To Swerve and Protect?

Two wheel self-propelled people in the San Francisco area are shaken this week, and I only wish the motorists were similarly moved by the story of the on-duty sheriff who plowed into the path of a trio of competitive cyclists, killing Kristy Gough and Matt Peterson.

But my ride into San Rafael this morning proved that not the case.

A nine o’clock appointment always means mixing it up with the motorists.

Today’s roll of the dice delivered a rageful man in a very sporty car.

I wasn’t late, so I took what motorists usually call ‘the bike path’ (a route that roughly parallels Center Bl. in San Anselmo).

Impatient motorists choose it during commute hours because they believe, despite the many blind turns and the density of residences, they might gain a spot or two on the long line of cars crawling along Center (whose lovely straight line bespeaks a one-time rail line, sob).

Which is why I USUALLY glide down Center, smirking as I brush cars with my leg-hair.

It’s a NARROW roadway but soooo efficient. And bikes aren’t forbidden on it anymore than speedsters are forbidden from doing the ‘rat-run”.

After laying on the horn a couple seconds, Mr. Backstreet Racer waited til there was an oncoming Mercedes and caromed around me, nearly clipping them.

This sort of thing happens a lot, and a woman who passed me said, “I’m used to that” almost consolingly.

I guess I am, too, but I wonder about riders without a few year’s worth of ‘case hardening’.

Do they dare even try?

About five years ago I realized that when I waited too long to get out the door (thus inaugurating a game of “Rushin’ Roulette”) I had far more incidents.

“There are more bozos driving when I’m late” I jotted down in my journal.

Maybe it’s you“, an angel of innocence purred into my bad ear.

“Damn you! You’re probably right”.

And I moved all the clock-hands ten minutes fast. And began parading–NOT rushing–to my errands. Showing a queenly dignity instead of the usual devilish scorcher’s delight at all the stops. No more worrying about those pricey tickets (got two in ’03, set me back 150 each time, now they’re surely 200 bucks)!

But Kristy and Matt weren’t exactly rushing. They were going hella fast though, down a steep twisty road.
The sheriff missed the turn and went straight into them (I’ve had daymares about such a scenario), severing K’s foot, scattering bike parts, bodies and blood everywhere.

And then jumping out of the car saying, “My life is over. My career is ruined”.

Poor choice of priorities, pity-wise.

I believe that he will go free. I KNOW he will not be tested for alcohol (he has had a DUI a few years ago when he was 20 yrs old).

And motorists will continue not to look for cyclists when they are driving.

“I never saw him/her” is the perfectly acceptable reason for killing riders.

There may someday be an incentive to pay attention, but it will involve stricter laws biased in favor of non-motorists/bystanders/cyclists.

Laws that take away licenses permanently, after the first ‘tap’ of a cyclist, pedestrian, regardless of age.
Note to Brit and other readers…in the USA, adults on a bike are seen to be ‘asking for it’. If a motorist harms a child, sometimes there is a (slight) consequence, along the lines of a judge saying “her life is ruined already, knowing she caused a kid to become paralyzed”. This is called the Already Paid Up punishment plan.

There’s an assumption that not only will you reform when you slide into the driver’s seat, but that you will throb with agony in perpetuity.
I disagree.

That is for the family of the child, or the no-longer-living adult cyclist….

~ by jacquiephelan on March 14, 2008.

7 Responses to “To Swerve and Protect?”

  1. Hi, Jacquie, I am less pessimistic than you re: the deputy and his DUI. He will have been tested, and if he was DUI, he will (deservedly) go to prison. The media will go after it, and the lawyers will go after it. Anyway, that’s my optimistic take. Tougher, though, if he was not DUI, and was just too tired to drive. What then? Just a tragic, terrible accident? Hard to accept such things.

  2. has a really nice writeup following this (and some other previous local tragedies). Pass it on, it’s truely a must read.

    My buddy DS has a link to it and a quick writeup as well:

  3. Hey Jacquie,

    “I didn’t see the cyclist…” is a confession, not a defense.

    Best regards,


  4. You inspired me to get off my ass and write my own blog entry about this terrible event; I’ve been thinking about it for a week now. I gave you some credit… see here:

  5. jacquie

    I grind my teeth and my knuckles go white as I am tailgated by drivers not respecting my right to space or my right to life

    this head on deaths are rare but far too frequent
    for this to be an officer of the law makes it that more disturbing

    but in the end
    the specifics of the incident are not that important
    lives must be mourned
    behavior must be changed

    these “accidents” could be avoided

    this officer could serve the community better than serving time
    make him a bicycle cop
    make his serve to make bicycling safe as a bicycle advocate

    I say after you check his blood
    check his cell phone records
    I bet he was texting one of his buddies
    chatting about the strip club from the night prior

    be safe
    love and luck

  6. Hail to the Queen of the W.O.M.B.A.T.S.!
    I wanted to ask permission to link to your blog from my blog.
    If you’re ever in the Philly area, please hit me up, you can sit in with our Reggae band, we need a banjo player desperately.
    Don;t take anywooden knickels.. unless they’re recycled.

  7. “Note to Brit and other readers…in the USA, adults on a bike are seen to be ‘asking for it’.”
    True in all Developed? contries I think.The perception is you learn to drive so you don’t have to ride any more. An adult on a bike is not normal behaviour…….France is of course the exception.
    A good read as always Jaquie.

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