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Ethical Nihilist
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Says it happened at 20th and R, which is above the traffic circle at P st. Garbage truck drove over a 22 year old woman. What a shame. Sounds like somebody really screwed up.
 

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What'd I do?
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She was coming off the sidewalk into a crosswalk, he turned right in front of her. Both had green lights. Avoidable, yes. Ticketable, probably not (cyclists are not allowed on the sidewalk there). Sucks all around. Of the 20 traffic-related deaths in the district this year, I think this is the first cyclist to die. Also, there is a bike lane on R street there.

Please, everyone, be aware of where you are and what your responsibilities are.

Stay Safe.
 

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A terrible shame,

and should provide lessons for urban cyclists. If you choose to ride on a sidewalk (sometimes it's the best alternative, unfortunately), you've got to be especially aware of the hazard when entering any space that cars might cross -- intersections, obviously, but also driveways. You've got to actively check any direction from which vehicles might approach. Even drivers that are normally attentive to pedestrian traffic can miss seeing a cyclist in time, because of the higher speeds. This may have been one of those situations where the cyclist felt safer on the sidewalk, because she was farther away from the auto traffic, but she would actually have been safer -- because more likely to be seen -- in the traffic lane (even if there were no bike lane, as noted).
 

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Failboat Captian
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I just received this from WABA (Washington Area Bicycle Association):

As many of you may have heard, Alice Swanson, a 22-year old cyclist from Washington, DC, was struck and killed yesterday morning by a trash truck at the intersection of 20th and R Streets, NW in Washington, DC. This tragedy has hit the cycling community in the DC area hard, and serves as a reminder that much more work remains to be done to make the Washington area a place where anyone who wants to ride can do so safely.

In response, this evening starting at 6:30pm at the intersection of Connecticut Ave and R Street NW, WABA will be holding a press conference to call for a full investigation into the crash and to highlight the need for improved traffic enforcement, increased penalties for drivers who strike cyclists and pedestrians, and more safety public service announcements to encourage everyone to share the road safely. The event will also feature a "ghost bike" dedication to serve as a reminder of the tragedy and as a quiet statement in support of cyclists' right to safe travel. I hope that you will be able to join us.

On behalf of the staff and board of directors of WABA I want to thank you for all your support for better bicycling. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected].
 

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+1 on the safety post above.

But I have to throw this in, too... (not to tread on the deceased, she apparently grew up in my home state, and sounded like a really sweet kid. ) Be aware of blind spots.

A trash truck is huge, and is full of blind spots. There are also local delivery trucks, UPS vans, and the like. There are a lot of vehicles that are on the road all day every day, and they can't see every angle, and I'm sure that after weeks or months, it's hard to maintain the kind of acute perception that we as cyclists have to maintain.

This really is tragic. From the description in the article, she was fairly new to the cycle commuting thing, and was really nervous about riding in traffic down there. So there's a mix in my head of really tragic irony (follow your instincts?) and a questioning of how much that nervousness translated into a riding style that was erratic or dangerous, in a way that isnt' obvious right away... like riding on the sidewalk (drivers tend to look in the road, since the sidewalk isn't in their path) and they simply may not have seen her. Had she been in the bike lane, he might have seen her more easily and everything might have been fine.

I dunno.. this really sucks. I hate hearing about cyclists getting killed.
 

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Not to make light of her death but......

Something seems wrong to me about all the hue and cry over a college educated white womans death while riding a bicycle in a dangerous and perhaps illegal manner while ignoring the much more common cycling death of some poor working hispanic (also often riding in an unsafe manner on an unsafe vehicle). Strikes me that what WABA, the local news organizations and the DC government are doing with this is opportunistic and crass and I don't much care for it.

If her death is worth all this attention then the death of any cyclist is worth the exact same hue and cry and I just don't see that happening.

Shame on all of the folks making hay over this.
 

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Well...

You're right. And you make a very good point.

On the other hand, there are more cyclists every day, and safe riding, and cycling/cyclist awareness are things we dribble about all day in these forums. And while it may be a shameful thing that it takes a young white girl dying to get the public's attention, I'm not going to judge it. I think the basic message is that sooner or later, someone's going to die that the media and public care about. It's a human face, etc... And maybe that's what it takes. The driving public sees spandex and jersey sporto types on a regular basis, and they're able to point, scoff, and say that they're dangerous. But now we have cute, educated suburban white girls commuting, too, because gas is so expensive. The very demographic that the media holds up as virtuous and worth sheltering, is now at risk. Finally, someone has died that even the idiot ******* jackass types wouldn't cuss at or run off the road. The rest of us get language and flying water bottles.

Is it right that it takes a cute, non-sporto white girl to get the public's attention? No.

Is it right that this is the kind of thing that would bypass their everyday irritability and anger that we're on the road? Of course not.

We don't get to determine the public's prejudices. But sooner or later, the influx of new cycle commuters was bound to kill off someone that the public and media would care about. And when something gets their attention, there are two ways to look at it.

-The advocacy groups are making hay over a white girl, and it's narrow minded and racist.

-The advocacy groups have the public's attention, and they can make hay that will benefit all riders, of all colors.

There's a lot of moral ambiguity. And we can always debate whether or not it's moral or not to take advantage of the opportunity to make public inroads on our issues, because of the way the opportunity came about. But I think it would be an insult to any rider who's ever been injured or killed to not do anything when we had the chance.

Yeah, it's wrong. But sometimes you gotta work with what you got.
 

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The web is a MUT
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MB1 said:
...If her death is worth all this attention then the death of any cyclist is worth the exact same hue and cry and I just don't see that happening....
The current version of the linked article above has the following quote:
" Traffic fatalities have claimed 20 lives this year in the District, compared with 27 at this time last year. "

Are those all cyclist deaths, or all deaths including pedestrians?

I agree though, it's a shame about the selective reporting and apparent selective actions of authorities. What happened with the other person(s) you're referring to?
 

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"Swanson was the first cyclist killed on D.C. streets this year, police said. Last year, two people died in bike accidents in the city."


I don't agree that the paper is being racist. I think we need to give the paper some credit here. They are just reporting on the first cycling death in the D.C. area for the year. Would we rather they not report the death out of fear of appearing racist? I think most people in this forum would get ticked for not reporting on it.

I think we also have to remember that cycling is still coming into the mainstream so therefore the papers are beginning to make more news reports about it.
 

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Chunks from the article

Swanson was the first cyclist killed on D.C. streets this year, police said. Last year, two people died in bike accidents in the city.

Eric Gilliland, executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, said he was surprised that the accident happened on R Street, saying he bikes there frequently. He called it "one of the better roads to bike on" because it has a long bike lane. The accident took place about a block from his Connecticut Avenue office.

"This hits us very hard in the office," said Gilliland, who works to promote bicycle safety.

He said trucks are generally more hazardous to cyclists than cars because they are higher off the road and have more blind spots.

Traffic fatalities have claimed 20 lives this year in the District, compared with 27 at this time last year.

D.C. Assistant Police Chief Patrick Burke said that he used to commute to work on his bike along the street where Swanson was killed. With rising gas prices, he said he expects to see more cyclists and pedestrians in the streets.

"It's imperative that drivers are cognizant of this and that we all share the road," Burke said.
 

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Fletcherfam...I don't agree that the paper is being racist. I think we need to give the paper some credit here. They are just reporting on the first cycling death in the D.C. area for the year. Would we rather they not report the death out of fear of appearing racist? I think most people in this forum would get ticked for not reporting on it......[/QUOTE said:
I'm not saying they are racist at all-although I suppose a good case could be made of it. My point that the bulk of DC area cycling deaths are usually printed deep in the regional Metro Section of the Post (if at all). Now you have a big fuss being made over a young white woman (who was near as I can tell riding on the sidewalk which is against the law and not all that safe anyway).

Did you see the touchy-feely pic in todays paper? Looked like they were having a seance for Princess Di or something.

I'm thinking a lot of groups and people are jumping in on this one because there is something in it for them. Maybe some good will come of it (or maybe they will start selectively enforcing laws on cyclists making it harder on us) but the whole thing seems a bit callous to me.
 

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Failboat Captian
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uber-stupid said:
Well...

You're right. And you make a very good point.

On the other hand, there are more cyclists every day, and safe riding, and cycling/cyclist awareness are things we dribble about all day in these forums. And while it may be a shameful thing that it takes a young white girl dying to get the public's attention, I'm not going to judge it. I think the basic message is that sooner or later, someone's going to die that the media and public care about. It's a human face, etc... And maybe that's what it takes. The driving public sees spandex and jersey sporto types on a regular basis, and they're able to point, scoff, and say that they're dangerous. But now we have cute, educated suburban white girls commuting, too, because gas is so expensive. The very demographic that the media holds up as virtuous and worth sheltering, is now at risk. Finally, someone has died that even the idiot ******* jackass types wouldn't cuss at or run off the road. The rest of us get language and flying water bottles.

Is it right that it takes a cute, non-sporto white girl to get the public's attention? No.

Is it right that this is the kind of thing that would bypass their everyday irritability and anger that we're on the road? Of course not.

We don't get to determine the public's prejudices. But sooner or later, the influx of new cycle commuters was bound to kill off someone that the public and media would care about. And when something gets their attention, there are two ways to look at it.

-The advocacy groups are making hay over a white girl, and it's narrow minded and racist.

-The advocacy groups have the public's attention, and they can make hay that will benefit all riders, of all colors.

There's a lot of moral ambiguity. And we can always debate whether or not it's moral or not to take advantage of the opportunity to make public inroads on our issues, because of the way the opportunity came about. But I think it would be an insult to any rider who's ever been injured or killed to not do anything when we had the chance.

Yeah, it's wrong. But sometimes you gotta work with what you got.

Agreed 100%. A very uber-nonStupid response.

I understand where MB1 is coming from, but I see WABA's response as a typical response. It becomes more news-worthy to the primary demographic of the people buying ad space in the Post and tv news. That's why they run the story. The primary motivation of The Washington Post, NBC/ABC/CBS/etc News is to sell ad space. For WBA, it's similar... to get noticed. I think another underlying reason that WABA is being so vocal about it, is: "Eric Gilliland, executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, said he was surprised that the accident happened on R Street, saying he bikes there frequently. He called it "one of the better roads to bike on" because it has a long bike lane. The accident took place about a block from his Connecticut Avenue office."

So I think it probably affected him quite a bit more than it might affect the rest of us middle class white bread folk, and he feels he has a way to vent his frustration by using WABA to publicize it.
 

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abominable slowman
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Are there that many cycling deaths in DC?

MB1 said:
I'm not saying they are racist at all-although I suppose a good case could be made of it. My point that the bulk of DC area cycling deaths are usually printed deep in the regional Metro Section of the Post (if at all). Now you have a big fuss being made over a young white woman (who was near as I can tell riding on the sidewalk which is against the law and not all that safe anyway).

Did you see the touchy-feely pic in todays paper? Looked like they were having a seance for Princess Di or something.

I'm thinking a lot of groups and people are jumping in on this one because there is something in it for them. Maybe some good will come of it (or maybe they will start selectively enforcing laws on cyclists making it harder on us) but the whole thing seems a bit callous to me.
Are there really that many? I don't really read the paper (I like other news sources) so I guess I wouldn't know. If so, I agree, it's strange that this accident gets so much attention.
 

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Failboat Captian
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llama31 said:
Are there really that many? I don't really read the paper (I like other news sources) so I guess I wouldn't know. If so, I agree, it's strange that this accident gets so much attention.
No, they are not. This is the first this year. There were 2 last year. this is inside DC, not the whole DC metro area (I think).
 

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Wow. I hardly know where to start--but I'll begin with the fact that another cyclist DIED!!!! I don't care about race, sex, where it's printed in the bleeping paper--someone else in our community has DIED! Did she have experience? Was she in the wrong? Touchy-feely pictures??? Can we have a moment to honor another life passing???--Understand that there are people who loved this person and who are in morning? To her friends and family she probably WAS Princess Di-- Let them do what they need to do. Let the media cover it. Let the drivers and the cyclists and everyone raise their consciousness and awareness about sharing the road---about our responsibilities as cyclists and personal/road safety---about increasing driver's understanding that the road isn't just their's and increasing awareness beind the wheel----Yes, I believe many more novice cyclists will be on the road with much to learn due to gas prices. Education is crucial. You can be the best cyclist ever, and still have a poor driver plow you down.
I live in an area full of college students who ride their bikes to classes and all over town. I am appalled at the number of them I see without helmets and having bad riding skills. Santa Cruz has had more than it's normal share of cycling deaths over the last year. I agree--every death should be recognized as equal. I do what I can to try to pass on knowledge to the new riders I come into contact with. Change begins one person at a time. Thanks for reading.
 

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Where did this idea that she was riding on the sidewalk come from? The article says:

"Police said Swanson was riding in or next to a designated bike lane. She and the truck driver were traveling west on R Street when the truck driver turned right onto 20th Street, hitting her, police said."

There's absolutely nothing in this article about her being on a sidewalk, in fact, several other articles I read keep mentioning a "right hook" where the car takes a right in front of the cyclist. There's a natural tendency to go with the story that sounds the most favorable to your viewpoint, but it sounds to me like she was on the road.
 

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It's the sad truth that as long as we have cars on the road, cars are going to hit bikers.

It's very simple. Start by taking bikes out of the picture, and imagine there's only cars on the road. Then assume the driver is moderately intelligent, but completely and absurdly selfish. Now ask yourself - is this driver still going to try to avoid hitting other cars? The answer is Yes. Even if they don't care what happens to the other person, getting into a car accident has no benefit and lots of risks and drawbacks. They risk personal injury or death. Even if they drive a huge and "safe" car, an accident costs them money (even with full insurance, their insurance goes up). Plus it's inconvenient to have to stop, fill out a police report, and get their car towed when they have stuff to do. Plus, they're waiting around for their car to get fixed for several days...

So my point is that even the most selfish driver doesn't want to get into an accident with another car. And yet, every day there are car accidents - fatal car accidents. Cars hit other cars at intersections, parked cars, on/exit ramps on the highway...despite great personal incentive not to hit another car, cars still hit other cars.

So along comes bike commuters and they say "Drivers need to be more careful to not hit bikers". Well they do, but if cars can't avoid getting into accidents with other cars, they're never going to eliminate accidents with bikes as long as bikes and cars use the same road. And on a bike you're undoubtedly far more vulnerable if hit than you are in a car.

Of course, there are some negating factors:
- Most on road bike commuting takes place on 30mph roads, and even then a lot of accidents seem to happen at intersections for turns where the car is going significantly below 30mph.
- As I mentioned, you also risk getting killed or injured driving a car on the road, to. It's not like you're suddenly totally safe in a car.

As long as bikes are on the same streets as cars, cars are going to end up hitting bikers from time to time. The only way to stop that from happening is to build bike paths that are completely independent of the roads that cars drive on. (And that doesn't mean the bike path is alongside the road until it intersects with the road, I mean a bike path that you actually have to take an exit off of to get back on the road).

Naturally, accidents will still happen there to. Bikers will hit other bikers, bikers and pedestrians will sometimes collide, and bikers will sometimes blow out a tire or lose control and hit a tree or something. But even a pedestrian vs. another biker is a far safer proposition than a 3,000lb car vs a biker.
 
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