Safe cycling is a shared responsibility

Safe cycling is a shared responsibility

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To the Editor:

In his Letter to the Editor of August 26, Dan Benedetto suggested, in a sarcastic and unpleasant way, that experienced cyclists that use the road are “killing him,” and that they should use “bike paths.” His ignorance and self-centeredness are astonishing.

Mr. Benedetto has it exactly wrong. The speedy cyclists in the road are actually much safer than they would be on the paths, and other path users are safer as well.

First, the asphalt disgraces he mentions are not “bike paths”; they are “shared-use paths.” Cyclists share them with pedestrians, rollerbladers, strollers, dog walkers, toddlers with training wheels, etc. A fit cyclist traveling at 20 mph does not mix.

Secondly, the paths are substandard in width and in deplorable condition. AASHTO guidelines mandate 10 feet for shared-us paths; the ones here are eight feet and usually effectively much less, since they are almost totally unmaintained, covered with sand and debris, and riddled with bone-jarring cracks and potholes.

So, for fast, experienced cyclists, riding in the road is both safer and more pleasant. Therefore the issue seems simply to be the several seconds Mr. Benedetto might have to wait in order to pass a cyclist in the manner state law requires: “at a safe distance” (typically defined as three or four feet), and “at a reasonable speed.” His presumption that his time is more valuable than a cyclist’s is selfish and grotesque, and his presumption that his convenience is more important than a cyclist’s safety is sociopathic.

The roads are indeed crowded this time of year, Mr. Benedetto, so we must share them. The concept of sharing is often introduced in kindergarten, but it seems to take some of us a little longer to absorb the lesson.

Generally, I find it frustrating to read letters in the paper filled with largely uninformed opinions about bicycling safety, many from individuals whose rear ends clearly haven’t graced a bicycle seat in decades. I recommend the MassBike website (www.massbike.org) for factual information about what both cyclists and drivers can and must do to make the roads safer for all. Cycling safety is a shared responsibility, and critical as cycling becomes more and more popular and important as a mode of transportation.

Jim Miller

Edgartown

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