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letterstotheeditor


Bicyclist responds

Bicyclist responds



I recently read the Aug. 24, 2006 issue of the Farragutpress, and I would like to respond to the comments in Presstalk by one of your readers concerning bicyclists. The reader I am referring to in the August 24th paper took issue with bicyclists ďnot wearing bright enough colorsĒ and insisting ďon riding their bikes on the roads.Ē

As an avid cyclist I am continually amazed at the narrow-minded comments and attitudes concerning bicyclists in East Tennessee. However, when you consider the number of drivers in our area that dangerously tailgate, fail to routinely use their turn indicators, pass cars on sections of road with double yellow lines and suffer from road rage, I suppose it is too much to expect these same people to understand the rules of the road regarding cyclists and willingly share the road.

I agree with your reader that cyclists should wear bright clothes to aid in visibility. However, my closet is full of bright cycling jerseys, and the riders that I cycle with wear clothing that is equally colorful. In addition, I typically (not always) ride in groups of cyclists, which makes it easier for vehicles to see us. While I canít make the categorical statement that all cyclists wear bright clothes, your readerís statement falsely implies that all cyclists donít wear bright enough colors. That simply isnít true and is a gross exaggeration.

What disturbs me the most about the stream of negative comments concerning cyclists in recent years is that they appear to reflect a number of things: a growing impatience in our society, a lack of common decency and plain ignorance. Iíd ask your readers to take a moment and consider the following. How long does it actually take to slow down and safely pass a bicyclist or group of riders on the road? Is it 10 seconds or 30 seconds out of your busy schedule? Whatever the minimal amount of time is, have we become that impatient as a society or community that we canít share the road on the occasions when you encounter cyclists? How can you justify or explain the need for some drivers to speed around cyclists in blind curves ignoring double yellow lines and passing restrictions? This unfortunately has become all too common. What is the pressing need that causes some drivers to risk killing themselves, nearby cyclists or other drivers in on-coming lanes? Is it the rush to get home, to arrive at a restaurant, a bar or church a minute sooner? Does the minor inconvenience of passing a cyclist justify drivers intentionally running cyclists off the road, throwing trash at cyclists from vehicles, or drivers shouting obscenities at cyclists? These kinds of behavior merely reinforce the stereotypical opinion that some people have of Tennesseans that we are nothing more than rednecks with room temperature IQs.

Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in our country and Tennessee, in particular. Look around you. If you canít see this, then itís no surprise that you canít see the cyclists in the bright colored jerseys on the roads. We should be embracing and encouraging all forms of exercise, including and especially cycling. This is a form of exercise that can be enjoyed by people at all ages. We should be promoting the designation and creation of bicycling lanes in our city, not restricting this form of transportation and exercise. We are the most technically advanced country on Earth and yet a significant portion of our population canít manage their own weight and health. Who do we blame for this? This is a problem that will affect many in our community directly in terms of family membersí declining health, and all of us indirectly in terms of higher health care costs.

In conclusion, Iíd like to share some experiences from recent trips to France. Despite my negative opinions of the French government, I came away with a favorable opinion of the French people. I also made some other observations that are worth

sharing.

ē I observed very few obese or overweight people in France. They have fewer fast food restaurants. The portions or servings in typical restaurants were adequate but not excessive, unlike many American restaurants where individual servings can be enough to feed several people.

ē I have never felt uncomfortable while cycling on French roads. No one honked at us, no one threw trash at us and no one shouted obscenities at us. Cycling is an accepted form of transportation and exercise on city and country roads. They willingly share the roads. I think this is true throughout most of Europe.

ē I saw no litter on the roadsides in France. NONE! Conversely, some people in our community seem to think itís perfectly acceptable to dump trash out of their vehicles on any road. Is the difference a greater pride or responsibility for their communities?

ē†There is less waste.

ē†It seemed like a greater percentage of the population was engaged in some form of exercise, be it hiking, biking, walking, running, swimming, climbing, etc. Their idea of exercise is not walking around the mall with the final destination being the food court!

While I will continue to disagree with the French government, maybe there is something that we can and should learn from them.



Sincerely,

Tom Gilmore

Farragut

 

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