Wednesday, May 19

Newton Ride of Silence in Texas

One byproduct of my commute is that it allows me lots of time to ponder things. This morning, I mulled over the post MamaVee made yesterday on Suburban Bike Mama yesterday, about a cyclist who died in Newton, Massachusetts shortly before she rode by. It shook her, seeing the crushed bike, and put a damper on bike-related celebrations. His name was Andy von Guerard, he was only 21, and he was from Colorado. I read the article she linked to, and about the only information it gave, dressed up as “news,” was that he wasn’t wearing a helmet. For some reason that bothered me. He wasn’t wearing a helmet. It wasn’t him not wearing a helmet that bothered me, but that it was all they found worthy of reporting.

Later, more information came out. It turned out that he apparently ran a red light and crashed into the back of a crossing SUV; suffering massive chest trauma. No helmet would have helped. Advocates got interviewed, who took the opportunity to use his death to grind personal axes or promote already planned events. One claimed his death proved it was unsafe to ride bikes around Newton. What? As if any amount of bike paths, or lanes, or whatever, no matter how well designed and executed, will save someone who runs a red light and crashes into a massive object?

Somehow, something got lost in this media blather. A young man is no longer with us, it didn’t have to happen, and it had nothing to do with sharing the road or helmets. The unnecessary waste is, perhaps, the saddest aspect of all. It was a quiet ride to work for me today…


Oldfool said...

I imagine it was but you are not to blame. The bad decisions of youth take a lot of lives and we were lucky because we made a lot of bad decisions and got away with it.
There is nothing we can do about the media. It is mostly unknowing young people these days that don't research anything. I seldom write a post that I don't have to research something. They have not even learned to think yet but then I was no different at that age.

cycler said...

I've been thinking a lot about it too, and I'm really conflicted about it.
I'm annoyed by the emphasis on "wasn't wearing a helmet" and I'm annoyed by the people who go from this to "roads aren't safe to bike on" While there are no guarantees, and the risks are asymmetric, the roads are reasonably safe if you practice common sense and observe traffic laws.

It strengthens my resolve to advocate for bicyclists to observe traffic laws, but unfortunately, it mainly seems like the invulnerability of youth coming face to face with the hard laws of physics.

We will never know if he had a brake failure or was stupidly trying to run the light. Although I take a hard line on vulnerable user protection, I do feel for the poor women driving the car he hit. It would be very traumatic to be the agent, however unwitting of such a tragedy, and I think I would be shaken and wondering what I could have done differently.

Ham said...

I have a confession. Each time I see one of these sad events or the aftermath, (all too common here) there is a little piece of me that says "at least it wasn't me."

MamaVee said...

thank you steve. Thanks for looking for more info as if came out. I haven't had time to update.

I completely agree. Even more so, once his name came out and I realized I knew him. He worked at my watering hole and served me coffee several times a week. I can't stop thinking simply about him. His face. His cute young hipster ways. His really good lattes and the image of him standing up off of his bike post crash and then falling back again. I can't believe I won't see his face again, and I knew him barely. I didn't even know his name, just his face and place of work. I ride past the intersection and see the flowers and fancy microbrew bottles left at a vigil and I don't think about cycling, safety or helmets, I just think he was a nice guy who should still be here enjoying life.

Ham said...

In London we also often have Ghost Bikes as a memorial.

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