Saturday, September 20, 2008

Where Do We Go Now?

The person who killed Sarah earlier this week has got away free and clear. Though it is public record that they were reaching for a cell phone while driving a 3200 lb. vehicle, there will be no consequences for them to pay except for "feeling really bad." Its obvious that a handful of laws were broken in order for her to be hit, but hey, it was an accident and God forbid HPD rock the boat by charging a registered voter during an election year.

Then we go on to read the local blogs with every highschool drop out chiming in with their two-cents on how she should have been on a sidewalk... then a city official stating that the police rarely enforce the no-riding-on-sidewalks law. I guess that's enforced about as much as the no-murdering-innocent-cyclists law.

I realize that the person that hit Sarah did not leave their house that morning intending to kill somebody but then again, Sarah didnt leave intending to get killed and her parents didnt raise her and love her with the plan to have her killed by someone too self involved to accept responsibility for their own neglegince.

The motorists name is public record now and it makes me wonder, if taken aside and asked what they will take away from this tragedy, what would they say? Ideally, i would love to interview this person and come away with a heart wrenching tale that is so powerful it speaks universally...a story that touches the hearts on both sides and then, as if in a movie, one day, while driving down the road, a father turns to his son and teaches him the importance of sharing the roads, the importance of respecting others space whether its their choice or not, and teaching him that driving is a responsibility and privilege.

So I would like to know, if face to face with this person, what would you ask them? What would you like to happen to this person? There is a story coming out in the paper tomorrow regarding the ghost bike which was put up as a memorial to Sarah. Now the city has taken it down and is making a bigger deal about a spray-painted bike than the actual incident itself. A letter writing campaign has started to remedy the situation.

Please let these folks know how you feel about the situation. My personal thoughts on the situation are:
1) The ghost bike thing, while not a big deal, just shows how f'd up the system here in Huntsville really is. A person dies and a bike locked to a pole is your priority. Um, ok.
2) The person who hit Sarah may have no idea how many people want her head on a platter. I am sure their life is turned upside down but it pales in comparison to the Chapman family. Sometimes sorry is not enough no matter how many years you say it. Accept responsibilty for your actions; you killed someone!
3) I hope that something positive can come out of this negative. Can the loss of a 20 year old college student commuting to work or school make Huntsville wake up and see how dangerous the roads are for cyclist, who, whether you like it or not, are here to stay? Can motorist realize how dangerous all these modern distractions can be? answer your phone, change a dvd, enter a new address in your Garmin...hit a cyclist, go to jail! Slow down and pull over!
4) Somehow, someone of authority can see how horrible HPD really is. They are undeniably anti-cyclist and this poses a conflict of interest to the public. The state needs to step in and enforce state-wide legislature to get with the times, make alabama a green state, and make the streets safe for all those who travel upon them, not just joe-gas-guzzler.

Anyhow, I have my opinions and I am genuinely open to hearing others. This is a serious topic and people are very heated. i tend to have extreme view points but want to hear others of any opinion. Open debate is healthy right? Does anyone know the motorist? name?


clintpatty said...

Thanks for doing the interview for Huntsville Times. Yeah it is pretty clear now that no charges are going to be filed and they won't do a lot more investigating. And that is unfortunate. I don't see why something like reckless endangerment or criminal negligence isn't implicated. The name of the motorist should be released too. There has been a good bit of news about this, especially in the Huntsville Times. I hope it continues and motorists and the city are alerted to more issues that need to be addressed.

If I walk around with a loaded gun that I'm using as a walking stick and accidentally shoot someone when I wasn't paying attention, I'm probably going to get some sort of charges pressed. I would more than likely be found guilty. An automobile is another deadly weapon, and just like the loaded gun being used as a walking stick, killing is not its primary purpose, but it will work. Carelessness with that kind of power should be unacceptable.

Megan said...

I am beyond outraged by this. My husband worked with Sarah, and every time I saw her she was so incredibly nice..,.. I will be writing all of these people letting them know what I think.

I'm sorry, but I do not know the motorists name....I will do some digging around and see if I can find it.

Bello Velo said...

Considering the Mayor has the police department gas up at "Spenco Oil" may tell you something too. Can you say conflict of interest? Keeping the Status Quo here seems to be what this is about.

Try attending some of the city council meetings and listen to the drivel that is being talked about "grass that is taller than 8 inches" My neighbor said something mean to me etc etc... It is truly absurd. This is a matter of life and death and what do the steroid riddled HPD do ? Nothing.... PSA's no. Driver Education anything ?

Emailing these people will do very little as it does not become part of the Public Record. Going and speaking up at the council meetings and having "all cyclist" show up would send a message.

This isn't a progressive city it is constipated!!!!

inc123 said...

I believe your Amanda might well be Amelia.

Bello Velo said...

I sent mine in

To Our City Officials,

I am writing to urge that the city act on behalf of the terrible tragedy that happened to Sarah Chapman while she commuted to school by bike. I am sure you are well aware that she was killed in an accident involving a SUV and a Cell Phone. The city has not done enough to educate it's citizens about the rules and laws of the rode. I ride my bike as a choice and many ride there because they can not afford to drive or afford to fill their cars with gas. I understand that bike lanes are costly and will take time to implement. The City could and should start a Driver, Cyclist, Police, and Pedestrian education program. this could be done simply by doing PSA's on the public access channels and also get the local papers, bike shops etc involved with printed materials provided by the City. This would be a start and many progressive cities around the US have done this with great success. Portland, Louisville, and New York.

Why not take this tragedy and do something positive about it? I have been pulled over twice in the last month by HPD and told to get on the sidewalk( a wet brick sidewalk) I know the law but apparently some in the HPD do not. If it fails there then it is no wonder why it fails elsewhere. The Mayor and city could do more to bridge the gap of driver hostility towards people who cycle or walk. We have the same rights to the road and should not receive the death penalty because we are and inconvenience.

Thank You
A Registered Voter

inc123 said...

I believe the motorist was most likely do something illegal, though I don't have access to the facts. If the driver was doing something illegal, then he/she should face charges.

I believe the police could verify her cellphone use at time of accident. Had it been alcohol instead of carelessness, I believe the police would have pressed charges, and I think public opinion can effect the final outcome.

While we can do nothing to bring Sarah back, I feel strongly that we should work to prevent similar tragedies. I think public attitude / culture / driver education needs major adjustment. I would like to see a positive change.

I propose one way, might be to purchase a Share the Road sign or Bike Route sign as a memorial. It is something cyclists could do. Probably other positive ways exist too.

I wish the City of HSV, in response to any accident involving a bicycle and car, would commit to putting up X number of signs, as a positive gesture toward making cycling & driving safer.

I don't believe this driver/motorist intentionally killed Sarah, but I do believe it was a preventable death-- had the driver been driving the speed limit and was not distracted.

I think being careless / negligent while driving is usually considered a crime. I assume the driver feels a great deal of regret but still...

beardsarefun said...

Bello that was a great letter. thanks. Louisville huh? jk i personally think that the people doing the ghost bike should have also chained a bike to the jeep drivers bumper in case she is in a hurry to get on her cell phone while driving today. A side note, one of our readers has the drivers name and info from the police report, its pretty easy to get for those curious. I really want to post it but know that no good would come from it. It would be out of anger rather than actually achieving something good. I do however think that now is the time to try and turn this into something positive while emotions and public interest are high. Not to exploit it but rather fully utilize it instead of letting it be a total loss. I would love it if everyone started a letter writing campaign to try and make changes. Living in Huntsville has jaded me and i am sad with how poorly the system works here. Maybe one day when Loretta is out (soon, very soon) and the other good ol boys have died without giving their brother-in-laws a job, then the city will have a fighting chance at change. For a city that is so "progressive", it sure is run by a bunch of bumbling rednecks. No wonder Alabama has such a bad image elsewhere, I have to say i agree with the stereotypes at the moment. I say if nothing happens, we start a "Loretta Spencer and HPD let a proven murderer get away with it" campaign.

On a side, side note, their will be an awesome Rock The Vote party at Park Place (behind Bicycles Etc, 611 Meridian St.) on October 25th with 12 bands, food, beverages, great speakers, and good conversation.

Bello Velo said...

I have been attending the city council meetings lately.
They are on the second and forth thursday of the month at 6:30 pm. I believe we could do this before friday's critical mass.

You have to get there to sign in early and are allowed 3 minutes to speak. If we got enough people to speak we could kind of control the meeting and be heard on this.

Think about 50 or 60 or more cyclists showing up and pressuring the city to do something, like educating, etc....

I saw the sign about rock the vote sounds good....

Marshmallow said...

Shit, we need a rock the vote party before the mayoral election. Tommy battle was 800-ish votes short last time, right?