Tuesday, July 8, 2008

An incident, spun thus...

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When the headline begins "Death Crash Cyclist", the details are usually all too familiar.

A cyclist and another road user meet. Physically. This does not go well for the cyclist. Cue, in approximate temporal order:
  • lurid imagery
  • apportioning of blame,
  • rationalization of the causes,
  • and a promise that lessons will be learned. Often in the form of an undertaking to redesign the road, the junction, or the cycle facility; rarely in the form of a promise to change future behaviour, from all interested parties.
And so we proceed, much as before.

Today, however, the Metro headline was more sour than sanguine. In full:

Death crash cyclist 'mowed down teen'


What does one say to that? A seemingly complex case, reduced to 'Cyclist did bad thing STOP cyclist inhuman, cyclist bad STOP', perhaps with an undertone of 'cycling bad STOP' thrown in too.

From the few facts in the piece, it would seem that both cyclist and teenagers were acting as humans do. Imperfectly. This death seems a terrible mistake - that the cyclist was on the pavement near these people (why?), that he perhaps could not tell they had been drinking, that one of them would step out at the last minute, unaware of the potential danger, and that he could not avoid the collision once that had happened.

But to equate that to 'mowing down' the bystander, to suggest he meant to cause this injury, this harm, this loss, is monstrous. And unbelievable. Ask any long-standing cyclist; when someone steps out in your path and you collide, it hurts. For both of you.

I've done this, colliding with a pedestrian who stepped into the road without looking. We both had only minor injuries - but i wouldn't choose to repeat the experience. No sensible person would; if this cyclist was insensible enough to, he'd be in need of psychological help, not a sentence.

More facts over at the Daily Mail's article, 'Cyclist killed teenage girl on pavement 'after refusing to swerve to avoid her''. For example, that the cyclist was doing 17 - 23mph. And that the teenager had drunk 2 cans of Stella (5.2% ABV).

And a helpful reminder, from the Daily Mail: "It is illegal to cycle on the pavement". These, the last words of an article which makes it clear, witnesses cannot agree where the cyclist was, road or pavement, when the collision occurred.

But no matter, 'Bad cyclist did bad thing STOP' still sells papers. Who reads this, and feels better for having done so?



(Those links, if reading without html -
http://www.metro.co.uk/news/article.html?in_article_id=208306&in_page_id=34
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/textbased/news/article-1032894/Cyclist-killed-teenage-girl-pavement-refusing-swerve-avoid-her.html
).

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