There’s often a flippant attitude among members of the public to blaming those who are killed while cycling for their own deaths, usually with nothing solid to back up the link. But if you’re a commentator with access to the media and you want to even hint at victim blaming, you need proof.
Journalist Tanya Sweeney does not seem to agree. Last week she was happy to link the deaths of 12 people last year to misbehaviour of unrelated people she meets cycling on the streets of Dublin. To be fair to her, she’s not the only one at it but her example is the latest and is fairly blunt.
In Sweeney’s article in the Herald and published on Independent.ie, she said: “Now, at the risk of sounding like your mum or a teacher, rules are there for a reason. Last year the number of cyclists killed on Irish roads more than doubled (to 12) compared with the numbers from 2013 (five deaths). How lovely would it be to bring that number to zero? Strange as it sounds, cycling with lights or stopping at traffic lights would go some way towards helping that become a reality.”
How lovely would it be to bring that number to zero? It would be fantastic. But we’re not going to get there by blaming victims. We need an evidence based-approached. The vast bulk of the deaths she refers to were nowhere near traffic lights. Even if people cycling breaking red light is annoying (and we think it should be stopped), it’s not linked to a notable amount of deaths.
She confirmed her victim blaming on Twitter. Happy again to link the deaths of 12 people last year to misbehaviour of unrelated people she meets:
The “I’m a cyclist” defence was used in her article. She wrote: “I cycle everywhere and I’ll be the first to say cyclists are the scourge of the city. Lawless to the point of sheer arrogance, there appear to be two schools of thought for the Dublin cyclist: a sort of ‘kill or be killed’ stance, or ‘I’m only a cyclist. I’m not the one driving a weapon than can actually kill others’.”
The scourge of the city? Not murders, not rapists, and not drug dealers. Or, road users, not those speeding in cars or trucks, not those who park on footpaths and stop on crossings blocking prams and wheelchairs, or not those who overtake people on bicycles within inches just to get to the next junction a few seconds quicker. No. The deadly cyclist.
For the record: We agree with obeying the law for all and the on-the-spot fines for people who don’t while cycling. These fines are not for new offences as Sweeney contends and there is so-far a marked increase in the amount of people on bicycles getting fined. Far higher than for a similar amount of time for the older system of court fines.
Bizarrely she adds: “It’s curious because, in general, Irish people tend to fall in line whenever a rule is created”… This is unbelievable in the context of RSA free speed surveys showing that 80-90% of motorists break the speed limit on many urban roads; motorists parking on footpaths and cycle lanes the norm around Ireland, and the Gardai and TII highlighting how many motorists break red lights at junctions which Luas trams cross.
Lately in the news it was also highlighted that drink driving has not gone away, and that a large amount of people are driving while disqualified.
So, it’s very curious how people get to the opinion that people on bicycles break the law disproportionately. Isn’t it? Maybe there’s something wrong with their research?