To the editor:

The story regarding the unfortunate fatal accident on Fort Avenue forces this writer to put into words some thoughts that have been simmering for a long time.

These thoughts involve what I see as the absolute disregard for traffic laws and other users of the road on the part of a significant and diverse segment of the “bike community,” aided and abetted by the “boarder” community and, as in the Fort Avenue incident, involving a motorized vehicle in a place where such vehicles are, I would think, prohibited.

I ask the reader to react (without peeking) to a number of questions. I will then give you my observations on each:

1. How would you react to two adult males in matching outfits riding bicycles beside each other on a downtown sidewalk near City Hall?

2. What would you think of a person glaring at you for slowly pulling out of your driveway onto a busy thoroughfare because you couldn’t see oncoming traffic because a large pickup truck was parked too close to your driveway?

3. How would you feel if someone gave you the finger because you drove through an intersection with a major thoroughfare after waiting for a break in the traffic?

4. Do you get upset about people driving the wrong way on a one-way street or on the wrong side of a main road?

5. Do people who run lights bother you?

In No. 1, the two bicyclists were Salem police officers. Why they were on the sidewalk I have no idea. They were not in a hurry, and it sure did crowd the sidewalk.

No. 2 describes an incident observed on Lafayette Street. A woman was carefully coming out of her driveway, inching by a large pickup truck blocking her view of traffic. As she nosed by the truck a middle-aged woman on a bike passed the parked truck and was nearly struck by (or struck) the car. The bicyclist yelled loudly at the driver.

No. 3 occurred at the intersection of Lafayette Street and Ocean Avenue. A man in a car had waited for a break in traffic and, when it was safe, crossed Lafayette. As he was starting across there was a bicyclist approaching at a distance. If the bike were a car it would have been aware of the car crossing and slowed; but it was a bike in the hands of a man who just kept on coming, had to hit his brake hard and treated the driver of the car to a view of his middle finger. Perhaps the bicyclist could use his earbuds as an excuse for not paying attention?

No. 4 is a continuing occurrence all over our fair city. Apparently bicycles are immune from traffic laws. It is apparently OK for them to go the wrong way, even on a major street, so long as they are in a bike lane. OK or not, I’ve never seen one stopped or cautioned.

No. 5 is also far too common. Apparently to many bicyclists the lights don’t apply to them. Combine this with No. 4 above and you have a recipe for disaster. I’m sure that when bicyclists are behind the wheel of a car entering an intersection at a light change they, like all of us, take one last look to their left to make sure there is not a light runner coming. Our last look is normally not to our right; and should not be.

This one happened to me. The intersection is a busy one. The side from which I was entering has two dangerous features: a hedge blocking a driver’s view to the left and a history of people running this light. I had started forward looking carefully to my left when, flying through the intersection at full speed on the wrong side of the street against a red light, came three grown men in full “serious rider” regalia whom this driver nearly struck. The three were totally oblivious to what had nearly befallen them. As I sat there shaken by what had nearly happened I wondered who, in a worst-case situation, would have been blamed.

These comments do not include discussions of skateboarders, who appear to be mostly 20 somethings extending their childhoods and totally oblivious to the dangers they pose to themselves and others.

The sad event on Fort Avenue was as predictable as the rising of the sun. What will be done to prevent a recurrence? “Thoughts and prayers” perhaps?

Brendan Walsh



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