Think about the last time you heard about a crash that involved a car and a bicycle. Are you thinking? I’ll give you a minute. Okay. Now try to remember how you heard about it and what people said. Did they wonder who was at fault? Blame either the driver or the cyclist? Wonder if the cyclist was wearing a helmet or, if it was dark, using lights? Go back and forth about whether the bike was in the bike lane or not?
I just saw this video about a car-and-4-bike collision in the Netherlands, and it’s amazing how different the public response is than anything that would happen here in the states. Check it out:
I think the best part is how there’s absolutely no tolerance of reckless driving. It doesn’t matter if the guy meant to hit anyone or not, it doesn’t matter what the cyclists were wearing; what matters is that he hit someone, and for that he should face the consequences. I love how angry the public gets and how it launches a whole inquest into how the streets, which are already amazingly safe by our standards, can get safer.
You also can’t argue with the newspaper editor who decries “traffic jackasses.” Heh.
But the main thing I like about this video is how the public opinion is so swift and so unilaterally in favor of protecting cyclists. It’s like an affront to one–not just a cyclist, I get the idea, but a citizen–is an affront to all, and they have to do everything in their power to make sure that “accidents” like that never happen again. It seems to be working: the city’s gone from 339 injuries and 7 fatalities in 2000, to only 133 injuries and 1 fatality in 2009.
It makes me wonder what could happen for traffic safety here if we had the same mentality. How much safer would we be if people know that even if they “accidentally” hit someone, the public furor against them would be swift, and condemning? I suspect that if we didn’t tolerate mistakes, they wouldn’t happen as much. It seems to work for the Netherlands… I wonder what would need to happen for a similar cultural shift here?