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Acts of God

June 17, 2012

Queens Courier:

A cyclist was killed in Queens yesterday after colliding with an open door of a parked car.

New York Post:

A circus worker died in freak bicycle accident yesterday when he slammed into an open car door on a Queens street and was impaled on his bike’s handlebars, sources said.

The man, in his early 30s, peddled into the driver’s-side door of a parked Toyota Camry on Union Turnpike Fresh Meadows at around 8:10 p.m., police said.

Read these reports and you’d think cyclists are in the habit of running into stationary objects and impaling themselves on their own handlebars. One story barely mentions a driver at all and the other says that the cyclist “peddled into the driver’s-side door of a parked Toyota Camry,” leaving the casual reader with the impression that the cyclist hit a curbside vehicle like an idiot. When no actors other than the victim are identified in a story, then there’s no need to question why “no criminality is suspected.” It’s the Darwin Awards, plain and simple.

The Queens Courier is, at best, a benign example of passive act-of-God style of writing; the door was not opened by anyone but was merely “open.” The Post story, however, simultaneously puts the blame on the cyclist (he “slammed into an open car door”) and on random circumstance (a “freak bicycle accident”) leaving the cynic to think there is an actual editorial policy in place at our city’s tabloids to never, even in the case of a clear violation of traffic law, give the impression that a motorist might have some responsibility for what happens in or around his vehicle.

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