At first, I was glad to see news media at the placing of the ghost bike at Florida Avenue NE and 12th Street NE last weekend. I wanted them to hear the hurt in the cycling community, to see our tears and our goodbyes, to see us take the intersection and close it down in honor of Dave Salovesh. Hearing Dave's friend and fellow cyclist Rudi Riet speak so eloquently about about everything he meant to us was a moving moment.
Sixty seconds into Derrick Ward's story, NBC4 changed the tone of the piece. Ward reads out: “And there's an onus on cyclists to also obey the law” over imagery of cyclists stopping at a red light and rolling through the intersection. There was no editorial purpose to either the statement or the imagery of cyclists rolling through the red light.
This isn't a story about cyclists running lights.
This is a story about a driver stealing a van, traveling at 60 mph up the wrong lane of Florida Avenue NE, and killing Dave Salovesh. To frame it in any other light was unacceptable. The video footage of his front wheel embedded in the grill of the stolen van that Dave was killed with was quite clear about who was responsible for his death.
Pedestrians and bicyclists in DC saw fatalities rise 20% last year, even though overall road deaths were down. Since 2010, cyclist fatalities in the US are up 25%, and pedestrian fatalities are up 45%. More than ever, cyclists and pedestrians are at risk on our streets. We've designed safer cars, but we've yet to bother implementing safer roads. This isn't the fault of pedestrians or bicyclists, but Ward's story sure made it look that way.
In no story about a fatal crash of a vehicle are we subjected to editorializing about all those drivers who regularly speed through our streets and rack up hundreds or thousands of dollars of automated ticket violations. We don't hear about the number of crashes, we don't hear about the stop signs they blow through, we don't hear about the foibles of drivers throughout the metro area.
As cyclists, we face an uphill battle every day on the streets of the District. In what few bike lanes there are, we face obstruction by ride-hailing drivers, delivery trucks, and other vehicles parked in them. Where there aren't lanes, we face hostile drivers who refuse to abide by the three-foot rule, or that treat us with disdain or outright hostility, or straight up ignore us while they text and drive. We are always presumed to be guilty of something in the eyes of the driver, thanks in no small part to reporting like Ward's on Sunday.
I would ask NBC4 that they try to treat cyclists with the barest assumption of dignity and good faith. I would ask that, if I felt they were capable of delivering it.
The news team at NBC4, like so many other TV news outlets, cannot seem to find a story about a cyclist that they will report in good faith, instead of trying to pander to the worst assumptions of a car-bound majority. NBC4 and Derrick Ward owe Dave Salovesh, his family, and his friends a heartfelt apology for painting his community with such an awful brush in the wake of his senseless death at the hands of a criminal driver.
The main reason I wear a helmet is so reporters will make it sound like I'm a safe rider if a driver kills me. Also, shut up about helmets.— DaveS (@darsal) September 4, 2015
Dave didn't die because he ran a red light. He died because a driver did.