Posts Tagged 'Law'

No ghost bike for me, thank you. But…

Ghost bikes.

Ghostcycle: this makeshift monument appeared b...
Image via Wikipedia

Someone suggested them again this weekend as a way to mark the spots where cyclists have died on the roads. The thinking seems to be that these eerie memorials will raise the awareness of those who pass by and maybe prompt them to drive more carefully.

For the record: I understand the impulse and the sentiment, but if I should fall victim to a careless motorist I do not want a ghost bike.

I don’t want people to be afraid to ride their bicycles. I don’t want anyone to waste their time putting a ghost bike by the side of the road when it almost certainly will be removed as junk before very long.

What I want instead, and what I suggest that you do for other victims rather than mark the spot with a bicycle painted white:

  • Call and write to your city council representatives, your law enforcement people, your state legislators and your federal elected officials.
  • Go to meetings where decisions are made and make your case.
  • Say out loud what you think and what you want done to make the roads safer.
  • Hold officials accountable until they make and laws that will make a difference. Those people work for you.
  • Demand action.
  • Don’t stop.

Put up ghost bikes for other people if you like, but do these other things, too.

They will be more effective.

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Deadly driver charged with “improper turn, no insurance”

From thegazette.com

Update 11/5/2010: The driver charged with traffic violations that resulted in the death of Susan DeSotel turned himself in to police last night.

Update 11/4/2010: It says here that the arrest warrant for Robert Fleming was issued today.

Based on comments from a number of Eastern Iowa cyclists in various forums, they are unimpressed with the performance of law enforcement authorities in this case. That is what you might call an understatement.

If the driver is still around somewhere nearby, “we’ll run into him again sooner or later.”

That’s the best you can do when someone is killed? Seriously?

Shame on you.

Update 10/25/2010: CRPD Lt. Cory McGarvey says the traffic charges against Robert H. Fleming are simple misdemeanors.

He added: “We cannot find the driver. We feel he left town.”

CRPD asked the county attorney to issue a warrant for Fleming’s arrest.

Posted earlier today:

The driver who turned in front of cyclist Susan DeSotel, resulting in the collision that took her life, has been charged with “improper turn and no insurance.”

That information came in an email from Cedar Rapids Police Chief Greg Graham to Monica Vernon, a council member who followed up on my request for information. No other details about the charges – when they were filed or what the penalties are, for example – were provided at the time. Look for more details this week.

Improper turn and no insurance.

It says a lot about the limitations of state law in Iowa and, of course, about the driver, Robert H. Fleming.



Let officials know you want action when cyclists are injured or killed

Some phone numbers you might consider calling to ask what is being done in the wake of Susan DeSotel’s death (see previous post):

  • Cedar Rapids Police Department: (319) 286-5491
  • Mayor Ron Corbett, City Hall: (319) 286-5051
  • Mayor Ron Corbett, Home: (319) 365-8187

Those numbers are all from the city’s website. You can find your council representatives there, too.

Let the police and the mayor and the others know you care about this.

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Want to be bike-friendly? Take cyclist deaths seriously

Cedar Rapids, Iowa – This town has made some progress in recent years toward becoming a more “friendly” place to move around by bicycle rather than car or truck.

There are a few bike lanes. There is a city Bicycle Advisory Committee. There are Bicycle Ambassadors, and now and then people make an effort to accommodate and encourage the bicycling public by providing special parking areas, generally staffed by a few volunteers and city employees.

Although most people didn’t know it, largely because of a lack of timely promotion by city officials and lack of interest from the local media, there was even a Bicycle Safety and Driver Alertness Month back in September.

All well and good.

How “bike friendly” is it, though, when a local cyclist can be killed in a collision with a motor vehicle and it takes months (nearly three in this case so far) to decide about charging the driver?

A lack of charges in a timely fashion says the death is no big deal to the city. (The toxicology tests cited as a reason for delay certainly could have been completed by now if this were a priority.)

That there is no serious penalty for careless driving that causes serious injury or death says such injuries and deaths are not very important to the state.

A community that accepts this is not “bike friendly,” no matter how hard it tries to pretend that it is.

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Two months pass without charges for cyclist’s death

This white bike was chained to a post in Oxfor...
Image via Wikipedia

Still waiting.

It has been 61 days since the July collision that resulted in Susan Desotel’s death.

No charges have been filed, and police are still waiting for results of toxicology tests.

Charges won’t help Susan, of course, but they should be filed – and soon – to show that careless driving that takes a life will not be tolerated.

C.R.’s Bicycle Safety and Driver Alertness Month will end this week.

The public awareness it was intended to promote needs to continue.

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Motorists liable until proven otherwise? Hard to imagine

The concept of strict liability for motorists involved in collisions with people riding bicycles was so foreign to me that I had to watch this twice. Imagine…

Thanks to tweeters @alicestrong and @bikecommutenews for calling attention to that video.

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Questioning Sen. Hogg about the consequences of careless driving

At the second stop on State Sen. Robb Hogg’s fifth annual bike ride through his Eastern Iowa district on Sunday, he was asked about the potential consequences of one of his fellow bicyclists’ being killed by a careless driver.

Paraphrasing my own question here: Shouldn’t a person whose careless driving causes the death of another person face time behind bars as a possible penalty?

Well, the answer seems to be, now paraphrasing Sen. Hogg’s various comments:

  • I’m not sure we should be sending people to prison because of legitimate accidents. (I agreed that not every incident should be resolved by throwing someone in jail, but maintained that the state should allow for jail or prison time as a possible outcome for someone whose carelessness causes death or injury.)
  • Sometimes accidents just happen. (I said we could have quite a long debate over what deadly situations can be prevented and what might be termed – legitimately if vaguely – “accidents.” Most traffic “accidents” can be avoided if people take their driving responsibilities seriously and pay attention to what is going on around them.)
  • We need to do more to make bicycling safer. The Iowa Senate did pass a bicyclists’ Bill of Rights. (True on both counts, but that Bill of Rights is meaningless without corresponding success in the Iowa House and a governor’s signature. What have you done for us lately? What will you do now?)

Presently, I can turn my motor vehicle in front of you as you ride your bicycle down the street, causing a collision that leads to your death, then drive away with a simple traffic ticket and, maybe, a guilty conscience.

As Sen. Hogg and others have asked, in one way or another, “Isn’t it enough that I will have to think about that for the rest of my life?”

Well, no. It’s not.

You should think about the consequences of careless driving before your careless driving kills someone. If you know you could wind up behind bars, maybe you will think harder when it counts.

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Launch legal reform efforts at Mayors’ Bike Ride

Frustration and anger have grown as we wait to see how hard Robert Fleming’s wrist will be slapped for turning his truck into the path of an oncoming bicyclist and causing a collision that resulted in her death.

Friends, fellow bicycle club members and others have struggled to understand the loss and lack of legal action and to respond to state laws that don’t seem to take seriously the deaths of people like Susan DeSotel.

Stage a protest ride is one idea. Erect a memorial somewhere for people killed while riding their bicycles is another. Put a “ghost bike” by the spot where she collided with the pickup truck to mark the spot and remind drivers to be more careful.

An opportunity will come soon after the expected announcement of Fleming’s traffic ticket. (Officialdom awaits the results of toxicology tests on the victim before deciding, for reasons I really do not understand.)

The Linn County Mayors’ Bike Ride is Sept. 6. What better time to bring attention to the issue?

It is time for the mayors, council members, county supervisors and state legislators to speak up, help educate the public and change the law. We should encourage them – expect them – to speak out forcefully on this safety issue and see to it that appropriate punishments are possible for motorists whose actions lead to the deaths of cyclists, pedestrians and others.

To do nothing is to accept the sad results and wait until it happens again.

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“The sun was in his eyes” so please feel sorry for him?

Except for the most hard-hearted of us, we can all empathize to some degree with the driver of the vehicle in the collision that caused the death of bicyclist Susan DeSotel.

No doubt it is traumatic to unintentionally cause the death of another person.

In a comment on this story, someone self-identified as a relative of the driver says, in part, “If all of you only KNEW the trauma and suffering he is going through himself right now.”

He has horrifying images in his head and has to live with it the rest of his life. The commenter (identified as “iwubyou“) concludes:

“Prayers go out to Susan’s family and friends for dealing with their poor loss, and also to my uncle who now has to have this on his shoulders, and all the horrible people and horrible comments he will now face from here on out.”

At the risk of being considered horrible, some observations:

iwubyou asserts that the driver is blameless because the sun was in his eyes and he “did not see a little bike pedaling through.”

As motor vehicle operators, we are obligated to see where we are going and to avoid collisions with others on the road. If that means we must wear sunglasses and use visors or other devices to operate safely, that is what we are obligated to do.

There are all sorts of reasons for what we blithely pass off as “accidents.”

The sun was in our eyes.

We were distracted by a child crying in the back seat.

We just reached down to pick up the cell phone.

Reasons. Those are not excuses that should prevent us from facing legal consequences if they result in our causing the death of another person.

Unfortunately, our laws don’t seem to agree. The police call Susan DeSotel’s death the result of a “driving error.” If the driver is cited at all, it’s possible that on top of a fine for the traffic ticket he could face a $1,000 fine and lose his license for six months.

As I maintained the other day, that is not acceptable. I think some time behind bars is appropriate if your driving error kills someone.

The more compassionate and maybe wiser Mrs. Smith suggested that such a driver should be required to speak at some number of driver education classes over the course of a year. (That is an excellent idea. Think about it.)

What do you think is appropriate? Tell me by leaving a comment here. Tell your legislators.

As people are saying, the driver will have to live with the consequences of his driving error for the rest of his life. I’m sorry, but we all live with unpleasant things, some of which we bring upon ourselves and some that others visit upon us.

At least we are still alive.

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Kill the “yellow for cyclists” idea

Update: Mark Wyatt reported on Facebook that the bill passed the House Human Resource Committee, and without any requirement for yellow clothing or mirrors.

Be visible and be aware of your surroundings, though. Get a mirror and a helmet.

* * *

Apparently some lawmakers are taking the “cyclists should wear yellow” thing pretty seriously, hence this urgent request from Iowa Bicycle Coalition this afternoon:

The Human Resource Committee is discussing the bike safety bill and will pick it back up at 5 PM today.

The fight to make bicyclists wear 50% yellow clothing for your safety is getting serious. WE NEED EMAILS NOW.

1. Reflective and yellow clothing doesn’t work if you don’t have headlights to reflect. It is worse in low-light situations and curves. The current law for lights is effective.

2. Mirror requirements are bound to surface. Mirrors are good tools, but any driver’s ed instructor will tell you they don’t replace a head turn and look. They have blind spots and prevent scanning.

Bicycle supporters are advised to contact the following members of the House Human Resources Committee. Please tell them to support the amended Bike Safety and Responsibility Bill.

Representative Mark Smith and Representative Sharon Steckman are supportive of the bill. No need to contact them at this time. Concentrate on the list below.

COPY AND PASTE THIS LIST:
deborah.berry@legis.state.ia.us,
linda.miller@legis.state.ia.us,
ako.abdul-samad@legis.state.ia.us,
dwayne.alons@legis.state.ia.us,
clel.baudler@legis.state.ia.us,
greg.forristall@legis.state.ia.us,
dave.heaton@legis.state.ia.us,
lisa.heddens@legis.state.ia.us,
bruce.hunter@legis.state.ia.us,
kevin.koester@legis.state.ia.us,
mary.mascher@legis.state.ia.us,
tyler.olson@legis.state.ia.us,
janet.petersen@legis.state.ia.us,
renee.schulte@legis.state.ia.us,
chuck.soderberg@legis.state.ia.us,
phyllis.thede@legis.state.ia.us,
linda.upmeyer@legis.state.ia.us,
roger.wendt@legis.state.ia.us,
beth.wessel-kroeschell@legis.state.ia.us

SAMPLE EMAIL

Dear Representative,

Please support the Bike Safety Bill, amended Senate File 117. It is fair to both motorists and bicyclists. We need a 5′ passing law for bicyclists.

1. Reflective and yellow clothing doesn’t work if you don’t have headlights to reflect. It is worse in low-light situations and curves. The current law for lights is effective.

2. Mirror requirements are bound to surface. Mirrors are good tools, but any driver’s ed instructor will tell you they don’t replace a head turn and look. They have blind spots and prevent scanning.

The required passing distance could save lives. The dangerous behavior towards vulnerable highway users should not be tolerated in Iowa.
Sincerely,
YOUR NAME

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