Archive for the 'County government' Category

No ghost bike for me, thank you. But…

Ghost bikes.

Ghostcycle: this makeshift monument appeared b...
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Someone suggested them again this weekend as a way to mark the spots where cyclists have died on the roads. The thinking seems to be that these eerie memorials will raise the awareness of those who pass by and maybe prompt them to drive more carefully.

For the record: I understand the impulse and the sentiment, but if I should fall victim to a careless motorist I do not want a ghost bike.

I don’t want people to be afraid to ride their bicycles. I don’t want anyone to waste their time putting a ghost bike by the side of the road when it almost certainly will be removed as junk before very long.

What I want instead, and what I suggest that you do for other victims rather than mark the spot with a bicycle painted white:

  • Call and write to your city council representatives, your law enforcement people, your state legislators and your federal elected officials.
  • Go to meetings where decisions are made and make your case.
  • Say out loud what you think and what you want done to make the roads safer.
  • Hold officials accountable until they make and laws that will make a difference. Those people work for you.
  • Demand action.
  • Don’t stop.

Put up ghost bikes for other people if you like, but do these other things, too.

They will be more effective.

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September to be Bicycle Safety Month in C.R.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett plans to declare September “Bicycle Safety Month,” says an email posted Friday afternoon on Dave Glandon’s blog.

It also says Corbett plans to participate in the Linn County Mayors’ Bike Ride on Sept. 6.

That’s good news for a couple of reasons:

  • The proclamation – depending, of course, on what it says – will help spread the word that people need to be more concerned than they have been for the safety of others, specifically for the safety of citizens who ride bicycles on our streets.
  • His participation in the ride means at least two of the 17 Linn County mayors plan to participate in the ride named for them.

Two?

That’s how many had said “yes” as of Friday.

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Launch legal reform efforts at Mayors’ Bike Ride

Frustration and anger have grown as we wait to see how hard Robert Fleming’s wrist will be slapped for turning his truck into the path of an oncoming bicyclist and causing a collision that resulted in her death.

Friends, fellow bicycle club members and others have struggled to understand the loss and lack of legal action and to respond to state laws that don’t seem to take seriously the deaths of people like Susan DeSotel.

Stage a protest ride is one idea. Erect a memorial somewhere for people killed while riding their bicycles is another. Put a “ghost bike” by the spot where she collided with the pickup truck to mark the spot and remind drivers to be more careful.

An opportunity will come soon after the expected announcement of Fleming’s traffic ticket. (Officialdom awaits the results of toxicology tests on the victim before deciding, for reasons I really do not understand.)

The Linn County Mayors’ Bike Ride is Sept. 6. What better time to bring attention to the issue?

It is time for the mayors, council members, county supervisors and state legislators to speak up, help educate the public and change the law. We should encourage them – expect them – to speak out forcefully on this safety issue and see to it that appropriate punishments are possible for motorists whose actions lead to the deaths of cyclists, pedestrians and others.

To do nothing is to accept the sad results and wait until it happens again.

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“The sun was in his eyes” so please feel sorry for him?

Except for the most hard-hearted of us, we can all empathize to some degree with the driver of the vehicle in the collision that caused the death of bicyclist Susan DeSotel.

No doubt it is traumatic to unintentionally cause the death of another person.

In a comment on this story, someone self-identified as a relative of the driver says, in part, “If all of you only KNEW the trauma and suffering he is going through himself right now.”

He has horrifying images in his head and has to live with it the rest of his life. The commenter (identified as “iwubyou“) concludes:

“Prayers go out to Susan’s family and friends for dealing with their poor loss, and also to my uncle who now has to have this on his shoulders, and all the horrible people and horrible comments he will now face from here on out.”

At the risk of being considered horrible, some observations:

iwubyou asserts that the driver is blameless because the sun was in his eyes and he “did not see a little bike pedaling through.”

As motor vehicle operators, we are obligated to see where we are going and to avoid collisions with others on the road. If that means we must wear sunglasses and use visors or other devices to operate safely, that is what we are obligated to do.

There are all sorts of reasons for what we blithely pass off as “accidents.”

The sun was in our eyes.

We were distracted by a child crying in the back seat.

We just reached down to pick up the cell phone.

Reasons. Those are not excuses that should prevent us from facing legal consequences if they result in our causing the death of another person.

Unfortunately, our laws don’t seem to agree. The police call Susan DeSotel’s death the result of a “driving error.” If the driver is cited at all, it’s possible that on top of a fine for the traffic ticket he could face a $1,000 fine and lose his license for six months.

As I maintained the other day, that is not acceptable. I think some time behind bars is appropriate if your driving error kills someone.

The more compassionate and maybe wiser Mrs. Smith suggested that such a driver should be required to speak at some number of driver education classes over the course of a year. (That is an excellent idea. Think about it.)

What do you think is appropriate? Tell me by leaving a comment here. Tell your legislators.

As people are saying, the driver will have to live with the consequences of his driving error for the rest of his life. I’m sorry, but we all live with unpleasant things, some of which we bring upon ourselves and some that others visit upon us.

At least we are still alive.

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Cyclist dies of head injuries following collision

The Iowa woman who suffered severe head injuries in a bicycle collision with a pickup truck died Monday in Iowa City. Susan Milsap DeSotel, 51, was a mother and a member of the Hawkeye Bicycle Association.

According to this article, the driver of the pickup truck might get a traffic ticket.

Additional charges that might apply because DeSotel died could result in a $1,000 fine a six-month license revocation.

Iowa law is terribly inadequate in situations like this.

In an email today to Cedar Rapids city council member Monica Vernon, whose daughter – and my own – attended grade school with DeSotel’s son, I told her:

“If I were the driver, I would fully expect to be charged with a crime and to spend time in jail or prison if my carelessness caused someone to die.
“As a very concerned citizen, I would like to see some official comment from the council and the police chief about the seriousness of this situation.”
No such comment that I have seen so far.
I don’t know why Robert Fleming turned into DeSotel’s path. I’m having trouble imagining how this could be seen as anything other than careless or reckless. We will see what, if anything, the eyewitness to the collision as to say.
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Spelling it out for motorists: Share the Road signs

A followup to last year’s prediction:

Linn County officials did agree to take ownership of Share the Road signs funded by cyclists – now being put in place as explained in this story – and very reasonably won’t charge cyclists for maintenance.

A few quick thoughts:

  1. Cyclists who pedal those county roads for the most part already knew they had to share the roads with motorists. It’s kind of hard not to know you are sharing that space when you’re on a bicycle. It is motorists who need to be educated on the concept.
  2. Yes, sometimes cyclists can be rude. So can motorists. Welcome to the world.
  3. Mrs. Smith and I helped pay for those signs, along with a bunch of other individuals and the Hawkeye Bicycle Association. I still maintain, however, that it’s the equivalent of asking individual motorists to take up a collection to install yield signs or paint yellow “no passing” stripes on the highways. Such signage should be treated just like any other public infrastructure, just as alternative transportation should be included in all road planning.

You’ve probably heard it’s National Bike Month. Good time to be educating the motoring public and your elected decision-makers. Let ’em know what you think.

Be polite.

Pedal on.

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Share the Road signs given to Linn County

Linn County Roads will be marked with 16 “Share the Road” signs this spring, thanks to a campaign that raised $4,000 to buy those signs for the county.

Fundraising campaign organizer Lisa Paulos said about half of the total came from individual Hawkeye Bicycle Association members and matching HBA funds and about half from other individuals who contributed through the Linn County Trails Association.

Signs could be in place in May. Now let’s hope our county officials and law enforcers will help educate the citizenry about what it means to share the road.

Pedal on.

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