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Invincible and invisible cyclists

1 December 2010 991 views One Comment
Cyclist dressed in black. Photograph by Mark van Manen, PNG.

Cyclist dressed in black. (Mark van Manen, PNG.)

The front page story in The Vancouver Sun on 29 November was Cycling’s most dangerous intersections: 10 places cars are most likely to hit bicycles in Vancouver. Illustrating that story was one of the pictures you see here. (For some strange reason, the Sun has two identical versions of the story [here and here] on its website, but with different pictures.)

Now, I realise that the photographs were no doubt posed, but they beautifully — and ironically — illustrate exactly why so many cyclists (and pedestrians) are getting mowed down on Vancouver streets. Note the following:

  • The cyclist is dressed entirely in black, and
  • The picture is taken at night.
Cyclist dressed in black. Photograph by Mark van Manen, PNG.

Cyclist dressed in black. (Mark van Manen, PNG.)

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been driving in Vancouver on a rainy night — which, as you will know if you live in this part of the world, account for about 300 of 365 nights — and a cyclist or pedestrian has almost literally appeared “out of nowhere” and narrowly avoided becoming one with my car. You can point the finger of blame at me if you want, accusing me of not paying attention. But really, even if there was no car traffic on the roads (besides me) and so I didn’t have to be swivelling my head this way and that to look out for them (especially at intersections, which is what the Sun story is about), I’d be hard-pressed to see a damn nearly invisible person (and bike) until my headlights are reflected in the whites of his or her widening eyes. Besides, if I’m doing such a poor job of paying attention, how come I don’t have these close calls during the day in good weather?

Add to that cyclists and pedestrians who think they are somehow exempt from both the laws of the road and of physics — or have a death wish — and you have a recipe for disaster. The onus is on everyone on the roads to do their part to keep them safe, but jeez, if you’re the one likely to be on the losing end of a collision, don’t you think you should invest a little more effort and thought in keeping yourself alive before you even walk out the door?

(Copyright note: These photographs are the copyright of, presumably, Mark van Manen of the Pacific News Group [PNG]. They are used here without permission, but I assert that their use here is in line with the concept of “fair dealing” under Canadian copyright law, in that this article is a criticism of the content of the works themselves and the news story to which they are attached rather than simply being a reposting of a news article. To the best of my knowledge, non-copyrighted versions of these photographs are not available. In any case, these are the pictures the public has seen, so my creating my own similar pictures would negate the nexus of this article.)

One Comment »

  • Craig said:

    Somebody agrees with me — some minor apparatchik at the CBC named Rick Mercer. In one of his famous rants (“The End of (Daylight Saving) Time“) he writes (and rants) of almost running over two pedestrians in the dark:

    And why did I almost run them over? Well, as I mentioned, it was dark – a fact that seems to be lost on the vast majority of pedestrians this time of year. That and I swear to God one of them was dressed head to toe in black. Might as well have been wearing a Burka [sic] or a cloak of invisibility. If it wasn’t for the little tiny light coming from the cell phone that he was texting on in the middle of the street I would have hit him at 40 kilometers [sic] an hour.

    He ends with: “Better S.A.D. than sorry”, a reference to his opening comment about seasonal affective disorder. I say better S.A.D. than dead.