Friday, September 4, 2009

Overturned pedestrian law: sending motorists the wrong message

I know how everyone loves the west coast and the pacific northwest and looks to them as beacons of cyclist freedom. I rarely see these people riding here when it rains though.

"THE state Court of Appeals appropriately rejected a Seattle law that automatically criminalized traffic infractions resulting in serious injuries or death. The court correctly concluded that the 2005 ordinance conflicted with state law decriminalizing most traffic offenses. "

Cyclists, pedestrians not just collateral damage in accidents

Is the life of a bicyclist or pedestrian worth no more than the life of a deer shot out of hunting season?

That appears to be the opinion of The Seattle Times in its Aug. 21 editorial ["Court right to reject Seattle traffic law," Opinion]. Per The Times and the Court of Appeals, drivers who kill or injure cyclists or pedestrians are at most guilty of traffic violations. Let the motorist pay a few hundred dollars to the city treasury and take his SUV back out on the road.

According to The Times, any death or injury is just an unfortunate result of "the increased competition for road space." Has the Times decided that the unfettered competition championed by its business columnists is an ideal policy for traffic as well?

Cyclists and pedestrians beware. You are potential collateral damage in the competitive road economy, and The Times says that's how it should be.

Court rejected accountability from motorists

Perhaps the Court of Appeals ruling isn't anti-cyclist ["Court rejects city traffic law," NWTuesday, Aug. 18]. But it sends an awfully disturbing message to the cycling community.

When I read the Motor Vehicle Laws and got my driver's license, I was sobered to learn that I would be held accountable for any damage I did with the several-thousand-pound vehicle I was being allowed to operate. Perhaps the court has rejected accountability for motor-vehicle operators by their ruling in this case, too.

The Times cited the defense attorney's earnest claim that his client had not failed to do anything that was asked of him. But he left one thing out: The motorist failed to observe the traffic law. He failed to yield the right of way to the cyclist, who subsequently died.

I learned of the circumstances of this case only through reading Times' accounts and opinions of it. Nonetheless, it now seems that all noble promises made by the Department of Licensing about traffic laws being equally enforced for all users of the roads are false, and those who take to the streets on bicycles had better ride as if every car on the road is out to do them serious bodily harm.

That certainly fits my experience of commuting to work on a bicycle. And it fits the facts of this case.