Readers Respond


August 28, 2009

State law biased against bicyclists, pedestrians

I read about how John "Jack" Yates - a 67-year-old working on his third master's degree - had mentored Charles "Boots" Pratt prior to Mr. Pratt's death by gunfire, and Mr. Yates' death when his bicycle collided with a tanker truck. Neither of these deaths had to happen. People who abhor gunfire and violence think nothing of careless driving that can also lead to someone's death.

Why should riding his bicycle to drop off an item at the University of Baltimore have resulted in Jack's death? Jack wasn't climbing the Matterhorn - just riding his bicycle to the university. The city has even begun a program to improve bicycling, and the mayor regularly rides her bike in Baltimore City.

But there's a darker side. Just looking at the Aug. 23 Sunpaper, I see that a 60-year-old pedestrian was killed in a hit and run in Glen Burnie and a woman was struck and killed in Charles Village. Although many Marylanders are very courteous and drive carefully, too many put speed ahead of safety, talk on cell phones (even text message) and don't signal turns. It's common for motorists not to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks, speed, and expect bicyclists to always ride at the edge of the pavement, even when unsafe.

We will never know for sure why John Yates - an educated man - was riding near the curb rather than out in the lane. The police seem to imply that Jack failed to exercise due care by not riding further out in the lane, where the right turning truck could see him better. Maryland's traffic law seems to be biased against bicyclists and pedestrians in favor of motorists. If a bicyclist rides too far out in the lane, he can be ticketed or found at fault in an accident. If he rides too close to the curb, he can be held at fault if he gets doored or "right hooked" in this case. Some clarity from police and transportation officials is needed. It appears, unless a cyclist is riding in the optimal position on the road, he can be held to have failed to use due care and denied any compensation.

Maryland needs to make the traffic law clearer and more equitable toward bicyclists and pedestrians. With Maryland having a high pedestrian and bicycle accident rate in spite of our high education level, why don't schools put a little effort into teaching traffic safety?

Jeffrey H. Marks, Baltimore

Story of public defender's firing seems incomplete

Re "Top Md. public defender is fired," Aug. 22: I have rarely read a newspaper article that left me shaking my head - both by the incomplete information provided in the article and by the fuzzy statements of the Office of the Public Defender and Board of Trustees Chairman T. Wray McCurdy.

In the article it was pointed out that Mr McCurdy wrote in a letter to fired chief public defender Nancy S. Forster, "It is imperative that the agency's rather staggering growth rate be curbed as overall agency growth far outstrips the rate of caseload growth."

No figures were offered for the rate of caseload growth. But I'm guessing it has to be pretty high to reach opening 200,000 new cases per year. Why didn't the reporters find out this information?

Staffing increased by 212 positions, from 800 to 1,000 (400 lawyers plus 600 other workers) over the last five years. So I did the math. An increase of 212 positions is approximately a 25 percent increase over five years. That's 5 percent per year. Hardly seems like a "rather staggering growth rate" to me.

I am not a lawyer and certainly don't know the operations of a law office - public or otherwise. But what is staggering to me is that 200,000 new cases are opened a year in an organization with 400 lawyers.

So I again did the math. That's 500 cases opened per year per lawyer, or 10 per week, or two new cases per day. And that doesn't factor in the backlog of cases each lawyer must attend to, which isn't cited in the article.

Terence Kennedy, Carney

Raising taxes is more selfish

To the letter writer of "American society is under attack by selfish citizens" (Aug. 24), I ask: Who is more selfish, people who say no to new taxes or people who expect our government to provide everything for them at other people's expense?

Contrary to what you suggest, we did pay attention in social studies class. We know that "the pursuit of happiness" is not a government-sponsored program paid for by ever-increasing taxes. Like any parent knows, sometimes you just have to say "No." Imagine what our taxes would be like if we abdicated our responsibility to rein in government spending.

David Plaut, Reisterstown

Attack on Bush was misplaced

While the Sun's columnist, Dan Rodricks, rants about President Barack Obama's vacation ("Vineyard vacation sends wrong signal," Aug. 26), why does he find it necessary to swerve to a distasteful and hardly relevant ad hominem attack on former president George W. Bush?

How does spending less time at the White House (particularly in this electronically connected era) define a president as being "lazy"?

Perhaps it's the lingering symptoms of "Bush dementia" that compels liberals like Mr. Rodricks to so often forsake their self-proclaimed superior civility for such cheap shots. But it only reveals a childish inability to rise above personal attack and stick to a logical argument.

Bob Sopka, Catonsville

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