Reposted from this is only a test by Major Kong
Editor's Note: Republished -- Major Kong
Last week, a young woman riding her bike to her job at a Target on a suburban strip road near Richmond VA at 5:40 in the morning was hit and killed by a snowplow. The first questions in the comments on the news reports were a typical mixture of sadness and finger pointing: Was she sufficiently visible? Shouldn't the plow driver have been able to avoid a slower moving road user, even if the bike was unlit? What if the obstacle had been a stalled car, a deer, a child?
To my mind, assuming the plow driver was alert and wasn't driving too fast or recklessly, this may be one of those (rare) cases where a crash and death on the road really was just a terrible accident. Blaming the bike rider or the driver of the plow seems pretty pointless. The weather was bad, and that's what the police cited as the cause of the crash in their report.
But what's really to blame in my opinion are the roads and the lack of transit in the suburbs. Why do we build roads like this? In the 2010s? Heck, in the 21st Century? Here is a Google Streetview picture of the road where Fedora Henderson was killed:
The Target is just up the road on the left. Notice how wide the road is, but with no sidewalks or bike paths. No trees for shade and wind protection. No bus stops or shelters. A sound barrier to protect residences from road noise pollution. Long acceleration and deceleration lanes. Notice the pedestrian sign. Good luck with that. It looks like there's a "desire path" behind the guard rail there?
This street/road may have a speed limit of 40mph or so, but it is designed for speed of 50mph or higher. This isn't a street for people. It's a sewer, designed to flush cars through as fast as possible. It's in a residential and commercial zone, but it's a community killer. It all but forces you to drive everywhere, even just across the street or just down the way to the store.
Or just over to Target to get to work for the early morning shift.
Notice also how new the road appears. We're building suburban streets like this right now, on purpose, as if this is the standard for street design in suburban America.
Fedora Henderson apparently didn't play by the suburban rules. Whether she didn't have enough money for a car doesn't matter. She may have just decided she wanted to bike instead of driving. Probably she didn't make very much at Target, and we all know it can be next to impossible to support both a decent life and a car on a service economy wage.
So she rides her bike. Great, bike riding is cheap. I save a ton of money riding my bike everywhere. And it's good for your health, at least when you don't get run over by a snowplow.
This is a street scene in my neighborhood in Maryland. I took this picture a couple days ago. I usually ride on that sidewalk for couple feet to get from a bike trail over to the parking lot, which then continues around toward a lower-traffic street.
You can really learn a lot about how a place prioritizes people by looking at the streets after a snow. Are the sidewalks plowed? Are the bike trails cleared? Are the bus stops sheltered? In my area, the answer is No.
In Fedora's area, it doesn't look like she even had bike trails or sidewalks or bus stops as an option. The news reports said that her bike "was the only way she could get to work."
A couple months ago, a bike rider in my area was killed by a drunk driver
who was also texting at the time of the crash. In that case, there was a true villain.
In this case, the villains seem to be the suburban developers, traffic engineers, and road builders, who are sucking the soul of out of American life, one deadly community-killing, butt-ugly, treeless, guard railed traffic sewer at a time. Maybe they don't have bad intentions, I don't know. But the results of their efforts should be a crime.
By the news accounts, Fedora Henderson was dedicated and giving person. Sadly, she was killed by the suburbs.
In a better world, the road designers and suburban big box developers would attend her memorial. In a better state, Virginia officials responsible for those roads would attend her funeral and investigate how their roads contributed to her death. I hope her supervisors and colleagues at Target were able to attend, and maybe reflect on the big box culture of cheap stuff and low wages, and store locations at the fringes of towns or in the middle of nowhere, unsuited for workers or shoppers who cannot or choose not to arrive by car.
None of that introspection will happen, of course. May Fedora Henderson's family and friends be comforted, and may she rest in peace.