An article in the Washington Post recently discussed a rise in cyclist fatalities that’s causing concern among safety boffins. Per the article, cyclist fatalities have risen from 621 national incidents in 2010 to 722 in 2012, a 16% increase.
Yet the article begins by pointing out that cycling is on the rise, particularly among urban commuters. Well, it stands to reason that the more cyclists there are out on the road, the higher the fatality rates will be. The more cyclists there are, the higher the odds of an incident resulting in a fatality become.
But that probably doesn’t account for the whole rise, I agree. And I suspect I know where the difference is: The difference is in the fact that there are now more cyclists breaking the law and getting a graphic lesson in physics.
A good number of cyclists think they are above the law, not only the traffic law, but above the laws of physics as well, as if hideous Lycra shorts and godawful day glow, branded shirts suspend kinematics. I’ve seen cyclists not stop at stop signs, which is bad; but I’ve also seen them not bother to stop at stop lights. At major intersections. Last year, I personally nearly sent one pureed into the afterlife when he failed to stop at a stop sign crossing an interstate off ramp. That’s right, I had the right of way and didn’t have to stop (so of course, I wasn’t going to); and had I been a worse driver, he would have been tire tread filler.
And this is just in the small sampling of cyclists I get to see on only my drives. Now, the cyclist douchebaggery that I see is the minority behavior; most cyclists I see on my drives have a healthy sense of well being. But multiply those acts of disregard for a sense of survival across the country, and it’s easy to see that this trend fits into the overall framework of more cyclists equal more fatalities.
To be fair, I’m well aware that not all cyclists involved in physics lessons with vehicles provoked it. I’ve seen plenty of inattentive drivers wander into the bicycle lane, and this infuriates me when I see it. Because on one hand, I ride in the bike lane when there is one and so does my daughter. And anyone who uses the bike lane when there is one should be able to do so without fear that he’ll get creamed by some derptastic driver taking a selfie and posting a status update on Twitter.
I can’t understand such a low level of egotistical intellect that allows people to use their cars and their phones at the same time. It’s utterly unforgivable to be piloting a vehicle when you’re not fully engaged in that activity. Most people are complete crap at just the act of driving; nothing has ever indicated they should engage in another activity while driving, yet they do. All the time. It’s unfathomable.
However, drivers are automatically blamed for hitting cyclists, and like my contempt for the Look Twice campaign, I think this is ludicrous. Cyclists should be ticketed for traffic infractions with penalties just as stiff as those for cars because they’re ignoring the generally agreed upon traffic statutes.
However, those cyclists who violate traffic laws and flaunt the laws of physics are going to do it regardless. So perhaps the rising number of cyclist fatalities is just Darwinism at work.