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October 7-14, 2009

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Letters to the Editor

Out of The Margins

STEPHEN KESSLER chafes at his well-earned nomination as Santa Cruz County Poet Laureate because, for him, the laurels resemble asafetida bags prescribed by a naive surgeon general to ward off pestilence ("Do We Need a Poet Laureate?" Bullhorn, Sept. 30). Celebrating the "unacknowledged" in Shelley's famous claim that poets are legislators, Kessler reminds me of how often Emerson's "foolish" is ignored before "consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." The devil's in the details, the poet Kessler wisely reminds us. And his poet's perch "in the margins" seems like freedom to him.

What if poetry as guerrilla theater, like all forms of theater, needs to be publicly honored from time to time? What if, as John Milton tells us, virtue must sally out "to see her adversary" and, by doing so, draw people of like and diverse minds and aspirations into the streets, auditoriums and cable TV stations? In other words, out of the margins.

We should congratulate Kessler and be provoked to work for change by his achievements.

Don Rothman,
Santa Cruz

Unsubstantiated Rants

I SERIOUSLY doubt that the letter from Erin Copp ("Note to Drivers," Posts, Sept. 30) describes a typical daily ride anywhere in Santa Cruz County. I have been riding in and around Santa Cruz daily for seven years, and throughout the country for 30 more years. I have never received "cat calls," I have never been doored, I have never had anything thrown at me. My worst encounters have been with moose in Alaska.

This may have something to do with my bicycling habits. I obey all traffic rules that apply to all vehicles on our streets. I ride with awareness and courtesy toward other users of the road. I ride slowly past parked cars and keep an eye out for movement inside the cars. I stop at all stop signs and stop lights, and I take my place in the queue of vehicles at intersections.

Sending out such a divisive message is irresponsible and does nothing to promote safe and responsible travel in our community. There are enough conflicts between bicyclists and motorists already without inflaming the situation with yet another unsubstantiated rant.

Michael Lewis,
Santa Cruz

Feeling Your Pain

AS A CYCLIST who logs many miles commuting with car traffic in Santa Cruz, I have felt your pain about feeling "invisible" when sharing the road with cars.

I would like to share with you a few things I have learned in the last few years of regular bike commuting. As I wrote them down, I realized that they all have to do with confidence. I found that when my confidence on my bike increased, so did the level of respect I got from drivers. Hopefully, these tips will help you, as well.

First, Take the Lane. Are you hugging the far right-hand side of the lane (if there's no bike lane)? If your complaint is that cars don't "see" you, then take the next step to make yourself seen. For example, when there's no bike lane and you're forced to mix it up with traffic, there's one correct way to do it--take the lane. Taking the lane means riding in at least the right third of the lane. An easy rule of thumb is to ride in the right tire track where cars normally drive. By taking the right third of the lane, you have eliminated the driver's temptation to try to "squeeze" by you, which is how many accidents happen. They have no choice but to slow down and move out of the lane to pass you.

Second, Create Movement. Drivers notice things that move. As you're approaching an intersection with the right of way, keep pedaling all the way through the intersection. Your spinning legs and reflectors will get drivers' attention. Even if you are going downhill and don't need the speed, keep soft-pedaling to create movement. Besides getting a driver's attention, your pedaling tells him "I'm confident and I'm coming through."

Third, Make Eye Contact. When I ride in traffic I keep my head up and I don't wear sunglasses. At intersections, I look around (especially at the car behind me) and make eye contact with the drivers. There's a connection when humans make eye contact. Add a smile or a nod, and you're guaranteed to get more respect (i.e., space) when the light turns green.

I appreciate your experience, and know the feeling of disrespect that your story conveys. Try these three things next time you're riding in traffic and you'll see that as your confidence increases, you get the respect you are seeking from drivers.

Clayton Ryon,

Cyclists' Outlandish Schemes

I USE both a car and a bicycle to get around. I have biked in L.A., New York and a third world city. Believe me, California, especially Santa Cruz, is a paradise for cyclists. This is seen by the general show of respect and cooperation as well as clearly marked bike lanes. However, whenever I come across hyperbolic vitriol against motorists, I must chuckle.

The biking community here say they want respect and their "rights" with cooperation and communication with an eye toward "safety." How can they claim this when I see their political agenda being one of chastising and a wish toward eliminating motorists and backing outlandish schemes? One such is exercising their "right" to using the full right lane of Mission Street. This is a state route connector road with heavy dangerous traffic. Is this idea toward safety and common sense? I think not. Then we have the expensive idea of making King Street into a biking boulevard. This is clearly against their own paid consultant's report of it working well in this location due to the lack of a grid formation to ease motoring traffic to other patterns.

It is apparent that the biking community here is not interested in the combining of forces (pedestrian, motorists, cyclists) with mutual respect and safety, but for their own singular aims. This only further divides the communities and creates resentment and hard feelings.

Oh, and by the way, review the California's DMV Handbook. You are a vehicle on the road and must adhere to the "rules of the road." This includes allowing motorists to enter 200 feet into a bike lane to make a right turn, as well as to edge into the bike lane to safely view oncoming traffic when exiting driveways and parking lots. Also, the rule is for single file along narrow or busy streets, as opposed to two or more, unless for permitted racing events or can fit into a designated bike lane or can maintain posted speed limits.

You are responsible for your own safety when biking. Education is needed for all concerned. Advocating policies and misinformation that further divides creates only a win-lose situation. Educate and chastise your own scofflaws if you wish to have a positive relationship with the community. You are no longer riding your bike in a 1950s planned neighborhood with a cul de sac.

Mike Speviak,
Santa Cruz

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