As we were walking to school this morning we saw a motorist run over a cat. The motorist didn’t stop and the cat was screaming in agony in the middle of the road. We gently picked her up and went door-knocking to find the owner. She was badly injured but still alive. A cyclist also witnessed it and stopped to help us knock on doors. The cyclist found the owner and I handed over the cat and told him to get her to a vet immediately. I hope she survives. Perhaps the motorist was late for work but Elizabeth had to get to school and I also had work this morning. There’s really no excuse.
I want to make one thing clear. It was a “motorist” who ran over the cat, not a car. When we blame cyclists for wrongdoings like running red lights or knocking over pedestrians we say, “Cyclist runs red light” rather than, “Bicycle runs red light”. In the first example, we’re blaming the cyclist, a human, while in the second we blame the bicycle, an object. It should be the same for motorists. Instead of saying, “Car runs red light” we should be consistent and say, “Motorist runs red light”. In this case, a motorist ran over – possibly killed – a cat and didn’t stop.
It’s not just when we talk about red lights that we have this inconsistency. When a cyclist hits a pedestrian the newspaper headlines always say, “Cyclist hits pedestrian” but when a motorist hits a pedestrian the headline reads, “Car hits pedestrian”. This is inconsistent and not fair. The cyclist is blamed but the motorist is not despite the fact motorists can inflict far greater harm on pedestrians than cyclists ever could.
Language is important and especially so in this situation because cyclists are already abused and vilified despite the benefits they bring to the economy, to our health, and to the environment. Everything we say about cars is a euphemism. We have car “accidents” or “collisions” but they are car crashes and the human drivers are usually at fault. We should say “Motorist crashes into pedestrians” rather than “Car collides with pedestrians”. We always avoid laying the blame on the motorist but there’s no hesitation to blame the cyclist when the situation is reversed. It’s hard to know just how much cars cost our economy but where crashes are concerned the total prevention costs from reported crashes (road accidents is the language used) was 16.5 billion British pounds in 2018.