Letters to the editor

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More must be required of cyclists for safety

I was astounded to read the comments of the city's government leaders who are catering to a pro-bicycle agenda in the Aug. 12 article "Bicycle Czar Will Try to Tame City Streets." Most notably, they mentioned how the city could track "car on bicycle" accidents and make the city more aware of bicyclists' rights.

While I have no problem with bicyclists or alternative means of transportation, this article did not mention that bicyclists routinely put pedestrians and other motor vehicles in danger because bicyclists refuse to follow the applicable provisions of state law by riding on sidewalks in commercial zones, operating the wrong way on one-way streets and failing to obey traffic control devices such as stop signs and traffic lights.

Between July 11 and Aug. 11, when casually walking around my neighborhood or Downtown, I counted 60 bicyclists who broke these laws. This is unacceptable and represents a small fraction of the number of unlicensed bicyclists who disregard the traffic laws that automobile, truck and motorcycle drivers are forced to comply with.

I suggest that the state require the registration of all bicyclists operating their bikes on public streets, provide these people with license plates (so that in case of an accident they can be identified) and use the license fee to create bicycle lanes. While bicycling is great exercise and a useful way to commute, bicyclists should not be immune to the laws that apply to them and everyone else.

BRENDAN O'DONNELL
Shadyside


Hazardous riders

It is nice to see that our city's leaders are making the roadways safer for bikers and pedestrians. I wonder what they will do to make sure that bikers also follow the same rules that cars, trucks and motorcycles do.

For example, I encounter a number of bikers on my daily commute home and almost every one of them rides straight through stop signs and even red lights if there are no cars coming. I guess following the rules of the road are optional for these bikers.

Sadly, these bikers are risking their own lives, as well as the safety of others, by ignoring the rules of the road.

TIM ZENCHAK
Baldwin Borough


Their profits a gift

Ed Haller ("Oil Industry Profits Are Within Reason," Aug. 7 letters) responded to Nick Malato's Aug. 1 letter with "economic literacy" that Mr. Malato apparently lacked. Since oil companies had only slightly higher earnings as a percent of sales, they did not, in his words, earn excessive profits.

My M.B.A. may be 35 years old, but I recall that profits can be measured in many ways, some more meaningful to a situation than others. If you measure oil company profits as a percent of investment or as a percentage of assets, you are likely to find that profits have skyrocketed with no added investment.

Using Mr. Haller's own analogy, it's like the restaurant selling dinners for $50 one week and $250 the next without any change in operations. It's a gift. Of course margin stays the same. It's measured on sales, and oil company sales and profits have taken off without any change in their operations. They have benefited from market conditions, not from their business acuity, so the profits are truly a windfall.

STUART FLEISHMAN
Mountville, Pa.


Fuel costs killing us

This is in reply to the Aug. 6 letter by Dick Spirawk ("High Gas Prices Will Spur Necessary Changes"). He calls for more expensive gas. Maybe he can afford to pay more, but millions can't and are already making "necessary changes."

Meals on Wheels is already losing volunteer drivers because it can't afford to pay out-of-pocket expenses. Delivery services are charging customers a surcharge for fuel. Long-distance truck drivers are losing their rigs because they cannot break even, and the extra cost has trickled down to you and me. Airlines have lost billions of dollars, cut flights and employment.

Has Mr. Spirawk ever been a farmer? Many farmers have been driven into bankruptcy because of fuel costs. Where will our food come from and what will we pay? The rise in food prices has already put us on the brink of a recession.

Mr. Spirawk wants mass transportation. What do buses run on? Diesel and gas! Fares are raised, putting a hardship on those who rely on buses. And taxes are raised (10 percent drink tax) to help mass transit.

Mr. Spirawk dwells on oil for fuel. Is he aware that crude is used for hundreds of other items for which there are no alternatives at this time? Manufacture of plastics. Hygiene products. Hospital emergency equipment and medicines, etc. How many billions in taxpayer money will the government have to pay in subsidies to find alternatives.? Ethanol has already turned into a billion-dollar boondoggle.

People like Mr. Spirawk scare those of us who are on pensions and unemployed.

WILLIAM BARKSCHAT
West View


Obama will deliver

Besides the economy and war, there is one absolute reason to vote for Barack Obama. I was waiting for some event or someone to come and reveal God to me to build my faith, give me hope and share my love. I sat in a Starbucks cafe.

But nobody came, except the cafetender. He saw my Obama button and asked me, "Are you working for the campaign?"

"No, not yet," I answered. "I worked in the primary."

Perhaps the cafetender is God, secretly challenging me not to give up on Mr. Obama in this most important election in decades.

If John McCain wins, the Supreme Court will be stacked with Republican conservatives for decades to come; in a similar way, FDR tried to stack the court with appointees 70 years ago. Add to that the fact that Mr. McCain will draw us into three wars -- for Iraq, against Iran and for Afghanistan.

We need some liberalism in America and Mr. Obama's the man to deliver it, plus he knows our real focus, our real war, is along Afghanistan and its borders.

CLINT VAN DUSEN
Shadyside


Words to walk by

Regarding the Aug. 8 letter "Face Traffic": As a young child walking with an adult on country roads in rural Central Pennsylvania, I was cautioned that "the right side was the wrong side; the left side was the right side."

MARY LIB MYERS
Squirrel Hill


We welcome your letters. Please include your name, address and phone number, and send to Letters to the Editor, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222. E-mail letters to letters@post-gazette.com or fax to 412-263-2014. Letters should be 250 words or less, original and exclusive to the Post-Gazette. All letters are subject to editing for length, clarity and accuracy and will be verified before being published.



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