Tuesday, November 9

Bicyclists Against Distracted Drivers

I'm torn what slant to put on this post. Should I post this to my cycling blog as a motorist vs. cyclist rant, or should I look at the bigger picture and rail on how this is just a wretched symptom of a truly sick society that values material wealth more than human health and life?

The cycling slant would be easier for me to write. And if I start on the big picture piece I am sure to get overwhelmed and give up because its just too...overwhelming.

Well, here we go. We'll see where it ends up.

On July 3rd, while cycling eastbound along the shoulder on Highway 6 in Avon, Colorado, less than two miles west of where I ended the Triple Bypass in 2009, Dr. Steven Milo of New York was struck from behind by a Mercedes sedan driven by Martin Joel Erzinger, a financial manager from Avon responsible for over a billion dollars in assets.

Over three miles away police picked up Erzinger at an Avon Pizza Hut. He was putting his sideview mirror and broken bumper in his trunk while Milo lay seriously injured on the side of the road. Erzinger had called for roadside assistance, but not for police or ambulance services. He claimed he didn't know he had hit Milo.

The defense says that Erzinger “might have unknowingly suffered from sleep apnea.” Convenient, because if he had knowingly suffered from sleep apnea he could be charged with vehicular assault on the basis of reckless behavior. “A person acts recklessly when he or she consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a result will occur or that the circumstances exist.” --http://www.lawinfoboulder.com/areas_criminal_litigation/vehicular_homicide_assault.html.

The defense couldn't say for sure that Erzinger suffers from sleep apnea because he would still be responsible for his choice to get behind the wheel. No, they had to adopt (or concoct) some standard legal fairy tale that would absolve their client of ANY responsibility in the matter.

But the most absurd aspect of the whole case is that Erzinger is only facing misdemeanor charges, and not felony charges for almost killing and definitely leaving for dead another human being with his black 2010 Mercedes sedan. The reason he is only facing the lesser charge is because he is rich. Its that cut and dried.

Erzinger is apparently a pillar of the community, a boon to the wealthy who use his services. It would be cruel and unusual to subject him to a felony charge. How would he be able to pay restitution to the poor man he hit?

“Hurlbert said Erzinger is willing to take responsibility and pay restitution. “ But not suffer any legal or social consequences...not man up and accept his responsibility as a citizen, as a driver and as a human being. And I am sure he has assets that could adequately compensate Milo even if he were no longer gainfully employed.

And what of poor Dr. Milo? He was a visitor to Vail, which stands today only because of tourist dollars. Vail has no industry, no real commerce except the dollars of out-of-towners. Milo was casting his economic vote in favor of the town of Vail. Many people are stating they won't be doing that in the future because of this incident.

When they get in your way in Eagle County you just run them over. After all, Milo was just riding a bicycle. Why couldn't he act normal and drive a car like the rest of us? Freak. I bet he doesn't even own a car. If he paid registration and licensing fees like the rest of us then he would have a right to use the road as a vehicle.

An article in the Gilpin County News about the controversial Black Hawk, Colorado bike ban states: "cyclists do not contribute to highway funds as motor vehicle owners do through licensing and registration fees. "

Huh? That logic is flawed. I own and ride a bike. I also own and drive a car. I DO pay licensing and registration fees. And when I choose to ride my bike and park my car I am subsidizing all those motorists who buzz past, honk and yell obscenities out the window at me. Or, heaven forbid, run me over and keep right on going, not stopping until they get to Pizza Hut where they try to hide the evidence of our encounter and deny everything.

I'm sure Steven Milo owns a car. I'm sure his license and registration are current and that he generally obeys all the traffic laws. I'm not going to go so far as to venture that before his accident that he didn't also drive distracted. We all do at some point. We have to look down at our speedometer, gas gauge and CD player from time to time. I bet Steven Milo is much more aware of others on the road these days.

I wonder if Erzinger pays more attention to the road these days? Hopefully he's getting treatment for his sleep apnea.

In the public comment section of an article regarding three cyclist who were killed on a Quebec road by a motorist a user with the ironic handle “Benzornothing” writes:

“Bicycles are not safe and suitable for our roads; maybe 100 years ago along with donkeys and horses. I drive 50 to 60k per year on business by car, and when I see most cyclists drive through red lights, stop signs etc. I shake my head... and never surprised to see them on the front of the newspapers”

Does Benzornothing even see the cyclists who do NOT drive through red lights, stop signs, etc.? It would probably surprise him to see them on the hood of his Benz too, just like Benzinger in Avon.

Benzornothing states he sees MOST cyclist breaking the laws. I have a feeling the proportion of cyclist that break traffic law minor or major is very close to the same as the proportion of motorists who do the same. It has nothing to do with the mode of transportation, it is solely a matter of the behavior of the individual, whether behind the wheel or on the handlebars.

And again, I have a feeling both Benzornothing and Benzinger rarely see cyclists unless they are running red lights or sitting across from them in a courtroom.

The greater implication in all this (remember my initial dilemma?) is that our state laws allow this sort of thing to occur. In traffic violations it is very difficult to prove negligence or recklessness unless drugs and/or alcohol are involved, and many times even in those situations the offender gets off with just a slap on the wrist.

We should, as voters, as citizens, demand that laws protect us from the gross negligence of others. It should not be so hard to prove recklessness and it should be much harder to obtain and maintain a driver's license, especially after being involved in previous traffic infractions.

And someone's economic status should not protect them from due process of the law. If you cause someone serious bodily injury you should not be allowed to sweep the matter under the rug because you can grease the right palms or cry big crocodile tears and end up being the victim while the poor sod in a body cast ends up becoming the real criminal for expecting justice.

This is not really the exception these days, but seems to be the rule.

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