Friday, April 24, 2009

Pedestrian Cyclist collisions.

I dropped this comment at CBS5 Eye on Blogs and decided to reprint it here with a minor rewrite to correct something I thought was a bit inaccurate.

The topic - cyclists running lights/signs and endangering pedestrians. Pedestrians are a new class of folk demonizing cyclists - reference the comment in this Streetsblog post.

Yes, cars are more dangerous and getting hit by a bike is unlikely to be fatal but it's still no walk in the park, especially for children and the elderly. One of my colleagues is permanently disabled and, ironically, can no longer ride a bike because a cyclist slammed into her - yeah, she'd probably be dead if it were a car but that's not too terribly comforting. Also, far too many bicyclists are a penchant for yelling at pedestrians as they run stop signs and otherwise push themselves into our right of way - it happens to me at least once a week and it's terrifying and physically intimidating.

Anyway, here's my rant.

There is a lot of selective vision going on - pedestrians *expect* cars and are hyper vigilant to them They are a well known phenomena so pedestrians react to them without even thinking - which prevents so many close calls.

Additionally, people pretty much understands how cars operate traditionally - they are in a lane and they are lined up. And they expect those cars to be "what is in the road". So when they look to enter a street, they examine the "car travel lane". But in 2000's San Francisco there are also these things called bicycles which operate in a different part of the roadway than the cars - a part of the roadway that the typical person is not examining for danger, and a part that is not subject to the same traffic flow of the primary lane. That increases the close calls from a cyclist as a cyclist can be rolling up along a line of non-moving cars at 15 MPH from 30 yards away where the pedestrian only sees that traffic is blocked up and thus the road is safe. The primary situation where I have issues with this is from people entering the roadway mid-block - either as jaywalkers but more frequently to access the driver side door of their parked car.

And finally - people just expect close calls with cars and so those incidents are not seared into their memory like a close call with a cyclist is.

This all adds up to a natural bias - there are more close calls between cyclists and pedestrians than there might otherwise be in large part because of the fact that pedestrians are not trained to expect cyclists in the roadway. Pedestrians have a lower level of car interaction than there might otherwise be not because cars follow the law - but because they are hypervigilant and cede their right of way to poor drivers. Even if they recognize that they have saved their own life by their defensive walking - they forget this by the time they actually cross the street.

I fully think part of the animosity is caused because cyclists can very clearly see this and can't figure out why it's not so obvious to the other road users - including the pedestrians who should be the cyclists strongest allies.

Sadly, while I was in the process of writing my comment of Brittney's blog post - I looked up to see a report on the news that a three year old girl was killed by a motorist who turned right through a crosswalk without verifying that the crosswalk is clear. Yes - I am editorializing without the facts - but in this case I find the burden of proof to be on the motorist - if the pedestrian has a walk signal and there is a collision, the motorist is at fault. Had this mother looked to her left and noticed the driver not respecting the right of way, she would have waited for the driver to complete violating her right of way and then not given it a second thought.

1 comment:

djconnel said...

As always, astute observations. People are so anesthetized to enormous damage caused by cars. It's renormalized into background risk.