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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

manslaughter on a bike, part 2

Joshua Taj Bozeman at The Blue Site thinks the man who committed manslaughter on his bicycle when he blew through a stop sign and killed a 71-year-old woman (see my earlier post) got a bum rap:
CLEARLY, police and attorneys in this city are INSANE. You CANNOT equate a bike with a car! This sort of thing is scary, because it could happen to any of us, and that’s when we’re screwed plain and simple. If this arrest stands, we’re screwed in general, because it’s that slipper slope. To say that any vehicle is the same is totally nuts, and the police captain should be tossed out on his boot for even trying to claim they’re equal. What’s next? A kid on a tricyle knocks down a woman…is that manslaughter as well? How about a pogo stick? How about a wheelchair? What if a wheelchair-bound citizen hits someone on accident, is THAT manslaughter? Is a walker a vehicle? A atroller? See the problem when we start making absurd statements about how two things that are completely different are somehow anywhere near close to being the same? Are rollerskaters a vehicle?
I feel quite sorry for Mr. Bozeman; here he is, a grown man, and he has no clue that bicyclists are supposed to follow the rules of the road, just like cars. I will try to answer some of his questions, since he is clearly confused:

No, someone in a wheelchair is technically a pedestrian, and he presumably won't be whizzing through an intersection in the middle of the street.

"Is a walker a vehicle? A atroller?". Again, pedestrians, as are the tricycle, walker and pogo stick. Pedestrians, of course, have to follow rules as well, such as not jaywalking, not crossing against the light, etc. But when crossing a street where the cross traffic has stop signs, the pedestrian always has the right of way.

True, a car and a bicycle are not the same thing; but they are both vehicles, and both must follow the rules for vehicles in all states, though there are slight differences in the rules for bikes and cars. The requirement to stop at stop signs is NOT one of those differences.

Yes, you are "screwed" if you are one of those arrogant people who thinks the rules don't apply to you, but not as screwed as the innocent bystanders who get mowed down because of that arrogance.
Not only that, but who on earth knew it was illegal (is it?!) to go thru a stop sign on a bicycle? I wouldn’t think that was illegal, and I see people go thru stop signs all the time (as well as red lights) on bikes, because that’s the nature of the “vehicle.”
Well, let's see, I knew it was illegal when I was in grade school, and I'm sure millions of other people did to. Yes, I see many cyclists blow through stop signs too; guess what? That doesn't make it legal.


Blogger Joshua said...

its not black and white as you make it out to be. there are many differences in types of vehicles. if a bicycle is considered the same as a car legally, how is a tricycle not? what about a unicycle?

you say someone on a tricycle is not in a vehicle, but rather are considered a pedestrian (not sure what the law says about this, and i doubt there are many people who know what the law says about tricycles!), but where on earth do we make that difference? one extra wheel makes it a non-vehicle and its suddenly defines the same as a pedestrian (a person who is walking)?? so, if we take AWAY one wheel (unicycle), wed consider that a pedestrian as wheel no? if a tricycle is not a vehicle because of the added wheel, what do we say about a 4 wheeler? what about those big wheels with the 3 wheels that kids ride? if a grown man hops on a tricycle and rides it into traffic and causes an accident where someone does, thats not the same as a bike to you, because (not sure why we could say that, besides the extra wheel and a slower overall speed).

the point is- its a complex situation. if youre on a bike, can you legally get onto the sidewalk if you slow down? some cities have paths for bikes...can you NOT stop at a stop sign if you make a quick turn into a bike trail? what if you hit someone walking next to the bike trail, but youre actually ON the bike trail when your bike stops after hitting the person- is THAT manslaughter? what if someone enters a bike path without realizing it, and you hit them, is that manslaughter? what if you see a red light on a bike, but its 1 am, and theres no traffic on the road for miles- you go thru it and hit someone down the street a ways- is that manslaughter because a block back you didnt stop at the red light? or is it manslaughter solely because you hit someone and they dont take the red light into acct?

and how do we define a bike as the same as a car, but NOT a pogo stick? rollerblades? skateboards? where can you draw a reasonable line? a bike that weighs less than your own body is the same as a car that weighs ten times more than you do? is that common sense? what about scooters with motors? are they the same? what about a segway? what if a disabled person is using a segway and runs a stop sign and hits someone? is that manslaughter?

i could go on for hypotheticals for days. like i said, slippery slope. who says where were allowed to draw the line? who draws the line for us? who is responsible for making sure everyone is kept up on every law concerning every new "vehicle" and which is considered a vehicle and which isnt?

so many questions, you see. one big fact- only a blind man would look at a bike and a buick and see the same thing. if theyre both the same legally, then we should all just take our buicks into the park on the grass then, because thats perfectly legal with a bike. we should park out cars on the sidewalk in front of buildings, lock them to metal racks...

1:14 AM  
Blogger jmc said...

Thanks for the reply. Here's the basic difference between tricycles, pogo sticks, and all the other things you mentioned, and bikes: Only bikes are privileged to share the road. With that privilege comes responsibilities.

Having "one extra wheel" is not the reason tricycles aren't allowed on the street. The real reason is that they are about as slow as walking, and are too low to be seen from a car. A grown man who hops on a tricycle and rides it into traffic could be ticketed, if not arrested, for disrupting traffic on a non-street legal vehicle. If his reckless behavior led to a fatal accident he could be held liable.

6:56 AM  

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