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Key West Reactor column
[Published in Key West The Newspaper on September 9, 2011.]
Key West Reactions?
My internet handle has been Reactor for almost 20 years. The roots of that handle come from: 1) my relentless work ethic; and 2) my strong social media reflex impulse. The connection to an album by musical sage Neil Young (whom I venerate) also comes into play. Around the time I became a full-time resident here I expanded it to Key West Reactor. So if you see that on a blog comment or in a forum somewhere, it’s almost certainly me. (Unless it’s something that really pisses you off, in which case I may claim that it was hijacked….)
I bring all this up within my Blue Paper introduction, because in my head I’m calling this column “Key West Reactions”. I have every intention of keeping this column as local as possible. Though I routinely express solid political opinions, I’ll try to leave them at the door. I want to talk local issues and tell local stories, of interest to those of any political stripe.
One story I’m working on dates back to the 1800s, yet involves today’s city operations – but I’ll save that for next time, when I have the whole column available to tell it. This time I’ll devote the rest of my space to review an issue near and dear to the Blue Paper: bicycle scofflaws. Let’s pay another visit to the ongoing Key West problem with careless bicyclists.
KWTN publisher Dennis Reeves Cooper opened a can of worms here not long ago by decrying the lack of enforcement of basic traffic laws on our island’s bicycle riders. He made a respectable case, pointing out a host of problems they’ve been a party to. But some of his conclusions, and his coining of the phrase “scofflaw bicyclists” to label the misfits raised the dander of quite a few local devoted bicyclists – myself included at the time.
After moving to Key West I quickly gave away my trusty pick-up and have mostly bicycled or walked the island ever since. (Yes, I do borrow my wife’s car when I have to carry bigger loads or go off the rock — I’m not claiming purity.) I’ve travelled on two wheels down every street, lane, boulevard and avenue of our slice of paradise — many times over. I’ve watched as almost every cross street turned into a four-way stop. I’ve witnessed the switch of numerous streets to one-way. I’ve bicycled this island for over a quarter century. So I’m not one of those Johnny-come-latelies who want to force others to change their ways to suit me.
Where am I going with this? To tell you that I agree with Dennis! Though I don’t like to call people (except for those Tea-Part***POLITICAL FIREWALL ENGAGED***) names like “scofflaw”, too many of US BIKERS do show serious signs of selfishness in our practices. I admit that I’ve been something of an offender myself, but with practice it’s really not so hard to show some responsibility.
Dennis spoke more from a drivers’s point of view, but here are a few examples of clueless bicycle behavior that have been problems for me ON A BIKE lately…
- Twice I’ve been rear-ended on my bicycle by other bicyclists when I stopped for a stop-sign! These twits apparently thought I was just slowing down to turn. When I actually stopped momentarily before proceeding straight ahead – while they failed to slow much at all for the stop sign — they were unprepared and couldn’t veer around me in time. One got some road-rash from it. Can’t say I was too sympathetic…
- I’ve been cursed at in the Southard bike lane by bicyclists going the wrong way. I’d stay in my legal lane, forcing them into oncoming traffic to pass me. What did they expect me to do, sideswipe a parked car to make room for them? Accuse me of dangerous behavior? That rider had the choice of stopping and exiting the lane to the sidewalk. If you routinely ride east in the Southard bike lane or west on Fleming, don’t bet that the guy (legally) bearing down on you is going to jump out of your (illegal) way….
- On my bike approaching Duval with a green light, one often has to avoid “against-the-light” tourist pedestrians. But just last weekend I looked into the eyes of a local on her bicycle as she ignored the red light and entered the intersection. I didn’t slow down for her, and her eyes widened in fright. At the last second she realized she wasn’t the queen of the road and dropped her feet for a quick stop.
The moral of all this? Running stop signs or red lights on your bike is not cool – it only flags you as selfish. Please don’t be antisocial.
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