riding at night with no lights, riding against traffic, etc).

Rather than enforce the laws that already exist, they pass new laws. Is the priority actually saving lives, or is the priority simply making it appear as though something is being done without expending too much time, energy, or money?

And yes, I am planning on getting a copy of the paper, and writing a letter to the editor.