My community suffered an unspeakable loss on Monday night, when Allie Hart, age 5, was biking on a crosswalk behind her Dad. A DC Connect van only saw her father, and not her. She succumbed to her injuries on the scene. Her death is one of many cyclists and pedestrians deaths this year at the hands of drivers. Most of these aren’t intentional deaths, caused by people who actively want to run people over. They’re caused by people who are careless, who aren’t paying attention, and happen to be encased in two tons of Detroit or Hermosillo steel.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this subject because it’s keeping me up at night. I bike with Charlie often, he rides on the back of our e-bike, or on his little bike when he feels up to it, but mostly he rides with me. Two weeks ago, as we went to school, a driver who wasn’t paying attention pulled into traffic, almost on top of me. I screamed. She stopped. It was half a second from me being severely injured or killed, along with my son.
We tolerate so, so, so much negative behavior from our systems. No, worse than that, we’re excusing negative behavior because it represents a status quo we’re not willing to upset. We nurture, intentionally or otherwise, outcomes by pretending that if we just acted slightly differently, those outcomes wouldn’t exist.
That’s not how systems work.
Systems can produce negative results, but systems can be altered to account for a negative result.
In IT, if a system is producing data loss, it can be altered to make backups, store multiple copies, or have redundant features. We file bug reports with vendors, we file bug reports against our own processes, we work to make changes in increments to resolve the issue. It doesn’t always fix it the first time, but these processes iterate and change.
Our city has a flaw – one could argue our whole nation does – and it’s too reliant on cars, too congested with them, and entirely too willing to tolerate road deaths, like Allie Hart, as black swans.
What are you tolerating in your own life that’s clearly the negative outcome of a system that you can influence? What are you letting slide in favor of the status quo that’s absolutely making your life, and the lives of others, worse?
It’s time to change the system and deal with it. This far, no further. Draw lines. Make changes.