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Letter to Editor: 'Cyclists Must Realize They Are Part a Community'

If we are to have a more bike-friendly city, we need to have more city-friendly cyclists, according to Royal Oak resident.

The following was written by Royal Oak resident Pete Rogan in response to community blogger Tom Regan's post: Walking and Biking in Royal Oak.

I've read and re-read your response and come to the conclusion that we don't simply disagree. We have a fundamental difference in how we perceive community and our place in it.

Your concept of 'community' is cyclists, and no one else. They are separate and aloof, beyond reproach or question. They must be appeased by bike-friendly designs of streets and roads -- by who, I would say, you don't actually consider. Somebody else. "Them." Cyclists owe no fealty to anybody, have no responsibilities outside their charmed circle, and feel righteously besieged by those who are not cyclists. According to you.

Community is not a special-interest group. It's all of us living together, working together, trying to get though our commute together. When you say you never heard of a community becoming bicycle-friendly through changing the attitudes of cyclists, that merely tells me you listen to no one else, in fact never felt the need to, and consider the entire concept too outré to be considered seriously.

Ordinarily I'd simply dismiss this dismissal as deeply adolescent. But you have raised the specter of a kind of disunity and social aggression that must not merely be resisted, but destroyed.

Listen up: Once upon a time, there weren't any traffic laws. There were customs, habits, but no traffic lights, no volume of vehicles great enough to demand regulation. Motorists as well as cyclists recognized the need for such regulation, and pressed for sensible, uniform laws to govern the use of roads and rights-of-way. You may not know this, but it was cyclists who first pressed for paved roads and highways, before motorists. Before cars caught up, bicycles were the high-speed traffic needing regulation, and as a group cyclists realized that. The alternative would have been chaos and collision. People recognized the problem and answered it. The result is the body of traffic law we have today. If you've never heard of it, I suggest this is due to your not knowing your history.

Contrary to your declaration that we don't demand motorists drive and act responsibly, we certainly do, and we enforce that responsibility when it is violated. Go 50 in a 25 mph zone and I think you will find the cop that stops you unmoved by your protestation that you have a right to do so. We educate young drivers in the rules of the road, the necessity to keep to speed limits, obey the road signs and road markings, and to watch out for other traffic, because this is how you get safely from place to place and how we make sure that everybody does. This ought to have been covered in your driver's-education class. Or did you think that applied only to drivers of automobiles?

I take issue with your aggressive and demeaning tone, sir. This nonsense of 'blaming the victim' only displays your besieged mentality and your arrogance. Your defense of irresponsibility cannot be borne and will not be allowed. We are a community because we all obey the law, because we understand that this is how a community stays a community. When people set themselves apart, say the law doesn't apply to them, say that they are the ones who are being wronged, they establish themselves as enemies of the community, a threat to good order and the well-being of all -- including themselves. You may feel perfectly fine going through red lights and between stopped cars, but I assure you that you will be the first to wail for a cop when you get hit by a car at an intersection or simply knocked off your wheel by an opened car door.

I hope you understand that when this happens, because you did not follow traffic regulations or yield to traffic that had the right-of-way, I am not going to be sympathetic. Those who choose irresponsibility cannot demand responsibility for their own safety from others. Break the bonds of community and it is you who will suffer, you who will bear the costs.

Not too long ago a cyclist in Taylor, riding on the sidewalk to avoid stopped traffic, crossed a street against the light and was struck by a pickup truck. The cyclist got up, enraged, went to the driver still sitting in his cab and proceeded to pummel him through the open window. The driver pulled out his .357 pistol (for which he had a permit) and shot his attacker dead. He then called 911 and waited for the police to arrive and take him into custody. The driver was lawfully in the crosswalk and the cyclist was not. The driver stayed at the scene of the accident. He responded to the physical assault with deadly force because he had no recourse; a crazy man was trying to get at him to exact what he no doubt felt was just retribution and by God he got it. That's the sort of outcome your attitude will make common, Tom. That's the sort of thing we ought to not allow to happen.

And it will happen only when cyclists realize they are part of the community, and just as everybody else follows traffic laws to avoid injury and damage, they need to as well. When that happens, and they are not a group of special interests bleating for special treatment because they're special, then the community will respond to the reasonable requests of their members. That's how it works, Tom. That's what being part of a community means.

You may feel differently. That's NOT okay. If you set yourself against the rest of us, I and everybody else is justified in taking you off the road as a danger to yourself and the community. I don't want to get tangled in somebody's grill, and I don't want to see anybody tangled in my grill or anybody else's. You do NOT have the right to ignore the laws that protect us all simply because you don't feel you have to or think you are above any such petty concerns. You do NOT have the right to put yourself in my grill. But we, the community, have the right and the obligation to stop you from harming yourself and anybody else.

And you most certainly do NOT have the right to demand that the rest of us accommodate you simply because you demand it. You're not one of us. You made that abundantly clear. We don't have to kowtow to those who flout the laws that keep all of us safe. In fact, we owe it to ourselves not to listen to such nonsense.

You do all of us who bike a grave disservice championing the cause of lawlessness and disorder. I'd like to see more people treat me as a vehicle with the same rights and responsibilities on the road. I don't like being threatened by somebody in a two-ton weapon going thirty miles an hour. But if all you are doing is whining how the community owes you, while ignoring lights, stop signs, pedestrians in crosswalks and vehicles turning at intersections, then no one is going to take you or any other wheelman seriously. They can tell from your words that you're a nut. Nobody they have to listen to. And they'd be right. And you will have hurt -- ARE hurting -- the very cyclists whose cause you claim to champion.

You don't speak for me. And you do not speak for the community. I'll go farther than that and say you do not speak for the majority of cyclists in Royal Oak or elsewhere. All you are is the spokesperson for the fringe group that wants special privileges from everybody else, just because they're shining happy people. I abjure you. I repudiate you. I don't have to cast you out because you did that yourself. But I will warn you that if I see you riding irresponsibly on a public roadway -- or the sidewalk -- I'm going to perform a citizen's arrest on you and see you prosecuted for your irresponsible and dangerous conduct. Because that's how we keep each other safe.

Please keep that in mind.

Pete Rogan
David Saperstein January 28, 2014 at 10:31 AM
This is crazy. Veiled threats to break out a gun and shoot cyclists. Warnings that this guy is going to arrest cyclists who break a traffic law (is he going to do the same for drivers?). I read the original article to see what warranted this venomous response. The original article said that cycling is good for local business, and has health benefits.

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