Kristy Gough and Matt Peterson were killed when a deputy police sheriff’s cruiser collided with them on a Bay Area road. A third cyclist was seriously injured. Gough was a professional triathlete who had been gaining fame in the local bicycling scene.
California newspapers are using the deaths of Gough and Peterson in news stories with skewed studies and statistics arguing that cyclists are to blame in more than 60 percent of bicycle and car collisions. An analysis by the San Francisco Chronicle documenting more than 2,000 bike and car accidents concluded that cyclists are twice as likely to be at fault when killed or severely injured.
Advocates claim cyclists often run red lights and stop signs and simply disregard rules of the road that motorists are expected to abide by. The article leaves the reader with the connotation these cyclists alone were to blame for their own deaths.
But the Chronicle failed to mention several minor details. Gough, Peterson and a third unidentified cyclist were riding safely on the road when the deputy fell asleep at the wheel and veered into the opposing lane of traffic, plowing into the trio. The deputy’s negligent, dangerous behavior is being downplayed and casually written off as “accidental” in news articles and what has become another case of blaming the victims.
Using the tragic deaths of two innocent cyclists, the Chronicle has managed to manipulate information to fit a desired news story idea. These wrongful deaths cannot be justified by the actions of any hypothetically reckless bikers. Not only is this a prime example of bad journalism, it’s distasteful, offensive and low.
For too long, cyclists have been wrongfully portrayed when involved in similar situations. Cyclists are seen as a nuisance and a burden for drivers even though the road is meant to be shared.
Philadelphia, a major urban city, has a large population of cyclists for good reason. This environmentally friendly means of transport greatly alleviates areas heavily congested with traffic, making our city more efficient for everyone. It is unfortunate that more people don’t realize this.
“It is a tragedy that this happened, especially with a law enforcement officer. Cyclists deserve safe roads wherever they are,” said Ray Scheinfeld, a bicycle safety advocate and co-organizer of the Ride of Silence in Philadelphia.
The Ride of Silence, a bicycle ride to honor those injured or killed in car collisions, is set to take place on May 21 at 6:45 p.m. at the base of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
There is a great need to improve relations between motorists and cyclists for the benefit of all, rather than adding to the tension between groups.
Doanh Nghiem can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.