Friday, September 19, 2014

Death on a Bike

Timothy Egan, NYT
SEPT. 18, 2014

She was doing all the right things in the morning commute, traveling in the bike lane, wearing a helmet, following the rules of the road. In an instant, Sher Kung — new mother, brilliant attorney, avid cyclist — was struck and killed by a vehicle making a turn in downtown Seattle last month.

At the scene, the truck driver wept and swore he never saw her. Mourners placed a ghost bike, painted white, at the corner. In the local law office of Perkins Coie, where Ms. Kung worked, colleagues passed by the poster in her office — “It’s a girl!” — and couldn’t believe she was gone, dead at 31.

It’s still somewhat rare for a bike rider to be killed by a motor vehicle, rare enough to wonder why. In 2012, the last year for which full numbers are available, 726 cyclists lost their lives nationwide — almost two a day. It’s far safer to fly. In that same year, there were zero fatalities from commercial airplane accidents in the United States. The death of a single cyclist has a chilling effect on everyone who pedals for work, exercise or pleasure. Can’t we get it right?

Cities are changing, quickly, to accommodate the new urban commuter. It’s not quite like the transformation from horse carriages to backfiring internal combustion engines, but a revolution is underway. Uber, Lyft and other ride services make it easy not to own a car. Bike commuting is at an all-time high in many cities.

But lanes for cyclists and signage for special routes might offer little more than the illusion of safety. The designated bike corridor on the street where Ms. Kung died, Second Avenue, is known as the Lane of Death for all the accidents. She was struck down just days before a new signal system was put in place.

(More here.)


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