America’s Heartless Transportation System at Work

Fedora Henderson, 31, was struck from behind and killed by a snow plow driver earlier this week in Richmond, Virginia. Henderson was commuting to her job at a Target, and bicycling along wide, dangerous roads was “the only way she could get to work” because she didn’t own a car, a co-worker told the local CBS affiliate.

A 31-year-old woman was killed by a snow plow driver while riding her bike in this area this week. Image: Google Maps
A 31-year-old woman was killed by a snow plow driver while riding her bike in this area this week. Image: Google Maps

Network blog The Wash Cycle notes that, naturally, the state has pretty much abdicated any fault at this point, blaming Henderson’s death on the weather. That’s how society at large can rest assured that nothing needs to change:

So the driver hit her from behind. Sure, I suppose it’s weather related, but a snowplow operator — of all people — should know how to drive in the snow without running a cyclist down from behind. Was it even snowing in the Richmond area this morning?

She was wearing dark clothing, but that’s not illegal. She was riding without a helmet, which is also not illegal. She had a rear reflector, which is the minimum required, though a light is certainly better. She did not seem to have a headlight, which is required, but that wasn’t really the issue here. If meeting the legal standard isn’t deemed adequate to remove fault, then we should raise the standard. I’m concerned this is being brushed away as “just an unavoidable accident” which is unfortunate since the cyclist didn’t break the law (unless you count the lack of a headlight) but the driver did, by not driving at an appropriate speed and by hitting another vehicle from behind.

If we give people only terrible options, like biking in the snow on an unlit street before sunrise, bad things are going to happen. But at least the driver was wearing a seat belt, he could’ve been hurt.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington says installing freeway-style signs over regular streets sends the wrong message to drivers. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance explains two bills in the Oregon statehouse to mandate bike licenses. And Cap’n Transit asks whether better marketing is really needed for crowded bus routes that could use higher quality of service.

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