autoAmerican anarchy

Here we go again.

Two adolescents, a boy and a girl, were throwing snowballs at cars in Milwaukee. One driver took umbridge, pulled over, and shot them. Would an autoAmerican jury even convict?

Meanwhile, in Kansas City, an off-duty police officer, a the mother of two, pulled her car over to help an elderly woman cross the street. As a reward for her good deed she was struck and killed by an oncoming vehicle.

Turns out, Halloween is a truly scary night. “The most disturbing thing about Halloween isn’t the fake blood, urban legends, or sexy clown costumes. It’s that the streets are full of actual child-killers: Pedestrians under age 18 are twice as likely to be struck and killed by a car on October 31 than on any other day of the year,” reports City Lab. Be very afraid, kids.

It is a perverse autoAmerican value that the act of walking is actually hazardous to your health. “Ten years ago, 4,109 pedestrians died. The number has risen virtually every year since, and last year, the death toll was up 3.4 percent to 6,283. Pedestrian fatalities in urban areas are up 69 percent over the last 10 years,” Reports McClatchy news service. On the other hand, don’t you feel really safe inside that big, tall, armored SUV?

From our Best Intentions Dept: San Francisco adopted “Vision Zero” goals to eliminate traffic deaths. But the city has since declared a “state of emergency” because the death toll is actually climbing. “San Francisco is midway through its Vision Zero goal to eliminate street fatalities, which don’t count highways or underground transportation, by 2024 but faced a setback…this year has seen at least 24 people die in street collisions and 16 of those have been pedestrians or cyclists. In all of 2018, there were 23 deaths counting against Vision Zero,” reports SFWeekly.

And if you think technology is going to keep us from killing each other, think again. It turns out that the reason an Arizona woman was killed by an Uber self-driving SUV last year was because the car apparently didn’t know that human beings don’t always heed the rules of the road. “Much of that explains why, despite the fact that the car detected (Rafaela) Herzberg with more than enough time to stop, it was traveling at 43.5 mph when it struck her and threw her 75 feet. When the car first detected her presence, 5.6 seconds before impact, it classified her as a vehicle. Then it changed its mind to “other,” then to vehicle again, back to “other,” then to bicycle, then to “other” again, and finally back to bicycle,” reports Wired. Back to the drawing board on that one.

After a 37-year old cyclist was run over by a truck in Chicago, cyclists turned out in protest bearing “Please don’t kill us” signs. But don’t just blame the driver. ““You had a bike lane that is completely gone, it hasn’t been maintained. The plan was to make it a protected bike lane but the area pushed back, so it was just a faded, painted bike lane,” Christina Whitehouse, founder of advocacy group Bike Lane Uprising, told Block Club Chicago. “We had a cyclist that was in it and who was clearly an experienced cyclist based on the bike, and you had a commercial truck that right-hooked her.” The moral to this story is that life is cheap – or at least cheaper than the cost of laying down a little paint or installing barriers.

The city of Elizabeth, N.J. decided to ban Lime electric scooters after a teenager rented one and was killed. By a tow truck. ““It didn’t matter if he was 16 or 18. He was hit by a tow truck. No matter how old he was, he would have been killed,” Elizabeth resident Danielle Fienberg told StreetsblogNYC. “We have no bike lanes, we have no basic pedestrian safety measures, and we have drivers that are aggressive. We were not ready for Lime scooters.” No word on whether Elizabeth now intends to ban killer tow trucks.

They are serious about jaywalking in Gwinnette County, Ga. A man on his way to a job interview reportedly got tased three times for walking outside the line. “You jaywalked again right in front of us. Again, bro,” the officer said, according to a WSBTV news report. “Y’all doing all that over jaywalking?” the tasee responded. Hey, this is autoAmerica, pal, you need to watch your step!

Professional wrestler Matt Travis was a tough guy. “Wrestling is my lifeline. Every night I come home and hear how someone got shot… like, what if I’m next? But with wrestling I feel like, finally, I have a shot,” he once said. “It didn’t take a bullet to kill Matt Travis. It took a 10,000-pound dump truck,” reports StreetsblogNYT. “According to police, Travis was coasting down the Willis Avenue bridge bike path at around 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, intending to continue across 125th Street — but a dump truck on a service road parallel to the bridge made an illegal left turn onto 125th Street and then another left onto the bridge, hitting Travis in the process.”

And, listen, you don’t have to be a pedestrian or cyclist to be at risk in autoAmerica. In Toms River, N.J. a red Porsche was traveling so fast that it actually went airborne and lodged itself into the second story of a real estate building, killing both driver and passenger. “The red Porsche Boxster was clearly visible upside down in the second story,’ reported USA Today. “Toms River building inspector John Gerrity deemed the building unsafe, police said.” And the building wasn’t even jaywalking.

Meanwhile, the Houston Chronicle reports that “Texas has not had a death-free day on its roads in 19 years.” Texas Transportation Commissioner Laura Ryan said “They die silently and violently,’…noting the numbness many drivers have to Texas leading the country in fatalities.” On the plus side, you get to drive really, really fast in Texas.

By the way, if you think driving doesn’t go to your head, think again. “New research has linked air pollution nanoparticles to brain cancer for the first time. The ultra-fine particles (UFPs) are produced by fuel burning, particularly in diesel vehicles, and higher exposures significantly increase people’s chances of getting the deadly cancer,” reports The Guardian. “Toxic air has been linked to other effects on the brain, including hugereductions in intelligence, dementia and mental health problems in both adults and children. The World Health Organization says air pollution is a “silent public health emergency.” Talk about distracted driving.

But don’t get the impression that all drivers are oblivious to the world around them. When St. Petersburg cyclist Steven Weldon got nailed by a speeding motorist, he got assistance from an unexpected source. “The unidentified driver stopped and helped pull an injured Weldon off the roadway. He also moved the bike out of the road,” reported the Tampa Bay Times. Then “the driver got back into his car and drove off. Now it’s being investigated a case of hit-and-run.”

Be careful out there folks.

Author: floridavelocipede

A sometime journalist who used to string words together for a living before I retired to run a non-profit cycle touring organization that will henceforth go unnamed, as I have subsequently retired from that career as well. I write a bi-monthly column, theater reviews and an occasional magazine piece for my old newspaper. If I still had a business card it would read: Ron Cunningham: Trained Observer Of The Human Condition. Because like The Donald, you know, ego.

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