Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on October 23rd, 2007 at 2:37 pm
[This is a guest article by Greg Raisman. Greg is a Traffic Safety Program Specialist with the Community and School Traffic Safety Partnership at the Portland Office of Transportation. I have worked closely with him on many issues over the years and I have never met anyone more committed or who worked harder to turn their passion and expertise into real, positive change. I hope his personal story and call for action helps move us all forward.]
Too many people have been touched by tragic bicycle crashes. We must renew our vigilance to work together to make our roads as safe as possible and our resolve to operate our vehicles in a way that reduces our chance of having a crash.
Each of these is harsh. There’s always a huge web of pain. There’s always a heightened amount of fear. There’s always hope that it will bring something good. Let me give you a personal view of one crash.
I’m part of the circle of people who know all too well how painful these tragedies are. This February will mark ten years since I learned that harsh and sudden lesson. I was playing racquetball when two friends came to take me to the hospital because my roommate had been in a “bad accident.”
It turned out that Don was hit about a block away from home – by two cars. He was so disfigured that I had to take a photo of him to the hospital so the nurses could see what he looked like. We were in Indiana and his family lived in Colorado. So, I took care of Don’s needs until his family arrived more than a day later.
“Speaking from experience, I can tell you that you can do something to make our streets safer.”
What a terrible day. When I first saw Don, it really didn’t matter if he was on his bike, walking or in his car. The fact was that he was another traffic crash victim. I stayed in the waiting room for a while, greeting our friends as they arrived. They had lots of questions and talking a little before going into the room seemed to help. I had to go through his address book and call his other friends that I knew he was keeping in touch with.
His family arrived and had the conversation with the hospital about turning off life support. I can’t imagine the pain involved with making the decision to stop the machines.
After Don died, I remained the contact point. When people die, hospitals stop giving out information. As the contact person, I received the call from the student who laid the lethal blow in the crash. His pain was something I’d never heard before. Then, I helped his mom pack his stuff.
I flew to Denver for the funeral, met his other circle of friends, his family, and I found a new resolve. After a lot of work on advocacy and activism for poverty, homelessness, and environmental issues I decided it was time to change my focus.
Speaking from experience, I can tell you that you can do something to make our streets safer. Volunteer. Start your own effort. Support funding efforts that provide the necessary resources. Attend every street project meeting you can. Join the huge network of people who are working hard to make Portland or the streets where you live safe and pleasant. Remember that as we increase safety for the most vulnerable roadway users, we increase safety for everyone.
Be the change.