Looking Long-Term at the Motorist v. Cyclists Incident on NM-41

Discussion and outrage continues regarding the recent incident between motorist Jacob Brown and several members of the Seniors on Bikes riding group on NM-41 that resulted in grievous injury to one cyclist and broken bones and such to several others.

You’ve probably already read the Santa Fe New Mexican account of Wednesday’s Santa Fe City Council meeting, at which many cyclists urged more action to protect non-motorized roadway users. Perhaps you’ve also read the Albuquerque Journal editorial by Bike Santa Fe President Gary Schiffmiller outlining concerns raised by media reports on the incident investigation, particularly the admission by Mr. Brown of not only stopping in front of the riding group, but reversing toward and, possibly, into them.

Mr. Schiffmiller’s essay includes a call for next steps by Santa Fe County Sheriff Robert Garcia and First Judicial District Attorney Marco Serna:

1. Lead, by example, other law enforcement agencies and prosecutors in applying the law fully and fairly.

2. Educate the public that cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as all other vehicle operators on public roads. They have the right to be on the road, just as any other road user, without willful endangerment, encroachment, or harassment, and must be accommodated as any other slow-moving vehicle (e.g., a backhoe or tractor).

Better Burque has nothing to add to these very well stated points, only commendation for Mr. Schiffmiller’s work and the attendance/statements by the 50 or so cyclists reported to have been at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. As noted, both Sheriff Garcia and District Attorney Serna have tough jobs, and their leadership in this matter will be vital.

Important too is the ongoing legislative work to strengthen traffic laws protecting non-motorized travel and better matching legal penalties to the dangers presented by drivers like, by all accounts including his own, Mr. Brown. As has been true on so many fronts, the Martinez Administration has been a seven-year black hole of inertia and/or regression on the issue of biking/walking safety throughout the State.

The time is now to prepare for changes to come in 2019, first by making sure those changes take place via election of leaders not only cognizant of the situation, but also willing and eager to act in correcting it. Second, those new leaders need support in terms of crafting and advocating legislation, such as a statewide Complete Streets program and stiffer/clearer penalties for violators.

It is another one of those quirks in human nature that tends to have us rally behind issues only immediately surrounding times of incidents like that on NM-41. While the time to act is now, that time will extend well beyond resolution of what charges are brought against Mr. Brown. Let’s be there for those healing now, and let’s be there for the long haul as well.

3 thoughts on “Looking Long-Term at the Motorist v. Cyclists Incident on NM-41

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