Killed or injured cyclists had it coming? Get a grip, motorists.

A memorial at the spot where an 8-year-old boy was killed while riding his bike in New York. Similar "ghost bikes," consisting of a bicycle painted white, often appear at the site of an accident as memorials to cyclists killed on the road.
(Los Angeles Times)

It shouldn’t have come to this, but it did: Some drivers need to be reminded that no cyclist -- anywhere, ever -- deserves to be hit or killed in a car accident.

I say this after reading the comments to my colleague Robert Greene’s post this week noting that motorists who strike and sometimes kill cyclists are often sent home by police without so much as a citation. In response, several readers implied that the injured or deceased had it coming.

Why? Because bike riders sometimes slow cars down. And they don’t always follow the rules of the road. Which naturally means the police protections we all enjoy -- say, for an accidental death to be appropriately investigated -- shouldn’t apply to them.

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In a comment reproduced here without editing, one reader wrote:

“If bicyclists want to use the roads, they can start paying for the privilege.

“I pay hundreds of dollars annually for car registration, taxes, and other fees to drive my automobile on the roads, which are engineered, designed, and laid out for cars, not bicycles.

“Where there are designated bike lanes, bikes encroach on the vehicle paths. Then lets talk about the extreme danger of bikes who ignore stop signs, and bikes are required to stop at all stop signs under California vehicle code. I can’t tell you the number of times a bike has narrowly missed being crushed under my wheels because they run through stop signs at 25-35 MPH without stopping.

“I am tired of bike nazis who think they own the road, impede traffic, and generally think they can do whatever they want and want to take on a 2000-5000 pound vehicle -- good luck with that. You get in my way, you are going to lose.”

What is it about a steering wheel and a gas pedal that turns presumably decent people into monsters?

This isn’t my first post of our Roadshare project responding to reader comments from a cyclist’s perspective (I commute a few days per week by bike), and I like to think I’ve been pretty polite so far. In September, when cyclists finally got their three-foot law, I addressed a few points raised by readers on maintaining a safe distance between cars and bikes. Some weeks later, I took the opportunity presented by similar cyclist-averse comments to note that drivers would do well to gain some perspective about road safety by riding a bike.

The goal both times was to point out how some critics of cyclists are misled by their own false assumptions about the law and road safety.

Here, I confess, my reaction is more knee-jerk. Other cyclists have done a pretty good job rebutting individual comments by dispassionately citing law and other inconvenient facts that, unfortunately, tend not to assuage reader road rage. So I’ll get emotional.

To be blunt: I’m mad. Very mad. Mad because some readers have commented on disturbing anecdotes of police not being terribly interested in investigating the deaths or injuries of bike riders by griping about cyclists. Never mind that we’re talking about dead or maimed human beings.

Human beings like cyclist Amélie Le Moullac, a 24-year-old San Francisco resident whose death in August after being hit by a truck was initially blamed on her. That conclusion by itself wouldn’t have been so enraging if the San Francisco Police Department had done its job better and found the evidence that bicycle advocates did, proving Le Moullac was not at fault. Police had said they couldn’t find any surveillance video of the collision, but members of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition did. After the video emerged, police said the truck driver was at fault.

So, motorists, we’re more than just your projections of whatever bad experiences you’ve had with a few other cyclists. We’re fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters -- and those of us who are none of those are still just as human as you. We’d like to think that if one day we’re wheeled away from an accident unconscious or mortally wounded and unable to tell our side of the story, investigators would be just as anxious to find out what we’d have to say as they would for a driver.

Motorists have this right. And so do cyclists.


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This post is part of an ongoing conversation to explore how the city’s cyclists, drivers and pedestrians share and compete for road space, and to consider policy choices that keep people safe and traffic flowing. For more: and #roadshareLA.