Wednesday, February 20, 2008

James Quinn fatality near Albuquerque: followup

Link sent to me by Gail Ryba, ED of Bicycle Coalition of New Mexico.

I'll comment later. Wonder what others think.


Neale said...

Amy (my wife) commented to me the other day that the LAB-publish magazine spends a lot of time talking about all the bicyclists that were killed. While it's great that they're honoring the memory of folks, it's really unfortunate that so much time is spent talking about death. You don't open a copy of Car and Driver and see a list of traffic fatalities. It's sending a mixed message to focus so much on bicycling fatalities, and at the same time talk about how great cycling is and how it's not all that dangerous.

I'm with BikeABQ on this one, I guess. I'd prefer to be talking about what cyclists could do in a situation like this to prevent this collision from happening. I want to do more than just pay lip service to the notion that there are no accidents, only crashes. I want my students to feel empowered and confident. So the fact that BikeABQ has been mum on this one, to me, is the right decision: if it's true that nobody was doing anything wrong, and the surviving family doesn't want to press any charges, then let's treat it like we do any other road fatality: don't make a huge deal about it. Nothing good can come of it if there's no positive spin.

But then, I'm the publicist and educator, whereas Khal is the traffic justice guy. We have different agendas, both important. Since this is more on his plate, I'll shut up now :)

Khal said...

Good points, Neale. That's why its good to have a tag team here.

One does not want to wallow in death, but one wants to prevent this from being a recurrent theme. As the book says, overtaking accidents are rare, but bad. BikeABQ needs to look out for not just individuals, but cyclists as a class, since that's who they represent. If I were on their Board, I would not be staying silent.

From the LCI perspective, one could point out that it seems that Mr. Quinn was doing everything right. He was just in the wrong place at the right time. Shit will sometimes happen, even in the best of worlds.

However, saying "shit happens" can go to far. For example, the kid who wrapped his SUV around the tree in Los Alamos a couple weeks ago and then complained to me that somehow, the car was going too fast. Yeah, probably was. I detected a lack of the guy taking ownership of his mistake.

My concern is that if the Traffic Investigation Report is correct, the driver of the vehicle passed over a double line into oncoming traffic (page 3 of Sheriff's Report) and then veered back across the fog line and onto the shoulder, overcorrecting, perhaps in panic. This is terrible technique, and someone died because of it. One is not supposed to pass unless the way is clear. If one is to allow drivers to have such a low standard of operation, then indeed cyclists--even careful and well-trained ones, are at needless risk since lax standards are tolerated. I think a citation should have been issued, and might ask an independent traffic investigator to read the report and comment on it.

Anyway, if that was me leaving the blood trail along the road, I hope my wife would demand a similar, if perhaps metaphoric, blood trail in court. Life should not be so cheap. Anyones.

Scott said...

This is a very sad story.

From the description on the other blog, it does sound as if the motor vehicle driver may have been at fault, but there are so many random variables involved that it's hard to tell. Still, it is the responsibility of the vehicle operator to overtake slower vehicles in a safe manner, even in the presence of random variables, and apparently she did not do that.

I guess the most important question I have is: Did the law enforcement authorities give this case the same level of diligence that they would give a similar case where the victim was not a bicyclist? I think that's all we can ask for.

Khal said...

FloridaBikes has a take on this sort of thing.

More specifically, go to this location on their blog (I'm using tinyurl since I don't think this blog window wraps URLs)

Traffic Justice Coalition of Florida

Scott said...

Agreed, we as a nation need hold people to higher standards in their operation of motor vehicles. The problem that we have created, though, is that driving a motor vehicle has gone from a privilege, to a right, and now it is a necessity.

My pie-in-the-sky idea to make the roads safer and less congested is:

1) Raise the driving age progressively, first to 18, then to 21.

2) Create automatic license suspension penalties (that are actually enforced) for dangerous driving.

Of course I am dreaming here. But also think of how sustainable of a user base mass transit would have if we actually enacted such changes.

Anonymous said...

Here's a basic reality that is strangely different here in New Mexico. Having grown up in California and lived the previous 12 years in Georgia -- before coming here, any death that is in any way due to some negligence on the part of a driver (i.e. not a pedestrian running in front of a car) would be undoubtedly charged as involuntary manslaughter.

If you could ride the route of James Quinn, which I have multiple times, you'd see a lane wide enough to accomodate a car, given that Quinn was right of the white line. She
a. Failed to maintain lane.
b. Was speeding'
c. Hit a motorist (that's what a bicyclist is).

If she'd have hit and killed someone sitting in a car alongside the rode, she'd probably have gotten charged more than this.

The reality is that New Mexico police and prosecutors don't care to treat bicyclists as motorists, or to force motorists to treat bicyclists as motorists.
Oops there goes another bicyclist--- too bad so sad.

Putting some real harsh prosecutions into the public eye would and could change things. This along with adding (and enforcing) a 3 foot or 5 foot minimum clearance law would be useful.