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Does The Media Skew Perceptions Of Pedestrian And Cyclist Victims?

Bicyclists are subject to many of the same traffic laws as those driving motor vehicles. They are required to ride with the direction of traffic, obey traffic signals, and stay in designated lanes where applicable. Like motorists, bicyclists are prohibited from wearing earphones in each ear while cycling. They are also prohibited in many cases from riding their bicycle on the sidewalk. These laws are generally in place to protect cyclists, but motorists are often cautioned to cede right of way to both pedestrians and bicyclists. Despite these precautions, when accidents happen, activists say that the media and police are often guilty of victim-blaming, as the Gothamist reports.

When 27-year-old Sarah Foster, a middle school teacher, was run over and killed by the driver of an oil truck last month, the anguish didn’t stop at the news of the accident that killed her.

Many of her friends and family claimed that their anguish was multiplied by reading about the crash in the paper. The New York Post quoted “unnamed police sources” stating that Foster was wearing both a hood and earphones at the time of her death. This claim led some of Foster’s friends and family to believe that she was somehow responsible for her own death.

These accounts weren’t incorrect in Foster’s case, but there have been times when both police reports and media accounts are later disproven.

Such an example is the case of Lauren Davis, who was struck and killed while biking to work in Brooklyn. Unnamed police sources told the press that Davis was biking against traffic at the time of the accident. Months of investigation and searching for witnesses later proved that Davis had been biking with traffic.

Advocates say that media outlets are often pressured by deadlines. They say that journalists should at least be required to name their sources. Another suggestion is that police officers should not comment while an incident is still under investigation.

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