Let's All Just Slow Down a Little
While I have a plethora of information to share about parking, I find myself moved to write about the recent decision of the SF District Attorney to file felony vehicular manslaughter charges against Chris Bucchere, the bicyclist whose crashing into a 71- year old man led to that man’s death.
I don’t know Chris Bucchere, but I can safely bet that when he put on his helmet and got on his bike, the last thing to cross his mind was hurting someone during his ride. When you are on a bike, stopping at a stop sign, or a red light is indeed a total drag. All of that beautiful momentum created by the rider comes to a halt. I would imagine that most everyone who has ridden a bike in a city has rolled through a stop sign a time or two not wanting to have to start from zero velocity.
It is the second such occurrence in less than a year. Last summer, a woman visiting SF with her family stepped off of the curb onto the Embarcadero and was struck by a bicyclist. She also died as a result of the collision.
Once is a freak occurrence, but twice in less than a year indicates that it is perhaps a phenomenon that will begin to be more common and soon not gain any more attention than hearing that 811 pedestrians were hit by cars last year in SF.
I guess what strikes me is that all of these accidents–bicyclists hitting pedestrians, bicyclists and cars crashing into each other, and cars striking pedestrians–are all completely unnecessary. They all happened either because somebody was distracted while driving, somebody was in a hurry, they didn’t want to miss the light, a pedestrian thought that the other person could see them and didn’t realize the sun was in the driver’s eyes, or the pedestrian wanted to assert their right of way but didn’t realize that their grey raincoat blended in nicely with the dark rainy street.
I have been hit a couple of times while in my car by people blowing off the red light, once by a bicyclist and once by another car. I used to assume a green light was safe. I now look both ways when I go through a green light. I was waltzing through a parking lot and almost walked right into a silent Prius that was backing up. I used to assume that all cars made engine noise. And I am sure that both pedestrians struck by the bicyclists assumed that the white “walk” sign meant that it was safe to cross. Last week I saw the driver of an 18 wheeler talking on his phone while cruising up Washington Street almost mow down several cars, bicyclists and pedestrians with one fell swoop. And a pedestrian almost did himself in while walking and texting on a busy street in NYC. He walked in between two orange cones and fell straight down an uncovered manhole in the middle of the street while texting.
I think what I want to share is that in this increasingly busy, distracting, and multi-tasking society, our minds and/or eyes more often than not, are in places other than the present moment. We assume that the other people are paying attention and we will be safe. Well, you and I are the other people. So, let’s get back to basics: Look both ways before you cross the street, follow the rules of the road, make eye contact with drivers, riders, or pedestrians when crossing their paths.
There are over half a million cars, close to a million pedestrians, and an increasing number of bicyclists roaming the streets of San Francisco on any given Sunday. Combine that with the 400,000 newly activated smartphones each day, 15,000 new apps launched each week and our evolving ability to multi-task. Essentially, we are walking and riding and driving while operating computers. The times indeed are changing, and our assumptions about navigating through the world need to change as well.
Nobody can make the bicyclists or drivers feel better about the damage that they have caused. Nobody believes that they will ever be involved in something like these tragedies until they are. Nobody can bring back the lives lost to their families, but if each of us can pay just a little more attention and slow down a little, then perhaps something good can come of this.