Posted by: bkivey | 12 June 2012

Right Hooks and Reality

The 17 May edition of the local paper had a story on a cyclist killed in an accident. The proximate cause of expiration was death by crushing when the cyclist was run over by the rear wheels of a semi truck tractor. As related in the story, both the cyclist and the truck were stopped at an intersection. When the light turned green, the cyclist continued straight, and the truck turned right (‘right hook’), running over the rider.

This tragic accident sparked a flurry of Letters to the Editor, blaming everything from the trucker to lack of infrastructure to capitalism:

‘m not a big fan of bicycles, but nobody deserves to die like Kathryn Rickson (“Feared ‘right hook’ kills rider,” May 18). You really want to promote bicycle safety? Don’t just paint a green box on the pavement and expect a rider to be safe. On certain intersections that are known for conflicts with bicycles and drivers, here is a solution. I know this would be expensive, but a rider needs to be seen. What I propose is to install a button that turns on a light bright enough that someone in a high-profile vehicle can see it. What this light would do is say “I’m here.” That’s the problem, isn’t it? Big, high-profile vehicles can’t see a small bicycle.

So if you really want bicycle riders to be safe, that’s my humble solution. No one needs to die while riding a bicycle.

Gene Carpenter

Right turns by motorists are one facet of the bicycle-motor vehicle safety problem. More generally, the mindset of motorists is such that they effectively do not see bicyclists: They are not looking for them. Motorists look for other motor vehicles, especially those larger than the one they are driving. It is sheer self-interest. Whereas hitting a bicyclist might scratch the paint, it is otherwise a very low-cost collision. Being fined $242 for not yielding the right of way costs less than repairing scratched paint.

Our morality is a function of our economics, not the other way around. Motor vehicles are essential to the economy; bicycles are not. We value each other in relation to economic contribution or wealth, not as human beings. Until that changes, bicyclists are at the mercy of motorists.

Tom Shillock
Northeast Portland

I have expertise in operating a bicycle on public roads, having ridden for 20+ years, including three years during which a  bicycle was my primary transportation. Without having witnessed the accident, or knowing the details, I have a good idea as to what happened.

When the cyclist approached the intersection, the light was already red, and she rode up to the limit line beside the truck. I would say that because the driver was a professional, his turn signal was on. Knowing that she had right-of-way, she probably expected the truck driver to wait for her to continue before he made his turn. When the light changed, the truck and the cyclist started moving.  The cyclist ran into the side of the truck, was knocked down, and run over.

The variable that couldn’t be controlled in this incident was the cyclist’s judgement. My practice when approaching an intersection is to position myself to the right rear of the vehicle nearest the intersection and slightly in the lane of traffic. This allows that vehicle to do whatever they’re going to do (not everyone uses turn signals), and puts me in the line of sight of the vehicle following. I’ve been hit once by a following vehicle, but there’s only so much you can do. The primary rule of riding a 20 pound bicycle in a world of metal behemoths is trust no one.

It’s an unfortunate byproduct of this areas cycling culture that riders feel a certain sense of entitlement; an attitude shared by pedestrians. It’s not uncommon to see cyclists and pedestrians cross intersections with nary a look around, confident in the knowledge that they have the right of way. It’s a testament to driver awareness and modern brake systems that there aren’t more incidents between motor vehicles and bikes and pedestrians. It’s a tragedy that a young woman died, but the reality is that no amount of regulation or technology will mitigate bad judgement.

Word Watch

From the world of computer programming we have: instantiates. From context I surmised that the word meant to initiate a condition or object. It turns out this isn’t quite correct, but is pretty close.

From the SearchCIO-Midmarkets site:

In programming, instantiation is the creation of a real instance or particular realization of an abstraction or template such as a class of objects or a computer process. To instantiate is to create such an instance by, for example, defining one particular variation of object within a class, giving it a name, and locating it in some physical place.

1) In object-oriented programming, some writers say that you instantiate a class to create an object, a concrete instance of the class. The object is an executable file that you can run in a computer.

2) In the object-oriented programming language, Java, the object that you instantiate from a class is, confusingly enough, called a class instead of an object. In other words, using Java, you instantiate a class to create a specific class that is also an executable file you can run in a computer.

3) In approaches to data modeling and programming prior to object-oriented programming, one usage of instantiate was to make a real (data-filled) object from an abstract object as you would do by creating an entry in a database table (which, when empty, can be thought of as a kind of class template for the objects to be filled in).

From the Miriam-Webster site:

: to represent (an abstraction) by a concrete instance <heroes instantiate ideals — W. J. Bennett>
And we learn that word first appeared in 1949.


You Might Be a Geek If . . .

I went to see The Avengers recently, and wrote about it here. There’s a lot of tech in the movie, some real, most fanciful. One of the real tech items was one of the airplanes seen on the flight deck of the carrier airship, the one that attacks the Hulk, and the one that launches a nuclear cruise missile at NYC: the F-35. I’m pretty sure that anyone at all familiar with the aircraft would recognize it as an F-35, but some people, some people have to take rivet-counting to the next level. From the site (scroll down):

It wasn’t even an accurate depiction of the F-35 in said movie. Didn’t anyone notice how there was a boundary layer diverter space between the inlet cowl and the fuselage (like F-22) and said inlets had a lozenge/caret design a la F-22? Obviously every bit as fictitious as those X-35 planes depicted in those RAAF Air Force Evolution posters some guy posted a month or so back.

Yes, yes I did notice that, and it really ruined the scene for me. Get real. You just have to laugh.


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