The Untold Story of Pedestrian Accidents

20 May

First, I want to thank Robert for his comment on my last post on Bike-to-work Day. If you didn’t read it, please do so. He comments that, even commuter bicyclists can be rogue bikers and gives an example of his encounter with one and the injury resulting from that encounter in which the bicyclist sped too fast and through a red light. Even without a collision, we vulnerable pedestrians can sustain injuries. And I would like to hear from more of you regarding your experiences and helpful thoughts because it makes for more interesting reading and a record of the problem as well.

Anyway, I had only time to approve Robert’s comment, but not to post a response since I was on the Saturday morning train up to NYC for a week of business with time with friends wherever I could squeeze it in. But Sunday morning I started reading the Sunday NYT and came across an interesting piece in the Metropolitan section, entitled “Struck on the Street: Four Survivors”, which turned out to be reader comments on an article printed the previous Sunday. Of course, I read it with interest, cut it out and thought I would read the earlier article when I got home and, if worthwhile, report on it to you.

Most of the letters were about accidents involving autos hitting pedestrians. And, as you know from this blog, it is illegal for bicyclists to ride on the sidewalk in NYC (and during my week-long stay, mostly spent in Midtown and on the Upper East Side, I only encountered one sidewalk bicyclist although there were plenty of bicyclists, men and women and food delivery persons all riding in the streets and on Central Park’s roads). BUT ONE READER COMMENT TO THE NYT ARTICLE caught my eye because it was so like Robert’s comment and shows why rogue bicyclists can destroy quality of life in the city. I’ll quote from the letter of Dory from Queens:

“Your Article about injuries to pedestrians omitted those resulting from assaults by cyclists. Seven and a half years ago, an impatient cyclists who wanted to avoid waiting for a red light in Midtown charged up on the sidewalk where I was walking, trapped next to a construction scaffold. Hugging the scaffolding and unable to move in any other direction, I tore a meniscus in my left knee as the cyclists sailed by across the corner of the busy sidewalk and then turned the corner, unidentifiable, failing to stop.
[Dory then related the series of operations on her knee and related developments, like plantar fasciitis and weight gain because she could no longer walk without pain. Finally total knee replacement. She concludes:]
I can’t walk fast, go up or down stairs, dance or do any of the things that used to bring me joy. I curse every bicycle I see. My life has been irrevocably changed.”

This Sunday I finally had time to unpack and find the article I’d cut out and locate the original article on the Internet. The point of the original article stressed the same theme as Dory’s letter did, that even pedestrians who survive accidents and recover are forever changed. The author wrote the article because this is the story that is rarely told. Yet she was able to personalize her own experience and that of 4 other NYT colleagues all of whom had been hit by vehicles while walking in the crosswalks with the light. I quote now from the original article:

“It is natural and right that the worst (and fatal) cases attract the headlines and public horror. But being hit by a vehicle changes the way a pedestrian experiences the city, even years after recovery. Every time I see a white delivery truck coming down the street, an almost daily sight, my thoughts revert to my accident. Some changes, like never stepping off the curb until the light has actually changed, or looking both ways before crossing (sometimes twice) are probably salutary. But you are never again sure that a vehicle that should stop will stop, and carefree pedestrian wonderings in the metropolitan area end abruptly and forever.”

And this is the answer I have to those who say that there hasn’t been a pedestrian fatality here in DC from a bicyclist in over three years. It’s not just the fatalities, but the injuries that count and the fact that the quality of life in the city we love is harmed when we constantly must jump out of the way, sometimes injuring ourselves, just to walk on the sidewalk or cross with the light in the crosswalk. For a city that got a Pedestrian Friendly award a couple of years ago, this is unacceptable.

Finally, one note on the author of the NYT article, which I had not noticed when I first read the followup. The author was none other than Jill Abramson, who later in the week was unceremoniously dumped as Exec Editor of the NYT. A classy lady who thankfully wrote an elegant plea for her fellow pedestrians everywhere before leaving. May she live long and prosper.

I’ll try to post again before Memorial Day. But meanwhile STAY ALERT AND STAY SAFE.

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