A Weapon on Four Wheels

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A young woman got struck by a vehicle very close to my home on Saturday. The street was closed off and police were directing traffic around their yellow tape that covered a block and a half. Initial reports said that the driver kept going after hitting her, but was stopped by others a couple blocks later. Maybe the driver would’ve gotten away if there weren’t stop lights at each of the following three streets before he would’ve turned into the oblivion of multi-lane thoroughfare.

Yesterday morning when the world was going to work, a man on a bike stopped on the median boulevard between each side of the street on which she was hit. He was laying flowers on the ground. There’s no reason for anyone to do that beyond a personal connection to the tragedy. She hadn’t passed away yet, but the prognosis might have been not if but when.

A block north of where I live, at an intersection I cross to and from work every day, there’s a plaque attached to a lamppost in memory of a young woman who was killed there by a drunk driver several years ago. There used to be flowers put there, for a long time afterwards. She was a tow truck driver, just out doing her job in the dark hours, and somebody got drunk and decided to be criminally responsible for somebody’s death.

These two deaths are not a sign of danger in my particular neighbourhood. This can happen anywhere in this toxic driving culture. There aren’t enough pedestrians on the street to put drivers in their place and impose a sense of humility and respect for others from within their comfortable exoskeletal shell. Driving is just the way most people do things and how they get places. If it weren’t so culturally dominant, there wouldn’t be as many drunk drivers because there wouldn’t be this assumption that everyone everywhere at all times is going to be getting from A to B with their own personal vehicle.

In middle school a student a year older than me was struck on her way to the bus stop – yes, in a school zone going to a bus stop where hundreds of students catch the bus at the same time every day – and because a paraplegic as a result. A family member got in a terrible crash in a flash thunderstorm on a country road and her unbuckled friend died from injuries from bouncing around throughout the interior of the car. There are so many lethal elements to driving, yet there’s a disease in our culture that it doesn’t change how fundamental cars our to our lives, and those who are still around and driving haven’t gotten in these severe accidents yet, so they don’t need to acknowledge the rules designed to mitigate the risks.

People can still drive in a healthy transportation culture, but more people need to walk and cycle to gain mass and force drivers to cooperate rather than intimidate and threaten just by the function of their vehicle. Keeping an eye out for other people – NOT just other cars or inanimate objects like stop signs or traffic lights – is what all people should be doing when moving in public. Individual responsibility should be assigned to the relative size of the method of choice, because drivers don’t get killed by the feet of pedestrians; pedestrians get killed by the cars of drivers.

Let’s take it to the streets, people.

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