Accepted Realities: Bicyclists Being Killed

Nordhoff Avenue in the San Fernando Valley, specifically from Panorama City to Northridge is an actual bike route I used to take on the way to Cal State Northridge.  I would take it often to visit my CSUN friend, usually at night with just one backlight. 

Was never the safest, though at 2 AM the streets are empty. 

Ver Nordhoff en un mapa más grande

What the map won't say also is that Nordhoff Avenue has six lanes going in both directions from North Hills in the East to Northridge to the West.  When I rode this route, I would try to take up one lane.  I was just out there trying to be visible, and very very vulnerable. 

Turns out that a month ago, someone was actually killed in a hit-and-run accident on that very route.  76-year old Paul Albert Helfen was riding his bike at 2 AM in the morning and was struck by a Nissan Sentra.

2 AM definitely is not the best time to be out, but that doesn't mean it's the best time to clip and take someone's life.  The bicyclist that was out there and killed by the Sentra, could've actually been me.

I know that there have been many fatalities for people on bikes as reported by that Biking in LA;  it's tragic.  Every single killing is tragic.  It feels like there's something wrong when in news cycles, public discourse, and just our society and world in general when its easy to dismiss and ultimately forget about the death.  Its an accepted reality;  an incident we just kind of tolerate and take as normal, so that we may move on with our day-to-day lives.  It's like there's an utter disregard for life, usually because we don't know the person, what they were about.

Sometimes reading about fatalities and incidents on BikinginLA is like reading The LA Times Homicide Blog where you just read a bit about the person's life and ensuing tragedy that followed.

The tragedies in the Homicide Blog usually happen to marginalized, invisible people --- brown and black people --- usually somewhere in South LA, between South LA and Long Beach, or somewhere in Boyle Heights, or in the Mid-Upper San Fernando Valley.  Because the tragedy happens to marginalized, invisible people, the issue is marginalized and invisible.  They don't affect me because they don't directly implicate me or any of the categories I have been identified with or that I willingly actively identify with (However, just because I don't belong to those social categories of those marginalized and invisible people shouldn't de-value those lives).

Biking is done by people of all walks of life in every area of LA.  Biking as a means of transportation is marginalized and invisible;  most people travel by automobile or public transportation.  I guess a few things need to happen to curb this accepted reality:

  1. Biking needs to enter the reality and daily living of the majority of the lives of Angelenos.
  2. Ordinary and marginalized people need to become celebrities.  That is, we should know more about their trajectories in life so that readers identify a lot more with these people.  These reports of reports of these deaths need to talk about these people's lives, knowing about who they are, what they went through.
  3. The streets need to become less like "obstacle courses" that people navigate and rush through;  instead, they should become more like destinations in themselves that people can make meaning of and enjoy.  It seems like interactive maps can help with that.
Only then can these deaths can be less of an accepted reality.

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