Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Too Many Ghost Bikes

The Ghostbike project has, unfortunately, been active again on the streets of Portland. These stark reminders of our mortality have recently appeeared to memorialize the lives of Tracey Sparling and Brett Jarolimek. Their lives were tragically cut short in bike-car collisions.

Ms. Sparling was a 19 year-old student, beloved by family and friends, with a bright future ahead of her. Mr. Jarolimek was an employee of Bike Gallery, a cyclist and artist well known in the commmunity. Condolences to both of their families and friends. May their memory continue to inspire those whose lives they touched.

The car vs. bike debate inevitably picks up in the wake of these tragedies. Emergency meetings are called. The blogosphere heats up with thiny veiled, often misinformed, attempts to place blame. And then, after a couple weeks, everything settles down, little changes, and we go back to our lives.

While much has been done to mitigate the dangers cyclists face, and Portland is one of the most progressive cities in the nation in this regard, cycling is inherenty dangerous. Right-of-way arguments can continue until both sides are blue in the face, when a car/truck/bus/train and cyclist collide, the cyclist loses. Period.

The bottom line is that we have to do what it takes to get home safely each day. Use common sense. Give large trucks the extra room they need, stay way out front or way behind. Don't just check if you have a stop sign, but check if oncoming traffic is actually stopped. Ride only on roads that suit your skill level. Slow down, your boss/wife/parents/kids would rather have you there five minutes late than not at all. It's hard to make up much time by hammering through your ride anyways.

There are plenty of terible drivers out there who probably shouldn't be on the road, but we don't need to prove this point smeared all over their hoods. The police aren't going to spend their days ticketing minor traffic enfractions because they happened to endanger a cyclist. No amount of bike lanes and protected crossings will compensate for negligence on either side of the equation. All we can do is what it takes to get home safely each day, and then vote for leaders who demonstrate the willingness to continue to improve our infastructure to make everybody's commute safer and more efficient.

It's a beautiful Oregon fall, go out there and love life. Ride a bike, spend time with your family, eat a good meal and make someone smile. Serve the memories of these victims by taking those extra few minutes to stay out of trouble on the road and encouraging friends and family to do the same. Sometimes we all just need a little extra space.

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