On September 10, I Bike Fresno (California) posted a link on their Facebook page to a bike safety article in the Fresno Bee. The article itself isn’t that important: it’s the usual reminder that cyclists are required to obey the law, with the usual followup comments from law-abiding avid cyclists rebuking all of those naughty wrong way ninja cyclists who don’t read Interbike bike forums. In the Facebook discussion, a bike riding member of Fresno’s finest posted this comment:
“Everyone is correct to make bicycle safety an issue. Show me a traffic collision involving a bike and a car and I’ll show you an accident caused by a cyclist. It’s almost a given.”
It sounds like Officer Mosher has already made up his mind before he’s even arrived at the scene!
Shortly after the Bee published its bike safety article, a 60 year old Fresno man was killed while riding his bicycle. A pedestrian was also struck in the same collision and seriously injured. The driver, 45 year old Kenneth Alameda, threw beer bottles at the responding police officers and was arrested. If Alameda didn’t make his impairment so obvious, I wonder if he would’ve been arrested?
A while ago, bike lawyer Bob Mionske wrote on police bias in bicycle accident reports. He believes police accident reports are inherently biased against cyclists:
It appears the Chronicle’s conclusions are largely drawn from its analysis of police accident reports. The problem with reaching that conclusion, however, is that the underlying data — the police accident reports — are notoriously unreliable, because of the biases inherent in them: Law enforcement failure to interview the cyclist involved, and law enforcement interpretation of safe and legal riding practices as unsafe and/or illegal.
Take, for example, the data discussed in the Chronicle article that indicates that the most common violation for cyclists was “unsafe speed.” What exactly does that mean? We know that in the case of Lloyd Clarke, “unsafe speed” meant that as Lloyd was proceeding straight through an intersection in Incline Village, a 17 year old driver made a left turn, directly into his path, violating his right of way and killing him instantly. The police didn’t seem at all concerned about that illegal left turn, however. Instead, they reported that Lloyd had been riding “at a high rate of speed.” One month later, Brett Jarolimek was proceeding straight through an intersection in Portland when a garbage truck turned right, across his right of way. He too was killed instantly, and the Portland Police bent over backwards to blame the victim for riding at an “unsafe speed,” going so far as to invent an imaginary statutory requirement that the driver must “perceive” that he has to yield the right of way in order for a violation to have occurred.
We know what happened in Lloyd’s and Brett’s crashes; their right of way was violated, and the police blamed them for “speeding.” How many other crashes where the cyclist was blamed for speeding — remember, this is what the Chronicle identifies as the leading cyclist-at-fault collision — were actually crashes involving a driver violating the cyclist’s right of way? A few more? A lot more? All of them?
Back to Officer Mosher’s cycling safety advice: This is the part of Fresno where he tells people to bike on the sidewalk. It appears he suffers from the typical car-headed thinking that bikes need to always stay out of the way of cars, because motorists are inherently more important than cyclists.
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