It’s a very frustrating thing to be screamed at while riding a bicycle in the suburbs when I’m on the shoulder of the road and the asshole screaming at me is over in the passing lane. My bicycle, after all, is barely wider than I am, and it’s a statement about how impotent Buffalo drivers feel behind the steering wheel that they feel the need to yell at me while driving a full lane width across the road. No one is hiding anything by saying Buffalo is less than bicycle-friendly – although the city pays lip service to cycling through the sporadic placement of city racks and the occasional bicycle lane, this is still a place where the four-wheel-drive SUV is seen as less a penis extension than a viable method of getting around in high snows.
I never before realized the full extent of the contempt Buffalo has for cyclists and their brethren, like skateboarders and rollerbladers. Recently, a doctor named James Corasanti slammed his car into an 18-year-old named Alix Rice. Rice was dead within the hour, and Corasanti was nowhere to be found. It seems possible that Corasanti, whose head was slicked up by oil in alcohol form, was influenced by his drinking. But it doesn’t change a couple of things: The first is that Corasanti ran over Rice and went home before just randomly deciding that gee, he had perhaps better be at the scene, calling an ambulance or something. But he didn’t. He left, stayed home for an hour, and 91 minutes after the accident, his conscience finally got the better of him and he turned himself in. Corasanti was charged on manslaughter, evidence-tampering for supposedly removing blood and tissue from his Beamer and deleting text messages from his cell, leaving the scene of a fatal accident, DWI, and a few others.
What you need to know is that after the trial, he was cleared of all the really serious charges, even the ones that should have been slam dunks. With all the evidence and witnesses against him, the defense team worked a legal miracle, and the jury gave him his life and career back.
If Corasanti was found innocent by a jury of peers, it doesn’t say a whole lot about the status of skateboarders in this region. It says they believe skateboarders – and, by extension, rollerbladers and cyclists – are considered a nuisance and that Corasanti basically performed a public service. This is akin to the OJ Simpson trial, except this time there wasn’t a race card to hammer home, just a lot of contempt for people who aren’t working the controls of a speeding, out-of-control chromium death machine packing two tons of kinetic force. It’s one of cases where it’s makes one want to physically go into the courtroom and slap the jurors. Saying justice wasn’t done in this case is a gross understatement.
Now I wonder what would happen if the worst should ever come to fruition while I’m out on my bicycle, which is the only form of transportation I have in the bubble of suburban ignorance and contempt. I’m careful, but my part of the region doesn’t have so much as sidewalks. I don’t even cycle over some of the area’s bridges because they don’t have sidewalks, and the shoulders are dangerously narrow. Motorists in Chicago merely look at cyclists at some level between “nuisance” and “fact of life.” In Buffalo, cyclists are considered more of a straight-up insult to the manhood of anyone who drives a car. And apparently, now it’s okay to kill them by accident, which means people may take it as okay to do by “accident.”
James Corasanti should have been ruined and forced into some serious penance. What that jury did is inexcusable.