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Friday, October 20 2017 @ 11:14 PM UTC

Bikers, Walkers Need Cities [and Laws] to Protect Them

Biking ElsewhereWithout laws protecting bikers and walkers, the goal of having truly livable cities in America remains out of reach.


At a street corner somewhere, a pedestrian, a bicyclist and an automobile driver enter an intersection. The person in the car turns and hits either the person on foot or the person on the bike, killing her.

Question: What happens to the driver? In most states, nothing. Unless the driver is drunk or can be shown to be speeding or driving recklessly, it is, in the words of Aaron Naparstek, founder of Streetsblog, “a free kill.” The driver walks away without criminal charges, civil liabilities or administrative penalties.

This is crazy.

There are several ways to strengthen consequences. There are increased criminal penalties, such as charges of manslaughter. There are increased civil penalties, such as liability for hospital bills, lost earnings, and pain and suffering. And there are increased administrative penalties, such as points on one’s license or loss of license.

Personally, I think the way to go is increased civil liability. The countries where cycling is an integral part of life, such as Holland and Denmark, as well as much of the rest of continental Europe, have something in effect called “strict liability.”

It means that if you, the driver, strike a pedestrian or cyclist, you are automatically at fault, even if the walker or cyclist literally jumps out in front of you. This may not seem fair, but a system where a cyclist and a driver are on equal footing is not a fair one either, because the results of any collision are so unequal. A system needs to acknowledge that it is the driver of a car or truck that is doing something inherently dangerous.

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