When something bad happens, there is a tendency to talk about why. Sometimes, “why” makes things easier to understand, or perhaps even excusable. Other times it seems less relevant — perhaps negligent to even consider. Nevertheless, it creeps in and muddies things up.
Such is the case when a driver, not paying attention on a country lane, plows through a group of cyclists. Several whys immediately begin to be hashed over. Here are some of the whys:
Why did it happen?
Why wasn’t the driver able to stop?
Why were the cyclists in the road to begin with?
It is the last one with which I take issue, because I think it is dangerous, but before I go any further, take a look at three news articles on the subject of the crash in question.
First there’s the AJC article forwarded to me by Amy, which starts like this:
A crash involving an SUV and a group of cyclists near Augusta has led to a cultural collision between people who want to use the roads for exercise and others who just want to get where they’re going.
Already I think we’re in trouble territory because it doesn’t matter why the cyclists were on the road any more than it matters why the car was on the road. Cyclists are traffic. They don’t need a reason to be in any public street other than they feel like being there.
There’s also an update from News 12 in Augusta, which contains this:
A Dodge Durango driven by Daniel Johnson of Beech Island came up behind the group and was not able to stop, striking all the riders, Robinson said. Troopers believe Johnson was not paying attention but no charges have been filed in the case.
And then there’s an article from the Augusta Chronicle, which goes into further thought about cyclists’s right to be on the road:
Regardless of people’s opinions on sharing the road, Georgia and South Carolina clearly spell out the responsibilities of motorists and cyclists. Both states consider bicycles vehicles, meaning they can ride on the road and must stop at stop signs and other traffic signals.
In my opinion, the most important “why” here is this one, bolded for emphasis:
Why aren’t people better to one another?
You’ll note that I’ve neglected to continue to refer to “cyclists and drivers” as two disparate groups. We are all, after all, people.
I think I have an answer, but I’m interested to hear yours if you have one as well. I think the answer is “Because they do not always understand each other” and unfortunately I don’t think that infrastructure is going to fix that lack of understanding in this context. As cool as it is to see dedicated bike lines in the city’s streets, for instance, the extra painted line that denotes a bike lane doesn’t stop people from parking right in it, as demonstrated here by a post office van.
I think that increasing understanding should be the top goal of anyone who wishes to improve transportation. People on bikes or in cars are occasionally going to make mistakes, like not paying attention, and accidents are, unfortunately, going to happen, but ultimately we’re all citizens of one community.
I think that we can understand each other if we want to.