letter to the editor

I sent the following to our local newspaper this past Tuesday.

An open letter to Adrian motorists
I ride a bicycle. I ride nearly every day, for transportation, personal enjoyment, my health, and because it makes the most sense for the short distance I have to travel.

First and foremost, I want to say thanks to everyone who has waited a moment longer before pulling away from a stop because you saw me coming up the road; to everyone who has slowed down behind me so you could pass safely while giving me a wide berth; and to everyone who has offered a friendly wave or nod in acknowledgment of my presence on the road. Your kindness and consideration have not gone unnoticed.

To the few who have been in too great a rush, or too distracted, or simply too thoughtless and careless, I would like to point out not only do I have a legal right to ride on the road; I am legally obligated to do so. The sidewalk is no place for a bicycle. I do my part by making myself visible with lights and reflectors. I make sure that my bicycle is in proper working order. I try my best to travel side streets. I ride in a straight line. I follow traffic rules. I ride as far to the side of the road as is safe and reasonable.

Unfortunately, when it snows, I have no choice but to ride further into the street. You threaten my life when you pass too closely, or pull out in front of me when I have the right-of-way, or distract me by yelling rude comments from your window. I and my bicycle together weigh less than a tenth of your vehicle.

I am a human being. I have a family. Please be more mindful, decent, and respectful. Your actions reflect poorly on you and detract from our otherwise wonderful community.

Scott S. Elliott

Why did I write it? Well, for starters, those who are doing a good job at doing the right thing deserve to be acknowledged. It will encourage them to keep it up.

Secondly, during my commute that morning, I had one driver tell me to get on the sidewalk, and another pull into an intersection as I was approaching with the right-of-way. The road conditions were slick enough that had I been required to stop quickly I would not have been able to do so, and had I swerved sharply, I would have surely crashed.

Thirdly, and perhaps most of all, I hope it will increase awareness and generate conversation. A part of me is cynical, thinking (or maybe even knowing) that such a hope is idealistic and naive. But the better part of me gets the upper hand this time around, because I recognize that the very act of commuting by bicycle is an act of hope. We’ll see what happens.


8 responses to “letter to the editor

  1. Good job and be safe out there.

  2. I sent a letter like this to the editor of said paper last spring and it was published. That brought up a bunch of discussion on what is legal and safe and what is not.

    My single greatest problem when riding is those who are not courteous- you know who I’m talking about. Good letter!

    • That’s cool to know that you published a similar letter last spring. I’m glad to hear that it generated so much discussion.

      I don’t know whether mine will be published; it hasn’t appeared yet, to my knowledge, and I haven’t heard from anyone at the newspaper. Regardless, the more those of us who ride take advantage of opportunities to speak up and increase the level of public awareness, the better it will be.

  3. My letter was published in today’s paper. I will be interested to what sort of comment it garners, if any.

  4. I followed the link to see it on the paper’s website and wasn’t impressed by Jerry Butler’s reply to your letter. Granted winter and bikes mix about as well as oil and water, there’s always a way to do things safely if you take the time and obviously that person doesn’t know how such a thing is possible. My first year riding I tried to be ‘hardcore’ and snow/winter ride but it strained my health too much to try that again. However in the milder and dare I say ‘nicer’ winter weather I’m out on my bike to enjoy it while I can. I do my best to follow the rules , as you do, and I am glad when I ‘meet’ considerate motorists as I try to be as courteous as possible. I also won’t be intimidated off the street by a ‘punk’ or other nasty in their car or SUV because said motorist(s) believe they own the road. (Such ‘road rage’ isn’t limited to against cyclists but pedestrians and other motorists as well.) Bravo on writing the letter and having it published. Hopefully it will open a few more sets of eyes and make a few more motorists pay closer attention to cyclists that share the road responsibly.

    I don’t like to sidewalk ride but if its the only safe option for current conditions/hazard or when I courier then I take it carefully.

  5. Thanks, Cyclist. I agree; his remarks were pretty ignorant. What’s the point of mentioning public transportation in reference to a city like Adrian? And it’s positively absurd to think that I’m threatening the lives of motorists in the same way or to the same degree. Good grief. Honestly, though, what bothers me most about his and “Captain Morgan’s” comments is the condescending and patronizing tone.

    Meanwhile, I just stumbled upon this yesterday on the Bike Commuters blog, which is an outstanding website, by the way. I thought the writer’s point about drivers being more alert when road conditions are bad was quite interesting. I don’t know how true it is in every instance, but it certainly applies to some.

  6. for that matter, cars and snowy/icy roads don’t mix either.

  7. …and other thing! The LAW gives bicycles the same rights and rules as any other vehicle on the road.

    So, regardless of what our personal opinions are, this is the point from which we should start.