Monday, September 17, 2007

No Helmet? Must Be the Cyclist's Fault!

I've noticed a disturbing trend in local articles about car-bike accidents today, one that never really occurred to me before. Inevitably, the author of the article feels the need to mention whether the cyclist in question was wearing a helmet. A recent example is here, in an article from Newark:
Bicyclist struck by car near Johnstown

JOHNSTOWN -- For the second time in two days, the Monroe Township Fire Department responded to a person being struck by a car.

On Thursday, the person struck was a bicyclist who was wearing a helmet, Fire Chief Dudley Wright said. The crash occurred at about 8:30 a.m. on Sportsman Club Road.

Additional information was unavailable late Thursday.
What is the point of telling everyone whether the cyclist was wearing a helmet? It feels like the intent here is to say "well, this person wasn't wearing a helmet, so they deserve to have been hit."

There's no mention of the details of the accident other than that - whether there was alcohol involved, who was at fault, how the victim was found, etc. Only an implication that the cyclist was at fault because he/she wasn't helmeted.

I know I'm preaching to the choir, but the presence of a helmet on the head of a cyclist doesn't make them more or less at fault in an accident. The fact is that the driver was going too fast around a cyclist to be safe. If he hadn't been going too fast, the cyclist wouldn't have been hit.

People, not speed.

5 comments:

  1. It isn't like reporting these days is at such a high standard for other types of issues either...

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  2. Point taken. It's just amazing how much language can color an article.

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  3. I can't find it anymore, but here was once a hilarious spoof news article over at ProBicycle.com in which an SUV driver talking on a cell phone lost control of her truck, drove her vehicle off of a bridge, flew through the air to land on the bike path below and landed on a cyclist. The cyclist, who wasn't wearing a helmet, was ticketed for impeding traffic and causing the accident.

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  4. I'm with you about the helmet bias. Here's an article with the caption "An iPod on her head rather than a helmet proved a harmful combination for an Innisfil cyclist" http://www.simcoe.com/article/47464
    The article says the police have no plans to charge the driver, but in no way describes how the accident occurred to know whether the police were biased or whether the cyclist was at fault for some material cause rather than wearing an ipod and not a helmet.

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  5. With regard to the comment above about speed. I despair at the people who seem to think all road collisions are caused by excessive speed. Whilst some are, the majority are caused by a failiure to pay attention or exercise good vehicle control/placement. If you aim to miss the cyclist by a good few feet then your speed is irrelevent.
    I am a cyclist (50-80 miles per week)AND car user so understand both angles.

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