Monday, 19 January 2015
Monday, 22 December 2014
|A positive cyclist-police interaction: Hilda Cohen, ride|
organiser, photographs two members of the 78th Precinct's
NYPD officers calmly march at the head of December 13's
Millions March NYC event: just because we take for granted
their readiness to protect marchers criticising them
doesn't mean it's not hard to do.
Marchers on the Millions March NY protest: some of them
shouted, "How do you spell racist? NYPD." I'd now be more
careful to point out it's the overall system - rather than each
individual officer - that's racist.
|Note to self: next time you see a line of cars like this,|
remember there are people inside
Sunday, 14 December 2014
|Drivers held up by protests over police brutality:|
far from determined to uphold the rules themselves.
|Minor lawlessness, certainly - but evidence of a corrosive|
contempt for the rules: a private garbage truck blocks the bike
lane, while a delivery truck double parks outside
|It's no illegal chokehold - but the parking outside the 52nd|
precinct in The Bronx police station suggested to me something
about its officers' conception of enforcing the law.
|Santa-conners in the 2nd Avenue bike lane: our trip would|
have been depressing if we'd seen only sights like these.
|A brief spasm or the start of real change? The Millions March|
NYC protest just before I and the Invisible Visible Boy joined.
Monday, 24 November 2014
|The street where the Invisible Visible Man - then the Invisible|
Visible Boy - was hit by a car 34 years ago. Adults sucked their
teeth at his negligence. But the streetscape changes hint
at the wider cause. (c) Google Streetview
My mind’s returned to that childhood experience this week as I’ve been pondering how ordinary people, the police and news reporters respond to road crashes far more serious than mine. Many of these events, it seems to me, are filed just as quickly as my crash was into convenient, easy-to-understand categories. Police officers, I suspect, start off with a similar paradigm to the one I faced 34 years ago – that pedestrians’ and cyclists’ mistakes, not cautious, respectable motorists, tend to cause crashes. Reporters overseen by under-pressure news editors all too easily fit events for their readers into even simpler, more misleading constructs.
|It's a long shot - but this NYPD driver|
may not spend a lot of time questioning
the paradigms behind his thinking
about street safety.
|The foot of the Manhattan Bridge bike lane, near where|
Matthew Brenner was hit: a confusing place, but not one
where people deliberately take suicidal risks.
|An F150 at the Detroit auto show: imagine a raised chassis|
and tinted windows - and ask yourself if you'd assume such
a vehicle's design played no role in a fatal crash.
That tendency to pick conveniently on the dead to simplify the consequences of their deaths for those still alive is, incidentally, one of the coldest, most cynical parts of the whole process.
Such paradigms don't die easily, however. The paradigms in news editors’ heads were some of the last holdouts of last century’s outmoded ideas on sexual identify, domestic violence and a host of other issues. The paradigms about how to write about race, crime, immigration and a swathe of other issues continue to distort reporting. It is hardly surprising that few reporters currently care enough or are well-informed enough to counter their editors’ entrenched views of “common sense” views of traffic issues.
The paradigms in police officers' heads, meanwhile, can literally kill people. It's hard to imagine that, if Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer, hadn't had fixed views about the behaviour of his town's black people, he wouldn't have felt it necessary to kill unarmed Michael Brown in August. It's hard to imagine that police views about the likely behaviour of people in Brooklyn's Pink Houses didn't contribute to a police officer's shooting of Akai Gurley, an entirely innocent young man, last week in East New York.
|54th St & 8th Avenue, Midtown Manhattan:|
it's a chaotic environment - yet I never doubted
when I rode it daily I'd get no sympathy from
the police if a driver ran into me
Saturday, 8 November 2014
|The temporary press pass that got me into parliament in|
Ottawa. I heard unequivocal condemnations of Martin
Couture-Rouleau's behaviour - of a kind I'd be surprised
to hear for Jose Henriquez's similar act.
|Pedestrians cross the 1st Avenue bike lane, with the light.|
I'd like to think I'd never again cut off a pedestrian crossing
late - but I fear I might.
In 2011, a
Some years before that, I was involved in an incident very similar to the one that faced Henriquez's victim. I swore at a motorist that was following me dangerously closely down a street in Brixton,
"We'll be coming for you with a gun next time," one shouted as they drove off after I took shelter on the pavement (sidewalk, American readers).
|The floral tributes by Canada's Cenotaph sum up the horror|
at the events I covered. Politically-motivated violence
retains - rightly - a capacity to shock that deliberate
traffic violence seems to have lost.
|A speeding BMW driver hit and killed Nicholas Soto, 14,|
at this corner in Red Hook in June. It wasn't terrorism
and wasn't deliberate. But it surely wouldn't have happened
if the driver had fully recognised Nicholas' humanity.