Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Reason We're Hated

edit: Impromptu Critical Mass: There will be an impromptu critical mass event tomorrow, April 10th, at 6 pm starting at Beaumont tower on MSU campus, to protest Zack Colman's column. Join us.

Cyclists are hated, no doubt about it. We hold up traffic from reaching the next red light. We go too fast, or maybe too slow. We cross intersections unexpectedly and run red lights. Generally speaking, we make life a living hell for those humans smart enough to get behind the wheel of a 2-ton car and drive the 3.5 miles to their next destination.

Just ask this guy. He's an opinion columnist for the State News, and it's his belief that all cyclists belong on the sidewalks and out of his way, while he's sipping a latte and changing radio stations in his awesome 2001 Saturn SC2. If he has to run us over to get where he's going and pronto, then so be it. Why, we're riding on the road, and obviously we don't belong there, since we can't go 70 miles an hour down Farm Lane like he can.

Truth be told, I ride on the road whenever possible, and for many reasons. Most people think it's because riding on the sidewalk is inconvenient, which is true. It's a pain riding around pedestrians, trying to navigate without hitting, much less annoying, someone whose rightful place is truly on the sidewalk.

But for me, the reason for riding on the road is safety. You are nearly invisible when riding on the sidewalk, and when the time comes to cross a roadway or driveway, traffic is not going to slow down, even when it's your turn to cross. Plenty of cyclists have been hit and killed by cars turning left or right into them while they used a crosswalk. Drivers simply do not look for you to cross there. At least in the road you are in plain sight, and if that means inconveniencing a few people on their way to get their oil changed, then so be it. When seen, you are less likely to be hit.

Even on the road you have to be careful, and expect cars to do the unexpected. Many cyclists have different ways to be seen on the road: some ride like they're invisible, dodging cars, weaving and swerving like a madman to avoid being hit. Some are patient, obeying all traffic laws as if they were driving a car. Some are moving light shows, with blinking red lights, reflective vests, and flags attached to the rear wheel. My advice is to simply be aware of your surroundings, and ride defensively. Know that, in any given battle between car and bicycle, the bike will lose. Also, use the right of way with sensitivity to the situation. Better alive and wrong, than dead and right.

Now that the weather is sunny and warm again, I look forward to seeing the streets full of bicycles like salmon clogging a stream. Good luck, and keep the rubber side down.


CJ said...

Well spoken, sir!

Carolyn said...

As hard as it can be NOT to be mad at a driver's stupid 'mistake', I agree, just have to be glad that you didn't get hurt and move on.

Btw, even biking on a road sometimes, when people are turning into a lane, for some reason, they see the cars, but not bikes! I had that happen last weekend as a car was turning right into my
lane- she didn't wait till I passed-, she started turning just before I got in front of her. I am glad that I was attentive enough to stop quickly. Whew!

Dottie said...

If I didn't ride super defensively, always expecting cars to run stop signs and open doors in my path, I would have been hit a long time ago.

p.s. Love your snark about the loser columnist.

Jeremy said...

good luck with the CM. i will be with you in spirit.

Jeremy said...

did you guys notify any news stations about this? they love angry mobs of people.

MichaelK said...

It's good to see people stepping up and pointing out how clueless this Colman is. Hopefully more people will become aware and things will get better because of it.

rodmyre said...

Please let us know how the ride went! If I wasn't in Los Angeles I would attend!

BikeLemming said...

I had some fun with Zack today...

Bob said...

--copy of letter sent to MSU to seek corrective action for death threat---

Lou Anna K. Simon
Michigan State University, President

Crime Reporting Unit
Michigan State University Police

1) Overview of Concerns:

I am reporting a written and publicly distributed death threat against numerous members of Michigan State University (MSU) students, staff and general public. I request MSU staff and the Michigan State University Police to address this death threat in a timely and professional manner to ensure the physical safety of those threatened. Secondary concerns with the article's encouragement of criminal behavior need to be addressed; but only after the physical safety is ensured of the bike community.

2) Primary Concern: Death Threat.

Zack Colman, staff writer for The State News, made specific death threats against the bike community in his recent article, "Bicyclists Need to Stay on Sidewalk" ( ). In the article, Mr. Colman describes an specific target, specific weapon, specific method of assault and cites specific motivations for his assault; therefore, his statements exceed the First Amendment protections on speech and meet the threshold for criminal death threats. Mr. Colman specially states he is willing to run over members of the bike community with his motor vehicle as an act of road rage. A reasonable person would have cause to fear for his or her personal safety based on Mr. Colman's threat.

Due to extreme nature of Mr. Colman's threats; immediate and comprehensive response is required by the MSU police to address this issue. However, I must advise the members of the MSU Bike patrol to use extreme caution when dealing with Mr. Coleman as Mr. Coleman did NOT exclude police officers on bike patrols from his list of potential targets in the bike community.

I am requesting that Mr. Colman motor vehicle privileges be immediately revoked and not reinstated until after he is examined and assessed by licensed and qualified mental health professionals to assess the risk posed to by Mr. Colman to the public. A special focus on mental stability, anger management, and road rage tendencies should be included in the assessment. Appropriate corrective actions are requested to be implemented by MSU staff and police, to include criminal charges against Mr. Coleman.

3) Secondary Concerns: Intimidation to Encourage Criminal Behavior.

Mr. Colman states in his article that bikes need to stay off the road and bike on the sidewalk. Mr. Coleman describes his personal frustration at the speed that cyclists ride on campus roads as the justification for bikes to stay off the road way. However, the various Michigan Vehicle Codes and Michigan State University Obedience's that apply to bicyclists specifically grant the use of the roadway to cyclists, require cyclists to travel reasonable safe speeds and to NOT bike on the sidewalk. Therefore in addition to the death threat previously describe, Mr. Colman is also utilizing his position at The State News to intimidate the bike community as a means to encourage the bike community to violate State and University bike use regulations. It is unacceptable for Mr. Colman to attempt to force law abiding members of the bike community into committing violations of law. For reference purposes, the specific State and University regulations and laws are cited below:

Michigan Vehicle Code 257.657 specifically grants the same rights to bicycles to the roadway as any other vehicle (except for special reasonable exceptions).
Michigan Vehicle Code 257.660 (1) requires low-speed vehicles (to include bikes) to "shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care.."; such a requirement includes using the full lane if deemed required and practical for the circumstances
Michigan State University Obedience 33.09 states that "No person shall operate a bicycle at a speed faster than what is reasonable and proper with regard to the safety of the operator and others."
Michigan State University Obedience 33.13 states that "No operator of a bicycle shall cause the same to be driven upon or across any sidewalk..."
Michigan State University Obedience 33.14 Every person operating a bicycle on a roadway on the campus shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a motor vehicle.

4) Conclusion:

Death threats of any nature are unacceptable in any modern environment and are not protected forms of speech. The increasing number of national incidences of homicidal violence on academic campus coupled with the very real danger posed by road rage dictate that Mr. Coleman's threats must be taken at face value. The university is ethically and legally obligated to make the proper response to the threats and take any and all appropriate corrective actions. I RESPONSE is requested to this email.


Marcus Griffith