It was great to read the provocative opinion piece about cycling in San Francisco in yesterday’s The New York Times’ Sunday Review (“Is It O.K. to Kill Cyclists?”), which amplified recent reporting and editorial messages from the Bay Guardian.
Kudos especially to the writer of that headline, which crystallizes the issue beautifully. San Francisco and other cities have essentially sanctioned violence against cyclists by refusing to issue citations against negligent motorists who kill and seriously injure cyclists. (It’s a sadly similar story with pedestrians, as a Bay Citizen investigation found last year).
“There is something undeniably screwy about a justice system that makes it de facto legal to kill people, even when it is clearly your fault, as long you’re driving a car and the victim is on a bike and you’re not obviously drunk and don’t flee the scene,” wrote Daniel Duane, a San Franciscan who now says he’s too scared to ride local roadways.
San Francisco will never get anywhere close to its official goal of having 20 percent of all vehicle trips being by bicycle by 2020 if the San Francisco Police Department focuses more on harassing cyclists running stop signs than it does on citing motorists that are actually responsible for most car versus cyclist collisions (according to a study cited in the article).
The reasoning for going easy on drivers who kill cyclists and pedestrians has been the assumption that juries won’t convict because “accidents happen” and we all need to keep driving, right? But that societal attitude causes problems ranging for needless death to global warming, and it only begins to change with good think-pieces like the New York Times piece.