In a remarkable (at least, I feel the need to remark on it) court case last week, a nineteen-year-old Urbana, Illinois woman was sentenced to a $1,000 (USD) fine and traffic safety school after her "improper lane change" killed a cyclist. The details bear repeating:
[The cyclist] died on Sept. 8 from head injuries he received Sept. 2 when Stark hit him with her car because she was downloading ring tones to her cell phone instead of paying attention to driving.
[He] was bicycling north on Illinois 130 east of Urbana when he was struck from behind about 7:15 p.m. Stark was so far off the road that she hit Mr. Wilhelm from behind with the driver's side of her car. He was wearing a helmet. [emphasis and hyperlink added]
It gets worse. The driver "had three prior convictions since May 2005 one for disregarding a traffic light and two for speeding. The last speeding conviction came about five weeks before" hitting the cyclist.
As the victim's mother noted, the district attorney decided not to pursue the more serious charge of reckless driving, in part because the driver had "no reasonable expectation of a bike on the side of the road".
Think about that for a minute. What does such an assumption say about the institutional legitimacy of cyclists? That drivers who kill cyclists through driving recklessly by any reasonable definition can be excused because they don't expect to have to share the road?
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