Does the legal system do enough to protect bicyclists?

The answer is a resounding no, at least according to a crowd of cyclists at the State Capitol last Saturday, May 19. As a news story opens:

“Brent Holderman is lucky to be alive. Six weeks ago he was on a bike ride with a couple of friends, training for a triathlon in East Mesa.

“Twenty miles into their ride, their group of three was hit by a car. The driver was distracted after reaching for her GPS. Holderman ended up with 11 fractures and is in a wheelchair.

“‘There’s just too many people on the road not paying attention,’ he said. ‘They hit people like me.’

On Saturday, Holderman joined about a thousand bicyclists at the State Capitol Lawn. It was part of the ‘Ride of Honor.’ Cyclists peddled in from different parts of the valley to send a message on awareness.

The event was put on by the non-profit group Not One More Foundation. They’re calling on legislatures to create laws with stiffer penalties and fines for distracted drivers.”

The whole story is here.

I suspect many of us have known a cyclist who has had a close shave, or worse. A decade ago, I worked with a young woman on a few initiatives in our community. A month later, the University of Arizona undergrad was struck by a car and killed as she pedaled through Tucson. The driver never stopped and was never found.

The cyclist–protestors at the Capitol seek changes at the legislative level. But another recent story involving a cyclist makes you wonder: Is there an inadequate sense of dismay even at the policing level? Are injured cyclists too often chalked up as the occasional and unavoidable result of people on bikes insisting that they may use the roads? The nerve of them!

The story involved one of the most fraught interactions: a driver who turns at an intersection, oblivious to the cyclist in the crosswalk. In this instance, the bike-rider had even gotten off his bike and was pushing it through the intersection.

Given that the driver struck the man after “not paying attention” to her right side, and that the collision left the man with “tire prints on his abdomen,” the police response was underwhelming. According to Chandler police:

“‘It’s hard to say what they will do. She might be given a citation,’ [Chandler Police spokesman Sgt. Joe Favazzo] said. ‘This was really and truly an accident. It was a tragic event, and a good reminder to look both ways and always be vigilant.’”

The story doesn’t make clear whether he was talking about the driver or the cyclist. But the notion that it was “truly an accident” means the police take no action is an odd one.

Understand, nearly all of these injuries or deaths come about through an accident. Rare is the instance in which a psychopathic driver targets cyclists (though it does happen). But if “it was an accident” means “No harm, no foul,” bike-riders are in a worse position than I would have imagined.

More information on making cycling safer in Arizona is here, from the Not One More Foundation.

Tell me about your experience on a bike in Arizona. Are legal changes necessary?