A recent opinion piece in the New York Times has made a big splash in the online cycling world with the provacative title, Is It O.K. to Kill Cyclists?
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

Of course it isn't, but as the author, Daniel Duane writes, it sure looks a lot like it is Ok, if you compile any number of examples where justice has seemed to not have been served.

The opinion piece is US centric but you could transpose much of what was written to our experience here in Australia. Change a few of his examples to any number of well reported incidents here and it pretty much fits.

...studies performed in Arizona, Minnesota and Hawaii suggest that drivers are at fault in more than half of cycling fatalities. And there is something undeniably screwy about a justice system that makes it de facto legal to kill people, even when it is clearly your fault, as long you're driving a car and the victim is on a bike and you're not obviously drunk and don't flee the scene. When two cars crash, everybody agrees that one of the two drivers may well be to blame; cops consider it their job to gather evidence toward that determination. But when a car hits a bike, it's like there's a collective cultural impulse to say, "Oh, well, accidents happen.

Populist politicians today spend a lot of time banging on about other law and order issues, sometimes arguing for mandatory sentencing or begging (stoushing with) the judiciary to "listen to the people" on the issue of justice being served, whatever the legal niceties.

Now without prejudicing or pointing to any current or past cases where the legal treatment may be out of kilter, it would be nice to see some of the same strong signals from our elected officials sent to motorists when it comes to altercations with cyclists.

As Duane notes, at the very least we need to give police and the judiciary some specific parameters within which to work, nudging them in the right direction.

"Several states have passed Vulnerable User Laws placing extra responsibility on drivers to avoid harming cyclists and pedestrians," he wrote.

"Nobody wants to kill a cyclist, but the total absence of consequence does little to focus the mind. These laws seek to correct that with penalties soft enough for authorities to be willing to use them, but severe enough to make drivers pay attention. In the Oregon version, that means a license suspension and a maximum fine of $12,500 or up to 200 hours of community service and a traffic-safety course."

And of course responsibility also lies with us as cyclists, we need to be seen to be doing the right thing even though some motorists may not.

Duane again:

"Every time you get on a bike, from this moment forward, obey the letter of the law in every traffic exchange everywhere to help drivers (and police officers) view cyclists as predictable users of the road who deserve respect."

Be careful out there.