Big bike rides exacerbate cyclist/motorist tensions
Original post made by Renee Batti 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.
on Jan 3, 2007 at 6:12 am
This is a "community policing" problem. For the life of me, I can't figure out why the San Mateo County Sheriff hasn't taken a lead role in solving this issue.
Did the original victim report the assault with a deadly weapon (full water bottle to the head at 20+ MPH)? If so, it should have been pursued and the suspect held to account for his crime. Apparently, there were more than a few witnesses.
And, even if that crime was not reported, the Sheriff and / or CHP should get on top of this issue. There may be some confusion over jurisdiction. The CHP enforces vehicle code violations in the unincorporated areas. The Portola Valley and Woodside City Councils could invite both organizations' leaders to their next meeting to speak about their plans to fix this problem.
I'm not sure where the answer lies, but one solution is clearly a zero tolerance enforcement of the vehicle code upon bicyclists and vehicles who choose to ignore the law. I would flood the area with a task force of CHP and Sheriff Office patrol vehicles and start writing citations. Lots of them.
on Jan 3, 2007 at 4:54 pm
I've heard that cyclists in a large group will intentionally wear similarly colored clothes so that cops following them will have trouble identifying which one went through a stop sign or whatever.
If this is true, it would only reinforce the outlaw sensibility that cyclists seem to adopt when in large groups. It's not as if they are out to break laws that might end up endangering others, but that they are above the law.
A school of fish or flock of birds might be said to have whimsy in the choice of where to go next. Maybe that behavior is latent in us and shows up when a group of people ride bikes together.
on Jan 4, 2007 at 5:37 am
Bicyclists coordinating their efforts to break the law by dressing uniformly to prevent identification is also a crime -- conspiracy -- though I doubt the District Attorney would charge.
You bring up a good point. In addition to the obvious Vehicle Code violations, there are other less known laws that could be put into play:
If the officer has reason to believe that the person will continue to break the law despite the agreement to appear (also known as a citation), he can take the person to jail.
Bicyclists have been known to lie about their name, address, etc. Pedestrians do this too. They don't have to carry driver licenses. Providing false information to an Officer is a misdemeanor. The officer can book a person into jail if a person commits a misdemeanor in his presence.
If the officer can not adequately establish the person's identity, then suspect can be taken to jail until such time as the true identity can be determined.
In my opinion, it's time to be "hard nosed" until the people in the community - bicyclists, drivers, and pedestrians - get the message that they must obey the law. That would certainly include some citations, but it might also include free rides to the County Jail ...