In which I make the newspaper

From Speak Out, in our local paper:

Dangerous cycling

I’M CALLING about the bike rider who goes down Route W from Fruitland to Cape Girardeau every morning. He wears a helmet with a flashing red light on the back thinking this is sufficient for drivers going 50 mph to see him. For the past two days I’ve had to come to a complete stop because there was a car coming over a hill and this biker was not over far enough for me to get past him. I realize bike riders have the right to be on the road, but riding on Route W at this busy time is dangerous. I’m afraid some teenager like mine is not going to see this bike rider or know how to react.

I’M CALLING about the bike rider who goes down Route W from Fruitland to Cape Girardeau every morning. He wears a helmet with a flashing red light on the back thinking this is sufficient for drivers going 50 mph to see him.

Apparently you did.  By the way, there’s another, bigger red flashing light on the back of the bike.  And two flashing lights on the front, plus a headlight, plus reflective tape on the panniers. 
For the past two days I’ve had to come to a complete stop

You mean, slow down to bicycle speed — there is a difference, however small it may seem.

because there was a car coming over a hill and this biker was not over far enough for me to get past him.

Yes, I do like to keep on the pavement.  It’s not really the right bicycle for riding in the ditch.  So to summarize, what you don’t like is that you can’t pass me on a hill?  Why are you trying to pass on a hill?
I realize bike riders have the right to be on the road, but riding on Route W at this busy time is dangerous.

Right.  I’ve got the right to be on the road, but not one that goes where I need to go, or at a time when I need to get there.  And furthermore, in the typical busy morning about 10 cars pass me in the 8 miles I’m on W.  
I’m afraid some teenager like mine is not going to see this bike rider or know how to react.

Well, I hope you caution your teenager to watch out, then.  Cycling is dangerous, I’ll admit.  But who is it that makes it that way?

12 Responses to “In which I make the newspaper”

  1. Cabell says:

    Some asshole honked at me Sunday night for having the temerity to be riding on a fairly low-traffic road–most of which has a bike lane–with three flashing lights, a headlight, reflective tape, and giant reflectors on my panniers. I cannot believe it is illegal for me to have an airhorn.

  2. K says:

    Grrrr.

    Not even considering that he’s obviously in the wrong: how petty-minded is that, to write to the local newspaper over ONE bike?

    I suppose that’s a hidden bonus of biking in a city – there’s no way drivers are going to hold grudges against individual cyclists. Just the tribe in general. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever been honked at in Edinburgh. Oxford, yes, despite it being far more of a cyclist’s town.

    In this season J and I wear high-visibility waterproofs which are fluorescent yellow, so the cars have no excuse. I feel like a bit of an idiot when I’m not on the bike, and we have had the occasional wag shouting things like “Matching jackets!” at us from cars, but… dorkiness or death? I’ll take dorkiness.

    We also have lights; it’s illegal not to.

  3. Allen says:

    “Write to the local newspaper” — I didn’t make it clear that Speak Out prints anonymous comments that people call in on the phone. It’s the voice of the illiterate and cowardly, in other words.

  4. K says:

    So it’s basically like a phone-in radio show committed to print, then. How odd.

    I could have worked that out if I’d been paying attention.

  5. Allen says:

    And my literate and brave response via letter to the editor appeared today. My letter.

  6. Reno says:

    How incredibly reasonable of you. I was expecting a little more fire, though I think this letter was quite rhetorically savvy.

  7. K says:

    I think you were very reasonable too…

    Having now been back to look at the “Speak Out” thing (out of anthropological interest, and because I’m seriously procrastinating) I’m vaguely amused that the only two comments that mention bikes are “The guy has a right to bike on the road” and “Dangerous Cycling = Natural Selection!”

    Well, I suppose it’s true-ish, even if it doesn’t actually APPLY in this case.

  8. Marc says:

    I love the tractor reference in your letter! Having driven in rural Illinois, Missouri and Kansas a fair share, I can totally see this being a light bulb moment for some motorists.

  9. Allen says:

    Marc — Thanks for pointing that out. The more I think about it, the more I like the “tractor model” as a way to explain to people how they should drive around cyclists.

    Reno — “Rhetorically savvy!” High praise, especially from you.

    K — Yeah, I saw the “natural selection” comment too. It just points up the fact that selection winds up giving you short-term adaptation. Sure, right now killing all the cyclists looks like an improvement, but then when we run out of oil we’re going to need some cycling alleles again.

  10. reid says:

    The sons of bitches should come drive in the NW where tons of folks ride their bicycles to and from school and work. Bright LED lights bob this way and that at all dark hours (and in the rain) before your headlights catch the flourescent yellows, oranges and green.

    Hey, the sons of bitches should try to drive in Amsterdam, where more bicyclists than cages are on the road!

    Hey, Allan, Happy Birthday!!! Do you really want a multi-purpose knife/tool from Amazon???

  11. Allen says:

    Thanks, Reid! What I really want is to get my work done and go for a bike ride.

  12. reid says:

    Please forgive, me. I should have said Allen with an E, as in …Go for a bike ride to the Big E-Z. Good E-vening.

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