Friday, December 11, 2009

More Words Exchanged In St. Petersburg

My, has the world changed upside down.

Here in the Tampa Bay area, where some drivers yell at me as a bicyclist to get off the road and where bicyclists die at a higher rate than just about any place in the U.S., it seems like there are some people in St. Petersburg who believe it's the bicyclists who are the meanies and making life oh so miserable for the poor, meek driver.

Ironic, isn't it? So many people, especially on the Tampa side of the Bay, tell me they're afraid to bike on the street because of Tampa's "unfriendly roads." Even the new police chief in Tampa, Jane Castor, acknowledged in a recent email to me the "unfriendly" nature of roads for cyclists.

I know many people who want to bike on the road, but choose not to. They're too afraid of motorists and believe they will be struck by a car and injured.

Yet, have you ever heard of a motorist who won't drive on a road because those nasty bicyclists make it too dangerous for them to drive?

Now, don't get me wrong. Just because you're a bicyclist doesn't automatically make you a decent and human being. Bicyclists and motorists have to cooperate in sharing the road together. We're equals as far as the legal right to the road. The car just happens to be the vehicle that goes faster (most of the time).

We all know the Tampa Bay area is behind the rest of the country when it comes to roads that are wide enough to comfortably accommodate both driver and bicyclist and also when it comes to drivers being informed about state laws that recognize bicycles as vehicles and allow bicyclists to "take the lane" under specific sets of circumstances.

Which brings us to the recent email discourse between Tim Butts, the president of the St. Petersburg Bicycle Club, and Judy. president of the Lakewood Civic Association.

Seems like Judy and nameless people she cites in her letters have a problem with bicyclists in St. Petersburg because they supposedly hog the road and say unpleasant things to drivers.

Tim responds by saying a bicyclists have a right to the road and suggests Judy and her friends in Lakewoods study the law.

And then there's someone by the name of Bret Meyers, who sent an email to Judy including two videos of bicyclists on the road that upset Bret. I believe Bret is the anonymous person who has commented on this blog, but never left his name. In his email to Judy, his name was listed on the top of the email.

As before, I will publish the letters in the interests of letting people read the arguments.

Bret Meyers' email

Hello Judy

I hope this is finding the correct person. You are being mentioned in Alan Snels blog regarding cyclists and their lack of courtesy and lack of uage of existing bike lanes. We face the same type of cyclists out in the country also. Alan of course wont respond to my emails regarding the nastiness of the cyclists. I thought you may be interested in the videos below; they show typical behavior of these cyclists in the greater Tampa Bay area. I hope you can use the videos to support your standpoint, cyclists breaking FS 316 by running stop signs, riding more than 2 abreast, not using bike lanes, etc.

Good luck.

Judy's email to Tim

This was sent to me totally without solicitation.

I said it before and I'll say it again: The public is tired of this war.

Notice the use of words in this email: Nastiness. Lack of courtesy.

These images of our local bicyclists are becoming universal and nothing, I'm sad to say, has been said to me or anyone else who witnesses this behavior to make us believe that the violators have any intentions of backing down. We keep hearing that the Club is telling its members to behave, or that the Club is fairly certain it isn't their members doing this. But I think the credibility is wearing thin.

The horrible truth is that nothing is going to change here until there is violence - that's usually the sort of event that drives change in this world. I have two male friends who are both very passive, non-aggressive, educated teacher-types who wouldn't dream of using foul language or raising a fist, and both of them have rolled down their car windows and blasted bicyclists. Says the university professor who got his head bashed in for protesting the war in ' Nam : "I hate them." Strong stuff.


Tim's email to Judy


I did note that the cyclists (apparently) took a right turn on red (8/29; 5:04) without stopping, after an SUV illegally pulled in front of them, onto the shoulder of a multi-lane roadway (the Pinellas Bay Way ). That maneuver appeared to be safe and did not impede or affect any other traffic. And, for reference, that group was not from St. Petersburg Bicycle Club.

I watched both videos and the cyclists shown (most of whom I know) were riding in a safe and legal manner. They did not run any stop signs (there are none on the route shown); there is no legal requirement to ride in bike lanes; and although they did ride more than two abreast occasionally those appeared to be transient occurrences as one cyclist passed others. For the most part the cyclists were riding on multi-lane roads and did not in any way impede traffic. Again, they were riding in a safe and legal manner.

Please tell me exactly where (what times) do you believe these videos show illegal behavior by cyclists (other than potentially as noted above)? Did I miss something?

Clearly, one problem is not the behavior of cyclists but the understanding of the law by motorists in general and the residents of Lakewood Estates. I’ve tried to be subtle and polite about it, but now I am specifically asking that you forward the attached document to your residents and ask that they read and understand the rights and responsibilities of all vehicle operators, cyclists and motorists.

Note that I am copying the City of St. Petersburg Police Department and others. I found your reference to violence (“road rage”) very disturbing. Hopefully Sergeant Dukeman or another representative of the Police Department can speak to you and the gentlemen you reference about that issue.

Also note I am copying Alan Snel on this response. If you don’t want your e-mails on his blog I’m sure he will respect your request. He is welcome to post my comments if he wishes to do so.

Ride Safely,


Tim Butts
President SPBC

Board of the St. Petersburg Bicycle Club (bc)
Cheryl Stacks, City of St. Petersburg
Michael Frederick, City of St. Petersburg
Sergeant Dukeman, City of St. Petersburg Police Department
Laura Hallam , Florida Bicycle Associations
Alan Snel

Judy's email to Tim

I had the very same thought as I watched that first video. The interesting point here is not that they were occasionally more than 2 abreast or that they failed to stop on red. The interesting point is what the SENDER of that email perceived. He saw a whole mess of problems in a video that to me looked extremely mild. Why do you suppose that is? ( It's not my fault; I never heard of this guy before that email. It came from San Antonio , TX , where they have the same problem. As does Amherst , MA. And I know as much about that video as you do -- it looked like some of it was filmed on the Bayway.)

You missed the point. This is what I am trying to convey: It's an image problem. It's a communication problem. It's a spin problem. And Lakewood is not the problem; our residents have been relatively quiet on this subject. But neighboring areas have been vocal. Let's not limit this to Lakewood ; most of what I personally see by way of discourteous behavior is around the university and on Pinellas Point Drive .

I am not advocating violence; I am merely trying to pass on some hint of the tenor of the messages I get, all over the city, when the subject comes up. We have spoken about this at our meetings and urged people to share the road, but what we get back is anger and resentment, built up over the last few years in which there was so much abuse by the bicycles. Now you are forced to back and fill to get the right message out, and resenting what I tell you, getting defensive, taking umbrage, shooting the messenger, implying to the police that I am advocating the use of violence are counter-productive. Where is your suggestion for a solution to this problem?

The bicycles have a problem and they want the drivers to solve it. How can I go on suggesting to our residents, and to the others in the city who complain to me, that they share the road and try to be nice when the bicycles themselves continue to act as though there were no consequences to their actions, as though we are the enemy? What should I be saying to them? (One of my friends recently tapped her horn to get one of a triplet of bicyclists to move over; as she drove by the man yelled out SLOW DOWN LADY GET A LIFE YOU'LL LIVE LONGER. Is this helpful?)

I think you need a massive public education effort, using a PSA or whatever you can afford. The public's perception of the bicycle riders in this city can't possibly get any worse. It does no good for me to educate the residents of Lakewood about the proper use of the road if the bicycles are going to continue to violate the rules. Which is pretty much what's happened.


Tim's email to Judy


I believe you are sincere and you are just passing-on the more obnoxious comments.

I’m copying the Board on this e-mail for their input.

We will discuss a response to your question “Where is your suggestion for a solution to this problem”? We will get back with you, but it may take us more than a few days.

However, part of the “solution” (as such) will be more education of motorists. They may not like “sharing the road”, but it is the law.

And part of the problem is simply “road rage”.

Here is a link to a site explaining “road rage” -

Ride Safely,

Tim Butts
President SPBC


Donald said...

Motorists to the bicyclists: "WE HAVE A RIGHT TO GO FAST, GET OUT OF OUR WAY!"

Bicyclists to the motorists: "I'm sick of getting yelled at, so I'm going to be an asshole back."

If only we could all have the same attitude as you, Alan. I think I'm going to go for a bike ride right now and just practice remaining calm.

Anonymous said...

32 seconds....riding more than 2 abreast

57 sec same

1:11 through 1:44 same 5 abreast in some cases...transient passing...yeah right

2:20 same

3:34 through 4:17 same

4:30-4:40 same

5:15-5:26 same

Mulitple violations of FS 316 over and over by multiple cyclists. Looks like great revenue potential.

Notice the bike lanes as well as trails rarley being utilized....theres a great roi....please keep defending this type of behavior and please keep forwarding the videos.

Donald said...

To the Anonymous Troll:
What is your point? That bicyclists disobey the law? No one would disagree with that. If you are trying to make a case that bicyclists are worse than cars, however, good luck. It's a hard case to make.

More likely than not, you are just doing what is native to your species, trolling. You don't seem to be making a case, but rather making random interjections which are not terribly relevant to the discussion at hand.

Anonymous said...

Stop with the ad hominem Donny. Because I am anonymous or a "troll" means nothing to the point. What I wrote earlier was directly and pointedly relevant to the "discussion at hand".

The point, which you missed, is to address Butts' question in the main posting, which is: what laws are being broken and at what time during the video.

Secondly, stop with the straw man....I at no time argued the point that cyclists "are worse" than cars. However, in this video, its clear that they are....dozens of tickets could have been issued to the cyclists....with maybe one to a motorists on the road during the same time frame.

And while you readily admit, I assume as a cyclist, that bicyclists are breaking the law in this video, then why does the Mr. Butts insist that they are riding in a "legal and safe manner".

You are the one interjecting red herrings into the discussion. I have made the case precisley that these cyclists on this video, in this posting are breaking the law, contradicting what the predominate point of a president of a cycling club says. Apprently you agree with me, more so than with Mr. Butts.

Donald said...

While I acknowledge your right to privacy and to remain anonymous, it's hard to take you seriously.

And as for the "straw man" you claim I am putting up, my only point was that you don't seem to have a central argument. And I still don't see one. What is your point with all of these accusatory remarks?

I'm not a fan of group bicycle rides because I prefer to obey the law to the letter, but of the behavior on the roads I've seen from cars and bicycles alike, what these bicyclists are doing seems pretty tame and understandable. All of the law-breaking that you point out (while some of the individual cases I would challenge), none of it seems to make the roads any less safe.

On the other hand, the kind of "road rage" behavior Judy describes (although perhaps not advocates) earlier on, clearly puts the lives of others at risk. This is why I drew the comparison between bicycle scofflaws and motorist scofflaws. One is at worst a nuisance; the other is at worst homicidal (I've been personally threatened with violence before, as has a friend of mine). In the grand scheme of things, why are people so quick to attack the cyclists?

Anonymous said...

The point, which you missed AGAIN, is to address Butts' question in the main posting, which is: what laws are being broken and at what time during the video?

I addressed the question precisley. That is the main point I have addressed in all three postings, yet you claim I am missing a central argument.

As for your point that none of it (cycling behavior)seems to make the roads any less safe; it goes against your own statement of why you dont do group rides. Obviously, if you dont do group rides because you want to "obey the law by the letter" then it follows that group riders dont follow the rule of the law to the letter. And in cycling, when we have a 20lb bike versus a 2 ton vehicle, not following the law is more prone to getting yourself killed.

I dont do group rides, either. Why? The group riders who drive their cars an hour to ride around my home have ruined it for all us local,solo riders. So I stick to the trails for all my tri training, where I dont have to worry about motorists but more importantly , I dont have to worry about idiot cyclists like those on this video.

PS: if youre not taking me seriously, why in the world do you keep responding....think about it.