EDITOR'S NOTE: A few weeks ago, we ran a story by freelance writer Bill Gifford ("The Bicycle Diaries," March 29-April 4) which recounted his experiment in living and commuting by bike only. We also included an essay by Planet copy editor Anne Arsenault, "Get Out of My Way" written from the motorist's point of view. While Anne stood firmly on the side of improving the Bay area's bikeways, she argued that until improvements occur bicyclists who ride in herds on car-heavy thoroughfares should do a better job of staying out of the way of auto traffic.
Perhaps needless to say, these stories attracted an avalanche of responses — some placing Anne just above Satan in the pantheon of evil, others a bit more measured, and several asking her to go on a bike ride (an invitation that sounded in some cases like a threat). We even got a note from a guy named Lance Armstrong. Here's a sampling.
Anne Arsenault said, "I say we abide by the time-honored American tradition of whoever's more powerful wins. Car trumps bike, so please — get out of the way." Following her logic: gun trumps car, get out of my way!
Perhaps Anne should get a little fresh air and exercise as opposed to adding to the problems of global warming, pollution, road rage, and gridlock. I hope for Anne's sake she never hits one of us. We typically win in court. Look up the statistics for yourself. Anne, you have just incurred a liability by writing that article. I know I got $25,000 when I got hit two years ago.
Even if your article was somewhat in jest, it doesn't read that way, especially to the uninformed ... not to mention that it panders to the Neanderthal behavior of too many motorists who feel they can do whatever they want behind the wheel of their 2 plus ton weapon.
Imagine if you will, the prospect of more people riding their bicycles ... a reduction in the incidence of obesity, less pollution, reduction in greenhouse gases ... all major ills in the USA. I ask that you write on that instead.
Fred Baldassare, Technical Director, 2006 USA Cycling National Championships
"Get Out Of My Way" embodies everything that's wrong with America today. The "Me First" mantra of Americans — both cyclists and drivers — is childish and selfish. Kudos to you for bringing it out in the open so that everyone can see how ugly it really is. Anne's article demonizes cylists that are not of the recreational nature.
"Spandex-clad" (which most of us are) "disciples of Lance Armstrong" (which most of us aren't), she calls us from behind the wheel of her monstrous 8 MPG black SUV the size of a small artillery vehicle. Anne and her counterparts don't give a damn who stands between them and their mission to get from point A (work) to point B (local fast food joint) to point C (home), to feed their little monstrosities that will grow up to be just like them: selfish, self-centered and without a conscience.
Sure, there are plenty of cyclists that disregard all things around them for the sake of their three-abreast bike ride, including lines of cars and mothers with baby carriages. I counter, however, that there are just as many drivers that are too quick to anger. Too quick to fly off the handle, lean on the horn, and roar past even a law-abiding cyclist attempting to share the road ... all the while shouting obscenities, giving the cyclist the finger and chatting away on their cell phone while trying to balance a super-size McSomething meal in their lap along with their non-fat mocha venti latte.
Stop whining and complaining about the need for bike paths, which are a utopian ideal that will never be fully realized in the United States. Stop complaining that cyclists belong on the sidewalks (we don't, ask those mothers with baby carriages). Slow down, take a breath, treat your fellow human beings with respect and compassion. You'll be surprised at what you get in return.
Heidi von Teitenberg
While I applaud the Weekly Planet for providing such an opposing viewpoint to a weekly feature, your commentary is worthy of retort.
You don't have to like bikers, in theory or not. The desires of bikers and motorist are NOT diametrically opposed. We both seek to travel. You on the other hand wish to travel as unencumbered as possible. The problem as I see it, is that your opinion represents the selfish behavior that permeates modern society; that your time is more valuable than mine, as if cyclists are taking away something that would add to the quality of YOUR life. The hardcore cyclists that draw your ire are probably not trying to commute though, however they DO belong on a public road. The speed of a bicycle is much more commensurate with that of a car, than pedestrian. The very best situation is for you to accept the fact that the roads are public, that bicycles must abide by the same laws as motor vehicles, and live with it. Or don't live it, and be hopelessly lost in the selfish, modern bubble that you seem to have created for yourself.
My heart jumped as I shoved the Weekly Planet into my girlfriend's face with excitement about the cover article. Bicycling! They get it! Sadly and frustratingly, you did not get it. Similar articles have become commonplace around the country. Gas is expensive; I will ride my bike everywhere instead of driving! Ending, predictably, with a defeated writer and a forgotten bicycle. A fresh approach to the topic might be: Hey! Gas is expensive, the planet is dying and riding a bike once in a while might be a step in the right direction.
By riding to work one day a week, I have cut both fuel cost to me and emissions to our atmosphere by one-fifth for the week.
I read Bill Gifford's article, about going car-free, with interest because I stopped driving a car in 1980 or 1981. I've been bicycling in Pinellas County for over eight years.
For people living on minimum wage, bicycling means being able to live. $6.15 an hour at 40 hours a week totals $12,792. Try living on that for 12 months. Every few years, an organization counts the cost of owning and operating a car in various areas of the U.S. The last time the organization estimated the cost at about $8,000 a year in the Tampa Bay area. If you work 40 hours a week and 52 weeks a year, that's 2,080 hours a year. $8,000 divided by 2,080 hours is $3.84 an hour.
Even if you need to keep your car, driving less means less money spent on gas, higher resale value because of less mileage, and reduced car payments because your car lasted 15 years or more instead of eight years.