The Electric Commentary

Monday, July 19, 2004

Update: Riders vs. Rednecks in Dane County

Some friends of mine heard a local radio dj badmouthing me on the radio on Saturday in response to a letter to the editor I wrote to the Wisconsin State Journal.  The letter, as it was when I wrote it, appears below.  What was actually printed is italicized.  Why would they even print it if they are going to remove the meat of the arguement?
I am writing in response to the article, “Bike riders are raising some hackles” in Tuesday’s issue.  I am extremely troubled by the one-sidedness of both the article and the Vermont town meeting it described.  I attended the meeting and was unimpressed and fairly unmoved by the array of anecdotal sob-stories told by the residents of the townships of Vermont, Black Earth and others.  Many residents spoke of incidents in which they were unable to pass a cyclist on a county road or when they got “flipped off” by a cyclist.  The article quoted resident Steve Aeschlimann as saying that "Just about every night I've got to deal with the bikers." 
Just about every night I have to deal with reckless, angry motorists in these small towns.  They yell.  They honk their horns.  They swear and make rude gestures.  They pass entirely too close.  Everyone that rides has experienced this and the vast majority of the time it is completely unwarranted. 
At the meeting I was amazed by how politicians, even at this level discussing an issue this minor, can be such ideologues.  They seemed so unsympathetic and irrational I couldn’t believe it.  One of the town leaders suggested “banning bike racing.”  And why?  Because he couldn’t get his mail for one day.  Maybe we should ban Christmas too. 
Another one of the town leaders suggested forcing cyclists to wear license plates so that they can report riders that break the law.  Besides being completely impractical due to the limited resources of the county sheriff’s department this would also carry a big potential for abuse.  If the sheriff’s department had the power to issue a citation or take any real action based completely on the uncorroborated accusations of the same townspeople that yell and honk and swear and pass us entirely too close, some of the townspeople will abuse it.  Many of them seem to detest cyclists, even those that abide by the law, and would use whatever method you give them to get the cyclists off of the roads that they are equally entitled to use under the law.
The truth is that there are cyclists that break the law and ride recklessly and there are motorists that do the same.  This is already against the law.  The best solution to this problem is just being careful.


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