Bicycling Magazine published a brutal report about what it describes as the most dangerous road for bicycles in America, Hempstead Turnpike. It illustrates so much of what’s wrong with our transportation system.
The whole story is powerful, and a summary could not do it justice. It focuses on the death of Andrew, a thirteen-year-old child who was struck by a car while biking, but it uses that as an anchor to discuss our epidemic of traffic deaths. These are disturbingly common across the country to the point where they’ve become numb statistics.
One detail that stuck out to me was how Andrew’s grieving family tried to sue the state for their son’s death, but they only have a case if they can prove that the road has a design flaw. Unfortunately for them, it seems to follow engineering standards exactly.
Their story exposes just how deeply institutionalized our deadly car culture has become. Death after death is spun as the victim’s fault, and responsible parties are shielded by a bureaucracy that doesn’t consider regular fatalities to be a “flaw.” The article also points out that the year of Andrew’s death was a year of all-time-high car sales, hardly a coincidence. These tragedies should be horrifying, but instead we treat them as the cost of doing business with the car industry. At best, they’re just another statistic.