Were They Wearing a Helmet?

On Sunday, an 82 year-old man was biking in Columbia Heights when a motorist hit the bicyclist with his car, killing the bicyclist.

Soon after, the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition tweeted the article and shared their condolences to the family.

Soon after, State Representative Phyllis Kahn responded to the tweet. One would expect her to offer condolences to the family as well, but that’s not what she did. Instead, she asked some questions:

She didn’t come out and say it, but the questions she asked make her assumption clear: the bicyclist did something bad and died because he wasn’t wearing a helmet.

Maybe there was something in the article that clued her into who was responsible? Go ahead and read it, but I couldn’t find anything. Maybe people on bikes are at fault in the majority of accidents with people driving cars? Nope, the numbers are about equal for both.

Do Cyclists Bear the Burden of Guilt?

Unfortunately, this line of thinking is all too common. One of the many false stereotypes about bikers is that they don’t obey the rules of the road. So, whether it be in local news, comment sections, or in everyday conversation, when a there is a car-on-bike accident, people will generally assume the person biking was at fault. They will also usually wonder if the person was wearing a helmet, no matter how hard the bicyclist was hit. After all, if someone in a car is hit hard enough, they’ll still die even while wearing a seatbelt.

And why would these attitudes change when our own elected officials, especially one whose vision includes shifting people into sustainable modes of transportation, are ready to blame bicyclists without a shred of information? Why would governments pass laws to make biking safer? Why would police departments enforce those laws? And if those things don’t happen, why would I feel safe biking?

As an individual who voted to put Representative Kahn into office, I hope there will be a day in the near future when people will just think of bicyclists the same way they think of cars: someone trying to get somewhere else.

[Featured Image: “Broken Bicycle” by Sondra Stewart, Copyright ©2006 Sondra Stewart, Distributed under CC BY-SA 2.0]

Tyler Schow

About Tyler Schow

Tyler Schow studies Communications at the University of Minnesota and is currently Communications Intern at the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition. The views expressed here are mine alone and do not represent those of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition.