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and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and
disseminated from Albany's beautiful and historic South End by Daniel
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The Response To Diva’s Killing
The class A bicyclists have
much to say to the blogger,
A few days after my June 10th post, “Who
Killed Diva de Loayza?” I
received an email from one of Ms. de Loayza’s close friends.
It’s the kind of email that makes all the time and effort
I put into writing this blog worthwhile.
First and foremost, thank you for your blog.
Diva de Loayza
I've been wanting to write a Times Union Letter
to the Editor addressing the media surrounding Diva's death and
negligence of the police, but as one of Diva's close friends,
I am filled to the brim with grief and haven't managed to put
pen to paper yet.
I agree with you 100%. The police and the media have pointed fingers
at Diva saying she ran a red light and wasn't wearing a bike helmet,
therefore, she had it coming. If Diva had been a mother walking
down the street with her baby in a stroller or the driver had been
a 16 year old, the media would have spun this story very differently.
The driver of the minivan should have been brought up on manslaughter
charges without question. Whether or not the motorist had the right
of way, he/she was responsible to be aware of cyclists and pedestrians.
Any person who gets behind the wheel of a car is undertaking that
responsibility; it's huge obligation and too often taken for granted.
Why isn't the City of Albany protecting victims like Diva? Our
local media is a disgrace. Not a single journalist from the TU
or any of the TV stations conducted the investigative research
you did at the scene of the crime. It's so much easier to blame
the woman who died for not wearing a bike helmet.
With much gratitude,
I offered my condolences to Ms. Grieco, and thanked her. I also
asked her to please send that letter, not only to the Hearst Times
Union but to all the newspapers. Because, you see, the suburbanite
boys and girls who run the Hearst Rag were pretty quick to print
the following letter in a prominent spot:
Bicyclists should learn from tragic accident
First published: Tuesday, June 12, 2007
For the past week or so, I have been following the Times Union's
coverage of the unfortunate accident on Western Avenue involving
a woman on a bicycle and a minivan.
The Times Union has reported in more than one
article that the bicyclist
involved allegedly ran a red light while traveling west on Western
hit by a van traveling east that had the right of way.
This would be a good opportunity to remind bicyclists
they must obey the
same traffic laws as motorized vehicles.
Yes, motorists should be aware that bicyclists
are out now that the
weather is nice; however, bicyclists also have to take responsibility
their own safety by following the rules of the road. Hopefully
learn from this tragedy, and we can avoid any similar incidents
The Murder Weapon?
Okay, we don’t know what brand of minivan was
used to destroy Ms. de Loayza’s life, but let’s take
the common Toyota Sienna as a likely suspect. These days a minivan
is considered to be a small SUV. The 2007 model is a little under
six feet high and more than sixteen feet long.
It weighs four thousand, four hundred and sixty four pounds.
I seriously doubt if Ms. de Loayza and her bicycle
together with whatever she carried weighed as much as 200 pounds.
Was this an equal contest? Only an insane person would argue that
Ms. de Loayza had a chance against more than two tons of steel,
slamming into her body at high speed.
If the driver of a minivan makes a little mistake, it’s “Oh
dear, look what I’ve done. I guess I’d better call
the insurance company and fix the dent.” But if the bicyclist
makes one error, she lies splattered on the street. A bicycle frame
does not protect you from minivans.
I suppose Colleen Reilly of Rensselaer can be forgiven for not
thinking this through. I’m sure she means well and is genuinely
concerned for everybody’s safety. And of course, all she
knows about the incident is what the Hearst Times Union content
providers chose to tell her. She did not examine the intersection
in question or hear the entire story of Ms. de Loayza’s demise.
But then there is the prevailing attitude among the
hard core urban bicyclists from the Albany
Bicycle Coalition (ABC.)
As far as I can understand, these hardy pedallers believe that
if Ms. de Loayza had been bicycling visibly and fearlessly in the
driving lane with the autos, she may very wll still be alive today.
These “Class A Bicyclists” strongly believe that a
bicyclist should get out there into traffic and teach all those
minivans and SUVs to respect the bicyclists like they would respect
a Mac truck. The thinking is that if a bicyclist lays
claim to a piece of the traffic lane then the bicyclist will likely be safe
and untouched by the steel gasoline machines.
If nothing else, you gotta admire their fearlessness. I say, there
is no reason why anybody who walks or rides a bicycle on Albany
streets should fear for his or her life. But normal people are
afraid for good reason. These folks at the ABC snort at those of
us who are afraid.
Certainly there is some truth to their point of view. I learned a long time ago as a pedestrian that automobiles stop for the guy who strolls boldly out into the crosswalk like he owns the intersection. For some reason, he commands respect in the automobile driver’s reptilian mind. The metal machines wait for you to pass unmolested.
But the pedestrian who hesitates to cross and visibly cringes at advancing traffic is likely to get caught into games of chicken with the autos. Cars will cut you off dangerously close, clip you or even deliberately bump you. It happened to me plenty before I learned better. No doubt this also applies to bike and auto interactions.
Or maybe not. According to an article in the May 10 Scientific American, wearing a helmet while riding may actually induce auto drivers to crowd bicyclists off the road. English psychologist Ian Walker tried an interesting experiment:
Walker attached ultrasonic sensors to his bike and rode around Bath [England], allowing 2,300 vehicles to overtake him while he was either helmeted or naked-headed. In the process, he was actually contacted by a truck and a bus, both while helmeted...
His findings, published in the March 2007 issue of Accident Analysis & Prevention, state that when Walker wore a helmet drivers typically drove an average of 3.35 inches closer to his bike than when his noggin wasn't covered. But, if he wore a wig of long, brown locks — appearing to be a woman from behind — he was granted 2.2 inches more room to ride.
Now, no one is suggesting that bicyclists should not wear helmets. I sure ain’t. Personally, if I’m going to be smacked by an SUV while riding a bike, I’d rather be wearing a helmet.
This study demonstrates, as Mr. Walker notes, that motorists are the real problem
Is This Bike Safer?
It’s important to realize that the moment one gets behind
the wheel of an automobile, one becomes stupid. The faster you
go, the lower your IQ. A human being driving fast through traffic
is about as bright as a reptile. This makes a driver incapable
of decisions based upon higher forms of reason.
How do I know this? Can’t quote you a single scientific
study. You’ll have to take my word for it. Or better yet,
go see for yourself.
I’ve been driving automobiles on and off since age sixteen,
and I’ve been watching drivers up close and personal for
a lot longer than that. I’ve observed how my own brain shuts
down at high speed, and I’ve noticed how lots of people get
even stupider than I do the moment they pull out into the street.
Oh boy have I noticed. Some people become flatworms.
There’s no mystery to this, the act of driving takes concentration.
Keeping two tons of steel rolling in a straight line at even a
pokey rate of one mile every two minutes (the City of Albany speed
limit, 30 mph) does not leave human brains much room for such things
as higher math, phone conversations or contemplating the behavior
of pedestrians and bicyclists on the edge of their vision.
These reptiles behind the steering wheels are not
capable of sorting out surprises. That is why I hold the traffic
planner who installed the staggered stoplight as equally responsible
for Ms. de Loayza’s
killing. The intersection has no pedestrian crossing signs or any
other indication that it is a deadly booby trap. There aren’t
even any crosswalks. Nothing.
ABC list serve has been buzzing over this blog’s
June 10 post. The main criticism seems to be that I might be encouraging
bicyclists to break traffic laws. For example, this from Randy
In the context of the post, one might conclude that stopping at
certain traffic signals is unnecessary. Stopping at all traffic
signals is a necessary stop. It is the law. We all need to follow
the laws if we are to safely and respectfully share the streets
with one another.
Allow me to clarify, please. I am not saying that bicyclists should
deliberately run red lights, although I certainly believe that
challenging unjust or stupid laws is an American right and duty.
I’m saying that as long as the laws are stupid, then the
laws will be broken.
The Class A bicyclists who congregate at the ABC are saying that
they are willing to scrupulously follow regulations designed for
motorists, even at the threat of their lives. The rest of us are
not that crazy. Yes, I admit it, I’m a wimp. I do not want
to die under the tire of an SUV.
As long as the law and the police are heavily biased
against bicyclists, then the law will be broken by bicyclists.
As exhibit A in support of my thesis, I present the intersection
of Western Avenue and University Place. As witness, I present the
battered body of Diva de Loayza.
With power comes responsibility. An automobile confers upon its
user a great deal of power, an exponentially greater degree of
power than a bicycle confers upon a bicyclist. True, a bicyclist
has responsibility. But the much greater bulk of responsibility
is on the shoulders of the motorist. As ABC bicyclist Dave Eilers
As a cyclist I don't have a metal cage around me, seat belt or
airbag to keep me safe, thus I am more vulnerable. I love riding
my bike and will do so as often as possible, quietly reminding
myself that in this world, car versus bike, car wins.
When will the Albany Police end their deadly prejudice against
bicyclists? Most of the City cops come from the suburbs. Like most
suburbanites they think that bicycles are toys and don’t
belong on the streets. Thus, by not holding motorists responsible
for their actions they are practically rewarding motorists for
running down bicyclists.
And finally, will the City of Albany repair this intersection?
As far as I know, the corner of Western and University is unchanged,
ready to catch and kill somebody else. Who will it be next time,
a mother and baby in a stroller, as Amanda Grieco suggested?
Here is the
Albany Bicycle Coalition thread in response to the
June 10 post. And
here are more responses from others. Clearly,
it struck a very basic chord. Thanks to everybody who responded.
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