From my position as a cyclist and triathlete, the sentiments expressed in Mark Scott's letter of July 6 [“Cyclists need to give respect to get respect”] are typical. As much as the adolescent in me would love to join his name-calling contest, that will not improve the relationship between cyclists and motorists on local roads.
His letter, which could be aptly summarized as "Hey cyclists, get off my lawn!" exemplifies the hyperbole and half-truths which mark the debate. For starters, both cyclists and motorists need to recognize that this particular "lawn" is not theirs exclusively; they need to realize that both sides are entitled to access, and are not going anywhere anytime soon.
Scott should chronicle the last time he was spat upon, yelled at, had objects thrown at him, had an air horn blast 10 feet from his head, or intentionally been run off the road. All of those things have happened to me, personally, while riding my bike in Montgomery County. Every cyclist in the county knows someone who has had worse happen to them. For all of his considerable indignation, the worst outcome Scott can imagine is the possibility he may arrive at his destination a moment later. My worst outcome as a cyclist is that I may not make it home, ever. There is no such thing as a fender-bender on a bicycle.
His proprietary claim to the roads (which he asserts he has paid for through gas taxes) flaunts his misunderstanding of our tax system as well as of cyclists, of whom I am inferring he believes somehow pay no taxes. If that were true, please tell me whom to contact at the state of Maryland and Montgomery County to get back the thousands of dollars they owe me.
Second, the last thing you want on the MacArthur Boulevard pathway is me or my cycling friends training at between 17 mph and 30 mph. Those paths are all mixed-use facilities, open to people walking their dogs, kids, rollerbladers, and other slower-moving traffic. Throw cyclists moving at high speed into the mix and watch the wreckage. That is why cyclists belong on the roadway, even in the presence of mixed-use paths. I have never met a cyclist who wanted to impede traffic. Give me a bike lane or a wide, smooth shoulder and I will ride on that any day.
I recognize that cyclists could do much to improve their image in the community. Personally, I cringe whenever a cyclist runs a traffic light and would have no problem with that cyclist being cited for that violation. The adjacent letter from Chris Core lists several reminders that cyclists would do well to heed.
I think a good early step would be for everyone to decompress a little bit. By the way, I am a few days shy of 44, so if Scott thinks we're men in our 20s and 30s, I thank him for the compliment.
Paul Meloan, Gaithersburg
The writer is president of the Montgomery County Multisport Club.