Hector Rapalo (shown at right) was killed over the Christmas holidays in Islip, NY while on a bicycle. There's not much to the story. The police report is here, and here's an editorial in the New York Times (from Jan. 11) that drew my attention to this particular incident. The editorial also mentions the cases of Santos Javier Ramos and Enrique Aguilar-Gamez. The editorial suggests that some of the hit-and-runs (and yes, there are multiple ones) are hate crimes. My general good-naturedness makes me want to doubt this, but then I went to this comments posting on the Ramos incident, and frankly, too many of the comments are pretty sickening in their xenophobia and racism.
The NYT editorial generalizes a little too much: it says, "Bicyclists and suburbs are an uneasy fit," with which I utterly disagree. More accurately, unskilled bicyclists and commuting are an uneasy fit, and it makes no difference your skin color or national origin, although (I submit) the economic status, access to Internet, and language barrier of Latino immigrants exacerbates the situation for them.
So, how can we make this situation better? I can think of several ideas, all of which are "unfunded mandates":
- An initiative on the part of the League of American Bicyclists to provide Spanish-language and/or bilingual versions of the "Road 1" course;
- Concurrent with (1) above, scholarships from HHS or INS to help legal immigrants (or for that matter, low-income Americans) to attend these classes;
- Since most of these bikes (I suspect) are $80-to-$100 models bought at Wal-Mart, I'd like to see Wal-Mart provide a certificate for a free or very low-cost ANSI-compliant helmet (nothing fancy, to be sure) for every bike sold;