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Town Square

Cyclist responds to Portola Valley resident's Dec 6 letter

Original post made by Lloyd Chambers 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.

Lloyd Chambers
Web Link

Comments

Posted by Lloyd Chambers, a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Dec 6, 2006 at 6:33 pm

The correct web link (in the previous message) to my cycling page is: Web Link . The Blog link is where most material is to be found.


Posted by Lloyd Chambers, a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Dec 6, 2006 at 6:34 pm

Well, this page keeps translating my web link to a broken one. The link is "lloydchambers.com" followed by "bike".


Posted by George, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 8, 2006 at 9:12 am

I agree with you Mr. Chambers. No person should blame an entire group for the actions of one or a few. Under no circumstances is that acceptable.

With that being said, I must chime in on my experiences with cyclists. Most cyclists I encounter are disrespectful and flippant. I encounter many cyclists during various hours of the day and various days of the week. Just because a majority of the cyclists make me wish there was a ban on bicycles on automobile roads, there is no reason to judge an entire group.


Posted by Beep-beep yeah!, a resident of Woodside: Woodside Hills
on Dec 11, 2006 at 12:45 pm

Nancy Baglietto's comments are similar to ones I hear all the time, and they boil down to this: The obnoxious bike riders are so offensive that something needs to be done to prevent/deter/prohibit bicycles from the streets in my town.


The underlying assumption seems to be this: Roads are meant for cars, not bicycles, and if I have to alter my driving to accommodate a bicyclist, I am entitled to be morally outraged about it.

I never hear calls for banning vehicle traffic when a drunk, negligent or inattentive driver delays traffic by causing an accident.

Personally, I can work up a great deal of indignation over obnoxiously large SUVs. They endanger me by my blocking visibilty, they take up more than their share of parking spaces and they pollute the air to an inordinate degree.

I would suggest that irate bicycle-loathing drivers do what I do whenever I see someone driving a Hummer: silently judge the offending person for being a clueless, inconsiderate moron.


Posted by Pedestrian, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 11, 2006 at 10:56 pm

I'm neither an avid cyclist nor an SUV driver, but Baglietto's letter resonated with me. While it may be wrong to blame an entire group for the stupidity of one member (it was hardly an accident--the cyclist admitted that he was trying to hit someone with the bottle), it's pretty clear that a pack mentality often exists among cycling groups. I guess you all don't see yourselves as others do, but you put on your latex outfits and you become road warriors, unafraid to demonstrate your perceived superiority to the rest of us. Frankly, a lot of you are pretty obnoxious.

Beep Beep, pardon me for challenging your "underlying assumption," but I am happy to share the street with anyone who can obey the rules of the road. Cyclists who ride 3 and 4 abreast and weave in and out of lanes aren't abiding by those rules. They scream at drivers (heaven forfend a cyclist should have to alter his biking to accommodate a car that is making a legal turn) and seem to have no concept that the rest of us aren't evil people, just folks who have too little leisure time, too many passengers, or not enough macho esprit de corps to join your pack.


Posted by Pedestrian Also, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 12, 2006 at 4:37 pm

Bicyclists do take over Portola Road on the morning and noon rides. While they set a good example for regular exercise and fossil fuel-free transportation, the vehicle code clearly states where they are allowed to be.

21202. (a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:

... and it goes on to identify reasonable exceptions.

Encountering a pack of cyclists while in a car on Portola Road is both intimidating in its potential for a fatal mistake while trying to pass, and anger-producing in its potential for frustrating one's reasonable expectation to drive the speed limit.

The bottle-throwing incident in Portola Valley is an outgrowth of cyclists' aggression picked up in a situation that can't help but encourage it.

Maybe -- given the vehicle code -- the answer is that cyclists need to stop spreading out into the entire lane and just stay three abreast, at most. Nobody likes being disciplined, but maybe self-discipline is better than having one imposed by a dangerous situation.

How can you get angry enough to throw a water bottle if you take it upon yourself to avoid creating a dangerous situation?


Posted by Lloyd Chambers, a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Dec 12, 2006 at 9:56 pm

It is human nature, well known in pyschology, to remember the notable cases and not the other 9/10 ordinary ones, so I dismiss remarks such as "most cyclists are..." [fill in whatever bigoted remark you like, then replace "cyclists" with your any object that attracts ire]. People who use such a line of thought will apply it to any group that garners their disfavor. Dangerous thinking. [the following was written before I read today's Country Almanac, which chose not to publish my letter. It is available in my cycling blog at lloydchambers.com/bike/blog.html.] I've received some new information on the thrown water bottle incident in Portola Valley, in which a pedestrian was injured: A vehicle was in front of the cycling pack, deliberately driving all the way over to the right—against the guardrail in an act of intimidation. The bicyclist had enough and threw the water bottle. It bounced off the roof, smacking into the pedestrian. The rider who threw the bottle was not an Alto Velo rider, and it was not an Alto Velo ride. But two of the riders who stopped to help were Alto Velo riders. Some of the Alto Velo riders are concerned that the good work of their group is going to be overlooked, and that the incident might effect funding by a major sponsor. So it appears that the cyclist who threw the bottle quite probably was the victim of intimidation by a motorist with a deadly weapon (the vehicle). Given the number of recent "accidental" cyclist deaths caused by motorists in this area, the cyclist's reaction hardly seems surprising. Such acts ought to be felonies, subject to serious punishment. That last sentence was a test—if you agreed with it and thought I was referring to the cyclist, you need your head and (morals) examined. Nancy Baglietto's letter to the Almanac, which railed against all cyclists, has not only impugned the wrong people, but they might well suffer consequences for it. She should be doubly ashamed of her bigoted and ignorant words, and if she has any personal integrity, should immediately take steps to apologize to cyclists in general (with a follow-up letter), as well as contacting Alto Velo to ensure that they aren't unfairly treated for the actions of an unrelated cyclist. Our laws don't allow people to cry "fire!" in a crowded theatre. They don't allow people to aim even a fake gun at someone and pretend they're going to shoot them. They don't allow death threats even by email! What would you do if someone capable of killing you in an instant decided to physically remind you of that fact? I've experienced close calls while cycling which almost certainly were intentional (though impossible to prove)—and it's a chilling reminder of the callous attitudes of some individuals. I've been hit—by the same Woodside electrician who early this year had a road rage incident which resulted in a fatal heart attack of his "opppenent" (this is in the local papers, including the Almanac). Perhaps non-cyclists can somehow overcome their cognitive dissonance on the foregoing, and insist that intimidation with a vehicle is somehow different than with a gun—such people are dangerous and complicit. When a motorist chooses to use a vehicle in a threatening and intimidating matter (all too common), it is a criminal act, one nearly never pursued by the police, no doubt due to ignorant and callous attitudes of some of those posting above, who equate inconvenience with life-threatening behavior. The authorities are once again up to their usual laissez-faire sloppiness in ascertaining the real criminal behavior in such incidents (comments based on personal experience, see my blog for details). Why was the driver of the vehicle not tracked down for questioning and treated like the criminal s/he is?


Posted by Lloyd Chambers, a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Dec 12, 2006 at 9:59 pm

[repost, this forum software is full of bugs--it merged all the lines]

It is human nature, well known in pyschology, to remember the notable cases and not the other 9/10 ordinary ones, so I dismiss remarks such as "most cyclists are..." [fill in whatever bigoted remark you like, then replace "cyclists" with your any object that attracts ire]. People who use such a line of thought will apply it to any group that garners their disfavor. Dangerous thinking.

[the following was written before I read today's Country Almanac, which chose not to publish my letter. It is available in my cycling blog at lloydchambers.com/bike/blog.html.]

I've received some new information on the thrown water bottle incident in Portola Valley, in which a pedestrian was injured: A vehicle was in front of the cycling pack, deliberately driving all the way over to the right—against the guardrail in an act of intimidation. The bicyclist had enough and threw the water bottle. It bounced off the roof, smacking into the pedestrian.

The rider who threw the bottle was not an Alto Velo rider, and it was not an Alto Velo ride. But two of the riders who stopped to help were Alto Velo riders. Some of the Alto Velo riders are concerned that the good work of their group is going to be overlooked, and that the incident might effect funding by a major sponsor. So it appears that the cyclist who threw the bottle quite probably was the victim of intimidation by a motorist with a deadly weapon (the vehicle).

Given the number of recent "accidental" cyclist deaths caused by motorists in this area, the cyclist's reaction hardly seems surprising. Such acts ought to be felonies, subject to serious punishment. That last sentence was a test—if you agreed with it and thought I was referring to the cyclist, you need your head and (morals) examined.

Nancy Baglietto's letter to the Almanac, which railed against all cyclists, has not only impugned the wrong people, but they might well suffer consequences for it. She should be doubly ashamed of her bigoted and ignorant words, and if she has any personal integrity, should immediately take steps to apologize to cyclists in general (with a follow-up letter), as well as contacting Alto Velo to ensure that they aren't unfairly treated for the actions of an unrelated cyclist.

Our laws don't allow people to cry "fire!" in a crowded theatre. They don't allow people to aim even a fake gun at someone and pretend they're going to shoot them. They don't allow death threats even by email! What would you do if someone capable of killing you in an instant decided to physically remind you of that fact?

I've experienced close calls while cycling which almost certainly were intentional (though impossible to prove)—and it's a chilling reminder of the callous attitudes of some individuals. I've been hit—by the same Woodside electrician who early this year had a road rage incident which resulted in a fatal heart attack of his "opppenent" (this is in the local papers, including the Almanac).

Perhaps non-cyclists can somehow overcome their cognitive dissonance on the foregoing, and insist that intimidation with a vehicle is somehow different than with a gun—such people are dangerous and complicit. When a motorist chooses to use a vehicle in a threatening and intimidating matter (all too common), it is a criminal act, one nearly never pursued by the police, no doubt due to ignorant and callous attitudes of some of those posting above, who equate inconvenience with life-threatening acts of drivers.

The authorities are once again up to their usual laissez-faire sloppiness in ascertaining the real criminal behavior in such incidents (comments based on personal experience, see my blog for details). Why was the driver of the vehicle not tracked down for questioning and treated like the criminal s/he is, if in fact s/he was deliberately using the vehicle to harass the cyclists?


Posted by Lloyd Chambers, a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Dec 12, 2006 at 10:09 pm

The ignorance about cycling, and the pyschiatric problems it surfaces for some individuals is best evidenced by one of the above posters above who states:

"You put on your latex outfits and you become road warriors, unafraid to demonstrate your perceived superiority to the rest of us"

Latex is a material attractive to those into S&M and other kinky things (no offense to those enjoying such things, but they're not for me!). No cyclist would wear latex; the discomfort of sweating inside a rubber suit would be very unpleasant. Hilarious! One can't make this stuff up!

As for the "perceived superiority" comment--I'm not a trained psychiatrist--that personal inferiority complex will take more than I can handle. Or perhaps it explains why I favor riding when there are as *few* cars as possible on the road! Gotta love the logical beauty of such things.


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 curve—eerily 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.





Posted by Lloyd Chambers, a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Dec 12, 2006 at 11:19 pm

To follow up on the "latex suit" poster:

"I am happy to share the street with anyone who can obey the rules of the road".

I doubt it. There is nothing in the message that exhibits evidence of any empathy or caring about the life of fellow human beings. The message is clear, whether or not the letters 'n', 'o', 't' are included in the sentence.

It follows that with person(s) *not* following the rules of the road, all bets are off. Moral authority is thus granted for unsafe acts which might injure or kill someone. Such people will make it their business to teach the offending person(s) some "manners" by intimidation (proximity, horn, maximal acceleration just as they pass, etc). Perhaps this explains why the vehicle described in Nancy Baglietto's original letter was driving in front of the cycling pack nearly to the crash barrier--teach those "marauding" cyclists a lesson!


Posted by Joanne, a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline
on Dec 13, 2006 at 8:25 am

LLoyd, Skyline is a dangerous road for cars. Blind corners, deer, etc...

you have NO business riding on that road. You have NO business putting everyone in danger. If a byciclist chooses to use a road designed for cars, that person puts themselves at risk. Fine. People skydive and mountain climb. They accept it so whatever.

What is NOT cool is putting everyone else in danger. They are driving on a road designed for cars. If that car needs to follow the road at the posted speed limit, he or she must pass the inconsiderate bicyclist. If the car has to cross the yellow or double yellow line, then they put themselves ***AND*** any oncoming car at risk. Why? Oh, because a byciclist decided to go for a dangerous run.

If the white line doesn't exist or is in disrepair for a few parts, the byciclist has NO business riding on that road. Write to a politician to fix the road. Don't put everyone else in danger!


Posted by MP Cyclist, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Dec 13, 2006 at 10:58 am

Two things I would like to add...

I have been in a few near misses and I only ride with one other person- and always on the shoulder/bike lane. Please do not let your kids in the back roll down their windows and try to spook cyclists. In addition, if I am all the way in the bike lane/shoulder and the driver behind me feels the need to pass me like I am the size of a Suburban and take up the whole street, than that is their issue and not my fault that they have no depth perception.


Posted by Lloyd Chambers, a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Dec 14, 2006 at 9:17 am

The earlier poster is right in one regard--Skyline Blvd is dangerous. I have ceased to cycle on it except with great care when I need it to get through a longer route. And anytime after 10am on weekends is much too risky.

Previous poster states: "you have NO business riding on that road. You have NO business putting everyone in danger".

Wow. Let's all make sure we understand this--It's the cyclist who endangers the motorist when the motorist chooses to speed, makes an illegal pass on a double yellow on a blind curve or similar dangerous conditions...the motorist has *no choice* in the matter, a pass must be done regardless of safety, actual vs perceived delay, etc. And it's al the cyclist's fault for being there (one wonders about slow-moving vehicles).

"...but Officer, I had no choice--it was a cyclist, and everyone knows they have no business being there, so I have the right to kill them by 'accident' if they slow me down for a minute or two."

This is exactly how Thomas Maddox was killed July 12, 2006 Skyline--a driver chose to pass on a double-yellow blind curve, then veered back at the approach of a car-and fatally hit him (see Web Link). The accident occured 0.6 miles north of Skyline/84 intersection. Driving another 0.6 miles would have taken perhaps 30 seconds, but that was too long for the driver, a "Ms. Coxx".

What exactly makes the life of a fellow human being worth so little that drivers choose to take the risk? A lifetime destroyed, for a few seconds saved. It makes no sense at all.

SLOW MOVING CARS

One wonders what such people do when they encounter slow moving cars? The same logic must apply--those slow-moving motorists are endangering everyone, have no business being there, therefore a moral waiver has been granted to make an illegal and dangerous maneuver which might kill several people. Yeah, right.

When I was hit on Skyline, I was doing 36mph (data recorded). The Woodside electrician who hit me raced up at high speed and passed without delay, doing at least 55, probably faster. The speed limit was 45mph. Speed limits are the *maximum* under ideal conditions. So according to the earlier post, it was my fault for "endangering" the lunatic using Skyline as his personal race track, passing on a blind curve with double-yellow lines, etc. Me bad. BTW, I believe he was on meth, and that wasn't my fault either.

The previous poster seems to live in a brave new world, where the speed limit is studiously observed by model citizens driving it: "If that car needs to follow the road at the posted speed limit, he or she must pass the inconsiderate bicyclist". The driver "must" pass? At any cost, anywhere? Another moral imperative for negligence. Where is it written that failure to go exactly the speed limit is morally or legally wrong? Let's substitute the word "motorist" for "cyclist":

"If that car needs to follow the road at the posted speed limit, he or she must pass the inconsiderate motorist".

Now what? Shall we all write letters to the Almanac railing against such "inconsiderate" motorists? There are many of them on Skyline and 84--just try driving to the ocean on the weekend!

If a bicyclist is inconsiderate simply for not going the posted limit, what about motorists who drive under the limit? I encounter that frequently in my car, but I don't write letters to the Almanac railing against such drivers. I don't pass them on double-yellow. I don't pass on blind curves. I don't honk at them. I wait until it's safe, somewhat irritated, but I don't feel I have any moral justification for endangering them or myself or my passengers by making an idiotic pass. I do question their courtesay if they don't move over within a few minutes. Why can't cyclists be granted the same courtesy of a few minutes patience?



Posted by Rae Taylor, a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2007 at 6:09 am

I have yet to see a bicyclist share the road with motor vehicles in a courteous manner. I often see the bicyclist riding right on the outer white line of the bike path instead on in the bike path. Or sometimes two or three riding side by side instead of single file. Why? I know why I get angry about it. Because I DON'T want to hit a bicyclist or have to swirve to avoid an inconsiderate bicyclist and then end up hitting another car. Driver's that agree with me and get angry are really just wanting to know why so many (not all) bicyclists are such a nuisance on the road?