We have the silly side of this blog. And we have the dark side. Today, we have to go back to the dark side.
The Register-Guard’s Karen McCowan has a report about Patrick Joseph Compton’s manslaughter case. Compton is accused of driving drunk and hitting and killing Craig Macfie, who was riding his bike in the bike lane on 11th Avenue.
It’s an article worth reading. McCowan reports a number of details from court records:
- Compton’s blood alcohol level was 0.15 percent. The legal limit for DUII is 0.08.
- Macfie’s blood alcohol content was 0.14.
- Compton was safely home after an evening of partying, but then decided he needed to go out for a burrito or something. It was during that outing that the collision happened.
It’s come out now that Macfie had no lights or reflectors. McCowan reports that Compton told the cops he didn’t see Macfie until “the moment of impact.”
I wonder if this becomes a point of contention in this case. I hope not.
I can’t believe how many of the comments on some of the [TV station] stories focus on the cyclist being lit-up. I know ninja bikers are a serious problem, but it’s irrelevant. No amount of lights will save you from a drunk asshole driving in the bike lane. There are far more posts condemning dark biking than drunk driving. What is wrong with these people?
It’s against the law to be unlit, of course, but I was out on that block of 11th Avenue after midnight a couple of weeks ago. It’s not exactly a pitch black side street or country lane. There are street lights and lots of lights on nearby businesses. You can see clearly a couple of blocks down the street without any additional lights at all. I watched a pedestrian walk across 11th two blocks down. It wasn’t hard to see him. Really, it would be hard not to see a cyclist in the bike lane 50 yards ahead of you.
On the other hand — I almost hate to say this, because I think it might piss some of you off — but I’ll say it anyway: Maybe even a drunk person would notice something that looks like a blinking Christmas tree riding down the street and take evasive action.
Or maybe not.
There is a point often made by some cycling advocates: That we too often and too squarely place the responsibility for safety on the cyclist. Wear a helmet. Wear a reflective safety vest. Etc. They argue that the burden for safety, instead, should be primarily on the motorist — the person who is operating the far more dangerous machine.
I’m not an official cycling advocate (whatever that is). I’m not militant about the cycling “movement.” Frankly, I’m not sure where I come down on this question.
My work schedule right now has me on the road a lot after midnight. I find myself looking over my shoulder a lot when I hear a car coming — because, frankly, I don’t trust them. At that hour, I know there are drunk drivers passing me, probably not infrequently.
Should I have to be the one responsible for my safety when I am simply cruising down the bike lane? No, but on the other hand, the stakes are pretty high to trust it to someone else.
I once wrote a post about the fact that you have to have trust in others to go out on the streets on a bike. It was a sort of hopeful, optimistic post. I do have trust in most people who drive. But I look over my shoulder a lot, too.
I’m interested to hear your thoughts on any of this. If you think I’m wrong, don’t be shy.