It’s been a terrible week for Lincoln’s cycling community. It saw broken bones and death, as well as at least two more “accidents,” one hurt badly, involving motorists and cyclists. We are grieving the loss of Randy Gibson, as much a pillar of the cycling community in Lincoln as anyone has been. He was an active force in the National Bike Challenge, #2 last I looked, and one of the pirates of Pirate Cycling League, among others. http://www.1011now.com/content/news/Bicyclist-hit-by-car-dies-447392353.html
There will be a separate post about this remarkable man soon. We are also hoping for the speedy recovery of Joe Billesbach, hit on the N St. cycle track. http://www.1011now.com/content/news/Bicyclist-injured-in-hit-and-run-one-arrested-446733443.html
Both were hit by drunk drivers in separate incidents. And this week I’ve read an account of a motorist repeatedly trying to run down a group of cyclists. How do some motorists have such little regard for the life of a fellow human being? Whether distracted, drunk, or manifesting road rage, a motorist’s first responsibility should be to cause no harm to others. I realize impaired people may not always be thinking clearly enough to understand this, but as a society we seem to be shifting the responsibility to the victim rather than the perpetrator, throwing up our collective hands and saying “it just can’t be helped, riding bicycles on the road is too dangerous.” But many of us have seen the unimpaired motorist look right through us, not even noticing we are right in front of them, because they are not trained to do so.
I think it’s connected to one of the reasons people buy SUV’s rather than more energy efficient compact cars, because of this same view of “safety” marketed to us. That we need to protect ourselves by surrounding ourselves with more mass. We are distracted by the symptoms rather than looking at the causes of this carnage. With the previous mindset the cyclist on the roadway is seen as irresponsible, subtly challenging the primacy of motor vehicles. “Might makes right” is this primitive view of road usage. The mighty motorist feels inconvenienced by cyclists rather than responsible for our safety. They aren’t willing to, or can’t imagine, putting themselves in our place. They don’t understand what they’re missing. That what we gain from from riding our bicycles where we legally have the right to be, may make the risk worth it. We recognize that risk every day commuting and riding for sport, and are unwilling to give it up. Few of us take stupid risks. We break traffic rules about the same amount as do motorists, but are only likely to harm ourselves if it results in an accident. I also learned last week another friend had died, but from the effects of life-long obesity. Is inactivity really less risky?
I see this deadly trend potentially growing here in China as the roads fill with more cars. Motorists are impatient but they are still often outnumbered by other forms of slower transportation around Zhoukou. One advantage here seems to be that motorists expect to share the road with other, slower vehicles even if they don’t like it, and are on the lookout for us. In larger cities these slower forms of transportation are being banned in many areas.
An interesting difference here in China is with the law’s view of culpability. A cycling friend here told me that motor vehicles usually take more responsibility in an accident for the sake of protecting the vulnerable. You read that right. Even if a cyclist or pedestrian doesn’t obey the traffic rules and causes an accident, the vehicle owner (operator?) will still have to pay some of the medical care and other expenses (they must be insured). If the motorist is at fault, they should pay all the expenses. There are more traffic cameras in use now, which he claims has cut down on cases of fraud and motorists are acting more responsibly because of it. He also says if they cannot pay for all the medical and related expenses but actively compensate as much as they can, and ask for the victim’s forgiveness, it’s possible they won’t be punished. If not, they may go to prison. There may also be government aid for the victims if the motorist cannot pay. Motorists still sometimes drink and drive, but are punished severely if caught.
My cycling friend says that in China, many people are “bound together” so there is usually a closer relationship between people; family, relatives, friends, etc. This may be true, but I don’t know that it could be any closer than among the cycling community in Lincoln when tragedy strikes. My condolences and deepest sympathy are with Randy’s family Christy, Sofia, and Russ.
Please consider contributing to https://www.gofundme.com/randy-gibson-funeral-expenses