Seattle’s Cascade Bicycle Club, the nation’s largest local cycling club with more than 11,000 members, continues to do yeoman advocacy work on behalf of cyclists mowed down by careless— and uncaring — drivers.
At City Hall from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 14, the club will host a traffic justice summit with city attorney Tom Carr and Tim Burgess, who chairs the city council’s public safety committee. The summit’s aim: To move forward on a new state “vulnerable user” law protecting riders and walkers from vehicular injury and death.
“We are committed to bringing the Vulnerable User Bill back to the legislature for 2010,” said David Hiller, advocacy director for Cascade Bicycle Club, in a press statement. (Last winter a similar bill got unprecedented early traction but failed to make it out of committee.) “Our goal with this summit is to broaden public dialogue about the current laws surrounding vulnerable roadway users. It is clear to us that vehicles involved in pedestrian or cyclist injuries or fatalities should be subject to legal repercussions more serious than a traffic ticket. We welcome the opportunity to educate the public about this issue and to listen to feedback about our efforts.”
The issue here isn’t spite or revenge against drivers who hurt or kill cyclists. It’s to make drivers take cyclists and pedestrians as seriously as they do other drivers. The only way to accomplish this is to give more gravity to law enforcement. If a driver runs into another driver, whether it’s injury or death, the legal system is set up to determine who was responsible and penalizes the culpable party accordingly. The same laws should apply if a driver hits someone on wheels or foot.
The city tried to address the inequity with its own statute in 2005. Unfortunately, last August the State Court of Appeals ruled that state law supersedes local statute. So only a bill passed in Olympia can provide a real remedy.
Four cyclists struck by vehicles have died in Seattle this year, and in only one case was the cyclist’s right-of-way unclear. Other severe car-bike accidents have been reported with “life-threatening injuries” to the riders as well. Annually more than 500 cyclists and pedestrians in the state are killed or disabled by motor vehicles.
With bike commuting on the rise and the bike culture reviving in general due to “green” concerns, healthier lifestyles, higher gas prices and just the joy of riding two wheels, it’s time to recognize cyclists’ traffic rights. Riders and walkers should not lose their right to equal justice under the law simply because they aren’t sitting behind a steering wheel when they are hit by a car.
Good discussion on the Cascade club forum.