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People Cause Accidents

May 29, 2007

About a week and a half ago I was sitting in my living room ogling over my bikes. I had just gotten home from my friend, Johnny’s, house. He was generous enough to kick down some bike parts he had been collecting, and wasn’t using. Sitting in front of an aluminum road frame I hope to build(if I ever make the time) I heard the screech of car tires.
There was a fwump! and a crash. I thought to myself “I hope that’s just a car!” I ran to the window and leaned out over the fire escape to see a body laying in the street next to a BMX bike.

As many folks know, Visual Resistance started the NYC Ghost Bike project, so the first thing that flashed thru my head was, “holy shit, there’s going to be a ghost bike in front of my house.”
Impulsively I grabbed my camera, ran downstairs to document what happened. For me photographing an event like this comes from a sense that a “victim” may need visual documentation of injuries, location, license plates, police officer’s identification, etc. It’s less of the sick voyeur or objective documentor.
When I got outside there was already a crowd around the intersection and some people above the body on the ground. I still thought he was dead. Thankfully a bystander knew how to handle trauma situations and coordinated people until the ambulance came.
Coincidentally, waiting on the corner was a friend of the cyclist who had just been struck. The two were to meet up at this intersection and then go work on their bikes. Instead he took a car service to the emergency room where his friend, Shino, was treated for head injuries, broken bones, and gashes.
The driver, who thankfully stopped, was arrested for a suspended license. Its strange, for me, because I had empathy for him too. He was clearly remorsful and upset about what happened. When I was taking photographs, he was standing there too. He had seen the pool of blood below the cyclists head, the shoes that were ripped off his feet from impact, and the destroyed BMX bike. With all of my hatred and frustration with car culture, in this instance I couldn’t blame this driver. I hold him accountable for being the cause of this accident. Although I wasn’t as angry as I envision myself to react.
Drivers infuriate me. Cars parked in bike lanes, double parked on narrow streets, drivers distracted, talking on cellphones, aggressive maneuvers to go around other cars and cyclists, piss me off. Driving while intoxicated, and the deaths that have occured are unexcusable. What I’m conflicted with is how to hold people accountable. In accidents regarding bicyclists, the city government virtually ignores the rights of a cyclist. Rarely are motorists charged or convicted of wrongdoing. Sending people to jail, for accidents, doesn’t appear to be a solution, to me, in most situtations. It may acknowledge the humanity of the particular cyclist, but not the greater attitude of motorists toward bikes.
One of the things I hope the Ghost Bike Project, with the memorial rides, is capable of doing, is create a greater consciousness of cyclists. Of the right to ride bikes on NYC streets, that they are entitled to space on the street. That motorists need to share that space, and the City needs to provide more infrastructure to ensure the safety of those that choose to ride a bicycle.
Off the soapbox now.
The day after getting out of the hospital, Shino called me. He heard that I had taken pictures and he’d like to get them. He wanted to write a story about the accident for his
Upon seeing him I couldn’t help but think he was a ghost. His eye blood-red and a brace on his wrist. He was going for surgery the next day. I gave him the disc of fotos and told him I was grateful there was no need for a white bicycle at the intersection. He agreed.
You can check out his story “Life is Twisted” with the photos at Grindstate. The site layout may be a bit confusing for some, so fool around a bit. Its the first story up there.
Last, I want to ask everyone that drives a car, “look out for cyclists!”

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3 comments on “People Cause Accidents”

I think you underestimate how difficult cyclists make it on drivers. I have seen a ton of cyclists
riding their bikes in such a way that I know they have caused accidents. I feel bad for these guys.
The cyclist and the driver, but accidents are usually a 2 way street. If your on a bike you need to
know there area a ton of blind spots on cars and it is especially hard to see cyclists. Furthermore,
in cities, bike paths usually go right past intersections and turns onto streets and cyclists bomb
through these even though a car in front of them is about to take a turn. While I know many
people drive recklessly and probably don’t pay enough attention to everything around them, I think
cyclists are naive to think that drivers should be constantly on the lookout for them. If your cycling
in a high traffic area you need to watch out for yourself.

Having recently taking up bike riding to university I was really surprised at the extent to which cyclists are second citizens on the road. Apparently they don’t get things like right of way. But I’ve also heard the objection adam stated above that many cyclists are also reckless. While I’m sure this is true and that fault can be found on both sides I think it’s worth keeping in mind that if a motorist has a crash usually only their car gets damaged, while with a cyclist injury is almost guaranteed and fatality is a very real possibility. There’s an initiative to create a bike lane separated by traffic islands on some of our major arterial roads here in Melbourne, called a Copenhagen bike lane that I think would be an ideal solution to the problem. In general though I feel there just needs to be a higher level of awareness in motorists. Strange that this doesn’t happen as often in countries that have made bike-friendly policies a pointed government initiative e.g. the Netherlands and Belgium