Monday, August 31, 2009

From Commuter Outrage:

Traffic Justice (For Some – Those Injured by Cyclists Need Not Apply)

by Lewis Derkins
August 20th, 2009, 7:49 am

Streetsblog loves to rail about “traffic justice,” and lately it seems like I see it on the site every day.

Yesterday, Streetsblog was at it again with a post describing the reaction of a woman who witnessed a traffic accident in front of a subway station. In response to the accident, Streetsblog elaborates their strategy to reduce traffic accidents:

A more effective approach, for starters, would be an across the board no tolerance policy to speeding on city streets, coupled with prosecution of reckless motorists who maim and kill.

Streetsblog echoes this approach every chance they get, usually using provocative post titles like, “Want to Reduce Pedestrian Deaths? Stop Letting Their Killers Walk.” In fact, they have a whole section titled “Traffic Justice” to chronicle seemingly every death or injury at the hands of an automobile.

But it’s hard to take Streetsblog seriously when their notion of traffic justice isn’t blind – if you happen to be a pedestrian killed or injured at the hands of a cyclist, Streetsblog has no interest in your story.

Take, for example, the tragic case of Stuart Gruskin, successful businessman, devoted husband, father of two – killed by a cyclist going the wrong way down a one-way street on April 28, 2009. (Perhaps I should start using Streetsblog traffic justice lingo and call this reckless act what it is – murder.)

You won’t find anything about Mr. Gruskin on Streetsblog. He has been completely ignored. The traffic justice wall is silent for him. There were no posts on the day he was hit, the day he finally died from his injuries, or either of the two days that the New York Daily News publicized the accident (here and here). No calls for safety and consideration on the part of cyclists. No calls for cyclists to obey the traffic laws, or for authorities to enforce them. No rallying in defense of the “vulnerable pedestrians” that we hear so much about in other contexts. Just the deafening silence of self-service.

Mr. Gruskin isn’t the only one left out, on average 1 pedestrian per year will die at the hands of a cyclist in New York City, and 500 will be injured. These facts have been verified by a very thorough New York DOT study, and by Transportation Alternatives. But this overlooks more than simply the tallying of cyclist caused deaths and injuries. These numbers (if you even know about them) don’t really tell you how dangerous renegade cyclists are.

Even using Transportation Alternatives ridiculous and wildly inflated estimate of 185,000 cyclists per day in New York, cyclists kill pedestrians at a rate of .06 for every 10,000 bicycles on the road. They injure 27.03 pedestrians per 10,000 bicycles on the roads. Using our more reasonable methodology for counting cyclists, yields a pedestrian fatality rate of .30 per 10,000 bicycles and an injury rate of 147.93 per 10,000. (I have updated my methodology to incorporate the most recent screenline counts and commuter data.)

By comparison, the roughly 2.86 million cars in the city kill pedestrians at a rate of .54 per 10,000 cars on the road, and injure them at a rate of 34.8 per 10,000 cars on the road.

The rates for cars are higher, but if you consider that there are at least 15.6 times as many cars on the roads, you should see that the trend of dangerous cycling is serious and shouldn’t be ignored. Cyclists injure pedestrians at a rate comparable to cars (and depending on which count you believe, potentially at a rate 4 times higher). And, as Streetsblog loves to point out, pedestrian deaths are almost always preventable – especially at the hands of cyclists. Of course, that would require us to acknowledge that cyclists should be told to follow the laws, and the police should enforce them – two ideas that Streetsblog refuses to accept.

There is absolutely no reason for Streetsblog to refuse to acknowledge the bad along with the good of cycling. They are a powerful blog, and they have a big voice that could be used to encourage safe cycling, which in turn would save the lives of both cyclists and pedestrians. It would also legitimize their notion of traffic justice and their constant tirade against the automobile.

Instead, Streetsblog published a memorial a couple of days ago to a cyclist hit by a car – buried in the post was a brief acknowledgement that he was killed because he ran a red light on his bike, and Streetsblog didn’t condemn that behavior at all. But they did find time that same day to once again rail against drivers who kill pedestrians.

Streetsblog’s version of traffic justice is sadly reminiscent of the Jim Crow era – separate legal standards for different groups. Wrong as they were, Jim Crow laws at least feigned a pretense of equality – Streetsblog doesn’t. A world without colorblind justice isn’t just at all. It’s selectively tyrannical.

Update 8/20/09: Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that as of today, Mr. Gruskin’s murderer still hasn’t been charged with a crime. Where’s his “traffic justice,” Streetsblog?

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