Tuesday, January 8, 2013

"The landscape changes the perspective" -Emily Dowdy

My previous post about what I wanted in the New Year apparently struck some as negative which was not my intention.  For me it was a kind of prioritisation, a la Chafed admittedly, but not intentionally negative.  Put another way, if I have my health, and the health of my family, I have what I need especially if no one steals my bicycle.  Other stuff - promotions, upgrades, fun vacations --- really are just the frosting.  When I am sitting at home with my two kids and my third kid that I borrow whenever I can and my guy who loves me and puts up with me and has a show-stopper of a bicycle I am truly happy.  Don't look so skeptical, even the Grinch had a heart that was capable of growth.

It was New Year's Day and all of us (two kids, borrowed daughter, husband, me) are in the car on the way to see a movie.  It would have been cool if we were all bicycling, we all love to bicycle, but the distance and the schedule had made this not possible and so we had crammed into the car and were going anyways and feeling very happy.

I was not driving and so I think I noticed first and my thoughts were in this order "oh my god" and then "on my god it's a child's bicycle."  I made Contraption Captain take a picture.  Here it is. 


I went home and easily found the story which is of a 14 year old girl on her way to school.  She was making a right hand turn onto the street that has her school on it at the same time as a pick-up truck.  "Somehow" she was hit and she died before getting to the hospital.

This has caused me a lot of pain.  Nothing like the pain of the parents of the girl or of her friends but pain that is real.  I read and re-read the accounts of her death.  It is described as a "mystery." 

And, quite separate from the pain behind my heart, I am deeply and angrily and profoundly frustrated.

At work we have a motto of "launch early and iterate."  The core of this, for me, is "create and improve and create and improve.  Always be improving."  I am frustrated that a 14 year old is gone and we are making no attempt to improve.  You will see here that I at no time call this an "accident."  I refuse to call it an accident.  If a problem happens again and again it is not an accident, it is homicide.

The girl was making a right turn when she was hit.  The intersection this happened at is a busy one with a traffic light.  Cars making a right turn at this intersection peel off just before the light in a smooth on-ramp.  They do not slow down.  They may accelerate as they try and beat the traffic coming from the other direction.  These "right turn ramps" are bad for bicyclists because the car is looking towards oncoming traffic and the car does not have to even pretend to slow down.  We should get rid of this turn option that happens immediately before a high school.  We should extra get rid of it now that someone has died there.

There are improvements to be made here.  The deaths show this.  We all know this.  

I don't want to be negative (I know, funny) but this is on my mind since seeing that small white bicycle and those flowers.  I have a 14 year old.  I'm out there.  I think all of us deserve more from these accidents tragedies then hand-waving "so sad" or "my prayers are with you."  Twenty-five years ago a family friend died on his way to a Palo Alto high school.  Did we learn anything?  Did we learn enough?  How many white bicycles before we make safe routes to school and to work and to, well, anywhere. 

Edit:  Yes.  She was wearing a helmet. 
Edit2:  Sigh.


  1. It is indeed tragic how often people die in our society from automobile-related causes and yet neither our leaders (who, admittedly, are supposed to follow the will of the majority) nor the masses who elected them are willing to make any concession to their own comfort and convenience to apply the obvious solutions. There must be a way to reach the emotions of the "common man" in such a way that speed and carelessness in an automobile can become as socially unacceptable as clubbing baby seals. They managed it somehow in the Netherlands...presumably a PSA campaign is insufficient, since drivers continually disregard warnings and cameras designed to prevent speeding. What is the the key to the mass psyche? Advertising seems to generally appeal to our greed and selfishness, and it works bloody well...can we tap into that somehow to trick people into behaving better socially?

    BTW, best of luck with managing the negative thoughts in the new year!

    1. I found this article on Dutch bicycling to be really good: http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2011/10/how-dutch-got-their-cycling.html

      I think about this a lot and wonder what I could be doing. Numerous bicycle advocates in my area, but they don't seem to get much traction.

  2. I too hate the word accident as it implies a random event, something that couldn't be helped. Those of us in the highways industry in the UK often use the word collision for something minor and crash for something horrible. Sadly we have had our first cyclist death of 2013 here and things have got to change as motor cars and lorries are killing and maiming so many people across the world.

    1. You know what totally sucked? I have multiple points of hate. I didn't want to link to the articles but some choice quotes:

      “It’s one of those accidents where you scratch your head and wonder why did this happen?” said Sgt. Fuckhead of the Worthless Police Dept.

      Read these articles and you'll start thinking she dropped dead of a heart attack or something. "What happened" everyone wonders. Well DUH. She got run over by a pick-up truck you dipsticks.

      It's only when you finally find a bicycle blog account where the bicyclists talk about the turn there, the ramps, the speeding and how totally unsurprised they are that someone died.

      Also. I'm sorry for your 2013 loss. I think of the oil conscious bicyclists who put "one less car" on their bicycles. And then I think of these white bicycles and think, glumly, "one less bicyclist."

  3. That death is worse than a simple tragedy. It is death by design and the designer was probably not even given a reprimand.

  4. Was that first edit because somebody asked you the question?!? Did you tell them it is immaterial!?! I am thinking very nasty words at the apologists who think they can make it "okay" for these deaths to have occured as long as the victim was "protected". No amount of safety gear on the victim absolves the killer...*ahem*, I mean driver, of their lack of vigilance. Damn, but that makes me angry!

    1. Yes. A bicyclist actually asked me, I think just kindof grasping at straws. It was sad really. All the articles said what a careful bicyclist she was. I can't believe that someone died there and nothing will change.

      More things that drive me nuts. Some driver kills a bicyclist and everyone feels sad about how the poor poor driver will have to "live with this."