Big bike rides exacerbate cyclist/motorist tensions
Original post made by Renee Batti, news editor of The Almanac, on Jan 2, 2007
I am appalled at Brian Peterson's piece printed in the Dec. 13 Almanac. He devotes paragraph after paragraph to defending his cycling club from blame, trying to paint Ms. Baglietto in a bad light for noting that the water bottle said Alto Velo on it.
Who cares whether or not it was one of the club members? It was a cyclist, and someone was hurt by a deliberate act. For some reason nobody seems to note that the water bottle was thrown hard enough to hit someone on the side of the road in the face, and it was, apparently, intended to hit a car. Is that somehow better than hitting a woman in the face? Is it fine to throw a water bottle at a car in anger?
Had it been a rock thrown by an inner-city teenager, somebody would probably be in jail right now. Had it been a bullet, even one shot in self-defense, would the innocent bystander be to blame?
I note John Higgins' letter in the same issue that says, "I'll prove it to you: ride your bike." Though the point is good, it misses the fact that most motorists don't hassle bicyclists, particularly those that are riding safely.
The cyclist/motorist tension has been growing in Portola Valley and the riders are defiant, not looking for a solution so much as making sure to take their rights directly into the middle of the road to make sure the point is made. Guess what? That irritates motorists, who then do something unsafe to make their point.
The problem is pretty localized to these morning rides and packs of cyclists, and the cars among which they ride. The point that is being missed is that these are the same motorists, and the same cyclists, day after day, and it's more like a playground fight than it is any deep-seated cultural problem.
I know that these letters from cyclists are written to try to underscore the very real problem that cyclists get harassed by drivers. Unfortunately, even though my sympathies are with cyclists more than motorists, the elitist, self-righteous "morning ride" crowd does more disservice to the sport than anything else.
It's hard to feel badly for poor Mr. Peterson who seems upset that someone should blame his group for an act committed by someone he and his cyclists just happened to be riding with, and probably knows by name. Somehow my sympathies are not with cyclists, but with Ms. Baglietto, the innocent bystander.
If only Mr. Peterson had ended his letter with his first sentence, where I was congratulating him in my mind, rather than being defensive and ending by demanding an apology from a 62-year-old woman who was hit in the face by a water bottle. Good grief. Maybe the Alto Velo club should boycott the morning ride to show that you do not condone such actions.