Whatever Happened To Reporting On Barbara Pagano?

Background Reading


Barbara Pagano Courtesy of Glueckert Funeral Home

Barbara Pagano
Courtesy of Glueckert Funeral Home

It’s been a month or more now and I have yet to read a single article in the StreetsBlog CHI blog that even mentions the death of Barbara Pagano at the hands of a youthful cyclist on a multi-use trail at Lake Arlington. You can simply search for her name using their installed blog search widget. Why would that be? The Daily Herald saw fit to cover the death with at least three articles. But not a single entry from the StreetsBlog folks, why?

My guess is that there will be some justification for this spun by their staff that includes such excuses as:

  • It did not happen on a street and we cover only ‘street material‘.
  • Nobody from the Urban Cycling Community knew her so why bother.

We the reason to bother is because it is first of all newsworthy. There are issues here that at the very least extend to how cyclists are to interact with pedestrians and other forms of travel on MUPs. The Daily Herald Board indeed addressed the death in this fashion, which I think is entirely appropriate. After all the rules that govern MUP use could also be seen to apply or at least be applicable to dealings between cyclists in a Protected Bike Lane or cyclists and joggers, motorized wheelchair users and more.

What is not appropriate is to simply ignore the death altogether. But that is probably the plan since it involves a cyclist who struck and killed a pedestrian. And the general blather from the Urban Cyclist Community is that Cars Kill, Bicycles Don’t. Of course the recent judgment in San Francisco has helped put the lie to this Urban Myth.

But isn’t StreetsBlog supposed to be a news source? And certainly it cannot hope to be considered a serious one by placing its head in the virtual sand and claiming that unless a death occurs on Chicago Streets it has not value to them as a story. But sometimes it is clear that even news outlets can hope to shape the Urban Cyclist Narrative by doing little more than not reporting the news.

In fact let me go so far as to say that Alex Wilson (interviewed on the tape below and identified as a longtime friend of the rider killed in a Chicago Alleycat Race) has opened up the conversation in a way that I know he did not intend. He makes the oft-repeated assertion (3:48 in the video) that Cars Kill, Bicycle Don’t. But he goes on to embellish this lie with the notion that society does not have laws that reflect the liability of the various modes of transportation.

He says it is doubtful that if you are hit by a bicycle you will even go to the hospital, but when struck by an SUV there is a very good chance that you are going to be killed.

Now since we know this is no longer true even in the legal sense, should we not expect laws to do exactly what Mr. Wilson desires, reflect their relative liabilities. Should bicycles that strike pedestrians be held to as high a standard as would an automobile driver (since we now know that both can kill?) My guess is that Mr. Wilson would probably want a ‘do-over‘ regarding his interview if it were possible. Given the likelihood that you can be killed on a MUP by an 11-year old cyclist it is high time that we take the seriousness of bicycle handling to another level. These are not just toys (as Urban Cyclists keep reminding us) we now know that they are lethal weapons. And the potential for harm that they represent should be as Mr. Wilson says reflected in law. And surely that is enough reason for the folks at StreetsBlog to get off their collected asses and report on this woman’s death.