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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Two ways to Reduce Cyclist Deaths: Enforce Speed Limits or Send White Folks to Prison

Sat 11.22
On Halloween 2014, Taylor Lee Banks, 21, was killed bicycling from his job in Aliquippa's NewSheffield neighborhood to the apartment he shared with his mother in Rochester PA. It was a hit-and-run crash, and the driver left him to die in the street.

In Beaver County (and Western PA) there's one way you can kill somebody with impunity: use a car to kill them while they're riding a bicycle; be sober, and stop at the scene. You won't have any criminal problems.

A little over a year after the tragedy, a Beaver man has been charged with the crime. He is innocent until proven guilty, and there is no schadenfreude in his predicament; it won't bring Taylor back but it will serve some function in telling he community: there are repercussions for killing cyclists who are using the roads appropriately.

Man charged in death of Aliquippa bicyclist
By Kirstin Kennedy kkennedy@timesonline.com

ALIQUIPPA -- A Beaver man has been charged for causing a 2014 accident that killed a bicyclist on Route 51 on Halloween night, according to online court records.

William D. Edenfield, 60, no listed address, was charged Friday by Aliquippa police with homicide by vehicle, causing an accident involving death, DUI, careless driving and failing to stop and give information.

According to police, Taylor Lee Banks, 23, of Braddock was riding his bike around 6:45 p.m. Oct. 31, 2014, in the northbound lane of Route 51 when he was struck by a car and killed. Police said he was headed to his mother's home in Rochester.

Police consulted with accident reconstruction specialists to determine how the accident occurred. The process of reconstruction often takes several months, officials said.

A suspect was initially taken into custody on the night of the accident, but was later released, police said. It is unclear if Edenfield was the initial suspect.

As of Friday night, Edenfield was not in police custody, according to online court records. No further information was available.

Which brings me to something I said to a City Paper reporter last week: This won't change until we start putting white people in prison for killing cyclists. Because in America, if you want something illegal to stop, you've got to put white people into prison and then you'll get their attention.

Of course, there are intermediate levels that could be taken; outcomes less than prison, for events less than fatal. Generally we accept that the best course is the middle, between excess and deficiency.

An example of an intermediate engagement would be: enforcing speed limits. That would work, too, but our elected officials are unwilling to tell the police to enforce speed limits, so it seems like we can only focus on the egregious transactions and talk about prison for people who kill with cars.

This is, of course, the lesson of Heinrich's Triangle - that for every 1 fatality, there are 30 serious events (wrecks), and 300 warning-events (fender benders), and thousands of bad behaviors (speeding, distraction). We can choose to engage the bottom of the triangle (which involves a lot of work and conflict), or we can choose to criminalize the few acts at the top of the triangle (which reduces scope, expense, and effectiveness).

This is not bicycle-lobby agitprop; this is research by the WHO and AAA. Slowing down cars increases survival rates; the most expedient way to slow down cars in American cities is to enforce speed limits.

It comes down to budgets, and whether the deaths (and death reduction) are on the budget or externalities. Mayors have to have a budget to start/increase speed limit enforcement; when we bury dead people, the family and maybe the other driver pay for it. We're getting the government, leadership, and outcomes we're willing to pay for.

My good friend read this post and asked: what's with the   white people    aspect of my title? He was wondering if that was a superfluous Freudian addition, but it's not. It goes like this:
  • Driving without regard to road users, and knowing there's no penalty if using your cellphone results in somebody else dying, is an example of: entitlement. I'm going to make a generalization here, and Kind Readers may disagree: most black drivers are more careful than most white drivers; they are motivated to bring their A-game and avoid police interactions.
  • In my own experience, the drivers that hassle me are white people. I've had one black driver shout at me from his car; he shouted, "don't get killed doing that".
  • America puts black people in jail left-and-right, for a broad variety of things - but not white folks. It has a bigger effect in the white community when a white person is put in jail for something they did with their car.
  • Which leads me to: I wonder if drivers-killing-cyclists isn't largely an example of pernicious white-on-white violence?

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