A ghost bike in Fresno, California. Photo by kurtz on Flickr.

If you’ve missed the comment threads here and here about yesterday’s bicycle fatality, here’s a quick guide to some important points.

WABA to dedicate “ghost bike”: Tonight at 6:30, WABA will be holding a press conference at Q and Connecticut, the fatal intersection one block from the fatal intersection. They will install a “ghost bike” memorial to maintain a reminder of the tragedy, and also to warn drivers and cyclists alike to be careful.

How about a bike box? Bike boxes are painted areas that let cyclists move in front of cars waiting at an intersection. That ensures drivers see them and gives them the opportunity to go first. Perhaps we should install one on R? Thanks to commenter tony for the suggestion.

Absence of bike lanes is worse: No, it wouldn’t have been better if we had no bike lanes. An L.A. doctor critically injured two cyclists with his car because he didn’t want to share the road. Bike lanes let cyclists use the road network without feeling like they’re going to be constantly honked at and berated for daring to drive on our streets.

Language matters: I was surprised by the resistance to changing our use of the word “accident” to refer to any car crash, whether someone was at fault or not. There are mountains of evidence that the language we use influences our thinking—for example, “death tax” versus “estate tax”, or “partial-birth abortion” versus “late-term abortion”. Transportation departments, like West Palm Beach, Florida have adopted policies to use terms like “crash” or “collision” in place of “accident”. (Thanks to commenter thm for the link.)

The West Palm Beach document also suggests “widening” and “narrowing” in place of “upgrading” and “downgrading”. I actually had this debate with a traffic engineer in Prince George’s County, where they have an “adequate public facilites” law that defines “public facilities” as only drivers’ facilities. It forces the county or developers to widen roads and intersections whenever a new development is built, even if that harms pedestrians. At the public meeting, many participants and even the planners suggested narrowing certain roads, but the planners kept calling it “downgrading” the roads. “Downgrading” implies that it’s worse. It may slow automobile traffic, but that might improve pedestrian safety, speed bicycles, or redirect traffic to a more desirable route.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.