Some got the point, but they still took offense

GETTING THERE

March 23, 2009|By MICHAEL DRESSER | MICHAEL DRESSER,gettingthere@baltsun.com

Older readers may remember a much-missed magazine called the National Lampoon, which in its heyday put on its cover a picture of a cute puppy with a gun to its head and the caption: "If you don't buy this magazine, we'll kill this dog."

Some people thought the cover was hilarious. Some thought it was tasteless. Others thought the editors really were going to murder the poor animal.

So it goes, when in the course of lampooning attitudes toward bicyclists, one describes them as "obnoxious." It didn't matter that the point of the column was to support proposed legislation in the Maryland General Assembly to protect riders by requiring drivers to allow a 3-foot buffer when passing bicyclists. Some folks were offended, which I regret.

Carl Lupica of Fallston was among the readers who thought I shot the pooch.

Way to go in reinforcing every negative stereotype in a few sentences, and giving every sociopath in a car additional reasons to harass cyclists. Every bike on the road represents one less person in a car, and that is not a bad thing.

Despite the true intent of your column, your pandering to the anti-cycling, pro-automobile crowd does no one a great service.

I am a cyclist and have had full soda cans thrown at me. I've been run off the road by yokels in pickup trucks. I've been called all manner of names, cut off in traffic and intentionally brushed back by dozens and dozens of idiots in cars.

For the record: Bicyclists are no more irksome than motorists, pedestrians, bus riders and the rest of our obnoxious species. Bike riders have every right to use the roads. Even when they have the gall to slow me down. Nothing written here should be construed as permission or encouragement to harass, annoy or maim bicyclists.

But, Carl, we have to do something about this perpetuation of negative stereotypes about drivers of pickup trucks. Those "yokels" may hold doctoral degrees.

Among other things, Charles M. Fitzpatrick of Baltimore objected to my reference to "dweeby" bicycle helmets.

That is ridiculous. The reason I wear a helmet and high visibility vest looking "dweeby" is to reduce the chance of winding up with brain damage, using a wheelchair or walking with a cane because some driver of a motor vehicle ran a red light or stop sign, drove drunk or passed me too closely.

A few years ago, before surrendering to age and sloth, I used to climb on a bike fairly regularly. When I rode, I always wore a helmet, for the reasons stated so eloquently above. I always looked like a total dweeb in that brain bucket. So what? Dweebs rock.

John Cole of Baltimore, a self-described "Lycra-clad cyclist," wrote that he wanted to give me a piece of his mind after reading the comments about cyclists - but couldn't.

It pains me more than you can know to admit that some - and the number is really very low - of my fellow cyclists exhibit the rude and inconsiderate behavior you described. ...

Unfortunately, a minority of cyclists seem to think that riding a bike bestows upon them some sort of ecological and moral sainthood. They are usually the first people to complain about the dangerous and boorish behavior of motorists, which I have also frequently witnessed, but they seem to think that the "Share the Road" signs mean they can do whatever they please.

Thank you for supporting the 3-foot rule.

Actually, John, most of my encounters with cyclists are extremely pleasant, and I don't begrudge them a few seconds' delay.

Brenda Blackburn of Joppa brings us back to the main point - the need for a 3-foot buffer law. She said my column brought back memories of Vernal R. Blackburn.

He was an avid cyclist, belonged to the Baltimore Bicycle Club. All his life, he was involved in sports, from baseball, racquetball, golf but got to the point that he didn't want to compete anymore.

On a very straight country road in Harford County, he was killed by a young woman who claimed not to have seen him, then said a car was coming in the opposite direction, but she hit the bicycle and he died.

He was just 46 years old, had 2 daughters and a son and was my ex-husband. I want [state legislators] to vote "yes." Thank you for bringing it to the attention of your readers.

The legislation passed the state Senate 45-2. It's under consideration by the House of Delegates.

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