Yesterday a woman was hit by a truck while riding her bicycle in the west end of Toronto. She died.
That woman, Jenna Morrison, was a yoga teacher and a mother. She was also 5 months pregnant with her second child.
I only stopped biking about two weeks ago. That woman could very easily been me. [Edited to add: Because I am six months pregnant myself. Thought I’d add that for new readers.]
Back when Michael Bryant basically murdered Darcy Sheppard and got away with it, I started writing something which I never published: The Driver Privilege Checklist.
If you’re unfamiliar with how the concept of privilege is used in social justice circles, read this primer, then the two most famous checklists: The Male Privilege Checklist and The White Privilege Checklist.
Note: if you are on the un-privileged side of one of these checklists, you will probably find yourself nodding firmly and occasionally saying “Exactly!” out loud. If you are on the privileged side of one of these (and all of us are in one realm or another), you will probably bristle or feel attacked. This is perfectly normal. Because you are a nice person, you’re not trying to be racist/sexist/classist/whatever-ist, and how can anyone BLAME you for getting these benefits you TOTALLY didn’t ask for?
Well, they can’t, and they aren’t. Remember when you read this: If you have privilege in a situation, that doesn’t make you evil. It doesn’t mean that you have no problems and your life is perfect. Hell, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t un-privileged in another way! What it means is that you have a greater chance than a non-privileged person of being an asshole under this specific set of circumstances, and thus you have a greater responsibility to act in such a way as to not be an asshole. That’s really about it.
The Driver Privilege Checklist
1. If I am hurt or killed while driving, unless I am intoxicated or grossly negligent, I will not be blamed for my decision to drive.
2. If I live in North America, my driving is subsidized by my local, regional, and federal government, who provide roads and infrastructure. This subsidy is far beyond that given to any other form of daily transportation.
3. Learning to drive is a rite of passage, seen as a normal and necessary step towards adulthood, whereas other forms of transport are seen as childish or impractical.
4. If I choose to transport my children in a car, I will not be called a bad parent or berated for doing so.
5. If my child is injured or killed while in my car, I will not be blamed for their death unless I was intoxicated or otherwise grossly negligent.
6. If while driving I injure or kill another person, whether they are another driver, a passenger, a pedestrian, or a cyclist, unless I am intoxicated or otherwise grossly negligent this will be seen nothing more than a regrettable accident.
7. Large areas of the city, suburb, or rural area I live in are built and laid out with driving in mind to the exclusion of other forms of transportation, and may be totally inaccessible to non-drivers.
8. While travelling I do not have to experience cold, heat, rain, or snow for more than a few moments unless I choose to.
9. I can complain to friends, family, and aquaintances about minor accidents and other annoyances without being told that I should stop driving.
10. It is easier for me than it is for non-drivers to buy many staple goods, such as groceries, as they are often sold in car-centric locations which are difficult to access by other means of transport. I also have the advantage of more easily buying in bulk.
11. Unless I am very extravagant, the money I spend on purchasing and running my car is not seen as wasted, as a car is seen as a necessity.
And the most obvious:
12. While in transit, I am protected by a 2-tonne metal machine which is faster, stronger, and more durable than anything else I encounter on the road besides larger cars and trucks. If I am in a collision with a pedestrian or a cyclist, even if I am not at fault, I am much more likely to escape without serious injury or death.
That’s all I can think of right now. I’m sure there are more.
As you can tell, pretty much all of these are re-phrasings of either direct statements I’ve heard/attitudes I’ve observed about cycling. The point of rephrasing them as benefits to drivers as opposed to disadvantages to/defects of cyclists is to raise the awareness of motorists in hopes of making them more aware and safer drivers. It isn’t to make you feel bad for driving any more than the Male Privilege Checklist is to make you feel bad for owning a penis. It’s to make it easier for you, the driver/penis owner, always be the good person you already know you are, that you would always be if it weren’t too easy for you to be thoughtless.
It all boils down to number 12: if you are in a car you are much, much more powerful than anyone else in the road except for people driving giant trucks (or tanks, if your city happens to suffer a military coup while you’re out in your Tercel). And as we all learned from Peter Parker’s wise Uncle Ben, with great power comes great responsibility.
Yesterday a woman lost her life for no good reason due to the carelessness of one driver. I don’t care if you think cycling is for nerds or yoga is hippie bullshit. She was a human being who deserved to see her children grow up, who deserved to grow old herself. This shouldn’t happen, and the only way to stop it from happening is for drivers to take responsibility for their power, and use it responsibly.
Now flame away!