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Bill Arnold: Defends the civil rights of bicyclists

To the editor:

A few days ago, in a driving wind, I was riding my bike, head down, in the crosswalk by Bird’s Store in Florence when I sensed a vehicle to my right. I slowed as the driver stopped his truck in the crosswalk, barring my way.

Waving a condescending finger, he declared, “You’re a motor vehicle” and drove off. I think his point was that as long as I was breaking the rules, riding my bike in a crosswalk, he didn’t have to stop for me.

I wasn’t a taxpayer, a person, I was a bicyclist law-breaker and he was justified in stopping me. He is in the majority, driving tons of steel with very little work. I’m in the minority, having to pedal and watch for obstacles. Every time or almost every time I go for a long bike ride, some driver threatens me by driving way too close or scares me by blaring their horn. At issue is a civil right. As long as I can be intimidated with impunity for claiming the right to bicycle on the public highways, then I don’t have that right.

Bill Arnold

Florence

I, too, am confused by your letter. It sounds like you were crossing against a red light, which is technically illegal, for which you can actually be stopped and ticketed. But the stop light issue aside, in Massachusetts there is no law expressly forbidding riding a cycle in a crosswalk, that is true. But it is also true that legally you are the operator of a vehicle, and as such you must follow the rules of the road as a vehicle, not a pedestrian. If you want to claim pedestrian right of way in a crosswalk, you have to dismount and become a pedestrian. I am sorry that people are rude to you, I really am, but the verbiage of your letter is very telling. The big bad car is "in the majority", and you are "in the minority". You seem to be eager to self identify as some kind of victim, when the simple fact is you were both vehicles sharing the same stretch of road. Was the person right to do what they did? Well, it was certainly a rude way to make a point. But neither were you in the right, and so I have a hard time seeing people being rude to you as a civil rights issue, as some form of persecution. If you were riding your bike in the crosswalk against a red light, the you were clearly and firmly in the wrong. As for people blaring horns at you - the horn on a car is there to be used to let people know you are there, in the same world. Horns are often the only communication drivers have with others on the road. If car horns actually scare you, perhaps you should not be riding your bicycle on such heavily trafficked roadways.

I don't really understand - were you running a red light (are you talking about that crosswalk with the light)? If so, you not only were endangering your own life, but the life of others who may be in the way of a car trying to avoid you. I am one of those that recognizes the rights of a biker and loves to share the road. However, as a biker, you also have to obey the laws and respect other vehicles that obey the laws (such as a green light). If I am misinterpreting your letter, I probably am not the only one.

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