The word finally came on Friday. The motorist who struck and killed William Curry in Midtown three weeks ago will not face charges.
According to news reports, police interviewed the driver and eyewitnesses who said Curry was riding against traffic in the roadway and steered into the car’s path as he crossed against a red light when the driver was turning right on a green. Whether it was a factor in the collision is unknown, but police said he was also wearing “an iPhone headset,” which is against the law.
Some riders were frustrated, and have questioned the use of Curry’s GPS data in the investigation, saying—correctly—that the margin of error is too great for a GPS to determine whether Curry was on the sidewalk or in the street. The story I read gave no indication of whether police used the GPS data to determine anything more than his direction of travel. It could have been witnesses who convinced police that he was in the roadway.
My initial reaction on Friday was disappointment. When a cyclist dies, I want someone to pay. I want to know the police did a fair and thorough investigation. So I re-read the news story a couple of times. Was the investigation solid? I can’t say for sure. But I see nothing to indicate it wasn’t. It looks like Curry made a fatal mistake.
So why do those of us who commute on bikes often think we’d feel better if we knew a bicyclist died because the motorist did something wrong?
How would it be better if the driver had been drunk, malicious, or sending text messages instead of watching the road? Is that supposed to make us feel better?
Maybe it’s because we want to make sense of tragedy. Maybe we look for martyrs. Maybe a little part of each of us hopes that, if it ever happens to us, it won’t be for no reason.
Maybe we don’t want to think we could make the same mistake.
I’ve made that kind of error. The kind that could have killed me. I’ve found myself in the path of fast-moving cars after I misjudged speed or blew a judgment call because I was in a hurry and thinking about my arrival more than my survival. So far, I’ve always been lucky enough to accelerate fast and find an escape route. Some day, I might not.
If a motorist ever takes me out for the wrong reason, I hope the police nail him. But I’ll never take comfort in knowing a bicyclist died because a car driver made stupid mistakes. Because there’s no comfort in knowing careless, drunk or homicidal motorists are on the road.
It's dangerous enough out there already.