Thursday, September 20, 2007

Looking for a solution to the animosity

If the discussion in the Monitor had a positive outcome for me, it is an attempt to reconcile the animosity with a solution. Mr. Ragsdale and others like him don't want to share the road. Cyclists want to be able to ride free from harassment. Both are held hostage to a bad paradigm.

Two issues overlap.

First is attitude. Negative attitudes and stereotypes reinforce each other. A cyclist harassed into getting off the road will ride with less respect for others than one who is offered respect in return. A motorist who is flipped off or who has to dodge imbecilic riding will not offer respect to cyclists. As you can see, this is a downward spiral.

Break the pattern.

Second is facilities. If lousy facilities put everyone on edge, people are more likely to want to find fault with each other since we are typically stressed out anyway. So if a narrow road lacks shoulders and someone in an F150 comes over a blind rise or around a curve and into a stressful situation, one will want to find fault. If a cyclist is told it is his/her fault for simply being there, one will want to find fault.

The answer is that we need to respect each other. This means not blaming each other for things beyond our control, trying to accomodate each other, and designing roads that do not drive us crazy. The last of these is called the Complete Streets movement: in this case, put a paved shoulder on NM 4.

It is up to all of us to get out of our own skins and treat each other with some additional respect. For example, West Jemez has a lot of blind rises. These may not be apparent to cyclists due to our slower speed. They are obvious to 55 mph motorists--I have carefully considered them when I drive. Try to ride in consideration of the bloke who has topped one of these rises and suddenly runs into a disorganized double paceline which is spread all over the road. For the motorist, drive the speed limit so when you run into this gaggle, you have some non-fatal options.

See the world (and the road) from someone else's shoes. Respect each other, fix what is broken, and improve our community.

We called that the Traffic Justice movement at last summer's Pro-Bike/Pro-Walk. I'd like to talk about that to who ever will listen.

18 comments:

Lisa said...

I think an irritating thing for many cyclists who strive to follow the laws of the road is that we have experience with both driving and cycling, so we CAN see it from both angles. However, most hostile drivers have no idea how to recreate when there isn't a motor involved.

It makes a big difference to know from personal experience why a cyclist might not keep his line (garbage in the road, blown tire, clipped wheels with guy in front, etc.) or why a cyclist may choose the road over the shoulder (glass & debris in shoulder, gaping potholes in shoulder, etc.). Cyclist drivers know these things, so they can anticipate when cyclists may need extra space when being passed on the roadway. Drivers who have never straddled a man-powered machine will have no clue.

How do you address this? How do you educate someone who doesn't want to be educated? Simply widening all roads isn't really a solution because many roads do not have the traffic volume to justify the expense of an expansion, yet the drivers on these roads can be just as dangerous or more so if the route provides a cop-free path home from the bar.

Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Not sure how to better educate motorists. However, as a cyclist, I can usually tell the difference between someone riding to the left for a reason, and someone simply who doesn't know what they are doing. (Like that old supreme court quote: I know it when I see it).

Roads cannot universally be widened. However, since the Lab shut down Pajarito, and with a potential pavement project going to Cuba, one can argue that NM 4 is no longer destined to be a quaint little country lane, and should be built properly when its next upgrade is planned and executed. Such improvements also help motorists, since a sharp drop-off to the right of a fog line makes a road more dangerous for everyone. -K

Tom Ragsdale said...

All I can say is that it's about damn time you folks looked past the fact that I made fun of you in the process, and got down to the heart of the matter, the safety of all on the road. Look, really, you dress funny. Bright neon spandex as far as the eye can see, and I really have no doubt that if luck ever runs out on these blind shoulderless curves and I do wind up hitting a bike, there'd be lawyers in my future. If calling a dangerous situation what it is is hate speech now, well, I guess I'd better get busy staking a gay black Jewish Navajo out over an anthill after draging her around the block a few times. The section of your Neale's letter, however, equating that I was harsh in my descriptions while pointing out a safety problem to terrorism is patently absurd, and considerably more offensive to any rational being, bicyclist or motorist, than anything I have, will, or could say. My letter did not kill 3000 innocent people, despite the level of outrage on all sides. That he is an instructor in your group, it concerns me greatly if a few harsh words are all it takes before he drags out the modern equivilent of Godwin's Law.

This may (will) come as a surprise to you folks, but amazingly enough, a) I don't want to run you over. No one else does either. That's the entire main point. And b) I don't have a problem with cyclists in town, or on roads with shoulders. I don't even mind coming up over one of the blind hills mentioned in a previous post, as there's room there for everyone (Shoulders! Amazing!), and the cyclists I encounter stay well to the right.

My problem (one of two), which Mr. Spencer actually did point out, is shoulderless roads where there *isn't* room for everyone, especially at rush hour. I've lived here since I was six months old, and I literally cannot count the number of times over my life that, as passenger or driver, have come to a split second decision between taking out a two-wheeler, with little harm to myself beyond emotional and of course the inevitable lawsuit, or taking out another car and probably winding up in the hospital myself, and through it all hoping like hell that my brakes are good enough and my reaction quick enough to thread the needle and hit neither. I'm sick of being put in that position to accomodate someone's hobby, and I know a good deal of other people are as well. *That* is the main point of contention I have with cyclists, not your silly getups. Those are simply a handy way for me to do the same thing you do: Draw attention to your presence and point out the problem.

The other problem I have is one that you have also noticed here: Uneven law enforcement.
Today while leaving CMR, I saw a cyclist riding down the wrong side of Diamond Drive, directly into oncoming traffic (and to make matters worse, there is no shoulder).
This sort of crap, not to put too fine a point on it. I've seen examples of this at least as often, it seems, as examples of cyclists riding responsibly and safely. For clarity's sake, no, I will not consider a cyclist riding a shoulderless road - anywhere, not just NM 4 - to be riding safely. Just yesterday I watched a cyclist blow through the intersection of Rover and Grand Canyon, straight through a stop sign. Actions like the wrong-way-rider, the stop sign, the folks I see frequently treating stoplights as optional (I can only guess the logic is "It doesn't count if I use the crosswalk?") are not only unsafe, but infuriating to many motorists who would have insurance premiums through the roof if we drove half as poorly as these folks ride. This is from whence I derived the term "rolling senses of entitlement." It's all well and fine to claim a right to something, but rights carry responsibilities. When these responsibilities are not upheld, and worse, not enforced, nobody benefits, and given that a few tons of metal piloted by someone in any range of mental states bows only to the laws of physics and momentum, not a few lines in the state traffic code, it's again a quick route to an excess of lawyers and coroners. Mr. Spencer pointed out correctly that the Police Beat (and more accurately municipal court) section(s) of The Monitor are filled with violations from motorists. Where are the corresponding citations for cyclists? If nothing else, do you all have bells on your bikes, as required by 66-3-707-B? Where are the tickets for creating public saftey hazards, per the statute I originally cited? Watching a F150 close on me at 100+ mph coming down NM 4 as they dodge a cyclist somehow fails to fill me with a sense of calm reassurance. Hell, where are the tickets for blowing stop signs? You folks noticed yourselves that the cops don't care about you, and believe me, it's even more apparent to those who don't bike.

I submitted follow-up letters to The Monitor detailing and spelling out exactly what I just did (I even made it a point to thank Ms. Powell for pointing out everyone's responsibilities). They declined to run them, probably fearing a day-glo riot, given that making fun of you folks at all is apparently hate speech. Yes, I am angry and upset with the situation. I'm angry and upset that folks claiming a right and demonstrating so little responsibility overall are allowed to put me in harm's way. I don't want to run you down, and before someone pipes up, not just because of the threat of lawsuits. Just as importantly, I don't want to wind up permanantly integrated with my vehicle, either.

Ms. Dougherty claims that running my letter had no merit to spark debate at all, but given what I've read here, it seems to have had exactly the effect I was looking for. A few folks have finally realized that large numbers of your community are putting everyone in danger, and those of us with this danger thrust upon us unwillingly are, to put it mildly, not happy with the situation.

Also, "potential targets for the Sportsman's Club" are the idiots that wander around hiking downrange despite the warning signs, but that's an entirely different species of stupid. I'm rather flattered that I've apparently invented a whole new type of racism though.

Khal said...

Mr. Ragsdale, if you want anyone to listen to you, its about time that you stopped with the personal attacks and violent imagery and got down to simply discussing the issues, which I am glad to do.

We will have to simply disagree about shoulderless roads. That's how New Mexico built them, and that's how we will have to share them. If someone is not operating safely within their drive space as it exists (shoulders or not), they should not be on the road at all. That means not driving too fast for conditions and it means slow moving vehicles keeping right as appropriate. It could be a disabled car around the next curve, not just a cyclist.

As you can probably guess from my past comments, I don't make excuses for bad cycling any more than bad motoring. I have personally suggested to this county that if we want to provide cyclist facilities, such as bike lanes, we also have to hold cyclists accountable, just as we do motorists.

Anonymous said...

Tom Ragsdale wrote: "I've lived here since I was six months old, and I literally cannot count the number of times over my life that...have come to a split second decision between taking out a two-wheeler ... or taking out another car ... and through it all hoping like hell that my brakes are good enough and my reaction quick enough to thread the needle and hit neither."

The matter here is quite simple. You are obligated to obey the law and drive appropriately for the conditions -- road, weather, or otherwise. Your rant about shoulderless roads is irrelevant. The road is what it is and the LAW clearly spells out that cyclists and cars are the same on these roads. Since you have lived here your entire life (and it does show, by the way), you have no excuse for having to slam on brakes on the shoulderless roads you have been driving on for most of your life. Assuming you have some ability to learn through experience of course. How about slowing down and being careful, particularly at rush hour and in spots where there are blind corners and hills and no shoulders? Is that too much to ask?

As for your remarks about clothing, which you evidently think are quite clever, they are bright for a reason. So people like you can see the cyclist. Is that too much for you to pound through your thick skull?

Tom Ragsdale said...

I will not apologize for "violent imagery." I did not invent physics, and it is not my fault that a negative-interaction motoro-cycylist superimposition is nasty and messy. I find the notion rather unpleasant myself, as you may have gathered by my own comments regarding the desirability of someone getting run over. If using concrete terms and "violent imagery" will cause a cyclist to wake up to the notion that he or she is not impervious to the tons of fast-moving steel, regardless of a right to be there, I consider it a small victory for safety. I have pointed out a hazard, a physical danger that by its nature -not mine - is violent and unpleasant, that many flat out ignore. For doing so, members of your community have decided I am a hate criminal and a terrorist. Explaining the facts of the matter strikes me as considerably less hateful or terror-inducing than the outraged howls in The Monitor calling for me to be silenced as an angry and dangerous loon, etc.. This, in fact, is why I have taken the effort to bring my comments here. The so-far successful calls to silence and ostracize me in The Monitor lead to an impression that my opinion is that of a lone angry nut, and that I am the only problem in the equation. If I'm quiet, then the problem must've gone away and it's just one madman to worry about anyway, right?

Regarding the personal attacks, I am curious which of my points was inaccurate. Was it the excess of spandex? The fact that cyclists are often out of breath? That the colors on said spandex are louder than a Metallica concert? Are you trying to tell me I wouldn't be sued in the event of an accidental negative-interaction motoro-cycylist superimposition? Please, learn to laugh at yourselves. Frankly I find being called a hate criminal over all this hilarious, as well as telling of the attitudes prevalent in the cycling community. Of course, the comparisons are offensive as the most violent act I have comitted is to bruise some egos (whoops, "bruise" is kinda violent. Adverse self-esteem impact?), but fortunately, the best jokes often are inappropriate and less than flattering to the butt thereof. Jesus/Allah/Buddah/Vishnu/Etc knows I wouldn't want to live in a world where offensive humor was flat out verboten. I know for a fact from supportive calls concerning my letter that the descriptions made at least one person laugh himself to tears, and several others near to. Also, consider that those others in the community laughing at my descriptions may recall them and laugh to themselves the next time they encounter a cyclist generally In The Way, and through such no longer have quite such an urge to hurl invectives at the biker in question. So on that note, on this topic, I fart in your general direction.

Moving on to the matters of actual merit, I agree entirely that everyone must operate safely in their drive space. I disagree that it is possible for motorists and cyclists to do this at the same time on NM 4, or coming down the hill on East Jemez, etc. We can probably butt heads over this particular section until NM 4 is widened, whenever that may happen. At the very least, I hope you'd agree that riding it during rush hour is not the most sensible decision. Further, I think your analogy to a disabled vehicle is flawed as well, as a disabled vehicle is by definition an accident, and not something that can be reasonably or accurately anticipated by either the disabled driver, or the other motorists. It catches *everyone* involved by surprise, and *no one* involved is happy about it, and it is fortunately a rare event. A cyclist, on the other hand, makes a conscious decision to get out and ride these sections of road, and this is not a rare event. The disabled vehicle does not have a choice in the matter of endangering both self and others, whereas the cyclist does so voluntarily. In a display that never ceases to amaze me, I never see cyclists riding down the front hill, but identical conditions on other roads are considered prime cycling runs for some reason.

Fortunately through all this, it appears you and I do have some common ground. If you have some petition, or special line to the police, or other plans to encourage less biased enforcement of traffic laws, I'll be all over it like sweat on a cyclist in July. This one area by itself could, in my hateful, terroristic opinion, do wonders to smooth the ruffled feathers of motorists. I suspect cyclists getting tickets would be about as happy as drivers in the same situation, but a start is a start. There's as little excuse for bad driving as there is bad cycling, but I simply fail to understand how punishing one but not the other could lead to anything *other* than increased friction and tension. The next time you mobilize your Traffic Justice movement, I would very much like to know about it, and I suspect a good number of other folks who may have missed it last time around would as well.

Tom Ragsdale said...

The matter here is quite simple. You are obligated to obey the law and drive appropriately for the conditions -- road, weather, or otherwise.

As are you. As has been noted, you frequently do not, and usually suffer no consequences at all thanks to the observance and patience of motorists.

Your rant about shoulderless roads is irrelevant. The road is what it is and the LAW clearly spells out that cyclists and cars are the same on these roads.

It certainly does spell that out. Since you are clearly exactly the same, please get up to the speed limit. And while the law may find your delightful new bike the same as a car, Issac Newton disagrees strongly, which is really the crux of the problem.

Since you have lived here your entire life (and it does show, by the way), you have no excuse for having to slam on brakes on the shoulderless roads you have been driving on for most of your life.

Really? So when I find a truck in my lane going around one of you, this is my fault as well? Is there anything else I'm responsible for that I didn't know about? Hell, I probably invented AIDS too at this rate.

Assuming you have some ability to learn through experience of course. How about slowing down and being careful, particularly at rush hour and in spots where there are blind corners and hills and no shoulders? Is that too much to ask?

If I slow and creep around every single bend, going from speed limit to timid crawl, I create just as large a safety hazard as you. And I'm still confused how this will save me in and of itself when someone lays on the gas to get around you in a hurry and comes into my lane on these curves.

As for your remarks about clothing, which you evidently think are quite clever, they are bright for a reason. So people like you can see the cyclist. Is that too much for you to pound through your thick skull?

Considering my above statement, "*That* is the main point of contention I have with cyclists, not your silly getups. Those are simply a handy way for me to do the same thing you do: Draw attention to your presence and point out the problem." I can only applaud your razor sharp reading skills and willingness to demonstrate to this noted hate criminal that the slightest disparaging remark is enough to frenzy noted cyclist Anonymous.

Khal said...

'I guess I'd better get busy staking a gay black Jewish Navajo out over an anthill after draging her around the block a few times.'

So what the hell does this violent image have to do with the topic at hand? What exactly are you fantasizing, Mr. Ragsdale? That's just plain disgusting.

As far as the road, since you have lived here all your life, you know where the curves are. I have lived here barely six years, and have had nary a close call with anyone out on NM 4, whether in a car or bike. I'm not in the automotive church choir, either.

The law is the law. It says that cyclists have the legal right to ride on these roads, whether they have shoulders or not. NM has taken advantage of this to repave on the cheap and not provide shoulders. The law has not been interpreted to say that a shoulderless road means that a cyclist is, by virtue of his existance, violating any part of the law. The law says we need to operate safely given the actual conditions of the road. If that means slowing down, so be it.

Motorcyclists, drivers of subcompacts,people going 15 mph under the speed limit, speeding lunatics in Boxsters, guys in slow tractors cutting the grass along the road, and everyone else drive these roads. That means we all have to drive and ride responsibly given these potential conditions. You can say what you want and denegrate lycra, but that doesn't change the law. Frankly, the lyrca is irrelevant and is simply an ad hominem attack.

As far as lycra, by the way, I have observed cyclists for years and see no correlation between incompetence and lycra or lawbreaking and day-glow. Neither do I see a correlation between suits and ties and incompetence in motorists. Stereotypes aside, the problems remain. Insulting people won't solve a damn thing.

Tom Ragsdale said...

"So what the hell does this violent image have to do with the topic at hand? What exactly are you fantasizing, Mr. Ragsdale? That's just plain disgusting."

From Miriam Webster's site,
"Main Entry: hy·per·bo·le
Pronunciation: hI-'p&r-b&-(")lE
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin, from Greek hyperbolE excess, hyperbole, hyperbola, from hyperballein to exceed, from hyper- + ballein to throw -- more at DEVIL
: extravagant exaggeration (as "mile-high ice-cream cones") "
(i.e. the ice cream cones in the example are not actually a mile high!)

Really, do any of you have ANY sense of humor? If you actually *know* any gay black Jewish Navajo women, I would find her very interesting to talk to, if *only* strictly form a cultural standpoint.*

For the rest, I've already noted that like it or not we do have to share this road. Personally, I would like nothing more than a definitive answer to the legality of cycling on these sections of road (and you neglected my point about the front hill, or your flawed disabled vehicle analogy). There is a very simple litmus test we can apply. One cyclist receives a ticket for violating 66-3-705-C, "Notwithstanding any provision of this section, no bicycle shall be operated on any roadway in a manner that would create a public safety hazard." Care to volunteer your time in the court room? Even agreeing to your notion that will will be forced to disagree regarding cyclists on NM 4, and further, openly supporting your crusade to put cyclists and motorists on the same page for law enforcemnt purposes, you focus simply on the points where your sensibilities were wounded. I personally wonder why, and I harbor no hope of any explanation aside from some extended version of "mean people suck."

Regarding ad hominems, I remind you that I am not the one that equated making fun of a predominant style of dress in a given hobby with dragging homosexuals to their death, or flying planes laden with innocent people into towers filled with thousands more innocents. A sense of scale would do you wonders.

I'm sorry my ever so mean words are so upsetting to the delicate sensibilities of your group. That your group consists entirely of those determined to take deep offense to the point where a reasonable person would see the exaggeration was not in my list of anticipated obstacles. Funny how you guys keep finding new ways to get in the way.

And for one final thought, the day I fail to laugh at a fifty-plus year old man in skin-tight shiny clothes visible from space, no matter the situation, you may rest assured you can visit my headstone and deface it as you will obviously see fit. Given that this point of personal humor is of vastly higher importance, given the letters and comments here, than the safety of those using the roads, I abandon all hope of the reasonable discourse you offered. I wish you luck in your continued efforts in thrill-seeking.

*No, seriously, all matters of the road aside, how can you not see that as an exaggeration? Explain how you can miss that one with a straight face, and I'll wave cheerfully and move aside as you ride directly into traffic expecting it to part like the Red Sea for Moses.

Anonymous said...

Ragsdale (appropriate name) wrote:
"As are you. As has been noted, you frequently do not, and usually suffer no consequences at all thanks to the observance and patience of motorists."

There are lots of lawbreakers out there. What's your point? You don't know anything about me or how or if I ride. So STFU about it. It is your responsibility as a motorist, as it is mine as a motorist, to be paitient and observe the law and watch out for the unexpected. Do you think just because you have a driver's license that you are entitled to roads free and clear from that which annoys you?

You strike me as one of these pathetic little people that love rules for the sake of rules and become annoyed when anyone breaks the rules, whether it affects you or not. See someone coast through a stop sign a block away? Outrage! You believe you are entitled to all sorts of things and are angry when they don't drop in your lap. Get over it already. It is not every cyclist's fault that mommy and daddy didn't buy you that new bike for Christmas in 1952.

He also opined:
"It certainly does spell that out. Since you are clearly exactly the same, please get up to the speed limit. And while the law may find your delightful new bike the same as a car, Issac Newton disagrees strongly, which is really the crux of the problem."

My, aren't you clever? You've got a big grown up view of physics. You've concluded that a bike+rider has less mass than an automobile. Congratulations. I'll alert Stockholm.

Most everyone around here has the same degree you do, moron. So stop the feeble attempts to impress us all with your intellect.

The law says nothing about how fast a bike is to go. Only that they are to be treated like automobiles. So, like any slower moving automobile, you have to remain behind them until it is safe to go around them. So, like any slower moving automobile, you have to remain behind them until it is safe to go around them. So, like any slower moving automobile, you have to remain behind them until it is safe to go around them.

I thought I would say it three times since we seem to be dealing with a learning disability here.

"Really? So when I find a truck in my lane going around one of you, this is my fault as well? Is there anything else I'm responsible for that I didn't know about? Hell, I probably invented AIDS too at this rate."

It's called "defensive driving." Look into it.

He also treated us all to:
"If I slow and creep around every single bend, going from speed limit to timid crawl, I create just as large a safety hazard as you. "

Well, if that is what you have to do to safely negotiate the roads, then so be it. In your next chapter in your little tommy ragsdale physics book, look into the physical size of objects as well as their mass before you make stupid statements like creating "as large a safety hazard as you" if you drive slowly around curves you can't see around.

Finally, he said:
"And I'm still confused how this will save me in and of itself when someone lays on the gas to get around you in a hurry and comes into my lane on these curves."

Pot. Kettle. Black. Get it? This driver is behaving just like you do, dip shit.

I just can't get enough of your witty banter, though. Particularly about the clothing. Please continue.

I'm not an avid cyclist, by the way. But I don't need to be to understand these issues and to see that you are obviously a major prick with too much time on your hands. And your comments to the contrary, most of the people I know that read your lovely missive in the town rag think you are a dangerous blowhard. Nicely done.

David said...

Seems to me that you folks are arguing pretty much the same point, except each side is angry that the other doesn't get it. People breaking the law create safety hazards, cyclists and motorists sharing the same roadways create safety hazards, and people don't always follow laws which gives a negative impression to those who do.

So, it seems to me that some people just don't understand Mr. Ragsdale's humor.

I would like to point out, just as a personal gripe in general, that using a "pot calling the kettle black" argument is petty and dumb. I will counter with "Two rights don't make a wrong," which I intend to mean that just because someone sees fault in the action of others in the same way that their actions are also faulty, it does not make their point any less valid.

Khal said...

It is not obvious, Mr. Ragsdale, what is humor or hyperbole vs. a personal violent fantasy when you and I don't know each other from Adam. Maybe a conversation over a beer, instead of the Internet, is in order.

The question of the legality of riding on NM4 should be clear. There is no law against it nor has any traffic engineer tried to ban it (as far as I know). Some sections are posted "ride single file" or words to that effect. There is also no expectation that cyclists be able to ride at the speed of cars. Bicycles are considered vehicles by the traffic code and are operated at the prevailing speed of a bicycle--that was decided in Selz vs. Trotwood, OH, in an appellate court and I suspect that precident would apply elsewhere since the traffic codes are similar in most states. We are expected to negotiate around each other.

I don't think anyone has ever been cited for lawfully riding their bike on NM4. If anyone ever was, I'd be curious as to how the case was adjudicated. Anyone know?

It is also, as it happens, legal to ride the Main Hill, but traffic is so heavy most of the time that most cyclists, myself included, avoid it like the plague. I occasionally ride down it early on a Sunday morning while everyone is asleep since it is a really pretty ride. NM 4 gives overtaking motorists plenty of opportunities to overtake a bike since the road is low in traffic and has long straight stretches with good visibility. The same cannot be said for Main Hill.

As far as the analogy to a disabled vehicle, I stand by it. We are responsible to operate our vehicles in ways that do not put ourselves outside a safety envelope. Whether it is a slow cyclist, a mule deer, a rockfall, a disabled vehicle, or someone walking down the side of the road with a gas can, any of these requires a motorist to react according to safe driving. No one should be careening into a blind curve faster than they can see and slow down. Actually, I learned that by scaring the wits out of myself some dedades ago, back when I used to drive sports cars way too fast on curvy roads. Fortunately, that Porsche had good brakes as well as a strong engine. No one hurt, no bent sheet metal. Lesson learned.

As far as the hyperbole, insults, invectives, etc. being flung about, I simply ask everyone to back off and take a deep breath. Anonymous at 11:28 p.m. is way over the line.

By the way, I did e-mail Police Chief Torpy and ask what the P.D.'s policy is on citing cyclists who are disregarding the traffic law. If Mr. Ragsdale and I share any opinion at the 100% level, its that cyclists should NOT ride as though the traffic laws don't exist. I'll share the Chief's reply.

Anonymous said...

You guys just don't understand my brand of humor.

Khal said...

Even I'm starting to laugh at this, Anonymous...

Neale said...

Whoa, look, it's Tom Ragsdale!

Hey man, I'm sorry you didn't get my statement about "terrorizing cyclists". Check that dictionary of yours for the word "terrorize": mine says "frighten greatly". I didn't say you fly airplanes into 110-story buildings, I was just pointing out that you seemed to want to scare people off their bikes.

I'm not sure why folks spend inordinate amounts of time arguing with people who're set in their opinions, when there are so many others who're more open. That's why I teach Bike Ed, and apparently at least one of my students thought it was good stuff.

Mr. Ragsdale, if you'd like to take my 9-hour "Art of Cycling" class I'll waive the $10 fee for you. We go over maintenance, emergency maneuvers, and lane positioning, among other things. I'm even happy to do a shorter, 3-hour "Motorist Education" class that doesn't require any riding, if you'd prefer.

If you're not interested, that's cool too. If you want to paint everybody with the same brush that's okay.

But I concur with Khal, the name-calling and pointless bickering isn't solving anything. Maybe we all could do with a nice ride :)

lisa said...

I don't have time to waste on reading Ragsdale's rants, pleading for attention. Obviously, he is not getting it elsewhere if he is seeking it among people who do not sympathize with his viewpoints. Strange.

I have never been a fan of humor based upon insulting others. That is not humor. That is a pathetic attempt to raise yourself up by standing upon the back of someone else. Anybody of worth can recognize that your enhanced height is the product of exploiting others, and not the product of your own talent or wisdom.

Arguing with Ragsdale is like arguing with a child about why they cannot substitute a cupcake for their veggies at dinnertime. If you care for the child, you take the time to carefully explain your reasoning because (1) it is for their own good and (2) they respect you enough to listen. If you don't care for the child, you ignore him and focus on the ones who may listen to your sage advice.

Khal, I really, really respect you, but, as Neale said, your time can be MUCH better spent doing anything other than interfacing with Ragsdale. His plea for attention is, quite frankly, embarrassing. I just hope nobody is harmed should he resort to escalating his silly ranting.

So, again, I ask, how can roads be made safer when the most dangerous drivers are, as Hugh suggested in an email, sociopathic? I appreciate "K"'s comment waaaay at the beginning of this thread. Any other ideas?

Khal said...

Lisa, I think we need to recall the 4-E's. Education, Enforcement, Engineering, and Encouragement.

First, you educate people on proper operation of their vehicles so everyone knows the rules. It is not that hard.

Then, you strictly enforce the laws on the books so people know they will be held accountable. That means stiffer fines, and that dangerous operators have their licences suspended or revolked. Since cyclists don't have to have a licence, it means stiff fines at minimum, or jerking a cyclist's MV licence for really dangerous behavior. And, cyclists can cause chaos, just as motorists can. One of my close calls was nearly hitting (head on) a wrong-way cyclist who was not equipped with a light while riding home from the University after dark back in Honolulu.

Third, you build infrastructure that is designed properly and has a little more safety built into it. I'll post under a new thread an article just sent to me about Vision Zero philosophy. Unfortunately, this is the most expensive fix which is why it usually is not done. LANL's roads are a good example--the Lab Traffic Engineer caught a lot of flak when he re-striped W. Jemez Road with real shoulders on it, and the lab improperly repaved E. Jemez by only paving to the fog line.

Finally, you encourage good behavior and penalize bad behavior in schools, churches, on TV, and in our families. Enough of the TV advertisements for bad driving.

Not to be done overnight. Overall, I am disappointed with the overall quality of driving and cycling and not just in Los Alamos. When I was growing up, one had the fear of the Traffic Court judge in one's blood. That doesn't seem to apply any more--to anyone.

I'm through letter writing on this topic, I suppose. Not much left to be said and as you say, other fish to fry.

Khal said...

By the way, here are the last two letters, for completeness.

Letter is responsibility of writer

Dear Editor,

In his letter on Sept. 13, Mr. Spencer accuses the Monitor of poor journalism for publishing my "inflammatory, hostile, offensive and threatening" letter.

First, I prefer the term "scathingly accurate." Second, the Monitor makes clear that signed letters are the opinions of the author, not necessarily of the newspaper. He further postulates that the last thing the community needs is "misdirected anger."

I submit that this is inaccurate (poor journalism?). What we truly need least is a demonstration that the laws of physics take precedence over the state traffic code.

I do agree wholeheartedly with his assertion that we must operate safely on N.M. 4. It may come as a surprise, given my description of bicyclists as "day-glo clad lawsuits," that I do not actually wish to strike one of these neon obstructions.

An irate driver may, as claimed, contradict safety, but being upset seems somehow less dangerous than playing "chicken" with oncoming traffic in order to avoid someone lacking the common sense to stay off the highway without a car (unfortunate breakdowns notwithstanding). My mother taught me at an early age not to play in traffic. It appears that not everyone's parents were so caring.

One obvious solution would seem to kill two birds with one stone - by preventing bicyclists from using the shoulder-less portions of NM 4, they would not face the danger of fast moving vehicles, and drivers would have less cause for ire, not needing to dodge traffic from the wrong lane.

Circling back to the issue of the traffic code, Mr. Spencer notes how often the Police Beat in the Monitor contains traffic violations by motorists. Again, this observation is correct. Unfortunately missing, however, is the corresponding observation that the same section conspicuously lacks reports of violations committed by bicyclists.

I'm quite certain that at the very least I have never seen an entry in the Police Beat reporting a bicyclist cited for operating in a manner that would create a public safety hazard, or for lack of a bell and headlight as mandated by 66-3-707-A and B of the state code. If such citations actually are occurring, I apologize for my inaccuracy, and propose that a better distinction between moving violations of a four and two-wheeled nature would be helpful.

When all is said and done, I simply do not wish to be placed in harm's way to accommodate someone else's hobby.

Tom Ragsdale

White Rock

and in reply...

Give up the ad hominem attacks

Dear Editor,

I would like to clarify a few things regarding my comments on letters authored by Mr. Thomas Ragsdale.

My criticism of the Monitor on publishing Mr. Ragsdale's initial letter was based on the Monitor's stated policy of screening letters for "content and length." Given that the initial letter based so much of its content on demeaning ad hominem attacks and appeals to ridicule, I thought the Monitor would consider whether that letter should have been rewritten so that a constructive discourse rather than appeals to animosity could result. Regardless, a constructive dialogue resulted.

Although subsequent ad hominem/appeal to ridicule has been toned down, it remains in Mr. Ragsdale's Letter #2 (such as "neon obstructions" and allusions equating adult cyclists with children at play). Such comments do little to prove a point; one wonders why they are included.

As far as other assertions, I think the contrast of the laws of physics versus the traffic code is a false dilemma. The traffic code is written to ensure that lawful (note "lawful") vehicle operators and pedestrians are empowered to use our roads safely.

We must operate under controls that allow us to share the road taking into consideration both our political philosophy (who should be using the road) and physics (controls to ensure mutual safety under legal operating conditions).

For example, where I grew up, we expected that Amish buggies would be sharing the roads with pickup trucks. Thus, signage, speed limits and expectations were set accordingly.

The slippery slope fallacy we see in letters one and two suggest that if you have to pass a cyclist on N.M. 4, a head-on crash or near-miss will likely follow ("...playing 'chicken' with oncoming traffic in order to avoid someone lacking the common sense to stay off the highway without a car...").

I don't think it is the expectation of sensible motorists, our traffic manager or LAPD that motorists should choose to play chicken but rather to pass sensibly when the way is clear.

The fact that a countless number of these overtaking maneuvers are accomplished every year without crash or injury makes me wonder whether Mr. Ragsdale's sense of alarm is highly overstated. Or, I suspect, we are simply looking at a guy who dislikes cycling. In either case, these should not be the community's problems.

Khalil J. Spencer

Bicycling Coalition of New Mexico