Yesterday, as a friend and I drove to a book club meeting on the other side of town, we passed this chilling scene: police vehicles blocking the opposite lanes of Sunrise Drive, crumpled bicycles, and two blanket-covered bodies, one on the road and one on the sidewalk (they had apparently been removed when the above photo was taken by a local news channel).
We came upon the accident at 12:45 PM and assumed it must have just happened. When we drove home two hours later, police were still blocking the road and directing traffic onto a detour. That evening this popped up on Google News: Husband, wife killed while riding their bikes in Tucson’s Catalina Foothills.
Sunrise Drive is one of Tucson’s major east/west connectors, a divided multi-lane road with curbside bike lanes in both directions. Donna and I have ridden those bike lanes, which though not protected are wide and well-marked (although, as you can see in the photo, there’s some road resurfacing going on and the lane markers are hard to see). Not that bike lanes are ever much help, at least unprotected ones — bicyclists riding in them get mowed down all the time. Not just here in Tucson but everywhere.
Hit & run? Hey, it’s Tucson. Do you even have to ask? They got the bastard, at least.
Here’s what I’m wondering, though. According to the news, the couple was run down and killed at 9:45 AM. Why were the victims’ bodies still there when my friend and I drove by three hours later? Like, just how important was it to leave the bodies in place while they photographed skid marks and measured distances and angles? What was to investigate? The police knew what had happened almost as soon as they responded. There were plenty of witnesses. The hit & run driver was in custody. What possible purpose could have been served by leaving the victims’ bodies where they fell for three hours?
I don’t care about the road blockage, although I freely admit that in the past I’ve complained about the highway patrol’s hair-trigger tendency to close the freeway between Tucson and Phoenix for hours at a time while they “investigate” easily-solved, easily-cleared accidents. Those times I was personally inconvenienced, and that simply cannot stand. This time I wasn’t. There were plenty of side roads in addition to the official detour, which is not the case with the freeway.
No, it’s the idea that if it had been Donna and me, the cops would have left our bodies in the road for hours, as if we were no more important than shards of glass from the headlight of the car that ran us down.
Remember Ferguson? Where, in 2015, a cop shot a teenager named Michael Brown and the authorities left the body in the street for four and a half hours? I can’t help thinking that law enforcement’s callous treatment of that young man’s body was one of the major causes of the protests and unrest that followed.
That is what’s on my mind this morning. That, and wondering how many more Tucson bicyclists will be killed before we get protected bike lanes?
© 2022, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.