Home > Appreciated Quotes, Chatter, Representing, Safety Issues > Monday’s Quote: Please, Just Don’t Say Anything At All

Monday’s Quote: Please, Just Don’t Say Anything At All

Monday’s Quote

A bicycle can ride on the roadway and they do have all the rights a car would have. Unfortunately, he wasn’t on the roadway, he was on a gravel shoulder. And even more unfortunate, there was a brand new sidewalk just installed about 15 feet from where he was riding.”

~ Dale Dwojakowski, Sterling Heights Police Lt.

Really? That’s the lieutenant’s position? He should have been on the sidewalk? Ugly. Often after a bicycle and automobile collision, the officers just shouldn’t say anything.

Perhaps the driver, Julia Werth, who at the age of 20 years old already hastwelve points on her driving record for two alcohol violations, two speeding tickets and a car accident” should have not been behind the wheel with a proven disregard for the responsibility. Perhaps then, the man on the bicycle, James Anthony Sawicki from Sterling Heights, would still be alive.

Quit enabling the motorist. Yes, it’s a sad situation for everyone, but if someone gets killed, legal consequences need to occur–period.

Of the 183 comments (and counting) on the Detroit Free Press website, FreedomsRing sums it up well:

“What is disappointing is that the law allows cyclists to be on the roadway … they don’t have to ride on the shoulder. While this sidewalk may have been available, and might have been safe, most sidewalks are not safe for cyclist, and sometimes illegal for cyclists to be on. The ONLY thing that should have been reported is that the cyclists was killed, he was following the law, and that the driver was at fault. She should be charged with invol. manslaughter …just as if she hit a pedestrian who was legally walking across the street.”

Looking For Excuses

Over the weekend, a motorists slammed head-on to 8 cyclists in Italy. Killing them all. In a response to that tragedy, the BLOG Urban Country has a related post by James D. Schwartz connecting these crashes, our car-centric cultures and the media. And why these aren’t accidents.

It begins:

“Car-centric societies tend to make excuses to defend a way of life – a life dependent on automobiles. These excuses are disproportionately emphasized in the media and accepted by society.

When a tragedy occurs between a motorist and a bicyclist,  the media looks for reasons to explain how such a tragic event could occur. Was the bicyclist wearing a helmet? Was the driver under the influence of alcohol? Was the bicyclist wearing dark clothes?

It’s easier to deflect blame than to accept that cars are dangerous and drastic measures are needed to improve safety.”

Continue reading at Enough Excuses: Cars Cause Death.

* Photo by Kevin Schraer via Urban Country & Flickr


Related Articles (warning, comments are infuriating at times):

Driver looks away, kills Sterling Hgts. bicyclist (freep.com)

  1. John Robert Williams
    December 6, 2010 at 8:56 am

    If a person cannot excel at a game of skill, there is NO WAY they should be allowed to at the controls of a motor vehicle.

    When traffic fatalities occur, no one mourns the metal. It’s the flesh and blood, in or out of a vehicle that is most important…so why do cars have such status on society? Somehow a transformation happens once we climb inside the metal shell. The person, “driver” or passenger is less than the whole of the outer shell, until they die. Then the shell was just the conveyance to their demise. Twisted! (My bike ride to work this morning was great!)

  2. Tim W.
    December 6, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Thought I’d share an email I sent to the city this morning:

    Ben & Chris,

    This morning I walked my 5 year old and 7 year old to school from our home on 7th St. to TCAPS Montessori on 13th St. We walked in the streets the entire way!

    When the snow falls as it currently is, Traverse City is NOT a walkable city. We are kidding ourselves if we think it is. No, I do not have an answer that does not involve the City’s money or equipment. There should at least be one sidewalk running north-south from 6th St. to 13th St. that is cleared between 5am and 8am for walking.

    Many families decide to live in Traverse City because they want a walkable/bikable life style. People outside the City might make fun of the granola crunching, tree hugging nuts that live in the city – but we’re just as car-centric as everybody else.

    If Traverse City is going to be a “walkable” city, isn’t making it walkable for our youngest citizens the most important thing?! If they aren’t walking at this point in their lives, they won’t be walking when they get older.

    Maybe as the winter continues we can sit down sometime and have a discussion about how to improve things with little to no money.

    Thanks for listening.


  3. December 6, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Thank you for including us, Tim.

    The City’s snow removal ordinance is #668.11, and the onus is on the property owner to clear the snow. Rarely, to my knowledge never, has it been enforced. That said, it certainly doesn’t help someone at 6am as even the most strictly enforced ordinances usually allow for a 24 hour grace period. This is a good cause though. A walkable community takes the maintenance and upkeep of it’s infrastructure seriously. The priority is certainly communicated very clearly when streets are scraped to the asphalt several times before many sidewalks are cleared.

    Let us know what you find out and how we can help.

    Snow Removal

  4. Dave
    December 6, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    It’s funny, though really shouldn’t be funny (as say a surprise) because I’m sure plenty of others feel the same way I do. I sent an email to the city of Sterling Hghts. telling them how I feel and reflect much of what you say:

    This is a quote by Sterling Heights Police Lt. Dale Dwojakowski:

    “A bicycle can ride on the roadway and they do have all the rights a car would have,” he said. “Unfortunately, he wasn’t on the roadway, he was on a gravel shoulder. And even more unfortunate, there was a brand new sidewalk just installed about 15 feet from where he was riding.”

    Please, pass this message along. Though one person may not reflect the true sentiments of even this individual or a city, such words really don’t help the cause of the incident that this police officer is speaking of. People should be made aware of cyclists on the road. Saying they have rights and then turning around and saying there is a brand new sidewalk seems to be negating the first statement.

    Why is this individual even behind a wheel in the first place? The fact that she may not face prosecution combined with a state bill that would look to make such incidents more punishable by the law was not passed, makes me more inclined to leave this state and not come back.

    This police officer seems to be implying that a sidewalk is adequate and better than riding in the road, deflecting the true responsibility of the driver. Yes, I’d agree that if you’re going all of 3-5 MPH on a bike, taking the sidewalk may be more safe. Oftentimes, even when riding my bike in such a manner, I find I have trouble with drivers. I do not plan on doing any business with anyone in Sterling Heights as a personal statement of how I feel about this statement. You can save your apologies. I’d much prefer actions and thinking, before speaking on the part of representatives of a city.


  5. December 6, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Thank you for sharing, Dave.

    Contacting the city of Sterling Heights is a grand idea.

    City Hall’s Address:
    CITY HALL40555 Utica Road • PO Box 8009 • Sterling Heights, Michigan 48311-8009
    Mark D. Vanderpool, City Manager * cityhall@sterling-heights.net

    Twitter Account: @sterling_hts

  6. papajayjay
    December 6, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    I have some friendly thoughts on the snow removal comments, Tim and Gary. I have worked in snow removal for the last seven years, from shoveling, to plowing with a pickup and front end loader, dump trucks and salt/ sand equipment, and clearing the occasional roof. What I know is that the snow today was extraordinary. Though it seemed most schools were running and things were generally operating as normal, I can tell you that certain accounts that had been plowed around 5am requested to be re-plowed around 9am. These parking lots started with 3-4inches of wet and heavy snow, and had another 3-4 inches upon re-plowing. While most accounts had between 4-6 inches total, there were indeed areas with 12 inches, that had been cleaned less than 24 hours prior.

    My point is this: the city does clean the sidewalks. They usually do it after the roadways as the only place for most roadway snow is to get thrown off (usually over the sidewalks). Sometimes it is the day after the roadways are under control before the walks get done. It would not be efficient in time, money or other resources to do the walks first and then again after the roadways. Even if they had been cleaned in the early AM, there may have been an additional 4-6inches on them by the time you took your commute.

    What are your reasons for wanting to commute by foot? Should a foot or pedal commute consume the same resources for maintenance as a motorway? (stinky fuel, noisy machines?) I am glad that there are so many who (like you) want and like to enjoy their community by bike and foot. What is it about a few inches of snow that makes a sidewalk non-walkable? I have a certain friend who could regularly be seen downtown on skis making her way to the co-op before everything was scraped back down to ugly concrete…

    I would like to suggest that footpaths WILL look different in the winter months, and we should plan accordingly (boots, gaiters, extra time). In your case, maybe it is not car-centricity that should be the object of your grievance, but perhaps the lifestyle that made you feel like you had to be somewhere at a certain time. And that you had to get there a certain way. Some communities would be completely shut down with the amount of snow we received in the past few days. The efficiency with which the municipalities clear the streets that you had the privilege and option to walk down was made possible by the internal combustion vehicles that cleared them. Isn’t part of the point of a walkable/ bike-able community a more efficient use of resources?

  7. December 7, 2010 at 9:11 am

    I tend to agree with you more than you might think, PP-JJ and I appreciate a professional viewpoint on the subject. Indeed, the industry behind snow-removal is a remarkable, commendable task every winter. I personally think in our worst storms many people, whether they drive or walk, need to consider how important it is to travel. I recall several letters to the editor last year of people complaining about the roads during our worst storms. Roads will be bad during storms, but many have grown accustomed, dare I say entitled, to the amazing job the snow-crews do on the roads that when it’s delayed slightly, people flip-a-lid.

    What’s at issue for me regarding the sidewalks is the season-long accumulation, where in many places foot traffic is blocked, and the inequity where we make it as easy as possible for people to drive, but, due to our priorities, make it a challenge for them to walk. Last year I wrote how many of us just walk in the streets, but rightly, a reader pointed out to me how inadequate that is for an elder or slower neighbor, or even someone in a wheel chair.

    You’re right, footpaths will look different in the winter, but there is certainly room for improvement. Isn’t there always?

    How do we get there?
    UPDATED: Found this while looking around online. It’s worth exploring: America Walks’ snow removal model policy (PDF)

  8. kwhite
    December 8, 2010 at 8:40 am

    Yes, winter came on fast and furious. The last three days have been representative of what I observed last year as far as order of operations for snow removal. As in, usually “bass-ackwards” on my stretch of 8th Street. Monday: No sidewalk clearing. Tuesday: Sidewalk done before road, resulting in several inches of saltly snow on walk. Wednesday: No sidewalk clearing (yet).

    As stated above by Papajayjay “It would not be efficient in time, money or other resources to do the walks first and then again after the roadways.” Exactly! Communication, coordination, and preparedness are the solutions here.

    I wear gaiters and plow down the sidewalk regardless of the conditions. But I have seen several people walking right down 8th in the morning when its dark, drivers are groggy, and visiblity is poor. Yikes!

  9. Tim W.
    December 9, 2010 at 11:23 am

    I agree with the time, money, and resources comments. I also think kids should walk to school if they live within a “reasonable” distance. Maybe with “communication, coordination, and preparedness” something could be improved? For instance, what if each walkable TCAPS elementary school within TC had designated walking routes during snow events? As suits the neighborhood, each compass direction would have a single sidewalk cleared for an “appropriate” number of blocks between 6am and 8am. In my case, a sidewalk on one side of Oak St. could be plowed from 14th St. all the way to 6th St. (Problem is there isn’t sidewalk all the way on either side of Oak St. But will save that for a future discussion of walkable TC.) With coordination, the designated streets could first be plowed, so that cleared sidewalk doesn’t get instantly recovered with snow.

    Not the status quo, and it would take effort. But, you gotta dream!

  10. jayson
    December 10, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    One other thought I may not have expressed clearly above (aka: papajayjay) is the idea of “stacked usages.” In my opinion, clearing for biking walking and driving don’t have to always be separate operations. Tim, I know not of what route you ended up walking, but I would consider many downtown (“side”) streets, if used wisely, as walking routes. Certainly areas like Division and 8th should have priority sidewalk maintenance, but there could be an acceptable and efficient system to find, designate and support walkable streets that are already being cleared by heavy machinery. ADA and elderly consideration should be a part of the planning. And really, this is where community building comes into play: where are the friends, relatives and neighbors to help those who might need a helping hand or just someone to “stroll” with?

    Gary, I appreciate your point (unconsidered on my part) regarding pedestrian areas that become impassibly obstructed due to snow removal practices. A few years ago, you asked if you could tag along some night to see (or photograph?) the whole plowing scene. After training someone new the last two nights/ mornings, I again realized how little most outside of the industry realize or consider the inner workings, planning, coordination, and straight skill it takes to successfully operate a plow route to the greatest benefit of each account. I wish I had recorded my night long babblings to this guy…

    One last thing, I would love casual jeans or pants where the lower 12″ were water/ salt shedding canvas (or space age polymer) and that also had an internal powder cuff to keep snow from riding up into your footwear. I love the function of my gaiters, but I tire of the fit and the adding of one more layer.

  11. jayson
    December 10, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Oh, and I love(!) the AmericaWalks link, which indirectly reminded me of another point: the population of LaFranier road. This area and the hill on South airport West of Cass are two that jump to mind when I think of areas that really NEED to be addressed. I see citizens regularly slogging through the deep briney mess tossed from the road. There are no calm side streets here to get to THE BUS STATION, or a safe maintainable route for the sizable population at the top of LaFranier to get up and down that hill (even without the snow).

    Thanks for the discussion, folks.

  12. December 11, 2010 at 10:11 am

    I still would like to ride along on the snow removal circuit, thanks for the reminder!

    I agree about LeFranier Road and others like it. We in the city feel we have it rough, but the people that leave just on the edge of town in Garfield Township have it much, much worse.

    This is obviously an issue to continue to explore.

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