Paul Andrews

New York “Ghost Bike” Once Again Blames the Cyclist

In Bicycling, Rider Down on March 1, 2009 at 8:40 am

The New York Times has a moving report on a white-bike memorial to a young woman killed while riding a bicycle. While the article eloquently describes the family’s sadness at their loss, it does cycling a disservice by implying that the accident was the woman’s fault. The only reference to cause is the line, “The driver was not charged, the police said.”

Well, that’s helpful. While it’s difficult to assess blame in many traffic accidents, especially involving bikes, it is by contrast easy to imply fault. Police hardly ever charge motorists in cycling accidents because of difficulty in determining culpability. When police fail to act, it hardly means that the fault was the cyclist’s. But the implication in reporting that, without further detail, leaves the reader to infer that the young woman somehow contributed to her fate. (Maybe she did. But we the readers should be allowed to know for sure, not simply left to draw conclusions.)

If I’m the editor on this story I ask the reporter to go back and tell us more. Leaving the story the way it was simply reinforces stereotypes about cyclists always being the cause of accidents.

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