Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Blaming the Victim

Recently I was shocked, disgusted and embarrassed of my species to discover that many people hold the insane belief that a cyclist is at fault in the event of a “dooring.”

In a post last week, New York City blogger and cyclist Bike Snob reports on a morning show segment that was broadcast on ABC Australia. The segment discussed a new campaign to increase fines for motorists who door cyclists, in an effort to hopefully get people to look behind them before opening their doors. You may view a video of the segment he is talking about here.

This is a good idea; many people who can't be bothered to check and see if they are about to kill someone or not will still take a moment if it means avoiding a fine. This is the same principle that coaxes people to sometimes yield to pedestrians at a crosswalk. It doesn't make a difference in every case, but most people who occasionally need to cross a busy street would agree that it is better than nothing.

Bike Snob then describes an exchange between the two news anchors that occurs after the segment (starting at 3:32 in the video):

However, shortly after that they cut back to the studio, and that's when these idiots once again prove that the movie "Anchorman" was indeed a documentary and that TV talking heads are vapid numbskulls who should never, ever be allowed to say anything that isn't written down for them beforehand:

"Just to even the ledger up a tiny, weensy bit," says the Bruce on the left while making a crushing-your-head motion, "Did I hear him say it's always the motorist's fault or is my hearing failing?"

"No, we both heard that," replies the Bruce on the right smugly.

"It's not the case," declares Bruce on the left.

"I would say that you probably need to take that comment with a little bit of caution," ejaculates the Bruce on the right moronically.

"A sackload of salt, not just a grain," quips left Bruce, and then goes on about how "...we've all seen our fair share of reckless cyclists as well so I think it's very unfair to purely blame motorists 100% of the time."

Are you kidding me? Cyclists are to blame for doorings? What kind of morons are these? The most reckless cyclist in the world is not going to run into a car door intentionally. The most oblivious, headphone-wearing, red-light running dolt with an iced latte in one hand should never have to collide with a car door that opens unexpectedly in their path. If you open your car door in front of a cyclist, it is your fault.

This is not just my opinion, it is the law. You can disagree with me, but it makes you sound really stupid. Dooring a cyclist and saying it's not your fault is like someone running a solid red light at an intersection, and saying it's not their fault that the light was red.

Anyhow, the next day the news station was compelled to release the following retraction:

News Breakfast:  On May 7, the program interviewed Garry Brennan from Bicycle Network Victoria about a campaign to increase fines for motorists who open their car doors into the path of cyclists.  After the interview we suggested that cyclists should share some of the blame for ‘dooring’ incidents. The law states that this is incorrect. In every ‘dooring’ incident it is the fault of the person opening the door for not exercising due care.

In the wake of their publicly broadcast stupidity, they decided to try and save some face by acknowledging their comprehension of the law.

The true horror behind this story, however, had already been revealed: these two idiots nonchalantly spewing alarmingly irrational rhetoric on a nationally broadcast news service on the other side of the world are most likely not the only ones who actually believe this backwards lunacy.

I find idiocy this profound to be rather vexing. Not so much as a cyclist, but as a person who still entertains that old-timey notion that people do their best to feed little morsels of rationality into their thought processes.

Blaming a cyclist for a dooring accident is like blaming a fish for becoming ensnared in a fisherman's net. Yes, the fish may have physically propelled itself into the net, but obviously the fish wasn't trying to get itself netted. No one would say the fish had caught itself.

And still, there are many among us secretly harboring this mind-boggling lack of personal accountability. Despite their alarmingly fragile grasp of rationality, in many cases they are still allowed to drive their cars around and fatally door people.

As a rather unique and arguably endearing example of a misdirected sense of personal responsibility, this idiot painted the inside of his car door orange. Thankfully, he included a little "how-to" on Instructables.com, because it's pretty hard to wrap your mind around a complicated project like pointing a can of spray paint at something.

It has likely happened to all of us: we're casually opening the door of a car when another car or bike comes whizzing past, nearly hitting the door because they didn't see it opening.

Notice how the wording very specifically and purposefully lays the entire burden of responsibility on the oncoming traffic. Here, the person "casually" opening the door is the victim.

Instructables user milesfromnelhu recognized the problem and decided to fix it by spray painting a warning strip on the inside of the door.

Oh, thanks for "fixing" the problem. Now your door will be much more visible to any cyclist who is crashing into it as you "casually" open your door in their face.

This is like "fixing" a broken windshield by taping a sign to it that says, "This windshield is broken." The problem has been acknowledged, but in lieu of an actual solution it has only been made uglier. It continues:

It's true you should be looking in your side mirror before popping open the door, but it doesn't always happen.

 "It doesn't always happen"? Why is the simple responsibility of turning your fat head before you get out of your car reduced to some random event that may or may not happen? If your shoe laces come untied, will you paint them orange so you don't trip on them?

It's true you should retie your shoes if they untie themselves, but it doesn't always happen.

It's tough out there: motorists "casually" open their doors in your face; cops door you, then chase you down and arrest you; people with suspended licenses door you, then flee the scene as you die in the street because they are going to be late for a party; people door you, get pissed off that you hit their door, and run you over on purpose; or some people try to door you intentionally while driving at you in reverse.

In the event that you are doored (or involved in any kind of accident with an automobile), you will need to file an accident report. You should be prepared to have the police involved.

Hopefully, they won't give you a ticket.

Fellow cyclists! Tune in next week for tips on door avoidance.


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    1. Love your reminder at the end of your blog about filing an accident report w/the police should you get doored (or are involved in any kind of accident w/a car) and to be prepared for the police to be involved and hopefully they won't give you a ticket, priceless!