The Manitoba courts apparently value a cyclist’s life at $2,500 – judging by a fine they recently handed down to a motorist who killed two cyclists.
Motorist Ian Gibbons of Brandon struck and killed two cyclists two years ago. The victims, Robert Joseph Carrier from BC and Daniel Hurtubise from Quebec, were attempting to raise money for diabetes research by cycling across Canada. Thanks to Gibbons, they never made it.
Gibbons was likely driving dangerously, as he was originally charged with dangerous driving causing death. However, the courts could not prove this, and Gibbons was able to plead to careless driving – which bought him the outrageously inadequate sanction of a $5,000 fine and loss of his driver’s license for three years. This is scarcely a wrist slap for slaughtering two stand-up guys who were out there trying to help others.
Oh, and it took the Manitoba courts a year to get around to charging the motorist. Apparently they had more important things to do than worry about two dead cyclists…
Yes, I’m angry. No, actually, I’m furious. How will motorists ever learn to respect the lives of cyclists when the courts send such clear messages that cyclists’ lives are worth close to nothing? (By the way, I think most motorists do respect our lives; it is the moronic, hate-filled minority of cyclophobes I am referring to. The ones who find it funny to buzz us and honk at us, and those who simply fail to see us because they are driving carelessly or dangerously.)
Nancy Pettigrew killed by Motorist in Giant SUV
I wonder how seriously the US courts will take the death of 30-year-old Green Party Senate Candidate Natasha Pettigrew, killed while riding her bike in Maryland by a woman wielding an SUV? The driver in her giant Cadillac Escalade was so oblivious of the trifling existence of cyclists that she did not even bother to stop, and travelled home with Pettigrew’s bike lodged under her car. Am I the only person who sees something wrong with this picture?
IMHO, no one needs a car this big! No one needs a car so big that it can kill a woman and the driver doesn’t even notice!
Actually, I’ll go further and say, no one needs a car, period. If this apparently short-sighted driver in Maryland had been on a bike herself, the worst that could have happened is a few bruises for both women! But no, she had to be not only in a car, but in a car so big that she could kill a woman and not even notice!
Once again, a fine, upstanding human being mown down by a dangerous or grossly careless motorist.
But … We can’t LIVE without our Cars!
I know that most motorists will tell you, with completely straight faces, that they not only need their cars, but actually they could not live without their cars! I do not know where this pervasive myth has sprung from. But it accounts for the bizarre fact that we choose to ignore the carnage that cars inflict on us.
And it’s not just cyclists, but also pedestrians who are mown down. And while cyclists and pedestrians are visibly more vulnerable to death-by-car, motorists are terrifyingly vulnerable as well; they too die like flies. Every year, around 3,000 Canadians die while driving their cars. Compare that to 152 Canadian soldiers who have died in the whole eight years we have been in the Afghanistan war zone.
But we as a society have decided to ignore death-by-car, choosing to see it as the inevitable price we pay for the cars we believe we cannot live without.
This even though we managed just fine without cars for 99.8% of our existence as humans. Read this post about the outrage that most people felt when cars DID eventually show up, and immediately started endangering people on the streets.
(Homo sapiens has been around for at least 50,000 years, while Henry Ford only started production in 1914 – I did the math!)
I know that giving up cars isn’t easy. If it was easy, I would have done it a long time ago! We have grown fat and lazy and insanely impatient, and so we are dependent on our cars. Still, I do think it is possible for most people, perhaps beginning with baby steps … such as biking to work one day a week.
Tell me what you think. Is it possible for us to get over our car addiction?
UPDATE: As of late November 2010, Nova Scotia is proposing legislation aimed at making the streets safer for cyclists, including introducing the one metre law. Hopefully this trend will spread through the provinces, so that the courts will begin to send messages that it is NOT open season on cyclists.
I think it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to give up their cars – they’ll be with us for the foreseeable future. I’ve still got mine. But I do think that there’s a huge potential for people to use bicycles a lot more, particularly now that the cycling infrastructure is coming together. I started riding a bike again a few years ago after a 20-year hiatus, and the cycle routes make it so much more pleasant than it used to be, especially in Vancouver.
I think best the way to win drivers over is to emphasize the fun aspect of cycling – the idea of arriving at work feeling energized yet relaxed instead of having been stressed out by the commute. People don’t really seem to understand that cycling isn’t a chore – the first little while after resuming cycling I was grinning from ear to ear because I felt like a teenager again.
Sean, I totally agree that the best way to go is by letting people know that cycling is simply FUN! I actually sing on Monday mornings on my way to work – bizarre but true. It’s just that cycling is SUCH good fun. I honestly think that if most people just tried it, they’d be hooked.
We too still have a car (my wife’s). Someone once said that the hardest thing about giving up cars is the last 20%, and I really think that is true. It’s easy and fun for me to bike MOST of the time. But when my daughter needs a ride to camp, or when I have to get to work and my back is out, and it’s a choice between a ride with my wife or trying to bike in agony … mmm, another story.
My wife and I are both around 50, with 5 kids between us. We became a one-car family a few years ago, and we have made a resolution that we will work towards becoming car-free. However, we realize we probably won’t achieve this till all the kids leave home, and we are around 60 … the last 20% is really hard. On the other hand, none of my kids is interested in learning to drive, which I take as a great win for the future.
Sid Senior says
I agree that cars are not the necessity some people seem to think they are. I am a senior who obtained a driving licence many years ago. Since coming to live in Canada (Vancouver) I have not found it necessary to drive a car as the public transport here is so good. We (me, my daughter and her family) moved from East Vancouver to live in Burnaby a couple of years ago and as I take my granddaughter to school in the morning and fetch her in the afternoon my daughter offered me the use of her car as my granddaughter continued going to school in East Vancouver. I decided I did not want to do that and it has proved to be a really good decision.
We have to walk to the sky train station and then walk again at the other end to get to her school. Not only are we both a lot fitter but we also have time to chat, do the crossword puzzle or sudoku on the train, pick blackberries in the lane coming back from school and generally get to spend some quality time together.
Hi Sid. Nice to hear from you again 🙂
I love your story. You paint a beautiful picture of quality time with your grand-daughter, time spent more slowly, rather than in a furious hurry to do everything and get everywhere as fast as possible.
You give me hope for my future!
Simon Sez says
Not going to be necesary to persuade people to give up cars – encourage them or whatever. Hey, renewable fuels, people!! We gonna run out, we gonna have to make other plans. Bikes for most people, electric bikes for people who have any kind of special needs, seniors, whatever. Electric trikes for disabled. Run out of fuels, ice bergs melt. Mark my words, day will come when all but essential motorized vehicles will have to be banned, no arguments. Delivery trucks, ambulances – all else shut down when the powers that be finally get it that we are running out of time on this planet if we don’t do something completley totally DRASTIC!! It will keep seeming impossible, impossible – and then one day, when we are about to become extinct if we don’t DO something, it will just HAPPEN. Just like recycling suddenly happened, when we finally got it that we can’t just keep on keep keep on consuming and producing garbage! we learn pathetically slowly but eventually when our faces are rubbed in it, we finally learn