If you’ve followed the conversation in social media and in the letters to the editor this week, you probably know that the conversation surrounding the death of Elyse Stern, who was struck by an apparent drunk driver while riding on Lake Street in Minneapolis, has been one of the most uncomfortable conversations in the news.
Some have pointed out that she wasn’t wearing a helmet and her bike didn’t have a light, but that sounds like blaming the victim for getting killed. And today on Daily Circuit, Steve Clark, walking and bicycling program manager for the non-profit Transit for Livable Communities, said neither would’ve helped anyway.
But the conversation has been a fine example of how people tend to retreat to corners to have conversations about safety in cycling. Curiously this week, however, the conversation has — for the most part — only been about the cyclist, and nothing about what can be done to make the environment in which they ride safer, which is too bad because the answer to that question is: a lot.
That appears to be the situation that frustrates cyclists in many major cities.
In Seattle, for example, a “guerrilla road safety” group called Reasonably Polite Seattleites, took it upon themselves to improve things, knowing the city would immediately undo them.
The “Seattle Bike Blog” reports the group installed reflector posts along a section of the bikes lane on a troublesome street.
“It’s essentially a warning system for a drunk or distracted driver; once he hits one, he’s more likely to slow down, lessening the chance of hitting a cyclist or pedestrian down the road,” the group said.
It spent $350 to install the posts, but did so with adhesive so the city could easily remove them once it declared them illegal, which it did, but not before it got the point.
“I am truly appreciative that you care enough to take time, money, and risk to send your message to me and my staff,” the city’s traffic engineer said. “It is my commitment to you that I will do my best to update our existing facilities and install new bicycle facilities that will be more thoughtful.”
That’s the back-and-forth that’s mostly missing in these conversations — an acknowledgement that providing for the safety of people on bikes isn’t a significant threat to anyone else.
(h/t: Brian Hanf)