As an avid bicyclist I was distressed to read letters to the editor that were skeptical of Pittsburgh's "pro-bike agenda." They perpetuate unsubstantiated, anecdotal claims about how often bicyclists break laws.
The Department of Transportation does not aggregate information related to bicycles in any meaningful way. Case in point: The Federal Highway Administration's most recent publication on bicycle crash statistics uses data now more than a decade old. Thus, the city's plan to collect local data is highly important ("Bicycle Czar Will Try to Tame City Streets," Aug. 12).
I would argue that many motorists are not cognizant of bicycle laws. A glance at the Pennsylvania Driver's Manual reveals that it contains little information on the subject. This suggests that new drivers, at the least, are not learning the material and must instead locate Title 75 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes to do so.
Brendan O'Donnell's suggestion of a licensing fee to pay for bike lanes ("More Must Be Required of Cyclists for Safety," Aug. 16 letters) would undermine a bike's economic nature and consequently discourage bicycling as a type of healthy recreation and practical mode of transportation. It also neglects the ideal of sharing the road, not feeling entitled to all of it. A prudent alternative to Mr. O'Donnell's scheme would be voluntary, electronic registration using a frame's make and serial number.
Motorists often force bicyclists into dangerous situations and vice versa; to suggest that the fault lies with one or the other is erroneous. The solution to this problem is cultivating an environment that is concerned with the safety of both. I applaud the city's administration for spearheading this effort.
I am a cyclist, and I ride my bike to work three days a week. My commute takes me on Washington Road in the South Hills, West Liberty Avenue, over Mount Washington and through Downtown twice each day. Having experienced the full range of traffic conditions cyclists encounter on our roads, I welcome the hiring of a bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the city of Pittsburgh ("Bicycle Czar Will Try to Tame City Streets," Aug. 12). I hope the added visibility and enforcement will improve those conditions.
I am a cautious, visible and predictable cyclist. I stop at lights, I signal my turns, I have lights on my bike and I ride within the limits of the law. As Stephen Patchan, the new bike-pedestrian coordinator, correctly pointed out, it is not fair to characterize all cyclists as scofflaws ("Driver Complaints Mount When Bicyclists Break the Safety Chain," Aug. 18).
As for the person who claims to have never seen a cyclist stop at a light, I invite him to follow me into work one morning. In addition to watching me stop at lights, you'll see some of the habits of motorists that leave this law-abiding cyclist scratching his head. The infamous "Pittsburgh left turn" directly in front of me at a light. Or the rolling right turn on red that so many drivers have perfected. Or the no-turn-signal, quick right-hand turn directly in front of me. Or the drivers who stop at a stop sign 3 feet into an intersection, and glare at me as though I shouldn't be there. Or the drivers meandering from lane to lane while they juggle a cup of coffee, or a newspaper, or a cell phone.
On a recent stop at the traffic light outside the Liberty Tunnels, in under 90 seconds I counted 44 cars coming southbound out of the tunnel at full speed, with the driver talking on a hand-held cell phone. Those drivers are much more dangerous than any cyclist.
My hope is that cyclists will become more aware and that motorists will do the same, so that we can "share the road" as required by the laws of our state.
Finally the American public understands that we need alternate fuel sources. But until something is readily available, we are overlooking an obvious way to cut fuel consumption: telecommuting.
Obviously this doesn't work for everyone, but many workers need only their computer to do their jobs.
Since many employers are resistant to allowing staff to work out of their homes, why can't the government issue a tax credit to companies that institute this policy? Many companies could then reduce overhead by scaling back office facilities, and employees wouldn't have to be financially strapped just to get to work.
Weak on energy
Sen. Barack Obama's "energy policy" is hollow rhetoric. He is obviously blinded by his socialism and cannot see the forest for the elephants around him. It isn't just naive to believe that anyone can have a bona-fide "energy policy" without promoting the expansion of nuclear power and promoting offshore oil drilling. It is reckless and stupid.
Sen. Obama has attacked Sen. John McCain for supporting offshore drilling because it would take seven years to see one drop of oil; that may be true, but oil prices will immediately come down, because the world will see that we are finally being serious about gaining energy independence. Our country needs to do everything it can to achieve energy independence, including having the courage not to play follow the party leader, in this case, Nancy Pelosi.
I am one who believes this country is ready for a black president, but not a Fidel Castro socialist one like Barack Obama. Americans would vote for a socially and financially responsible black man, like Alan Keyes, J.C. Watts or Thomas Sowell, just to name a few.
I would give Sen. Obama a bit of advice: Keep quiet and don't open your mouth; this is biblical advice -- "even a fool is considered wise when he remains silent." The more I hear Sen. Obama speak, the more I believe he is a darker-skin version of Bill Clinton or Richard Nixon.
Union Township, Washington County
Let's stay out of it
The myth of American omnipotence dies hard. We should have learned our lesson with the Vietnam conflict. We are now having to learn it again in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are discovering it once more in Georgia. American power has its limits.
Why don't we accept that and define our national interest accordingly? Do we need to meddle in Russia's neighborhood? How would we react if Russia extended a military alliance of its own into Mexico or decided to put missile sites there?
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