We all see distracted drivers riding our bikes. They are everywhere. And yet, when posting (on Facebook) a very disturbing account of a tour bus driver on his phone when he killed two pedestrians in DC, there was the knee-jerk reaction to blame the victims. Accusing them of being on their phones. And screaming in all-caps that we all need to "CALMMMMM down". Clearly, the woman responding to the FB post had not read the article to learn anything about the crash. One, 61 y.o., the mayor of an Alaskan town and the other was her mother, 85 years old. In all likelihood, these women were not on their phones and they were legally walking in a crosswalk. There is no blame that can be placed on them. They were right where they should be.
So why do we do it? Why do we blame those that haven't done anything wrong? These two women lost their lives due to terrible decisions by the tour bus driver to be on his phone rather than paying attention. Here's the recap:
It reminds me of the two Chicago DUI-related cycling deaths. When it came down to it, both judges found fault in the victims to justify light sentences. Even though both men were found to be intoxicated way beyond the legal limit. Yet, the judges would rather fault the victim's clothing for being "too dark" as the reason the drunk driver hit the cyclist, regardless of the level of intoxication.
John Greenfield responded by posting a relevant article about how blaming pedestrians for "distracted walking" is making matters worse.
My understanding is victim blaming helps the victim blamers feel safe. It is natural to want to feel safe in day-to-day activities, so we are in denial of risk. When something happens which shows the risk then if we can attribute the misfortune to some characteristic or action of the one harmed we can continue to believe that "it won't happen to me".
Of course the rational thing to do is accept we are at risk all of the time. When something bad happens it is because that is how life works. Last year I was in a bad bike crash that put me in the hospital. I recovered, and went straight back to biking and have made no changes. I think many people would not get back on their bike, but that makes no sense if they fully recover. In that case the victim blamers even blame themselves!
Thanks, that makes sense.
Well we all do what we need to get by. I think falsely attributing cause to bad unlucky events is common, and nearly universal. We seem to be hardwired to "overlearn" from bad outcomes.
I met someone who refuses to park in the long-term lots at ohare because of one bad experience. An airport bus driver had a heart attack while the bus was moving and it hit his car. He was not in it, but he found out about it when he got back on a late flight and found his car missing in the lot. It does not cost much to avoid long-term parking (no more than cab far to and from the airport), but it's kind of crazy.
I've biked in Washington DC. Three buddies and I shipped our bikes on AMTRAK from Chicago to Washington's Union Station. We spent the afternoon biking around the Washington Mall and Georgetown, before we crossed the Potomac and begin biking to Front Royal and the Blue Ridge Parkway on the Washington & Old Dominion Bike Path.
My take-away from that afternoon was that, despite all the tourists walking in those areas, Washington DC has been designed for CARS. And much more than Chicago. Car speeds seemed to be greater than in Chicago, and many downtown roads are set up almost like expressways, where car speeds can hit 60mph, curb to curb.
No wonder that tour bus driver felt comfortable chatting on his phone; there were none of those 'traffic calming' improvements to make him pay more attention to his driving...such as parkways full of trees down the center of major streets, numerous stop lights NOT synchronized, and space left for bikes and parking along the shoulders.
What Steve said.
Everyone is distracted, don't pay attention or think the rules don't apply to them.
I've hit my fair share of pedestrians and every one of them had ear buds in, staring at their phones while walking in or across the street or can't understand what Red,Yellow or Green lights mean or the walk signals either.
Cyclists aren't perfect either (myself included) but when I see a person riding fixed texting or no lights I wonder what they're thinking?