Jul. 5th, 2009

tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
On Friday, I got news via email that Bonnie Tinker died in a bike accident in Virginia. Bonnie was a queer activist and peace activist in Portland; she was also a pillar of the Multnomah Monthly Meeting of Friends, which I've been attending irregularly since last year. She was 61 years old. I didn't really know Bonnie, but her involvement in the meeting, as an advocate for queer rights as a social justice issue and otherwise, was always one of the things that made me feel I was in the right place.

The kind of accident that killed Bonnie is so common that it has a name: the "right hook". In her case, a truck overtook her on the left while she was riding straight, and struck her when it turned right in front of her.

Unlike some types of accidents, right hooks are completely preventable: they don't happen when cyclists ride in the center of a lane where right turns are permitted. This doesn't mean that all the responsibility for preventing these accidents lies with cyclists. Motorists have to cooperate too, by respecting cyclists' legal right to occupy the center of the lane when keeping to the right would be unsafe.

If you ride a bike, you need to know the following information; it could save your life. It's natural to feel that it's safer to ride close to the curb all the time, but because drivers (unless extremely drunk or unskilled) don't hit objects that are in front of them, in many situations it's safest to ride in the center of the lane where you will be seen. When riding in a substandard width lane (that is, a lane where a car can't pass a bike safely), riding in the center of the lane communicates your intent (to continue riding straight) to other drivers, just as when you're driving a car, driving in the center of the lane communicates your intent to continue occupying the lane.

If you drive a car, the following is your moral responsibility as well as your legal responsibility: if a cyclist is riding in front of you, wait until it's safe to pass and then pass in the adjacent lane (possibly meaning waiting for a break in oncoming traffic and passing in the oncoming traffic lane), the same way you would always pass a slower vehicle.

When you honk at a cyclist, try to run a cyclist off the road, or otherwise make a cyclist feel unsafe riding in the center of the lane, you could kill someone -- indirectly, when they expose themselves to danger from right-turning vehicles because they wish to avoid angering drivers by riding in the lane.

I don't think Bonnie had to die. I know that cyclists have died because drivers have refused to accommodate cyclists who try to ride in the safest way it's possible to ride a bicycle: vehicularly.

The following is from John Forester's book _Effective Cycling_ (sixth edition, MIT Press, 1993; accessible through Google Books), starting at p. 313.



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tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Tim Chevalier

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