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Ride of Silence for Natenom in Hamburg

Today the ADFC Hamburg organized a Ride of Silence for Andreas Mandalka, nickname Natenom, who was killed on the road on 30.01.2024.

Mandalka, who lived and died in the Pforzheim area, was hit from behind by a driver at high speed and died on the spot. He didn't have a chance.

Here in Hamburg there are similar memorial services with "die-ins" and ghostbikes several times a year. Cyclists are killed constantly here - which is unsurprising, considering Hamburg's car-centric traffic planning & transport politics, poor infrastructure, and on the motorists' side a mix of stress, impatience and contempt for other road users.

What makes Mandalka's killing special (I refuse to call it an accident for reasons cited below), and spawned dozens of spontaneous demonstrations and "rides of silence" across the country, is that he spent his life fighting for equal rights for cyclists, documenting dangerous spots, being mobbed by motorists (esp. through "punishment passes", a.k.a. being overtaken without due safety distance) - and repeatedly being ignored and dismissed by police and authorities in spite of his meticulous documentation.

He didn't ask for special treatment, he only insisted that existing traffic rules be enforced. He was mobbed and laughed at by the very institutions who were supposed to protect him - and in a twist of most cruel and bitter irony, he was finally killed on the same road about whose danger he had warned for years.

When the newspapers ran articles about Mandalka's death, there were hateful letters from readers claiming that he only got what was coming to him. - UPDATE: People who were at the "ride of silence" at the location in Pforzheim reported being harassed by passing drivers, and on the very next day after the ghostbike was erected, the memorial site was already vandalized.

There Are No Accidents

There is a brilliant podcast interview with author Jessie Singer who wrote the book "There Are No Accidents". After her dear friend was killed by a drunk driver, she began to research so-called accidents. She found out that contrary to the word, which implies a totally random event, "accidents" are not evenly distributed in the population. They disproportionately affect disadvantaged groups, such as people who are less well off, people of color, etc.

Singer suggests that "accidents" are not random, but the result of a system that puts underprivileged people at risk. The very word is a red herring to distract from the fact that these kind of risks are not god-given or force majeure, but a result of deliberate choices.

Who is to blame?

Singer makes it clear that putting blame on the individual perpetrators not only doesn't solve the problem, but actively prevents the necessary solution / correction on the systemic level.

Even though we are overwhelmed with grief and anger, we should do our best to direct our frustration at the politicans, authorities and institutions who perpetuate motorist supremacy, not at the motorists themselves.

"The system has failed them too", Singer says, and I believe there is a lot of wisdom in that.