This has been a really tough week. I hope the one coming up is way better. I can't really blog about anything else until I say something about this, and I haven't been able to say something about this until now.
On Monday last, a cyclist was killed downtown. As he was riding through a crosswalk, the driver of a truck struck him, knocked him off his bike, ran him over, and then kept going.
I've been living under a black cloud in the days since. What happened was bad enough, but the attitudes that subsequently surfaced in online communities and forums put me in a tailspin. I should know better than to pay attention to the krap that people put on the internet, myself included. But there was no way to ignore it. Super dark, callous shit. Depressed the hell outta me.
I realize that some of it's psychology . . . cyclists live in fear and we want to look for what the other guy did wrong, so we can assure ourselves it won't happen to us. Motorists look at how hard the cyclist was to see, so that we can live with ourselves next time we have a drink and get behind the wheel. But still, it was cold as hell.
But that doesn't cover it all. I've spent more hours than I care to admit reading comments, searching for facts, trying to get my head around this. The conclusions should have been so simple, but they were not. The driver is well-liked and respected in the community. The cyclist apparently wasn't wearing a helmet and was riding after dark without lights. It wasn't the clear cut case of a day-glo-clad-LED-laden-rules-of-the-road-model-bike-citizen-meets-scum-of-the-earth-should-be-in-jail-dirtbag. It appears that it's rarely that simple.
I was seriously wrestling with this and trying to find answers and then Patty and I were having lunch yesterday at Taste, on the corner of Howard and 2nd and we were sitting at a window table, watching all the pedestrians and bikes and cars go by and all of a sudden it was pretty clear to me.
All the talk about personal responsibility and the fact that David's death was somehow his own fault make me want to puke. He was riding legally. Bike helmets aren't designed to save your head from getting crushed by the undercarriage of a vehicle, but I not trying to stir up that tired old debate. Nor do I care to crucify Scott Reckord . . . at the same moment that David died and went to bike heaven, Scott died the life he knew and went to hell on earth. His family was dropped into a bath of sewage that they can't swim out of. It's pretty damned tragic from every angle.
But here's the thing: There are a bazillion vulverable and marginilalized and regular folks that are either walking or riding around downtown because that's where they live or go. Some of them don't wear helmets. Some do. Some don't have lights. Some do. As a civilized, progressive city, we need to allow for this fact and for their safe passage. PERIOD.
Downtown is a busy place . . . human-powered humans are flying around all over the place. At the same time, tens of thousands of individuals control how and when 2 tons of steel they are sitting in is started and stopped and what direction it goes all the time. It's a lethal mix, and yet, it's what we have to deal with. I just think that it takes extra attention when you are driving sober downtown and that nobody has any business whatsoever doing it impaired. And that we need a way stronger sense of societal responsibility towards peds and bikers.
Thanks to John and Jon for the ghost bike. It's really, really important that Spokane remember and evolve from this tragedy.
To David: Rumor has it that in heaven, hills only go down and the wind is always at your back. I hope you're finding the rumor to be true.
To David's family and friends: No matter what kind of bullshit you hear, EVERYONE should have the right to walk or ride a bike downtown without getting run over. HE WASN'T DOING ANYTHING WRONG. I have no idea how hard this must be, but I hope that you can somehow find peace and some way to forgive, so it doesn't tear you up and claim your life, too.