Words matter: When a bike accident is not an accident

This past week ex-NBA player Shawn Bradley was hit from behind by a driver in a car and is now paralyzed.

What stood out to many of us in the cycling community is how this incident was reported in the media. The headlines read “Shawn Bradley Injured in Cycling Accident.” The first article that came out didn’t even mention that he was struck from behind by a vehicle until the third paragraph!

Unfortunately, this kind of reporting is all too common and not only does it confuse the details, but it actually represents a consistent bias and incidental tendency to victim-blame cyclists. To call what happened to Bradley a “bike accident” is misleading. In Slate’s reaction piece called “It’s Never a ‘Bicycle Accident’”, it says “a child falling off his bike in the park is a bicycle accident. A wipe-out on the Tour de France is a bicycle accident. Getting rammed from behind by a car is not a bicycle accident.”

Think about it, most of us have read the headline “Cyclist hit by car”, which right away subtly excuses the driver and puts the blame on the vehicle itself, which is absurd. Or how about when an article describing an incident focuses disproportionately on what the cyclist was wearing when they were struck, subtly blaming the victim for not doing enough to stop getting run over by a truck going 20 kph over the speed limit.

Popular ex-pro cyclist, author, and Youtuber Phil Gaimon has a whole video called “Please Share This When I’m Killed by Someone Driving a Car” that calls out this type of reporting. Give it a watch (language warning!). We cyclists are certainly not trying to create an us (cyclists) vs. them (drivers) situation where we squabble and go out of our way to blame each other. That helps no one. But we do ask for fair and accurate representation of a crash when it happens.

This doesn’t excuse cyclists from the responsibility of riding on the roads. The bike industry is hugely into safety. That is why when you walk into our shop you’ll see loads of daytime running lights, helmets, and special reflective clothing. Believe me, we cyclists hate getting too close to your vehicle a lot more than a driver hates getting close to a cyclist!

It is extremely important to analyze and demand more accurate reporting on these types of incidents because these reports, like it or not, shape how you and I think about cycling and cycling safety in our communities. They lead to public action or inaction on developments like bike lanes, driver training, and cycling awareness.

– Article provided by Pedal Your World

Campbell RiverCycling

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