Our thanks to Steven M. Magas, Attorney at Law, for contributing these valuable articles.
In Steve’s latest contribution, “USING THE INTERNET TO FIGHT ON-AIR IDIOCY“, he addresses recent comments by a Cleveland Clear Channel radio station “shock jock” to have motorists run bicyclists off of the road.
- CARS PASSING BIKES – CLOSE ENCOUNTERS & WRECKS
- BIKE LAW 101 – INSURANCE ISSUES IN BIKE/AUTO ACCIDENT CLAIMS
- BIKE LAW 101 – RECENT OHIO SUPREME COURT DECISION
- BIKE LAW 101 – THE B.L.S.
- BIKE LAW 101 – DOGS
- Ohio Statutes – Bicycles & The Law
- OHIO’S BIKE LAWS
- REPRESENTING BICYCLE OPERATORS IN ACCIDENT CASES: A PRIMER FOR THE ON-CYCLING LAWYER
- HELMETS AND KIDS
- TROTWOOD v. SELZ
Friends, the future is here, it is now, and it is happening in computers all across the country, all around the world. I’m talking, of course, about the information superhighway, the computer age, a PC in every study and a chicken in every pot — I’m talking, of course, about the Net. Bicyclists are riding the net in ever increasing numbers and many are finding ways to use their computers to assist their colleagues, keep cycling issues on the front burner and calculate even more bizarre gear ratios. I’m here to talk about a couple of neat ways the Net has helped cyclists and to offer a few suggestions.
I am going to assume that you have a computer, know how to turn it on, know what a modem is and know how to log onto your own version of cyberspace, whatever that may be. [Those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about can ask your kids....] If you subscribe to email@example.com you will find yourself in a place where cyclists, planners, engineers, lawyers and others post daily messages about the happenings of the bike world. The topics range from technical discussions of roadway design to the latest word on the street. One such flurry occurred in November, 1995.
Laurie Hunter, a staff writer for the Los Altos High School student newspaper, “The Talon,” probably lived her life in relative obscurity until she published an article entitled “Deadly Bikers” in the October 31 issue of The Talon. In her article, Ms. Hunter recounts her negative experience with cyclists, calls them a “nightmare,” argues that cyclists have no business on the roadway and offers an analogy between cyclists and deer suggesting, all too seriously it appeared, that motorists might want to consider speeding up and hitting cyclists so they “fly over the tops of our cars.” This, she felt, would help cyclists learn “to get out of the middle of the street.”
Ms. Hunter’s high school newspaper column was picked up by Bill Michel, President of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, and a regular contributor to firstname.lastname@example.org. Bill took the time to not only contact the school with his views of Ms. Hunter’s column, but to post the offensive column in email@example.com so we all could read it. The Talon has an internet address within America Online, and numerous cyclists posted their objections to Ms. Hunter’s column.
My response at the time was, admittedly, of the knee jerk variety. A portion of it was as follows:
- I read with disbelief the article by Laurie Hunter recently published under the title “Deadly Bikers.” For anyone to imply that cyclists are “deadly” is ridiculous. As an attorney specializing in bicycle cases I can tell you that I have handled dozens of cases involving bikes and cars and have read case reports of hundreds more. In NO case did the cyclist kill the motorist. Often, however, accidents in which real people are killed or maimed occur because stupid, careless, impatient motorists can’t comprehend that cyclists are entitled to use the roadways…”
Other firstname.lastname@example.org subscribers weighed in with their own responses. A lively discussion followed over the next weeks as to the possible causes for such an attitude and the seeming increase in the number of random attacks on cyclists. An article by LA Times staff writer, Bob Pool, about the problems of cycling in LA was posted and added fuel to the discussion.
Recently, a description of a political advertisement by presidential candidate Steve Forbes which attacked Bob Dole’s support of ISTEA was posted by an alert “bikepeople” subscriber. Numerous “bikepeople” e-mailed the Forbes campaign complaining about the ad and, again, a lively discussion was had.
In short, cyclists around the world were put on immediate notice of a potential problem in a high school in Los Altos, California and a problematic political ad shown only on the East Coast. They responded quickly, cogently and effectively, and then engaged in a frank, open discussion among themselves to determine how to better deal with these sorts of issues in the future. If this isn’t an absolutely fantabulous use of one’s computer, I don’t know what is!
II. USING YOUR COMPUTER TO HELP CYCLISTS LOCALLY
Every bicycling club in the country should have an internet address and should assign to some computer junkie the task of keeping up with the News on the Net. Clubs should publish and post the interesting stuff they find, the addresses of bike resources, and the details of bike problems around the world. Clubs should E-mail each other regularly, give support to each other and seek out suggestions from each other about common problems. Problems such as the one that flared up in Los Altos should be widely published and clubs should be encouraged weigh in with their [non-defamatory] opinions. Internet services today, such as America Online, are so cheap in the grand scheme of things, that there are no financial reasons for clubs to hold back.
Locally, all rides should be posted, club meetings should be publicized, and club members can post their ride reports, mean dog reports, nasty motorist reports and the like. In many areas, public bulletin boards are available on which such materials can be posted and accessed without a fee. Clubs can keep track of other matters relating to cycling such as legislation or even court cases involving motorists who clobber cyclists. Sure, newsletters do this now, but reviewing and posting materials on a national or international level can only broaden our base of support and encourage an open discussion of issues.
On a national scale, a cyber link-up of clubs means simply increased communication among bicycle riders around the country. No one has a monopoly on biking problems and no one has a monopoly on solutions. I am amazed, however, at the creative approaches to problem solving one finds on the net. Further, there is an immediacy available through the modem that is simply otherwise unavailable. The lag time for publishing magazines or even newsletters is lengthy. In the Los Altos situation, members of the cycling community around the world were able to respond literally within moments following the publication of a high school student newspaper article just as though they were in school with the kids reading the paper in the cafeteria during lunch!
Bike friendly lawyers are beginning to link up on the net too. I am hoping to start a legal discussion area in America Online’s BikeNet and I have the internet addresses of a number of bike friendly legal types. This allows the posting of interesting cases, product recalls, and other matters while offering a way to corral a lot of ideas on how to tackle particular legal problems.
Computers are fun, folks, and they are here to stay. Fortunately, any group of people with the desire to replace bottom brackets has no phobia about using computers or modems.. We’ve got to link up to increase our power as advocates, increase our acceptance in the public and increase our awareness of, and response to, cycling problems and solutions around the globe. I’m certainly no pro at this, but it’s easy and it’s fun. Besides, you learn to do neat stuff like this:
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