It is known as a ghost bike, a memorial that has started appearing in cities around the world for cyclists killed on urban streets. The one placed last night at Connecticut Avenue and R Street NW was for Alice Swanson, 22, of Mount Pleasant, who was fatally struck at 7:40 a.m. Tuesday by a trash truck as she rode to work.
More than 150 people, many holding helmets and leaning on bikes, gathered at 6:30 p.m. for a dedication ceremony. The crowd included several Swanson family members.
"We all love the excitement, joy and freedom of riding a bike, but it is at sad times such as this that we recognize just how vulnerable we can all be when we are out there enjoying the thing we love," Gilliland told the crowd. He urged a complete investigation by police.
The tragedy has resulted in a discussion of biking/driving/economics etc... on several bigger blogs.
Megan McArdle weighed in with a couple of posts first. The first on making DC safe for bikes
If you want to make the streets safer, put in more bike lanes, and ticket drivers who drive in them.
and the second on who's to blame for the conditions on the roads, cyclists or drivers?
I commute by both bike and car, and it's no contest: cars. Bikers are keenly alive to their own safety, and tend to pay a lot more attention to the cars than the cars pay to them. Moreover, many drivers in DC seem to believe that it is against the law to be in a mode of transportation that goes more slowly than their own, and therefore complain about such "violations" as trying to merge into the exit lane of a traffic circle. Memo to drivers: whether it's a car or a bike, you're supposed to yield to someone trying to exit.
Arnold King points out that what we have here is a prisoner's dilemma
The case in which bikers obey traffic signs and drivers are courteous to bikers is the "co-operate/co-operate" quadrant of the Prisoner's Dilemma. The equilibrium is "defect/defect."
Will Wilkinson is close to my position (more on this later) that what is needed is a change in law, though he goes the other direction from me.
But I biking because it’s faster than driving — because I blow through stop signs, go the wrong way on one-ways, etc. Were I suddenly to become fastidious about heeding traffic laws intended to regulate cars, one of the main advantages of biking over driving would evaporate. So I think people ...ought to encourage bikers to break traffic laws, or at least promote EXTRA traffic laws for drivers, in order to increase the relative benefit of biking. How about intersections where four-way purple means you’ve got to stop unless you’re on a bike? That would be pretty sweet.
And finally, Tyler Cowen is uncharacteristically dead wrong.
1. Riding a bike is dangerous no matter how considerate the drivers, at least in the car-intensive cities of the United States (maybe not in Amsterdam). Furthermore accidents and potential accidents impose costs on both parties and more generally Coasian externalities are symmetric. The first best equilibrium involves less mutual contact and the cheapest way to bring that about is probably to discourage biking. (After all, they're the ones who can be scared off with risk of death and dismemberment.) That means road rules which discriminate against the interests of bikers.
2. If a bike has to stop and wait ten seconds for a car, that biker loses ten seconds of travel time. If a car has to stop and wait ten seconds for a bike, the driver loses ten seconds of travel time. The expected loss in distance traveled is much greater for the car, especially in areas where cars are going fast (i.e., the disputed areas when safety is a concern). Furthermore the cars are more likely inhabited by people with a higher value for their time, at least on average if not for every biking blogger.