Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Let the sun shine in...

Well, folks. Interesting newspaper today in Los Alamos.

Perhaps Tom Ragsdale's letter in the Los Alamos Monitor (appended below after the responses) was the best thing that ever happened to cycling and civil discourse in Los Alamos.

The responses to his hateful tirade were universally bike friendly, and spanned the breadth of discourse from a Ten Commandments of cycling and motoring rules, written by one of cycling instructor Neale Pickett's recent Road I grads, to a discussion of hate speech as it applies to cyclists, blacks, and gays, written by a local resident. Both are quite important.

I am especially happy that someone else picked up on the hate speech angle. I had a discussion with the Monitor owner/publisher on that topic, but he had already agreed to publish one of my letters and not two of them. In retrospect, my concern at the balance of wisdom of publishing hateful speech was vindicated in favor of free speech when the hate speech was blasted by the community. As former ACLU Ex. Director Ira Glasser used to say, the best medicine for bad ideas is letting the disinfecting sunlight shine in on the rot.

Let the sun shine in.



Negative letters serve no value

Dear Editor,

Publishing letters with currents of violence barely concealed in them does not help our nation or community. For some reason, "traditional values" voices are often allowed a level of anger beyond any civil discourse in this country, and such is the voice of Thomas Ragsdale in your Sept. 10 letters page. His expressed attitudes are identical to precursor dialogs of countless past hate crimes, and we expect better of the Monitor than to propagate same.

I trust other writers will address the thin substance of Mr. Ragsdale's remarks; here I will not give them the credence of further discussion. But in the future, please don't imitate the Limbaugh-Imus-Coulter axis by broadcasting the seething hatreds of our "Back to the Good Old Days" citizens. We'd appreciate you, instead, moderating a reasonable dialogue in our well-balanced community. Let's keep the James Byrd and Matthew Shephard horror stories in Texas and Wyoming; New Mexico and the United States deserve better.

Mark E. Dunham

Los Alamos

All vehicles need to share the road

Dear Editor,

As both a cyclist and a motorist, I understand where John Pawlak and Tom Ragsdale come from. But it is important to remember the simple issue of respect.

Motorists should respect the right of the cyclist to be on the road, while the cyclist should respect and be aware of the dangers posed by being there. This includes, but is not limited to, being passed by angry and obnoxious drivers.

I think it is important to take a step back (maybe even take some deep breaths) and consider some safety precautions for traveling on the road, whatever your vehicle may be.


The same laws that apply to motorists apply to cyclists. Obey all traffic control devices.

Use hand signals to indicate stops and turns to other users.

Always ride in the same direction as traffic. Use the furthest right lane that heads to your destination. Slower moving cyclists and motorists stay to the right.

Ride in a straight line. Don't swerve in the road or between parked cars. Check for traffic before entering street or intersection.

Anticipate hazards and adjust your position accordingly

Wear brightly colored clothing that provides contrast. Use a white front light in low light conditions. Use a red rear light in low light conditions. Use a reflector or reflective tape or clothing anytime. Announce yourself by making eye contact with motorists.


Reduce speed when encountering cyclists. Don't tailgate, especially in bad weather.

Recognize hazards cyclists may face and give them space.

Bicycles are considered vehicles. Cyclists should be given the appropriate right of way. Allow extra time for cyclists to traverse intersections.

Scan for cyclists in traffic and at intersections. Do not blast your horn in close proximity to cyclists. Look for cyclists when opening doors.

When passing, leave four feet between you and a cyclist. Wait for safe road and traffic conditions before you pass. Check over your shoulder before moving back.

I recently attended a fabulous biking class (here in town!) taught by Neale Pickett, an experienced cyclist and member of the League of American Bicyclists, with an actual curriculum.

It opened my eyes to safe cycling, and safe driving, since I now know both sides of the situation. It would be useful for cyclists and motorists alike, and I encourage everyone to take it. Contact Neale at bikeed@woozle.org. Also, visit www.bikeleague.org/action/thepublic.php.

Emily Powell

White Rock

Look and be considerate

Dear Editor,

In response to Tom Ragsdale's article: First off, automobile drivers must be responsible. Bikes have the same rights as any motor vehicle. Cars should give bikes the same courtesy as if they were cars. It is their right. If you wouldn't pass another car, don't pass the bike.

I've been run over by a car once. That's enough. The car turned into a side street as I was passing the side street. I heard the girls yelling "you hit a bike" as I was hanging beneath the car being dragged along the road.

Just think about that when you are passing a bike. It's usually the idiots in the cars that think the same way as you do.

James Lindsay

Los Alamos

Show respect to all others

Dear Editor,

Dear fellow bicyclists: Watch out for Mr. Ragsdale.

Don Krier

Los Alamos

'Mobile hood ornaments'?

Dear Editor,

You chose to publish a letter by Mr. Tom Ragsdale that is inflammatory, hostile, offensive and threatening ("mobile hood ornaments"). It is laced with name-calling and is therefore poor journalism. Surely the Monitor is not encouraging hostility toward law-abiding cyclists?

I think an apology from the Monitor to the Los Alamos County cycling community is in order. The last thing we need in Los Alamos right now, given the challenges we may face in the next year from potential loss of jobs from our principle employer, is more misdirected anger, especially anger which can be turned into road rage.

As far as N.M. 4: Shoulderless roads are a hazard to everyone, whether it be a driver who has to pull off the road with a disabled vehicle, a pedestrian walking from a disabled vehicle, or a cyclist trying to get where he or she is going.

This road needs to be fixed, but until then, we must operate on it safely. Road rage, as it happens, contradicts safety. I am a little miffed that you allow your paper to be used for such inflammatory nonsense.

As far as ignoring the vehicle and traffic code? The Monitor's Police Beat is routinely dominated by moving violations committed by motorists. There is nothing constructive in having the pots call the kettles black.

Khalil J. Spencer

Former Transportation Board member

Los Alamos

And, the original.

First off, bicyclists must be responsible

Dear Editor,

In his letter of Sept. 6, John Pawlak opines that the local drivers do not show proper reverence to the local bicycle aficionados. He even goes so far as to remind us once again that some twit made it into law that these mobile hood ornaments are given the same rights and responsibilities as a motor vehicle (though, strangely, I never see them keeping up the responsibilities end of that arrangement as they breeze through stop signs and traffic lights), citing 66-3-702 of the state code.

Unfortunately, Mr. Pawlak stopped reading the statute a bit too soon. If he had pressed on to 66-3-705-C, he would have found that "Notwithstanding any provision of this section, no bicycle shall be operated on any roadway in a manner that would create a public safety hazard."

On a two-lane highway with a very narrow shoulder, such as N.M. 4, any encounter with one of these gasping gits dressed as a reject from "Tron" is a safety hazard. Some probably experience a wonderful thrill when faced with a Buick approaching at 50 miles per hour in the wrong lane as it swerves around one of these rolling senses of entitlement, but I am not such a thrill-seeker.

Having repeatedly stress-tested my brakes coming around the curves of N.M. 4, and finding myself forced to choose between an oncoming truck or a panting, day-glo clad lawsuit, my sympathies lie entirely with the motorists Mr. Pawlak described expressing their anger at being forced to suffer these fools.

Tom Ragsdale

White Rock

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