[*BCM*] Letters to the Editor from the Baltimore Sun
adam at rosi-kessel.org
Tue Jul 20 08:27:03 EDT 2004
A bunch of letters to the editor from the this Saturday's Baltimore Sun:
A mass of cyclists takes to city streets
In an article about Baltimore's monthly Critical Mass bicycle event, David
Brown, a spokesman for the city Department of Transportation, states that many
people see Baltimore as bike-friendly ("Bicyclists instigate a traffic jam with
a purpose," July 12).
As a bicycle commuter and local taxpayer, I frequently participate in
Critical Mass events because I have formed the opposite opinion about Baltimore
's regard for bicycles. Many streets (e.g., St. Paul Street) are extremely
treacherous to navigate on two wheels at any time.
In addition, while the author paraphrases Mr. Brown as affirming that
Baltimore has "19 miles of bike lanes already established or designated," these
bike lanes are not seen where they are most needed.
Another reason that I ride with Critical Mass is to make the statement that
local merchants in Baltimore could experience an economic windfall if the city
would only increase access to public streets for pedal and foot traffic at the
expense of automobiles.
Foot traffic is vastly more desirable for local merchants than maximizing
Baltimore's potential as a highway to get out of town.
Critical Mass is a moving festival using bicycles that has the best interests
of Baltimore in mind.
I wanted to offer an alternative view to that of the members of Critical
Mass, the cyclists who block city traffic lanes to "remind drivers that they
have a right to be on the road, too."
Bicycle traffic has indeed increased on city streets in recent months. And I
happily share the road with cyclists traveling downtown on Falls Road, which
seems to be a popular route for them. Unlike hostile SUV drivers, I am so afraid
that an unexpected pothole or other hazard will throw the cyclist into my path
that I slow down and give cyclists as wide a berth as possible.
But I have also been dodging more and more cyclists on main thoroughfares and
on downtown sidewalks.
I recently watched a cyclist sail through a red light on Martin Luther King
Boulevard with nary a glance at the oncoming traffic. A colleague of mine, two
months' pregnant, was hit by a man on a bicycle who ignored the right of way.
She broke her wrist in the fall.
And bicycle messengers speeding to make deliveries take numerous chances with
both pedestrians and auto traffic, jumping on and off sidewalks to avoid red
lights and tie-ups.
The members of Critical Mass are to be commended for proposing a means of
transportation that offers such tremendous fitness and environmental benefits.
However, there are just as many meatheads on bikes as in cars.
I strongly believe that if bicyclists are to share the roads with
automobiles, they should be licensed, carry liability insurance and be ticketed
when they violate traffic laws.
If they want to share city streets, I suggest they go to City Hall and
petition for bike lanes and thoroughfares where they can travel safely without
jeopardizing the majority of travelers, who have enough headaches navigating
trucks, buses, ambulances, delivery vans, light-rail trains, pedestrians and
Vickie J. Gray
I would like to express my outrage over Critical Mass and its biking
activities. To ride bikes in Baltimore simply to tie up traffic is a selfish
Apparently the group's members do not have experience sitting in Baltimore
If they did, they would realize that making the traffic more congested will
not encourage a favorable dialogue about issues related to cycling.
I have ridden a bike in Baltimore for 40 years - and survived. For a long
time, I was a daily commuter; now I mostly do errands downtown by bicycle.
I have been sideswiped, run off the road and front-ended (by a cab driver who
came to a dead stop in front of me, causing me to crash into him; he never
looked up before or after the crash.)
One day a van driver sideswiped me twice. I caught up to him, leaned into his
open window and defined for him the meaning of a public street. His response:
"You should be in an insane asylum!"
But I definitely have mixed feelings about Critical Mass.
Automobile drivers are angry enough already, especially at rush hour. I think
the best way to make your case as a bicyclist is to stay to the right, obey the
rules of the road and ride, baby, ride.
If gas prices keep climbing, drivers will get the message.
James D. Dilts
Riding bicycles defiantly in rush-hour traffic without helmets is more a
demonstration for organ donation than for sharing the road.
Local cycling clubs always urge members to wear safety gear such as helmets
and bright or reflective clothing and follow the rules of the road - allowing
cars to pass and using hand signals to communicate turns.
Critical Mass will dwindle as its members end up in critical care.
Ride to the side, please.
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