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Cyclist responds to Portola Valley resident's Dec 6 letter
Original post made
by Lloyd Chambers, Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley,
on Dec 6, 2006
As a Portola Valley resident (Cherokee Way) and avid cyclist, I'd like to respond to Nancy Baglietto's letter in the Dec 6 Country Almanac.
First, I'm sorry to hear to that Mrs Baglietto was injured by the thrown water bottle. The responsible party was irresponsible.
From Mrs Baglietto's own description it is clear that her injury was an accident-no different in essence than any other accident on our roads, many of them far more severe. Mrs Baglietto seems to think that because it was caused by a cyclist it is particularly galling--as if injuries caused by a cyclist were any different than those due to a motorist. Her painful experience pales in comparison to the all-too-frequent *deaths* of cyclists on local roads by motorists wielding deadly weapons (vehicles).
One should ask whether a single individual's actions are sufficient justification for slandering a broad group of people. Mrs Baglietto chose to use the plural in describing cyclists as "marauders", who are "hostile", "inconsiderate" and "negligent". Characterizing an entire group that way goes beyond speech suitable for public discourse, to a self-indulgent form of hate speech which should be offensive to any fair-minded person. Unlike our neighboring city, Portola Valley has largely been spared such blatant bigotry.
Mrs. Baglietto, you owe me (and the cycling community) an apology. I am not responsible for your injuries, and I am courteous, cautious and considerate of pedestrians, equestrians, motorists and fellow cyclists. My water bottle is for drinking, and I almost never ride in a group.
I have had a number of negative experiences with vehicles while cycling. I've been hit, I've been cut off where a closer call would have been fatal, and many other simply annoying things. Neighbors do it to me. Physicians do it to me. Soccer moms in Suburbans on cell phones do it to me. I refer to *specific* incidents. But I don't castigate physicians, neighbors, soccer moms or Suburban drivers as a group--individuals are responsible for their actions, not a group.
Posted by Lloyd Chambers
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Dec 12, 2006 at 11:10 pm
One of the above posters comments on the California Vehicular Code. I follow it, both as a courtesy to others, and as a practical and reasonable guideline. But no law has any moral basis to require someone to endanger his or her own life--let me relate some incidents, and a conversation I had with a CHP officer recently.
This fall, I had just been passed on Skyline Blvd (cycling alone) by a pickup truck that blew by me, speeding, on a double yellow blind curveeerily similar to when I was hit in May of 2005 by a pickup under exactly the same conditions (the Woodside electrician mentioned above, and in my blog).
I approached the CHP officer, who was parked at the intersection of Skyline and 84, and described this 5-minute-old incident to him. He could barely be bothered to look up from his radar gun, but as I persisted, he produced some words of wisdom (none of which showed any concern whatsoever for the dangerous driver who had passed me--zero feedback on that).
His main point to me was that I needed to ride to the right of the white line. I pointed to the white line on the road ahead, with its crumbling pavement to the right of the line, scattered debris here and there, and of course *no* pavement at all in places. He didn't get it.
In other words, I should somehow exert superhuman ability to place my bicycle in the 0-18 inch cracked, debris-strewn strip to the right of the white line, all while riding at speeds up to 40 mph.
No reasonable person who has ever ridden a bicycle could read the California Vehicular Code, look at the road conditions along much of Skyline, and come to the conclusion disgorged by that CHP officer. Yet these are the "protect and serve" folks we pay to make our roads safe.
There is an old saying: "never judge a person until you have walked a mile in his moccasins" (paraphrased).
Well, to all those who have never ridden a bicycle with motorists who deliberately pass by very close, honk or yell as they pass, accelerate hard just as they pass, turn directly in front, or just plain hit you--get off your high horse (literally in some cases), and ride a bike for a month or two, and see if your viewpoint might just moderate a bit.
My neighbor passed me on Mountain Home Road not long ago (distinct plates, no doubt whatsoever). I was doing about 22mph in a 25mph zone. Accelerating hard with nary a pause, the Mercedes SUV executed the illegal and dangerous pass and immediately encountered an oncoming vehicle, forcing the SUV quickly back to the right just in front of me. The driver then braked hard for the stop sign 100 yards down the road.
I wasn't blocking the road. I was far to the right. I was doing nearly the legal limit, and would have been over it in short order. The motorist had neither been blocked nor had waited for even a second before passing. How is that different from a cement or gardening truck blocking a motorist; is it thus justified to speed, pass on a double yellow and on a blind corner to boot? What gives a driver the right to put my LIFE at risk in such a manner? Who can reasonably equate that type of behavior to the inconvenience of a pack of cyclists causing a delay?
I don't like packs of cyclists blocking the road either; I've been behind them in my vehicle before. That behavior needs to stop, but it's NOT my responsibility as a solo cyclist to make them stop, any more than it's my responsibility to get drunken drivers off the road because I drive!
Being annoyed at a pack of cyclists does NOT grant me the moral or legal authority to risk the life of others should I screw up and hit one of them, or pass at the wrong time, maybe killing several. The motorist has a deadly weapon, and the cyclist is due some deference for no more reason than the life of every human being is valuable.
That is the key principle being forgotten here: the cyclist is the one by far who's life is most at risk, but it is the *motorist* who rolls the dice on injury or death.
Any motorist foolish enough to execute an unsafe pass of a pack of cyclists, a cement truck, etc, has no moral or legal justification for doing so. Yes, it's annoying to drive behind Pasco Sam. Or a pack of cyclists. We all get annoyed, but some people pull out a gun and shoot people when they do. Some people kill cyclists. There is no difference in the end--that person is dead and all who know them are left with a void in their lives lasting far longer than annoyance.