Monday, October 19, 2009

Blaming the victim

One of the objections I hear most from people interested in riding their bikes more is that it's dangerous. And when you read articles like the case of Dr. Thompson you can understand why people think that.

But, as Matt Yglesias rightly pointed out several months ago (can't find the link but here are some other interesting posts), this is not a particular accurate way to think about it. When a car hits a bicycle, it's very rarely because the cyclist did something wrong or acted in an unsafe manner*. It's usually because the driver was driving to fast, misjudged the cyclists speed, didn't see the cyclist, etc. I am not saying drivers are evil perse. But the reality is it's *driving* that's dangerous. And it's dangerous even with the best of intentions. As we all know, a moment of inattention driving can lead to horrific results. But that underscores my basic point: I can make a mistake riding my bike and it's unlikely the result will be serious injury to anyone but me and very unlikely to result in death.

When we think about transportation I think it's important to understand that solving these problems isn't likely to come from lecturing cyclists to be more safe. Rather, it needs to be driven by incentives to ride more and policies to reduce the potential impact of weoponized personal transportation units.

*that's not to say cyclists always behave in a safe manner either. There are plenty of asshole riders (and you know who you are). Everyone make errors too, but as I said above the stakes are a bit higher when piloting motorized steel.

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