Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fatal Attractions

Advocates of bikes as transportation often make the point (as I have here ) that motorists' anger at reckless bike riders is overblown because such bikers are primarily risks to themselves. Well, its a good theory, and, I think it's true, but I feel compelled to point out that, here in Austin, we've had 2 fatal traffic accidents this month in which one of the those involved was on a bike but the person who was killed was NOT.

On July 6, Jessie McFarlin, who was struck by a bicycle while he was trying to cross the street at night , died after several days in the hospital. The cyclist was not charged, as police said that McFarlin was jay walking. The bike was traveling 25-30 mph. I don't know many of the details, but the accident does point out the particular dangers of biking after dark. Most bicycle lighting is designed primarily to make the bike visible to drivers, not to illuminate the bike's path to its rider. Thus, it's easy to outride your headlight.

The stranger of the 2 accidents occurred on July 20, when Ernest Kirchner was killed when his motorcycle collided with a bicycle. The bicyclist was treated and released. The story is not very clear as to how the accident occurred, but it did note that Kirchner was not wearing a helmet.

So, I guess that the exception proves the rule. Neither of the people killed in these accidents was in a car. Indeed, the two accidents are notable precisely because of their "man bites dog" aspect. But they do serve as reminders that bike riders can hurt others if they are not careful.


David said...

(warning: old fogey story ahead, bearing only slight relation to original topic)

Yes, bicycles can be dangerous to others than their riders. While attending the University of California at Santa Cruz, I frequently rode my bike back from school at night. One moonless foggy night I was coming down the unlit bikepath which traversed the open fields between UCSC and the city of Santa Cruz. Suddenly, through the mist there's a Holstein cow standing sideways, completely blocking the pathway. I lock up my brakes and start skidding on the slippery asphalt. I was able to lay the bike down and hit a cow's legs, wheels first. With her feet knocked out from under her, she fell on me like a sack of potatoes. She flailed around getting back up, stomping on me and the bike, before running off into the dark. The bike was wrecked and I ended up with a number of puncture wounds where it had been pushed into me by the animal's weight.

Because I'm a dairy farmer, I've been asked more than a few times about the feasibility of "cow tipping". (running up to a standing cow and pushing her over at night) My response is that I know it can be done if the conditions are just right.

Texan By Chance said...

I wonder what the farmer made of the bicycle wheel print on the cow's flank.