NYT asks, "Is it okay to kill cyclists?"

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The Times gave good play and a cool graphic to its "Is It O.K. to Kill Cyclists?" piece in Sunday's paper.
Kurt McRobert

It was great to read the provocative opinion piece about cycling in San Francisco in yesterday’s The New York Times’ Sunday Review (“Is It O.K. to Kill Cyclists?”), which amplified recent reporting and editorial messages from the Bay Guardian.

Kudos especially to the writer of that headline, which crystallizes the issue beautifully. San Francisco and other cities have essentially sanctioned violence against cyclists by refusing to issue citations against negligent motorists who kill and seriously injure cyclists. (It’s a sadly similar story with pedestrians, as a Bay Citizen investigation found last year).

“There is something undeniably screwy about a justice system that makes it de facto legal to kill people, even when it is clearly your fault, as long you’re driving a car and the victim is on a bike and you’re not obviously drunk and don’t flee the scene,” wrote Daniel Duane, a San Franciscan who now says he’s too scared to ride local roadways.

San Francisco will never get anywhere close to its official goal of having 20 percent of all vehicle trips being by bicycle by 2020 if the San Francisco Police Department focuses more on harassing cyclists running stop signs than it does on citing motorists that are actually responsible for most car versus cyclist collisions (according to a study cited in the article).

The reasoning for going easy on drivers who kill cyclists and pedestrians has been the assumption that juries won’t convict because “accidents happen” and we all need to keep driving, right? But that societal attitude causes problems ranging for needless death to global warming, and it only begins to change with good think-pieces like the New York Times piece.    

Comments

You are being a little loose with your language. Generally, when we say "crime" we mean a misdemeanor or felony. Speeding is almost always an infraction, and double-parking certainly is an infraction.

Also, the police are not the authority that ultimately decides to bring charges, it is the DA who prosecutes crimes, though the police are responsible for gathering the necessary evidence to present build a case for criminal prosecution, and if they do a poor job of investigating, then the DA has nothing to base a prosecution on.

All that said, there is no crime simply for hitting someone with your car unless it can be proven you either intentionally did it or were driving recklessly, and just speeding is not considered reckless driving (though extreme speeding may be). Speeding may get you a ticket, but it won't, except in the most extreme cases, get you prosecuted for injuring or killing someone.

Posted by Chris on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 12:59 am

"All that said, there is no crime simply for hitting someone with your car"

At the very least it is battery as motorists are required under law to maintain control of their vehicles as a precondition for the privilege of driving.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 10:53 am

Sometimes it's just an accident.

and you cannot realistically drive so slowly that you can stop if someone or something suddenly jumps out in front of you.

In fact, you can get a ticket for driving too slowly.

Posted by anon on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 11:09 am

Marcos, just hitting someone with your car out of negligence is not criminal battery under the law.

If you drive recklessly with a willfuld disregard for others, and you hit someone it can be battery. But, simple negligence like speeding (unless you are going so fast that you are recklessly speeding) or failing to signal while changing lanes does not amount to recklessness. In other words, just because you hit someone with your car, or with your hand, or with a bat, or with a brick, or with a lamp, even if you were negligent in doing so, it does not mean you have committed criminal battery.

Posted by Chris on Nov. 15, 2013 @ 1:10 pm

The least we could do, as the article states, is implement a license revocation and mandatory community service. A very small price to pay for taking a life.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 5:43 pm

That's not new.

But this "taking a life" when doing something that 99.99% of other drivers do as well is really punishing someone for being unlucky.

We already have civil remedies for such things, and of course motor insurance. I'm not clear what is gained by getting all punitive as well.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 5:56 pm

The logic of the fascist is that conduct is not illegal when everyone does it.

All of these collisions could be prevented by the motorist driving slower and taking greater pains to be aware of their surroundings so that, I know that is is radical, they might maintain control of their vehicle and not hit anything else with it as required by law.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 6:06 pm

There is an economic cost because there is more time traveling and so less productive time. That means less incomes and profits, which means less taxes, which means less hospitals to treat road accident victims, which means more deaths.

It's a zero sum game. What is a life worth? Less than a billion? Sure. Less than a million? Maybe.

But the point made was more about bad luck. Most good drivers will never have an accident, and some who are equally good will have one. It shouldn't be a lottery.

And cyclists need to play their part too e.g. by holding back if they think a vehicle ahead might make a turn rather than asserting their "rights" and ploughing on regardless of the danger.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

Why do you continue to make excuses for negligent lawbreakers with might makes right arguments?

Posted by marcos on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 6:40 pm

I was explaining reality to you.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 7:30 am

Less that a Million? Maybe? Less that a bucket of warm spittle? Most likey!

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 11:51 pm

of a human life, whether you like that idea or not.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 7:31 am

Your assumption that slower driving = less taxes is bullshit. It also would provide incentive for more biking/walking and transit, denser development, and hey, more business opportunity. The idea that cars are integral to every part of American life is essentialized, such that you can't even see outside your conservative viewpoint. Cars do not an economy make.

Posted by Calling Your BS on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 10:46 am

traffic throughputs directly translate into lower productivity and economic output.

Posted by anon on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 10:53 am

Your assumption that slower driving = less taxes is bullsh*t. It also would provide incentive for more biking/walking and transit, denser development, and hey, more business opportunity. The idea that cars are integral to every part of American life is essentialized, such that you can't even see outside your conservative viewpoint. Cars do not an economy make.

Posted by Calling Your BS on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 10:46 am

Slowing them down hurts the economy.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 7:54 pm

didn't live by the standard you want to hold cars to
(which is the correct standard, btw. . .)

Posted by guestD on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 1:54 pm

But cars are not held to that standard while bicyclists are. Cars are given the benefit of the doubt due to incumbency while cyclists are held to the higher standard by being lectured on the laws of physics. At least the laws of physics are more durable than racialism, however when the white person had the gun or the rope, then the black person was likewise subject to the laws of physics.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 2:21 pm

Because drivers need training, testing, registration, licensing and insurance.

Cyclists get away with none of them.

If a car hits you, you can claim on insurance or sue for relief. Good luck trying that with a penniless uninsured cyclist.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 2:38 pm

You just said that all cyclists are wealthy white male tech workers. Now they are penniless? Which one is it?

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 5:29 pm

When I lived in Long Beach it was fairly common for people to drive without insurance.

Especially on the Westside and Northtown. For that matter many didn't have Reg or a license.

It made resolving fenderbenders a breeze, since if you called the cops they would just ask if anybody was hurt, and if nobody was, they'd say 'trade information' and let it go.

Since nobody had 'information' we'd just go our way, easy peasy lemon squeazy, 5 minutes total.

That's why I don't really back mandatory insurance.

Posted by pete moss on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 6:10 pm

even when you have won your lawsuit against them, you still have to collect. With insurance, that would not be an issue at all.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 6:19 pm

You admitted yourself that cars are not held to a higher standard because of the laws of physics, because they are not prosecuted for vehicular manslaughter like bicyclists are and because the law is the law and the rules of the road are the law.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 6:17 pm

i have to have training, testing, registration, licensing and insurance. You have none of those. If we have an accident, you can claim against my insurance but I cannot claim against yours because you dont have any.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 6:24 pm

You are conflating quite a few steps. You can only mandate community service if someone is tried and convicted of a crime.

I don't think anyone would disagree with the idea that if someone is found guilty in a court of law of vehicular manslaughter that they should be subject to punishment. So, I am not sure where your statement comes from with "the least we could do?" No one is convicted of vehicular manslaughter and then dismissed with a simple "Okay, have a nice day!"

Posted by Chris on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 1:20 am

It is a thoughtful piece about a rather complex problem.

The author, at the end, does point to irresponsible bike riders like Steven ("It's OK to run stop signs on a bike") Jones as part of the problem:

"So here’s my proposal: Every time you get on a bike, from this moment forward, obey the letter of the law in every traffic exchange everywhere to help drivers (and police officers) view cyclists as predictable users of the road who deserve respect."

There is no doubt that some drivers need to anticipate bicycle traffic better, and there is absolutely no doubt that many bicyclists make it even more difficult by feeling that they can ignore the rules of the road.

BTW, there is no indication that the author even read the SFBG pieces, despite Steven's claim that he was 'amplifying' SFBG coverage. Somebody who knows Steven needs to do an intervention over this delusion of grandeur problem.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 11, 2013 @ 6:52 pm

respect. They cannot blow through stop signs and lights, and ride on the sidewalk or the wrong way down one-way streets, and then whine about auto drivers engaging in traffic law infractions.

If there is a single reason why the public isn't outraged about these occasional (and they are occasional) cyclist deaths, it is because of the total lack of respect for the law that cyclists demonstrate routinely and, indeed, attempt to rationalize.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 11, 2013 @ 7:07 pm

You car drivers will get my respect when you stop speeding constantly. Because you all speed. Every car driver speeds and risks the lives of everyone around them. They feel this massive sense of entitlement that allows them to break the law with impunity. Many car drivers run stop signs, double park, talk on the cell phone while driving and drink and drive as well. Every car driver pollutes the air and risks the lives of everyone around them every single time they turn a key.

Most cyclists are law abiding. There are a few jerks who blow through stop signs but they are the minority.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 12:15 am

you need theirs. Because, to be blunt, they are bigger.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 6:16 am

That's a disturbing statement. While your gun may be bigger than mine, we're both still human and we both have the same rights and responsibilities on the road.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 5:49 pm

If you talk differently to a guy who is twice your size, shouldn't you ride a bike differently when surrounded by vehicles several times your size?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 6:22 pm

But notice how you keep losing every political fight? Freeways keep getting torn down, parking keeps being replaced with bicycle lanes, speed limits keep going down, lanes of traffic keep getting turned into Rapid Transit lanes. Parking meters keep sprouting up and rates in paid lots keep getting higher and higher.

Notice how every year parking is harder to find, traffic is slower and slower and yet fewer and fewer people are driving?

Enjoy it while it lasts, because you dinosaurs are on the losing side of history.l

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 11:55 pm

expect to hear any more whining from you about big bad cars.

Posted by anon on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 10:52 am
Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 7:47 am

But this is a good example of where prosecution is valid i.e. it was DELIBERATE behavior rather than ACCIDENTAL behavior.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 8:05 am

So you agree that those who deliberately double park in bicycle lanes should be prosecuted?

Hallelujah! We agree on something.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 5:31 pm

sidewalk.

But the distinction i was drawing was between vehicular homicide and an accident.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 6:18 pm

I invite you to an evening at Pierce and Haight, lets say 5:00pm to 6:30pm. Draw you own conclusions about a "few jerks".

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 8:16 am

How many peds have been struck by cyclists at that intersection?

Posted by marcos on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 6:33 pm
Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 6:44 pm

There are crosswalks there, are cyclists colliding with pedestrians in crosswalks?

Posted by marcos on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 7:10 pm

one of their ilk is already dead.

Great idea, asshat.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 7:53 pm

Would that such standards applied elsewhere, such as religions that don't get any consideration so long as a small group of outliers acts inappropriately, whether it be having sex with altar boys, taking meth and renting male escorts or supporting homophobic ballot measures.

Perhaps your next suggestion is that all civil rights laws be rolled back for black people because a tiny minority of black people is known to engage in bad conduct.

Of course, perish the thought that motorists be held to that standard, that all motorists' privilege to drive be held in abeyance until all motorists obey the law.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 6:57 am

cyclists do not get "respect" as long as they routinely flaunt the laws. And if the public aren't screaming for stricter prosecution of drivers who hit cyclists, it's because they do not feel sympathy for cyclists.

If the shoe fits, you wear it.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 7:14 am

You're advocating Jim Crow for cyclists.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 6:33 pm

You have to forgive Marcos. He equated his quest to allow bicyclists to ride on sidewalks and blow through stop signs/lights with the civil rights movement of the 60s. He thinks cops giving cyclists tickets for running stop signs is equivalent to Bull Connor siccing dogs on people trying to earn the right to vote.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 6:54 pm

Of course, people of color should be denied equal protection from gun violence because some people of color use knives illegally, your logic makes perfect sense.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 7:00 pm

Your choices are akin to your biological make up.

Posted by Matlock on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 7:21 pm

Religion is a choice, it is protected under the law. All sorts of legal choices are protected under the law.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 7:24 pm
Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 7:35 am

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