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In Response: What Can We Do?

For all of us, it has been a tough spring. Three people out riding bikes have lost their lives in avoidable crashes due to excess speed, driving under the influence, and driving with a suspended license. We are experiencing a Srgt Aimee Nolan Emily Boedecker at Middlebury Wellness Fair smaller 062715range of emotions: shock, grief, anger, remorse and fear. We are reacting in different ways: riding more, riding less, slowing down until it is safe to pass a person on a bike, winding down our windows so we can hurl insults. I am deliberate in using the inclusive pronoun, “we.” The question, ‘are we safe out there?’ is being raised by all of us who use our roads in any shape or form, not just by those of us who ride bikes or walk.

Last year, there were a total of 17 fatalities from crashes on the roads in Vermont. As of June 18th of this year, we have already reached 17 fatalities. This is our shared concern, not just for people on bikes, not just for other road users described as ‘vulnerable,’ for all of us. 

What if the driver of the car that crossed the yellow line and struck Kelly Boe in Weybridge had hit your sister in her car as she was driving the kids home from soccer practice?

What if the teenage driver leaving Hinesburg at excessive speed had, instead of killing Richard Tom, hit and killed a school friend jogging down the road?

What if Dr. Kenneth Najarian had instead been an elderly couple walking across the street to their mailbox and taking a short stroll on the usually calm Greenbush Road? 

Had the other vehicle been a car rather than a bike the result may not have been deadly, but would still have been traumatic. It would have left the victim with injuries that linger for a lifetime. The witnesses to the crash would still have violent images in their mind. The drivers who survived would still live with the guilt for the rest of their lives. 

How we conduct ourselves on the road, whether we are driving a car, riding a bike, delivering the mail, running the kids to school, or taking a short stroll to see the fireflies in the meadow, is of concern to all of us.

Within our own community, Local Motion is talking with bike shops, bike clubs, touring companies and others to ask, “what can we do together?” Our state agencies are asking the question, “how do we respond?” Our state and local police are saying, “how do we keep people safe?” Human services professionals are asking, “how can we help repeat offenders break the destructive cycle?” 

How will we all respond? It will no doubt involve paying closer attention to offenders and enforcing laws already on the books. It will include a focus on education for car drivers and bike riders. It will likely include a call for legislation, and policy, and rides, and rallies. 

How effective will these responses be? In large part that depends on you and me. Will we take care of each other on the road? Will we give and get respect? Or will reaching for that cup of coffee distract our attention at a critical moment, or will leaving the house a little later than we planned, tempt us to forget safety in favor of arriving on time? 

Wondering “what can I do?” Here are some important ways that you can help:

- Share your thoughts in this Local Motion survey  about what should be done to improve safety
- Write to your newspaper. Write to your Representative and to your Senator; you can find their contact details here.
- And have those difficult conversations with your family and friends. As a starting point, here is just one of many blog postings that have had the courage to tackle this difficult question.  

Your actions to keep attention on this issue will help fuel our collective push for change. 

For my part, I am riding. I am walking. I am running. I am driving. And in each and every moment, I am trying to keep present in my mind the fact that I am using a shared and public space, knowing that I hold the lives of others, in so many ways, in my hands. In the end this is about all of us.

Emily Boedecker

Executive Director, Local Motion


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