Keep Death Off the Roads — Ride on The Pavement
When walking along the city streets these days you have to keep your wits about you. Always listening out for the metallic crunch of an eighteen geared mountain bike ploughing through pedestrian traffic.
Take a walk through the graveyard these days, and you might get hit by a cyclist. I thought graveyards were places to go and find peace. A place to slow down and think, reflect on life and death, read headstones that give hints to who lies beneath those sods of earth, or find a name the reflects a person’s past life.
I never thought I’d see the day when people lacked respect for relatives who visit the grave of their loved ones. These days they have to watch out they don’t get hit or clipped by a roving bike rider. Narrow pathways and overhanging branches don’t make for good cycling, people standing on these pathways silently pondering a gravestone need to keep their ears open.
Cyclists use the graveyard to make a quick passage through, bypassing the traffic on the nearby road, they then exit at the other end and save themselves about thirty seconds travelling time.
I’ve been clipped by handlebars, the shoulders of wobbly riders have bumped me, rotating knee caps that stick out from that skinny wheeled steel donkey thumped me in the butt, and as apology I received a grunt, a scowling face over the shoulder, or just the ignorant back of the head hunched in between tight shoulders, and a “fuck you!” muttered at me.
Road rage and Tire Shredders
These incidents make me think about road-rage, the lack of police patrols on the street these days, and how much it would cost to buy a small portable tire-shredder just like the police use to stop getaway cars in a chase.
Graveyards are full of the dead. Not all of them died peacefully, but now they are in peace. Some of them got hit by cars, trucks, fell off horses, and one or two were hit by cyclists riding along the pathway, dodging their way through tall pedestrians where small pedestrians are well hidden and no more than knee height.
A year ago, a young man was sitting at a terrace table outside a cafe in Berlin. While talking to a friend, drinking coffee, he realized he wanted to get up and go to the bathroom inside the cafe. He stood up and took a step outwards from the table, one foot into the street, he was hit fully in the body by a speeding cyclist. The man was seriously injured and now lives with permanent injuries. There’s a strict law that makes it a criminal offence to ride or drive a vehicle on the footpaths in Germany. But cyclists are doing it, anyway.
This year alone in Berlin, there have been over two thousand deaths involving cyclists who have either hit a person, or been hit by a motor vehicle. So, a few of them have ended up in the graveyard, too.
Last June, San Francisco’s transportation Director, Jeffrey Turnlin, announced that there had been a significant uptick in cycle related deaths in the city. This doesn’t surprise me. San Francisco has been a testing ground for companies who offer convenient travel modes, rent-a-bike, a scooter, a motor scooter, or a car, and then park it, or dump it in the middle of the street.
The rift between pedestrians and people on these forms of transport has widened into a regular slanging match along the busy streets of Berlin.
New York City saw a drop in the fatality rate involving bicycle riders in 2016, then last year it rose significantly. Twenty-eight cyclists, and 124 pedestrians met their deaths on the streets of New York in 2019 involving cyclists.
The problem is this ; the city sees these bicycles and scooters as a way to monetize the streets, to create business and revenue from people who are just out and about. Go shopping on a scooter, or rent a bike instead of taking a walk in the park.
Take a walk in the park, and you get the feeling that the message to rent a vehicle has been taken in, people scoot through the park on roller-scooters with silent motors, stand back and look, you get the feeling that you’re at a race meeting.
The scooter riders tend to move in groups. In Berlin, it’s been determined that mostly tourists used the new scooter, locals prefer the bicycles. Some of the bikes are motorized with an electric wheel, this means they can silently whizz along at a nippy speed, and when you feel the clout of a handlebar clipping your arm, it’s enough to make you squeal like a puppy.
Nobody in authority is about to help you, pedestrian laws that protect citizens on foot are now a dusty leaf that the senate for transport refuses to discuss.
Just last week in Berlin, the Senate for Transport and Traffic was questioned about which measures will be taken to protect pedestrians walking the streets. The reporter asking the questions was constantly met with a blank gaze.
Two wheeled transport is a convenient mode of transport. It’ll get you past a traffic jam as quick as a Jack Russel down a rathole. A bike is better than a car. It’s efficient, environmentally friendly, and a healthy way to travel.
The rise in numbers of cyclists on the roads not only creates problems, but reveals obvious problems that need immediate attention from the senate. There’s a lot of people riding bicycles, and they clearly don’t understand traffic laws — some ride as if they never knew it even existed, so they make it up as they ride along.
Riding along a pathway full of drifting pedestrians is a dangerous thing to do. Motorcycle riders are beginning to do it, too. They mount the pathway, and buzz along the side of pedestrians while they look for a slot to park in.
When a motorcyclist has just been riding along the main road at 70 Kilometres an hour, mounting the path, and slowing down to only 25 kilometres an hour seems reasonable to their adrenaline filled nervous system.
In the mid 20th century, cars began to fill up the roads. People could afford to buy the luxury of a family car. The streets filled up, accidents increased, and it became obvious that insurance and rigorous's testing should become a priority. It did, and it helped to straighten out the dangers of driving, but took too many years for the senate and government to figure out that people shouldn’t drink alcohol and drive motor vehicles.
Many accidents involving scooters and pedestrians are reported as what they are, a vehicular accident in a public place. Often, it’s not reported as an accident that occurred due to bad judgement by a scooter rider who had just had an afternoon drinking session with friends.
Now it’s time to learn from the lesson, and keep the graveyard headstones clear of the names of cyclists and pedestrians who have met their fate on the wheel of jig-zagging bikes and scooters. People need educating on the dangers of vehicles, motor or not, and the problems of slow moving people, and fast moving two-wheelers.