Friday, October 2, 2009

Better Advocates, Please

According to Streetsblog, this evening Transportation Alternatives will be holding what amounts to a memorial bike ride for a person killed while riding his bike across Queens Boulevard.

The person who was killed was killed by another person, this one driving a car. Who knows how many laws the person behind the wheel of the car was breaking at the moment he or she hit the man on the bike—that's the thing about these cases: all your experience suggests there was wrongdoing but officialdom doesn't care enough to determine what that was—but apparently the one with the bike was crossing against the light.

When the Streetsblog post gets around to acknowledging this, it takes a painful turn:
But capital punishment should not be the likely penalty for an error in judgment. James was arguably as much the victim of an infrastructure designed exclusively for the convenience of motorists. All others who stray into the area are an afterthought, at best.
By "painful" I mean both that I find it painful and that the writer also seems to.

Here's a guy posting on a policy blog about a friend who recently died—a rotten position, to be sure. The writer has to balance all kinds of different feelings and rhetorical needs, the most important one here being to square, at least loosely, his friend's death with the kinds of policies advocated by the organization he's associated with.

And since that organization emphasizes changing infrastructure over changing behavior and winks at people on bikes who run red lights, the writer follows suit.

Listen: I think it's terrible this person died. Goddamn it: biking to work shouldn't be a semi-suicidal pursuit. And that street sounds like hell. If it had been me trying to cross it, I'd want to be away from it as soon as I possibly could. And, yes, the infrastructure is built to make people in cars as happy as they can be. (Not easy, since they're among the most miserable people on earth.)

But how do you have a friend die while apparently crossing against a red light and not scream "Stop at red lights!" at least as loudly as you scream "Stop speeding!" and "Stop building roads for just a tiny part of the population!"?

I want better advocates for the causes I believe in. Some that demand more than an organization can give.

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