I’ve been hearing about the tragedy that happened in Kalamazoo on Tuesday night after a reckless (rumored intoxicated) driver plowed into a group ride, with 5 riders declared dead on the scene.
I’ve been trying to distance myself mentally and emotionally from this horrific news. But this photograph of the riders’ bicycles was too much to ignore. Along with some of the comments, because yes I read comment sections despite my own better judgment telling me not to.
There is a lot of victim blaming going on in the news this week. We all wish that tragedies could be prevented, but you don’t tell legal road users to stay off the roads because “what do you expect will happen”.
What do I expect? I expect others to look where they are going when they are managing a 2-ton vehicle and assume appropriate responsibility for it. I expect that if you are behind the wheel, you will know where the brake pedal is and apply it when necessary. If you are not able to slow down and steer enough to not kill other people, then you should not be driving a vehicle.
Cyclists are not naive or stupid. We are not selfish. We are determined. At least half of my casual conversations end with someone telling me “be safe”. Coworkers tell me I am brave for commuting on the roads every day. My friends ask me to call or text them when I get home. My boyfriend has an app to locate me should I get injured or not come home one day. Most cyclists can relate to these as routine exchanges.
Every time I ride, I realize that my life is in the hands of other road users. If I die on my bike, I am not going to die because I was an obstruction in the road, and my helmet will probably not save my life. I will die from either someone deciding that their rush is more important than my life and passing unsafely, or they will be texting or sending a snapchat, and they will not even see me at all. I don’t hate drivers and after commuting for two years, I can count on one hand the mild unpleasant encounters I’ve had with cars on the road. But statistically speaking, I will die because someone else is being an asshole.
There will be plenty more said about this incident before the news moves on to the next headline. But we have to remember that the easiest answer isn’t necessarily the right answer. We cannot be shortsighted in how we deal with tragedies like this if we want to truly make them a thing of the past.
My heart is with the families of those we lost on Tuesday. In their memory, we ride onward.