Recently a close friend of mine was riding a bicycle along a city street. They had the right of way. A careless driver making a fast turn either did not see my friend (somehow... it's not like there were obstructions) or did not even bother to look. The driver and their 2000-pound steel machine slammed into my friend, throwing them off the bike.
The bike was completely destroyed/unusable. My friend was scraped up, and shaken, but by a miracle did not hit their head or have to be hospitalized. They were lucky: the car was traveling fast enough to kill. The driver was apologetic and paid for my friend's bicycle and medical bills. But this should not have happened. My friend could have died or been permanently paralyzed.
I don't know all the details. But I do know that intersection. This was so ridiculously avoidable.
- Had the bike lane been fully protected with a clearly visible (but not sight-line-blocking) concrete curb or at least a bollard at the intersection, the driver probably would not have taken the turn so fast, or would maybe have been more generally aware of cyclists. They may have had time enough to stop before crashing into my friend, or the impact may have been small enough not to hurt them.
- Had there been a raised crosswalk or had the entire intersection been raised (as a speed table), requiring cars to slow down, the driver would definitely not have taken the turn so fast. The driver may also have been more aware of pedestrians/cyclists and more likely to yield.
- Had there been a curb extension shortening the crosswalk (in this case a pedestrian crossing island past the bike lane, I guess), the driver would probably have subconsciously taken the turn more slowly, as they would probably have felt more enclosed within the intersection.
- Had signal priority been given to cyclists/pedestrians, the driver probably also would not have made the turn at that point in the light cycle, and would probably not have hit my friend. (I'm pretty sure my friend was going straight on green, but if they were making a right turn, then had no right turn on red also been enforced for cars, the driver would probably not have made the turn at that point in the light cycle, and would probably not have hit my friend.)
(This wasn't a parking-protected bike lane: the city had just removed parking from that side of the street and left it fully unprotected. If it were parking-protected, I would also suggest that two parking spaces be removed approaching the intersection to ensure that the driver could see cyclists in their peripheral vision. As it stands, I have no idea how this person did not see my friend. Gross negligence. They should not be allowed to operate a motor vehicle.)
Driving shouldn't be considered such a mundane thing. When someone steps into a car they should be aware that, at any point, they could kill someone. But really infrastructure is an easier, more repeatable, and less exhausting solution than trying to change attitudes directly. Probably had any one of these infrastructure changes been implemented, my friend would not have been hit by a car. Had more than one or two been implemented, there would realistically never be a cyclist collision here.
It irritates me that my friend's life was put in danger because a driver was being careless. But also that they were able to make a careless mistake. And incidents like this remind me that traffic safety is not a theoretical problem. At any time, without warning, the life of someone you care about could be immediately taken away because we have a culture that normalizes driving a dangerous vehicle with basically zero oversight; and because our roads are designed for car throughput and not to be safe for vulnerable people.
Someone called me "militant [about traffic safety]" once. This is why.