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  1. #1
    Team NFI
    Join Date
    Mar 2007

    There's Another Way- Cycling Fatalities

    Interesting read as it compares US response to a cyclist killed by a motor vehicle and the response in Holland.

    There's Another Way | Road Rights |

    In the US and the Netherlands, two children on bikes are struck by cars—and the responses couldn’t be more different

    By Bob Mionske

    The driver who hit Burgess Hu never saw him.

    She was making a right turn, and the police assume she was looking left. In other words, she wasn’t looking where she was going.

    As he biked into the driveway of Excelsior Middle School in Byron, California, 12-year-old Burgess was knocked down and dragged some 60 feet before the driver came to a stop. He never made it to school that day. Instead, as the school day began, Burgess lay dead under the wheels of the black GMC Yukon.

    In this country, “I didn’t see the cyclist” is the negligent driver’s universal get-out-of-jail free card. It shouldn’t be. If you say you were driving and didn’t see somebody, it’s almost always because you weren’t paying attention. Maybe you were reaching for something in the front seat, or maybe even the back seat. Maybe you were daydreaming. And then suddenly, there’s a cyclist who “came out of nowhere,” smashing into your car.

    When the driver says, “I didn’t see the cyclist,” that’s usually enough for everybody to call it a “tragic accident”—and we don’t want to hold people accountable for accidents, do we? Certainly not. Not if you’re a legislator. Not if you’re on a jury. And not if you’re the California Highway Patrol, investigating the scene where an SUV just ran down a kid at a school. No, it’s not that the driver wasn’t looking where she was going. It was just a “tragic event” and the driver is “devastated.”

    You want to know what’s really tragic? We allow this to happen. We make excuses, and offer up empty condolences, and don’t hold negligent drivers accountable, all because we’re afraid that we, too, might be held accountable for not paying attention. For not watching where we are going. For fiddling with the stereo, or shaving, or texting, or just daydreaming while driving, and not seeing what we should have seen, had we only been paying attention.

    And we shift the blame, from the driver to the cyclist. If Burgess had been riding on the right side of the road, this would never have happened, we say. We don’t stop to think about the reason Burgess was riding on the left-hand shoulder: The school sits on a two-lane highway with no safe way to cross from the right side to get to the school. No traffic signal. No contra-flow bike lane. No multiuse path so kids could walk or bike to school. No Safe Routes to School program. So yeah, blame the kid. That way, we won’t have to blame the adults who let him down.

    It’s the American way. But there’s another way.

    Hananja Konijn, 12, was riding his bike home from school. A turning truck right-hooked him, knocking him from his bike and dragging him for a few feet before it came to a stop. Konijn died the next morning. In the US, we would have called it a “tragic accident” and that would be that. But this crash didn’t happen in America. It happened in the Dutch city of Zoetermeer. And in the Netherlands accident investigations are required for every bicycle fatality. So when young Hananja was run down, police went to work.

    The intersection where Konijn was killed was closed by accident investigators, who painstakingly recreated the crash, as reported in the Boston Globe:

    Along with clipboards and cameras and measuring tape, they brought with them an 18-wheeler and a child-sized bicycle. Over and over, they maneuvered the two around the corner, recreating the all-too-common “right hook” accident in slow motion, each time adjusting the truck’s mirrors or the angle at which it struck the bike.

    This intense attention to detail was not conducted simply to determine who was at fault in the crash. Under Dutch law, the driver is automatically at fault, unless it can be proved that the cyclist was at fault. The greater responsibility for safety is placed upon the driver because the driver is operating the more dangerous vehicle. Even if the cyclist is at fault, the driver’s insurance is still responsible for at least 50 percent of the damage to the cyclist and the bike. And if the cyclist is a child, the driver’s insurance pays 100 percent of the damages. Coupled with more serious attention to driver education, the Dutch system produces drivers who are very careful to avoid the kinds of preventable crashes that we routinely excuse as “accidents.” And by encouraging careful driving, the Netherlands is one of the safest countries for cyclists.

    Still, accidents do happen, even in the Netherlands. But when they do, the authorities respond, and drivers are held accountable. The truck driver who right-hooked Hananja Konijn was charged within days. A year later, the judge handed out the maximum sentence of 240 hours of community service and a suspended sentence of two months in prison. His driver’s license was revoked for 18 months.

    The Dutch response to the fatality didn’t end there. Remember that painstaking accident reconstruction? The intersection where young Hananja Konijn had been killed was redesigned within a month of his death. A mirror was installed beneath the traffic light to help drivers see approaching cyclists. A bike box was also installed, so that cyclists would be able to cross the intersection before a driver could right-hook them. And the bike lane was doubled in width by removing an automobile lane, and painted bright red.

    As one Zoetermeer resident explained,

    “When you have an incident with such an impact on the community, with such feelings of anger, you have to show the people you’re taking it very seriously. You actually have to change the situation to make it less dangerous.”

    Can we do the same here? The choice is ours.

  2. #2
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    May 2007
    We do that now for impaired driving. If a cop thinks your drunk and demands a breathalyzer, you do have the right to refuse, but then you can be charged with impaired. This reverse onus of proof requires one to prove their own innocence.

    I agree that we need the same standard of care towards the more vulnerable road users. If a motorist hits a cyclist or pedestrian, the motorist should be assumed at fault. Same if a cyclist hits a pedestrian.

    It's not fair, but neither is the drunk driving law... We accept this with the assumption, that on balance, lives will be saved....

  3. #3
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    You can refuse but it is not in your best interests.

    You cannot be convicted of Impaired Driving and having Excess Blood Alcohol. You can be convicted of Impaired Driving and Refusing to Provide a Sample though.

    The difference is, deciding whether you blow or not has nothing to do with the Impaired charge. It is all about determining if the amount of alcohol in your blood is above the limit - the Excess charge.

    The impaired charge is all about the signs of intoxication you exhibit. Poor driving, Red-rimmed, water eyes, slurred speech, unsteady, and to a lesser degree, the smell of booze.

  4. #4
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Quote Originally Posted by Fyrblade View Post
    You can refuse but it is not in your best interests.

    You cannot be convicted of Impaired Driving and having Excess Blood Alcohol. You can be convicted of Impaired Driving and Refusing to Provide a Sample though.
    Is there an effective difference? Aren't the sanctions basically the same?

    Is my point wrong that we have a reverse onus of proof for impaired driving?

    Not trying to be contrary, but curious...


  5. #5
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    Reputation: Dr.Zoidberg's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2007

    RE: There's Another Way- Cycling Fatalities

    What a difference in view point between the two cultures. The author is absolutely right, a good chunk of society will blame the cyclist. I like that in the 2 examples given, nothing was done in accident 1 after the fact contrasting the improvements made after accident 2.

    Sent from my Lumia 920 using Board Express

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