I am sick of the of police representatives making excuses for drivers who crush cyclists.
Yesterday a 37-year-old woman was traveling down Milwaukee Ave., in a bike lane to the right of a dump truck. The dump truck fatally right-hooked her. Once again, the cycling community mourns for a tragic death and for the loved ones of the victim.
Police spokesperson Sally Bown commented that the truck driver was "legally making a right turn" and "did not see the bike on the right side". The old "blind spot" excuse lives on. The old implication that killing somebody because your vehicle has a blind spot is somehow just one of those unfortunate things that happen....
Drivers have a duty to keep a proper outlook when they drive. They are not excused from this because they are driving some poorly-designed vehicle with a blind spot. Especially when there are many ways, including better mirrors, sensors, and camera systems, to eliminate such blind spots. This is 2019, not 1919. It is negligent on its face to drive a huge truck on crowded residential streets with blind spots along its sides. No such vehicles should be allowed on the road, period.
So no, Sally Bown. That dump truck driver wasn't legally making a right turn. He was a lazy sod who, even though bicycles are all over on Milwaukee Avenue, didn't bother to make sure he was clear before he turned. And it is of no relevance that he didn't see the bicyclist on the right side -- it was his responsibility to make sure that he could before he made that turn. That driver acted completely recklessly and should be charged appropriately. No doubt the police will give him a minor ticket or two, if even that.
There is a duty at all times to be aware of such situations. If your truck renders you blind, then find another job or a better truck. Those trucks with the stupid diagrams on the back showing that they might run you over if you're to their right should be banned from city streets. Telling someone you're going to kill them before you kill them doesn't make it legal.
The truck driver had a duty to ensure the turn was safe, and the driver failed. However, the design of the environment (and mis-information and mis-perception about the safety of such environments) substantially contributes to such a failure, and this isn't the first incident of this type in Chicago involving a truck and cyclist. Our sympathies belong with her family and loved ones, and we must endeavor to prevent such tragedies.
Elsewhere, it is dangerous to dismiss efforts or opportunities to more safely conduct our own riding as merely "victim blaming." Individual cyclists have more control over their own behavior than of the behavior of anyone else - drivers, designers or otherwise. Imagining that someone ELSE will necessarily behave in traffic to ensure our safety is dangerous. Imagining that CDOT designs such as are found on Milwaukee and elsewhere are ultimately protecting cyclists, is likewise dangerous. Inviting people into unsafe conditions, and painting an illusion of safety doesn't promote safety. It does the opposite, and we as cyclists need to individually guard against these dangers as we cycle and with respect to policy, and encourage others to do so also.
As such, efforts to highlight the movements, mindsets, judgements and behaviors that contribute to putting ourselves in danger (not solely cause, but contribute to danger) are extremely important to safety and to making cycling less dangerous.
Conducting our own riding in a safe fashion - regardless of some sense of fault or blame - makes cycling safer, and thereby can substantially contribute to making cycling more popular.
Well put, ketoguy.
This is a well-written comment. Most telling for me is the careful intro paragraph. Might i respectfully suggest: any time you feel the need for such a disclaimer it’s your conscience trying to tell you “this is not the time or place.”
i also disagree about people “gleaning” something from this tragic death. If that were the goal, I would expect to see a lot more questions. Instead i see a lot of lectures. And that’s why “time and place” matters. On a random club ride, folks might be enthusiastic when you lecture them on safe riding and infrastructure. On a thread like this people have come to mourn and get support.
i have a lot of sympathy for you and for clp in these exchanges, ketoguy: it’s frightening and frustrating to acknowledge our mortality, and also that people don’t act the way we wish they would. I know how reassuring it can feel to vent that sadness as anger. I also understand how reassuring this very thread dynamic can be: you write your comments and people react with indignation. It’s predictable and that’s soothing. I get it, and I bet a lot of other readers do as well. So please know that we have you in our hearts. Each comment elicits a psychic hug from us to you: it’s going to be ok.
Thank you for the insights Mike, clp and Filka B. To add - the first paragraph of the comment isn't a disclaimer, it's integral to the post and is in the context of the thread title and circumstances (more on that at the end) especially that part about keeping a proper look-out. Especially as we include all who in addition to drivers should keep a look-out, this doesn't trigger indignation with folks on board with safe cycling guidelines.
It'd be hard to speak for all others on this, however people who wear seatbelts in cars probably aren't frightened or frustrated about their mortality for doing so, it just a matter of wisdom or prudence. Same/same for safe cycling habits.
That said, we can observe that lots of folks remark on a self-sense of a lack of cycling safety in this space - we see terms like safe passage or safe accommodation and such - acknowledging folks may have safety on their minds at the outset, which ultimately is a good thing.
Now is indeed the time and the place for all of this, which I suppose is why folks tee'd up these combined subject headers in the first place, along with the discussions of cops, truck designs, optics, mirrors and so forth, or, to glean something as clp had observed others doing.
But here's why now really is the time: Now is before yet another cyclist finds themselves yet another similar circumstance on Milwaukee and elsewhere. Otherwise the events which lead to this thread (rather, these threads over the years) will be repeated.