Accident? What accident? Whose accident?

If you are on a bike and you get hit by a car, we say you were ‘tragically killed in a cycling accident’. However, if you are walking along and you get hit by a car, we do not say that you were tragically killed in a walking accident. Framing, eh?

4 replies on “Accident? What accident? Whose accident?”

you’re right. what often happens is that people say “she was killed in a hit and run” putting all the responsibility for the accident on the driver, not the walker. whereas “cycling accident” suggests that somehow the cyclist bears some culpability for being stupid enough to cycle the busy streets of collingham* in the first place.

*please enter your own home town. not many cars in my village but there are a couple of stray dogs…

I think this is a question of where cyclists fall [poor choice of words] on the continuum between pedestrians and drivers. When I’m on a bike, I feel more like a speedy pedestrian than like the driver of a vehicle (just because everything around me is vastly bigger, heavier, and (in light traffic) faster than I am). On the other hand, when I’m a pedestrian, bikes are just another wheeled metal thing that can kill me if I don’t look carefully before crossing the street. So while I agree that the ‘tragic cycling accident’ frame mendaciously shifts blame onto the cyclist, I’m also not sure that the cyclist=pedestrian analogy quite holds up.

Incidentally, I think the words ‘tragic’ and ‘tragically’ should never be used as modifiers unless one is writing about theatre. I am no more moved when I read about somebody’s ‘tragic death’ than when I read about somebody’s ‘death’. I think it tends to make the speaker/writer sound insincere, like a mafia hitman at a funeral who mumbles to the wife of the deceased ‘I’m sorry for your tragic loss’, knowing full well that he was the one who put the cement boots on her late husband.

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