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Letters 8/18/08

- August 18th, 2008
Pass it on?
Hopefully, next year the Film Festival can find a much better representative of the film industry to make an appearance in Traverse City instead of somebody like Madonna, who sexually exploited her way to stardom.
If Rick Coates ever does get to interview Madonna, how about asking her if she passed her “Boy Toy” belt buckle down to her young daughter so she can wear it like her momma did.

Angelina M. Randazzo • TC

Evasive action
Anne Stanton’s article, “Ride ’Em Cowboy!” was a timely and relevant look at the very important issue of bicycling safety, and, for the most part, I agreed with her in just about every respect. However, there were a few omissions that I would like to point out, as well as an issue I disagreed with.
Riding on the right side of the road is considered a primary rule of bicycling, but it’s not always safe or practicable. I ride on M-22 in Leelanau County enroute to work, and I always ride on the left, facing traffic.
Notice in the two biking fatalities mentioned, the riders were killed by drivers who struck them from behind. They never saw the vehicle that hit and killed them. Personally, if I’m going to be run off the road, I prefer to see it coming -- at least this way I have a chance to take evasive action.
Granted, M-22 has a paved, six-foot-wide shoulder to ride on, and it may not always be practicable to ride on the left, but I’ll do it every chance I have.
Also not mentioned was bicycling at night. I get out of work at 2 a.m., and half of my route takes me down M-22. I wear a helmet with a detachable headlamp, as well as two strong LED flashlights that I velcro to the helmet when necessary, along with a small LED light facing backwards. I also have a flashing red tail light on the bike. I get teased a lot about the amount of lights I wear at night, but I’m strongly aware that, at two in the morning, I’m riding a highway that leads directly from the bars in Traverse City to an all-night casino that also has bars. I want these inebriated drivers to see me!
Also, drivers: when you happen upon a bicyclist riding towards you at night, dim your lights! We can’t see the road ahead of us when we’re blinded by your high beams—no one likes to barrel down the road on a bike when he can’t see anything.
Finally, always wear a helmet, no matter how goofy you think they make you look. I’ve only had one crash on my bike, but I was stunned at how fast my “face-plant” occurred. I literally had no time to react before I found myself flat on the pavement with my bike on top of me (I hit a curb that I hadn’t seen). Don’t be an organ donor because you thought helmets were “dumb,” or “unmanly,” or “funny looking.”
Like on a motorcycle, there are no second chances in a bicycle accident. Do everything you can, and wear everything you must, to avoid the accident in the first place.

Howard J. Blodgett • Leelanau

Know the road rules
Thanks for the good article on biking and a touch of safety practices. With the growing numbers of cyclists on the road due to economics more than anything else, it is important that people be reminded of the rules.
A lot of people have taken to riding after many years if not decades of not riding, most haven’t ridden since they were kids, and man how times have changed. The number of cars have gone up considerably and the recognition of cyclists on the road has gone down. Long gone are the days of weaving back and forth across the line like we did as kids. Auto drivers don’t know for sure what to do with a cyclist anymore.
I read Bicycle and Mountain Bike magazine and every month someone comments about the cyclists they have encountered who are not obeying the rules of the road. These are the people that cause drivers to respond like the ones you commented on in the article. There are rules for cyclists and if someone is intending to ride their bike in towns or on rural roads, then they better learn the rules and obey them. This goes for riding our miles of bike trails too.
You would do the public a huge favor by posting articles or comments about riding in Northern Michigan. The Express is respected and read by many, it would be a great medium to get good info out to the growing number of pedal power people, new and old.

Joe Deater • Lake Ann

Ride assertively
With due respect to Christian Janssens in Petoskey who does a great job teaching bike safety courses, I must differ with the closing statement in Anne Stanton’s recent article regarding the efficacy of bicycles riding two abreast.
As cyclists we are allowed to travel “2 abreast.” That’s the law. Another statement in the Michigan statute (Section 257.600) is clarifying and states that a “person operating a bicycle or moped upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable.”
The notion that we must always move into single file upon the approach of a vehicle is erroneous, defeating the purpose of the statute, and very likely putting riders in danger. When I am out with my friends riding, I make it a practice to evaluate passing vehicles whenever possible in reference to the conditions at hand. If I am riding two-abreast on the roadway, I will not evacuate that position until I know the conditions and the situation are safe for all.
Moving into single-file simply because there is a vehicle behind you may get you killed.
As a seasoned cyclist I use my position on the road as one of power and control. Sometimes if there is oncoming traffic or the road is narrow or curving, I will extend my left hand and palm behind me signaling the car to slow down until it is safe to pass. In this same motion I will also attempt to ensure that the driver sees me. A caveat here is that if there is a suitable shoulder it is also law that bicyclists use it or else be in hazard of contributory negligence in the event of an accident.
The single most important thing you can do as a cyclist to ensure your own safety is to ride assertively. Learn to be seen, take your place in the roadway, make eye contact if at all possible, and ensure motorists see and acknowledge you. If you do this consistently, with due respect to the other vehicles sharing the road with you, your chances of coming home unscathed will increase.
I also encourage everyone to learn the law. You can find links to Michigan bicycle laws and join the conversation about creating safer conditions for
cyclists in northern Michigan at the new social network It’s noncommercial and free.

Bill Palladino • TC

Pot & psychosis
There is much wisdom in “The End of Reefer Madness?” article (Random Thoughts, 8/4). Prohibition of marijuana is more harmful than the effects of the drug itself. Ask anyone who has been arrested, thrown in prison, lost their property or their job for recreational use.
The only point in the article that I take issue with is the claim that more potent pot causes psychotic episodes. Several countries have more potent pot than the U.S. but have noticed no increase in reports of psychotic episodes or emergency room admissions related to more potent pot.
Some recent research indicates that people with a predisposition to schizophrenia are 1% more likely to have a “psychotic episode” under the influence of the drug. So doesn’t this mean that one should be cautious about experimenting with the drug if you are not an adult or if you have a history of schizophrenia in your family or if you personally experience a ‘psychotic episode’ while under the influence of the drug?
Isn’t this an argument for regulation and education rather than prohibition? As a social worker with 25 years of experience in the fields of criminal justice, mental health, and drug abuse treatment, I’ve witnessed alcohol causing more deaths, and more physical and mental harm than all of the other drugs combined. Yet we ended alcohol prohibition so the government, rather than criminals, would educate, regulate, and tax the product. We will eventually end the prohibition of marijuana for the same reason.

Bob Heflin • Williamsburg

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