Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Matt Writes a Letter

In today's Saint Paul Pioneer-Press, Bob Sansevere, one of the sports columnists, makes the following observations about cyclists under the headline "Lance wannabes hog roads".

A few things: It is exciting that Lance Armstrong won his seventh straight Tour de France. It's especially exciting that he's retiring from cycling. Now maybe there will be fewer bicyclists crowding our streets and ignoring the rules of the road.

While it is massively impressive that Armstrong overcame cancer to win a record number of Tour de France titles, I hold him directly responsible for the surge in scofflaw bicyclists.

All those Tour de France victories ramped up interest in cycling, and I'm hoping now that he's retiring a lot of the law-breaking Lance wannabes will put their bikes up for sale on eBay.

There are plenty of law-abiding bicycle riders out there, and I have no gripe with them when they stop at stop signs and don't go pedaling through red lights.

The problem is, there are far too many SOBs (Spandex-Obsessed Bicyclists) who think they own whatever road they're on.

And it's not usually someone riding a Schwinn or Huffy. It's often the SOBs on their sleek Armstrongesque racing bikes.

Truthfully, I find it annoying when cyclists (and drivers) flaunt traffic laws as well, and am personally fairly scrupulous about riding in a law-abiding fashion. Even so, I wrote a letter to the editor. This will not get published as it runs 286 words and the limit is 200, but I figured I'd run it here for all six of my readers (Hi Liz!).

It was with considerable amusement that I read Bob Sansevere's comments on scofflaw bicyclists hogging the roads. I hadn't previously realized that our traffic congestion was caused by Lance Armstrong wannabes. And scofflaws, my goodness, how can we innocent motorists in our 3,000-lb. vehicles possibly deal with those outlaws on their 30-lb. bikes?


Running stop signs? Have you ever watched cars at stop signs? If there's no opposing traffic, cars hardly ever stop. Just watch the wheels, see if they stop turning.

Running red lights? Not like those innocent lambs in automobiles, 4,400 of whom were caught running red lights in just 30 days and 12 intersections in Minneapolis's test of the Stop On Red traffic camera system in June. It's reassuring to know that fourteen police cars, an animal control vehicle and a fire department SUV were among the harvest.

Law-Abiding Motorists? Just for a day, just once, try driving the posted speed limit on all the roads you drive all day long. I predict that many people will enthusiastically communicate with you!

I don't condone blasting through red lights and stop signs on a bike or in a car, but hoping that all those road-hogging scofflaw cyclists will now go away so that traffic can once again run free as nature intended is just silly. You should worry more about those scofflaw motorists. Every year we kill more than 42,000 people in auto accidents in this country, 567 last year just in Minnesota. Do you hold NASCAR directly responsible for this? Or is that just the regrettable but necessary cost of convenient transportation? Sharing the road with a smattering of bicycles should be the least of your worries.

It is funny that he uses the word scofflaw when I'd just used it to describe myself and my investigation of the Intercampus Transitway and then the pedestrian side of the Washington Street bridge. I don't expect this letter to get published due to its excessive length, so figured I'd run it here.

Funnily enough, in terms of speeding, I got the weekly New York Times "Drive Times" email, all cars, and there's an article there by Joe Queenan titled "Honk if you Hate Me" in which he relates driving just the speed limit for many months and the abuse, scorn and hatred that engendered. You can read the article here but you may have to register (it's free).

That's what bothers me, I guess, this double-standard, that cyclists by God have to stop at every damn stop sign and let's see that foot go down mister and never ever ever run a red light while cars blithely sail through stop signs all the time, speed constantly, run red lights literally by the thousands and kill, on average, 116 people a day. Lance wannabes in spandex aren't the problem here.

Time for me to ride home. I think I get a tailwind tonight oh boy.


The Donut Guy said...

Amen brotha.

I ride road and I see so many motor vehicle violaters out there-I couldn't keep track of them if I wanted to.

(One of your 6 readers)

Nathan said...

Oh, I have so many thoughts in my head right now but all I can get out is: Thank you for sending the letter in.

Yokota Fritz said...

That's a great letter. You might be interested in Velorution's discussion of enforcement. I also quoted you extensively in an article about law-breaking cyclists in my blog.

Nathan said...

They ran three letters in yesterday's paper. None were yours. Too bad, too - I thought yours said it all very well.