02

Blog

Letter to the Press

It's Crash, Not the A-Word.

CLICK HERE FOR .PDF OF THE LETTER.

[CLICK AGAIN ON THE .PDF AFTER JUMP FOR DOWNLOADABLE VERSION]

To all members of the media and Associated Press:

Crash fatalities amongst cyclists and pedestrians are at a 30 year high with more than 2 people on bikes being killed every day and pedestrians at an alarming rate of every :90 minutes. That means that in places where these members of our communities aren’t completely invisible, you have been busier than you have been in 3 decades reporting on the deaths of those who choose and/or rely on human-powered transportation. I believe that you have a duty to do so with both factual accuracy and humanity. Those two things can co-exist, even in crash reporting.

  1. The A word: In 2016, the Associated Press released guidelines warning those reporting on traffic incidents against using the word “accident.” The harm done when you identify crashes involving motorists and cyclists/pedestrians is a symptom of the assumption you make when you misrepresent a collision or crash as an unavoidable event, or act of God, alleviating drivers of culpability and their legal duty to operate their motor vehicles in a way that does not cause injury and death. Crashes are the product of human error. While many, if not most, don’t occur with intent, it is important to understand that intent is not synonymous with harm.
  2. Helmet usage: Victim blaming is a social and cultural phenomenon that requires complete and nuanced understanding to be eradicated. You have the power to shift this dynamic and affect social (and legal) change with a few minor adjustments. If you would not mention the length of a rape victim’s skirt, why would you ever mention whether or not a cyclist who was hit by a motorist was wearing a helmet? What role do plastic and styrofoam play in the circumstances or causation of a crash? Rarely, if at all, do I read about whether the driver involved in a collision with a vulnerable road user was wearing their seat belt. Perhaps that’s because there is little to no risk of injury or death to the motorist whereas those things are guaranteed for cyclists and pedestrians. Maybe it’s because that would be absurd.
  3. Driver responsibility: “Gray Honda Civic(s),” “Blue Dodge Caravan(s),” and “Fed-Ex box trucks,” unless autonomous, require human operation. Please make drivers culpable. When motorists take human life using their vehicles as weapons, it’s not only inaccurate but incredibly offensive to read that mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters are taken from their loved ones by inanimate multi-ton boxes of steel. The make and model of the involved vehicle is not the responsible party. You would not report on gun violence by solely identifying the type of firearm used to kill. The deceased are worthy of greater respect from you; in the least, they are worthy of the same you give to drivers who are responsible for their deaths. Considering the inability for a deceased cyclist or pedestrian to provide their recitation of the crash that ended their life, lop-sided reports that mention “ driver cooperation” with law enforcement after a crash are yet another way the value of our lives is trivialized by you, the media.

You are not responsible for the uptick in hit and runs, the Distracted Driving epidemic (which is the number one cause of death amongst American teens), or the lack of safe, scalable, effective inclusive infrastructure available to people who choose multi-modal transportation. But you are responsible for the way you act as conduits of important information for your readers. The world is moving on; law enforcement, advocates, educators, policy makers, lawyers, cyclists, and pedestrians all seem to have a better grasp on the importance of words. We know they matter. My challenge and heartfelt plea to you is to consider how factual reporting means removing personal bias and assumptions in the context of the interactions between motorists and our bike/ped community members.

I believe that you, on a fundamental human level, are fully capable of understanding why this is so important and how you can use your power for good while capturing what is actually happening and improving the quality of your work product. 

If you have questions or would like to discuss this further, I welcome an open and productive dialogue with the hopes that the several tens of millions of people in this country that choose human powered transportation can find a much needed ally in you. 

After all, it’s life and death.

Respectfully,

S/Rachael Maney

Comments

Peter Wilborn Jan 13, 2021

As a Minneapolis-based attorney, I live, work, play and bike in the city. Although my city might be known for its lakes and our infamous Juicy Lucy, Minneapolis’ dedication to having safer streets for all should be included in that list. To reach the safe streets goal, numerous non-profit organizations and groups are working tirelessly […]

Read More
Ambassador
Rachael Maney Jan 11, 2021

Applications for the Bike Law Foundation Ambassador Program are now live. CLICK HERE FOR THE APPLICATION. The deadline to apply is Sunday, January 24th. Those selected will be notified on or before February 1. Thanks for your support and willingness to work together to make bicycling safer for all. We are committed to you, to one another, and […]

Read More
3-foot passing close call
Charlie Thomas Jan 11, 2021

It happens all the time: Someone emails me video footage, clearly showing they were biking along when a car buzzes past, coming within inches of a horrible crash — and there’s nothing I can do about it because we don’t have the laws in place to do something to help. Luckily, that might be about […]

Read More
killing cyclist bike law
Rachael Maney Dec 22, 2020

BIKE LAW ANNOUNCES THE INDICTMENT OF CARL BEHLER FOR KILLING CYCLIST AND INJURING OTHERS   Today, Carl Behler appeared in court for the first time for killing cyclist Arthur Carter and injuring others. He was indicted on Friday (12/18) by the Anne Arundel County Grand Jury and promptly arrested and detained for 7 crimes related […]

Read More
Bicycle Mayor
Bruce Hagen Dec 03, 2020

When I (Maria of Bike Law Georgia) called Pattie Baker, the first Metro Atlanta Bicycle Mayor, she was trudging through marshland on her bicycle on Alpharetta’s Big Creek Greenway. I pictured her in my mind with her bike, wearing her signature skirts, and mud on her sandals. Always on the go, the newly minted Metro […]

Read More
Alabama Bike Advocacy
Danny Feldman Dec 02, 2020

When Alabama bike advocate Jamie Miernik was growing up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, she dreamed of being an astronaut.  And today, although she is not an astronaut, as a chemical engineer who worked for Boeing on the NASA space station project, she put her knowledge and talents to use keeping the astronauts safe and sound in […]

Read More
Local bike shop Atlanta Bike Shop Mechanic
Bruce Hagen Nov 06, 2020

We have so many amazing local bike shops in the Atlanta Metro Area and in Georgia that it’s hard to single out any for the service that they provide, but here’s a short list of some of the shops from various parts of town and throughout the state. Eight Great Local Bike Shops in Georgia […]

Read More
Justice Ginsberg Bike Law
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Nov 03, 2020

Last month after Justice Ginsberg passed away, I went on one of those long solo rides to pedal things out.  I was hoping that time in the saddle would help settle the emotional torrent within me.  On one hand, I was feeling driven, empowered, and more motivated than ever to step things up a notch […]

Read More
Women on Bikes Rachael
Peter Wilborn Oct 11, 2020

Rachael Maney is the Director of the Bike Law Network and of the non-profit Bike Law Foundation. As most of you know, she has spent the last two weeks on these pages profiling 16 Women on Bikes leading up to yesterday’s inaugural Women’s Cycling Day. If you haven’t yet, read her profiles of and conversations with […]

Read More
Load More