This gathering happened Sunday to commemorate an international day organized by the United Nations. It was a somber reminder that cars can and do kill. Not just people in other cars, but also people using bicycles and who are walking. Sponsored by Vision Zero Texas and a number of local organizations promoting traffic safety, the goal is to eliminate deaths from traffic. How to do that is the million dollar question. But the gathering gave a forum and a face to supporters of safer roads, and recieved some media attention as well. As a cyclist whose life is at risk on a daily basis, I have an enlightened self-interest in seeing this law pass. Here’s a short review of the second half of the event I attended at the Texas State Capitol.
Ten Texans Lives Lost to Crashes Daily
That’s how many people die on Texas roads due to car crashes. Another 50 are injured. Out of a state of 28 million that’s not much, but over time, it adds up. In Austin, 68 people have died from crashes so far this year, up some from last year. (The movement makes sure to not call them accidents.) Among them are a number of pedestrians, a few cyclists, and alot of car drivers or passengers. Better education, stiffer penalities, and improved infrastructure are some of the remedies. Clearly it’s a problem, one with no easy answers.
One of the possible solutions to the epidemic was offered by speaker Rep. Celia Israel (D-Austin), who once again will sponsor a bill in the Texas State Legislature to reduce the speed limit on residential streets from 30 to 25 miles per hour. This small change can have a huge impact on saving lives, because it gives people a chance to react to a kid chasing a ball out into the street, for example. She spoke eloquently about the need for the bill. Her plea was that people get involved and demand this law from their representatives. To sign the petition, go to this link on Change.org. If you are not in Texas, please do NOT sign it.
Andrew Tilin, Remembered
I wrote about Andrew in a post titled “Car Hits Truck, Which Kills Austin Cyclist, Racer, Author & Dad on a Group Ride Saturday” on February 20, 2018. He was well liked, an author, and great bike rider. Andrew was riding his bike with his usual group on a Saturday morning when he was struck by a woman in her 20’s who was driving a car with bad tires and who was in a hurry to get to work.
The driver lost control, hit a truck, which then hit Andrew, who was legally riding his bike (or maybe changing a flat tire) on the wide shoulder. She was reportedly only cited for improper lane change, is alive (although hopefully not well, if she has a conscience) and free. Andrew died later that day in the hospital. His wife spoke with one of his children from a previous marriage standing next to her. Isaac is 14. Her voice cracking with emotion, and pausing for tears and to be able to continue, she spoke about their life, their plans, and their love of outdoor activities. All of that was gone in an instant thanks to a bad driver making bad choices.
Hearing his wife speak and seeing his young son next to him, with the crowd in rapt, silent attention, I reflected on my own mortality. There isn’t hardly a day that goes by where someone in a car puts my life in danger. They’re either distracted driving with their cell phone, in an altered state due to drugs or alcohol, a bad driver who is very young or old, doesn’t respect or like the fact that bicyclists have a legal right to the road, or they’re in a big hurry. Any of these behaviors could — and often do — put people into the hospital and rehab for months or into a grave in the ground. I’m not a great bike rider like Andrew, but it could easily be me or any number of people I know next. Let’s hope not.
Coming Together in Community to Create Change
While not as well attended as it could have been (rallies seldom do, and it was a cool Sunday night), the event did draw some media. Those who attended were reminded of the reasons why they were there and inspired to sign the petition on paper and to hopefully carry this message on, as I am here. The hope is that one day everyone using the road will do so in a sober, safe and skilled manner, so that no more families have to lose a loved one. Jay Crossley, with Farm and City, one of the main organizers, spoke forcefully about the need for ongoing organization and participation. To learn more, go to that website or to www.VisionZeroTexas.org or www.VisionZeroATX.org.
Please yield to vulnerable road users. Leave early, slow down and pay attention! You may save a life. Stay frosty out there
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