Thursday, August 6, 2009

Missoula Hit-&-Run Incident Sparks Same Old Us vs Them Arguement

In this post I get a little local... but I'm sure this kind of thing happens in every corner of America.

You would think that when an innocent elderly women gets killed as a result of a hit and run incident at a busy intersection, people from the community would band together to express their grief and desire for a safer transportation environment. But no, thats not what happened. Very quickly the Missoulian articles... here and here turned into a shouting match between people (mostly avid cyclists and pedestrians) blaming the motorist and those that deafened the motorist and said that anyone on a bicycle or a pedestrian on that road was an idiot and most likely deserved what they got. (Its a shame that by now you can't view the long series of comments made about the initial news story).

I'll just give a quick overview of what happened. On June 22nd at the intersection of Brooks and Reserve streets (a big 20+ lane intersection with sweeping corners) a women was walking her bike across the intersection in the crosswalk going northbound when a pickup truck that was idling in the left hand turn lane suddenly proceeded into the intersection and struck Beverly Joyce Felton whom eventually died of brain injuries.

The man in the pickup sped off and later turned himself in and admitted to hitting Beverly, this of course was only after a witness had come forward and identified for the police the man's vanity plates.

As I said before, I wish the record of comments was still available, but I can sum things up for people from memory. Within only a few comments people started blaming the "victim" for not paying enough attention to her surroundings, for even being on that street because it is so dangerous, complaining generally that cyclists and pedestrians act as if they own the road and that their arrogant behavior was the problem, and that Beverly was an idiot for even being out there while not in a car.

The "Bicycle Nazi," as some of the angry motorists called them, fired back with the usual stupid people in SUVs rant.

All this went on all the while Beverly's family members were participating in the debate, calling for all sides to calm down and realize that a human being had just died and that people need to respect that fact and not use this as a forum to express hatred of "the other."

The sad thing is that it now continues in the latest article, although not nearly as bad. It only takes one person's comment to send the rest of the discussion on a tangent about the cranial deficiencies of the other group. All the while Beverly's memory is trampled upon while individuals get in their own hateful speech about their adversaries on bikes or in cars.

Perhaps the most ridiculous thing about all this is the fact that the man turned himself in and admitted to hitting Beverly, and yet is now pleading not-guilty. The judge has let him out on bail with his driver's licence in hand. People are defending this decision as his right to a fair trial and that we shouldn't jump to conclusions. But honestly... when someone is charged with murder using a hand gun I don't think they let that person out of court with a Glock in their hand... no, they confiscate any deadly weapons, but apparently this man still has access to his.


Julie said...

Well said! I have been debating writing about all of this as well. As far as I am concerned, I believe that Beverly was actually doing the safest thing by walking her bike across the busy intersection rather than riding it.

May she rest in peace and know that her family is in my thoughts.

Rantwick said...

I used to read the comments on new articles, but like many others have stopped. One of my visitors, Cafiend, may have put it best when I did a piece bemoaning a particularly hateful blog post: "I ain't even going to look. Arguing with idiots is like trying to wash a turd."

The comments sections on newspapers seem to have more idiots than most, even more than MY comments section, which is saying something!

Mark Kirschner said...

This is very sad. I really feel for the family of the woman. To lose a family member in such a sudden, violent, and tragic manner. And then to have her name and memory dragged through the mud by those with an axe to grind.

I see the same thing every time we have an article remotely related to cycling here in Seattle. I know the same goes on in Portland.

I, like you, do find it odd that our society has no problems denying one a civil right (firearms ownership and access) while they are being investigaed for a crime or in the various stages of serving their sentence, yet we will not deny a fully revokable priveledge in the same instance. There should be some equity here, and I don't mean returning guns!

If your local bike clubs aren't already do so, organize for your next legislative session. Lobby for strengthening the laws around accidents involving "vulnerable users" (i.e. pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists). Each of these groups will lose an encounter with a car, but in many cases, the driver gets little more than a slap on the wrist. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance ( in Oregon just successfully lobbied for such a change to the law a couple of years ago, and Cascade Bicyle Club ( here in Washington tried unsuccessfully to do so last year, but will be back at it this year.

CarFree Stupidity said...

Thanks everyone for the thoughtful comments.

Rantwick... your comment reminds me of a cartoon i saw on the internet. "Someone is wrong on the internet... I must correct them"

Thanks for the suggestions Mark. Honestly, most of the bicycle advocacy groups in Montana are all based in Missoula. You have to understand Montana politics... anything that comes out of Missoula is kind of shunned elsewhere in the state, since its coming out of the evil liberal haven of Missoula.

Mark Kirschner said...

I actually do understand that aspect of the politics. I worked for about 10 years with our state legislature. I've seen how attitudes and prejudices about certain regions affect the liklihood of passage of the ideas that come out of matter how much common sense is behind those same ideas.

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