By spokesman | February 9, 2011
“You would have loved her” was the phrase written on the sidewalk near the ghost bike set up in memory of Alice Swanson. I didn’t know Alice but was heartbroken over the tragic accident. Those words on the sidewalk inspired me to make a video of the ghost bike. I have written about the traffic accident that took Alice’s life several times, most recently when the driver in the accident was sentence on an unrelated immigration charge.
This week, I received an e-mail from one of Alice’s friend who loved her. She thanked me for writing about her friend and to advocate for safer cycling. The only good that can come of this tragedy is learning how to avoid such tragedies in the future. It will take better education of the police, drivers and cyclists. To that end, Alice’s mother recently testified before a D.C. government subcommittee. Here is a video of her testimony. She said that “I can’t tell you how terrible it is to lose a daughter in so senseless a way. To have the police falsely blame the victim is to be victimized twice.” It is the latest chapter in this tragedy. There is a problem with bicycle safety in the District. The police have a tendency to immediately blame the cyclist as does most of the car driving public.
However it is not just cyclists who are in danger. Pedestrians beware. A Washington Post article on a recent series of pedestrian accidents pointed out that there have been an average of 93 pedestrians killed in traffic accidents in the Washington region in each of the past 5 years. That same article references 2 non-fatal accidents involving people pushing strollers that took place that month. Everyone knows how reckless parents pushing strollers can be - racing their infants across the street as the lights change, charging out into the street in the middle of the block and just taunting SUVs. With all of these cycling and pedestrian fatalities, we need to consider the role of the cars.
Edward Whymper, the British explorer who was the first to climb the Matterhorn, wrote in his book “Scrambles Amongst The Alps” the following statement that has become a credo for mountain climbers.
“There have been joys too great to be described in words, and there have been griefs upon which I have not dared to dwell; and with these in mind I say: Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end.”
This cautious message clearly make sense for mountain climbers attempting to reach and return safely from the highest summits in the world. Who would have thought they would apply to cyclists and pedestrians on the streets of the nation’s capital?