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Bike Safety

May 28, 2007

You may have noticed the gun locks hanging from the library’s bicycle rack and wondered if they pertained to the sign on our door prohibiting the open carrying of firearms in the library.

Would anyone really lock their guns at the bike rack? It’s a funny picture, really.

No, we got the locks from the Salida Police Department. If you need some gun locks for additional gun safety at home, give them a call. But we hung them on the bike rack for locking bikes. The locks are numbered; keys may be borrowed at the desk.

It’s merely in response to some recent bike thefts from the library bike rack. One victim left me a note saying that the police said most bike thefts in town happen at the library … and I found this so remarkable that I had to find out for myself.

Fortunately, there was a misunderstanding. Bikes are stolen all over town, and the library is not a locus of criminal activity. We have more stolen bikes left “at” the library than have ever left “from” it. We find bikes abandoned in the rack, in the alley, behind the library, in the outside stairwells.

So, that settled, I stood outside the Police Department visiting with Mike Bowers, and we got on the subject of cycling scofflaws.

A road cyclist in full gear rolled by. Mike said, “Watch. I guarantee you he won’t stop.” We watched as he approached 3rd and F, and sure enough he never broke cadence and pedaled right through the intersection without even a gesture of pause.

In the few minutes we stood there, we saw at least half a dozen cyclists run stop signs at 3rd and E, F, and G streets. Several were flagrant … that is, other vehicles were at or approaching the intersection, and the cyclists ignored them.

Such behavior is foolish in terms of both safety and good will. Cyclists should obey the law, which for them is the same as motor vehicles. Running a stop sign is a hefty fine.

I thought I knew every stop sign on my bicycle route, but upon closer observation, I was surprised to find that I utterly ignored two of them. Utterly. This deserves analysis, but not now.

Since many vehicles, including police and sheriff vehicles, fail to come to a full and complete stop at each and every stop sign in town, I’ll assume a practical continuum of acceptable behavior.

Right now, cyclists are getting a free ride, so to speak, but the hand of the law may be forced by flagrant scoffing at the law. If so, then what about violations like this:

As Mike and I chatted, a cyclist rolled into view at 3rd and E, but she was rolling so slowly downhill that you could count the spokes. She rolled through the intersection in front of a stopped car … but I think the driver waved her through.

Technically, she was wrong, but the relative enormity of her offense was so low that an officer might well resent being forced to write a ticket. A day in law enforcement must be full of sighs about a thousand petty offenses.

Let’s help the police out. Cyclists should behave as other vehicles on the road. Respect garners respect.

Next Sunday, break out your bike and ride with care to the library at 3:00 p.m. for the reception for Roberta Smith’s library exhibit as well as her slide show (from a recent trip), “An Abstract View of Romania’s World Heritage Sites.”

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