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Bicycle Safety

A Hit-and-Run Driver Killed 5 People on Bikes, So the Press Lectured Cyclists

The five victims of a hit-and-run driver Tuesday in Kalamazoo. Photo retrieved from Mlive.com
The five victims of hit-and-run driver Charlie Pickett. Photos: Mlive.com
The five victims of a hit-and-run driver Tuesday in Kalamazoo. Photo retrieved from Mlive.com

A hit-and-run driver killed five people on a group bike ride in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Tuesday. Four others were seriously injured in the horrifying crash, caused when a driver hit their training group -- known as "the Chain Gang" -- from behind.

Charlie Pickett, whose Facebook page proclaims his love of stiff liquor, was arrested in the death of five cyclists outside Kalamazoo. Photo: Facebook
Charlie Pickett, whose Facebook page is emblazoned with a logo that says "100 Proof," was arrested for killing five cyclists outside Kalamazoo. Photo: Facebook
Charlie Pickett, whose Facebook page proclaims his love of stiff liquor, was arrested in the death of five cyclists outside Kalamazoo. Photo: Facebook

Police arrested 50-year-old Charlie Pickett (right), according to Mlive.com, and charged him with five counts of second-degree murder.

The incident resembles a fatal collision that happened in the Akron area in September, when an SUV driver crashed into five cyclists on a training ride, killing two. The driver, 42-year-old Timothy Wolf, initially refused a breathalyzer and was eventually acquitted of vehicular homicide in February. (In this case the driver turned left into the group of cyclists. Wolf blamed sun glare.)

At the very least, you would expect that horrific cases like these would hammer home what an enormous responsibility drivers bear and how careful we should be when we get behind the wheel of a car. But even when the circumstances overwhelmingly point to negligence on the part of the driver, the impulse to lecture cyclists remains strong.

Following the Kalamazoo tragedy, the Grand Rapids' ABC affiliate took the opportunity to air a segment about "bike safety," warning cyclists to ride single file, stay close to the white line, and signal when they are turning. The piece eventually notes that there is no indication the Kalamazoo cyclists were doing anything wrong. Meanwhile, the Detroit Free Press warned cyclists to wear helmets -- because helmets are magical objects that protect your whole body when a driver hits you from behind at high speed.

The same tacit victim blaming was on display after the Akron crash as well. Cleveland's ABC affiliate also made the case for helmets, even though the people who were killed were wearing helmets.

At least the coverage never stooped to dehumanizing the victims, but I kept hoping some reporter would remind drivers to be attentive, considerate, and sober -- the seemingly obvious lesson. Nobody ever did.

So until they do, we'll do it right here: Drive carefully, because other people's lives depend on it.

https://twitter.com/kenpaulman/status/740928307063988224

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