Monday, September 16, 2013

Major Strasser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects.

Interesting piece on the NYC Streetsblog page, written by my good friend Charles Komanoff. Several schoolchildren walking to school in the Big Apple were hit and injured when a motorist in an SUV jumped the curb and hit them, causing serious injury. The response of the NYC Dept. of Education and its legal department? Tell the kids to not wear electronic distractive devices while walking to school.

Never mind that there is no evidence they were distracted and never mind the Honda SUV was being operated on the sidewalk, where it doesn't belong. The bottom line is that this bureaucracy cannot possibly fathom that a motorist was responsible for this mess and that they should be protecting the kids. Yeah, round up the usual suspects. Damn pedestrians ought to know better than to get in the way of a car or at minimum, be prescient enough to jump out of the way in time.

This would seem to be the classic case of blaming the victims for their plight rather than prying ever so slightly into why kids walking to school on a sidewalk aren't safe from curb-jumping motorists. There is a banality to this evil that only Hannah Arendt could understand. The NYC DoE is simply doing its job and not too critically, either. I suspect they drive cars and are hopeless, albeit willing, victims, to their worldview.

Not that Los Alamos should feel smug. It was not too many years ago that I had to do a long detour getting home because the PD was investigating a dead child hit by a car. Here is what I recall. Others may recall differently:

The kid was blamed for not looking before leaping, i.e., crossing the street.
The bus driver was blamed for letting the kid off the wrong end of the bus.
The county was blamed for not properly managing how people get off the bus.
I don't recall the motorist being issued a summons or infraction or frankly, being blamed for anything. At the time, I wondered whether I would have a responsibility to slow down and exercise due care when passing a stopped Atomic City bus at a marked crosswalk in a marked school zone, where one might infer that someone might be getting off and crossing the street.

This bench, by the North Mesa Middle School,
was paid for with a child's life

In Casablanca, Captain Renault knew who shot Major Strasser. He covered it up for a higher good. I wish there was some higher good that the NYC DoE could lay claim to as they round up the usual suspects. But sadly, in this case, they are well inside the auto-centric bubble, as Bill Maher might say. I wish they were alone in being there.

Somewhere, sometime, we need to have a real, unbiased, non car-centric discussion about risk management, and whether those of us who pilot 5000 lb vehicles owe the public an elevated sense of responsibility, given we are licensed by the state to operate said vehicle safely. Until then, get those blankety-blank kids off the sidewalk so I can jump the goddamn curb with impunity.



Steve A said...

When I pass a stopped school bus, I dismount and walk until well past. If there are motorists about, I shoulder the bike for dramatic effect. I have yet to see a motorist shoulder his/her SUV.

Steve A said...

A good photo and more info is at

Ian Brett Cooper said...

Stories like this just make me glad I chose never to learn to drive. I recognized, at the age of 15, that driving a car bears a heavy burden of responsibility - a burden that most motorists do not seem to take at all seriously.

The whole of our automobile-centric culture bears the responsibility for failing to curb the death toll on our roads and for failing to criticize those who choose to blame the victims.

Khal said...

Its funny on the surface, but many motorists (and some non-motorists) are to traffic risk management what Homer Simpson represents to the nuclear power industry. Fortunately, Homer Simpson is a caricature rarely if ever found in a real life nuclear power control station. On the other hand, there are plenty of Homer Simpsons on our roads. My group admin is home for at least two weeks recovering from a crash caused by someone cutting her off trying to pass her. We all have our stories to tell.