LAST WEEK'S column generated quite a few comments about bicycling in Howard County. Here's a sample of what you're saying.
"While I do not live in Howard County, I drive and ride my bicycle on Howard County roads. I feel that the policy of resurfacing roads with tar and chips is short-sighted," said Catonsville resident Janet Goldstein.
"This resurfacing method may last longer than asphalt, but the resulting road is hazardous: slippery, with piles of gravel. Though the ride is much more uncomfortable for cyclists than for drivers, autos as well as bicycles can be damaged by the inevitable small flying rocks. The cost-effectiveness of tarring and chipping needs to be weighed against its disadvantages," she said.
According to county officials, tar-and-chip resurfacing does not necessarily last longer than asphalt, but it extends the life of the original asphalt surface.
Don Forgione, a longtime cyclist, e-mailed last week about the state of county roads. "I hate to disagree with Joe Amato, but the loose gravel issue is, at least, a transient problem," he said, although he does agree it is a concern. "The more serious problem I see for cyclists in Howard County is a lack of shoulders on so many roads. If the county would just add two feet of shoulder when they have crews repaving roads that have none, cyclists would be able to stay out of the way of traffic so much better. That would not, of course, solve the problems of broken glass and other debris on the shoulders and of damaged or crumbling shoulders. But for the most part, it would go a long way towards reducing frictions between the riders and the drivers."
Virginia Vargo of Catonsville also responded to Mr. Amato's concerns about biking on the roads. "I read your column today and wanted to recommend a biking trail ... I ... am not a biker, but my son is; and, he has ridden the B&A Trail in Anne Arundel County many times. He has commented that the trail has pleasant surroundings and is a good workout. He drives to a location of his choice and spends an afternoon biking the trail," she said.
If you're interested in the Baltimore-Annapolis Trail Park, contact the Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks, 410-222-6244, for information about the trail and a map.
Too bad Howard County doesn't have decent bike or hiking trails.
And, Dave Lohr e-mailed this gentle reminder.
"Automobiles aren't the only ones using the roads. I regularly jog and occasionally ride a bicycle. I follow all the safety rules and wear bright, reflective clothing, yet many drivers swerve, honk, and cuss because they weren't paying attention or were going too fast to begin with. Now the kids are back in school, which means even more pedestrians and stopped school buses," he said. "Please remind drivers that pedestrians have the right of way, and that bicycles do have the right to be on the road. Drivers need to slow down and be aware that just ahead of them could be a stopped school bus, a young kid walking to school, a jogger, a bicycle or even a deer in the road. Slow down now, or you may face a lifetime of trying to forget the face of the person you killed with your car."
Karen Gilbert also e-mailed and asked me to remind drivers of the importance of using headlights on rainy days. "I think it's been a year since this law went into effect - the one requiring headlights to be turned on when the windshield wipers are in use. I still see many, many cars that are not doing this," she said. "Would it be possible for you to print a reminder in your column? I think it would also be helpful if that notice were posted on the message boards on Interstate 95 when it's raining or snowing. I'm wondering if the law is enforced - I know I wouldn't want to be the officer standing in a downpour waiting for a driver - in a nice, dry car - to hand over his/her registration and license."
Safety seat law changes
If you have children, you need to be aware that changes in Maryland's child passenger safety seat law went into effect Oct.1. Motorists whose vehicles are registered in Maryland are now required to restrain children in federally approved child safety seats (including booster seats) until they are 6 years old and weigh 40 pounds. Both requirements apply. If you don't obey this law, don't be surprised when a police officer pulls you over and hands you a $48 ticket.
What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at email@example.com, send faxes to 410-715-2816 or mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 30 Corporate Center, 10440 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 820, Columbia, 21044.