Are you afraid of bicycles? Scott Latimer is.He’s afraid he’ll hit one. He’s afraid someone else will hit one. He’s afraid that one might hit him. Me, I’m afraid of cars:
- Almost three thousand people are killed in motor vehicle collisions in Canada every year.
- Motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death among children in the U.S.
- 45,000 people were charged with impaired driving in 2008/09.
- Others merely drive at double the speed limit.
- Sometimes, drivers hit and kill entire groups of people and face no charges at all.
- Drivers who’ll be navigating the busy streets of Toronto can take their driving test on quiet rural roads.
- One in five people probably couldn’t pass a driver’s test.
Latimer seems to spend most of his time fretting about the cyclists who flagrantly disregard the laws. I can sympathize; god knows I cringe when I see cyclists trying to pass a right-turning car on the right. But as much as some cyclists may be infuriatingly ignorant or arrogant, it doesn’t have much of an impact on safety: Cyclists are generally responsible for less than 10% of collisions with automobiles.
Latimer goes to great pains to delicately express his concern that even though he supports cycling, people probably shouldn’t really be riding bikes on the roads. But he can’t seem to get past the perception that cyclists are in danger because they’re either delicate and fragile, or reckless lawbreakers. He doesn’t appear to realize that the biggest danger to cyclists, pedestrians, and even other drivers is the disturbing number of drivers who either can’t or won’t operate their vehicles responsibly.
At some point over the past century, motor vehicle collisions became routine. They are things that happen, and can’t be prevented, even when they have preventable causes. Some people are going to drive even though they lack skill and knowledge or disregard the law, and we’re all going to have to accept it. Latimer has accepted it already: “In the inevitable collision between a bike and a car,” he writes, “the bike is always going to lose.”
It’s inevitable. You can’t stop it. This is why Scott Latimer is afraid for cyclists. Because cars are going to hit bicycles, and the people on bicycles are going to die. News stories will report whether or not the cyclist was wearing a helmet, regardless of the nature of the collision or the injuries sustained. And some people will say that if the cyclist had just stayed off the road, he’d still be alive.
I might get hit by a bike one day. I might get annoyed, I might get hurt, but I’m pretty sure it won’t kill me. I don’t like to think about what might happen if a car hits me. That’s something to be afraid of.