September Letters To and From the Editor
When frustration builds, it needs an outlet. Without one, it seeps out in sometimes unexpected places.
Take the rise of Donald Trump this summer as a serious presidential contender. In a year of police shootings and ensuing riots, the fall of the Confederate flag and the legalization of gay marriage, a real estate magnate and reality TV star shoots up the polls promising to fix all that ails America by booting out illegal immigrants. Illegal immigration had sort of slipped on the frustration priority scale, momentarily, before returning with a vengeance with Trump’s now-infamous comment that Mexico is sending criminals and “rapists” across the border.
This is speculative sport, granted. There’s little science to this, and I can already hear the keyboard slapping from angry “Don’t tread on me” readers ready to pounce on my go-go media bias toward high taxes and Hillary Clinton (I do like her, but only because she scares me). I always look for the outlet, knowing it will come from somewhere, someplace we didn’t expect. When Obama was elected in 2008, I remember walking tender-footed around the office, wondering when and where. Then came the tea party movement (actually a fairly constructive outlet, all things considered). Then the counter Occupy movement, which was also refreshing. Sometimes, the pent-up frustration manifests in ways that help spur constructive debate, holding our politicians accountable.
Now, not so much. Trump railing about illegal immigrants is tapping something a bit uglier. He doesn’t have a practical solution to sealing our borders (Mexico really isn’t the problem anymore), and simply deporting millions of illegals is impractical. The immigration system needs to be fixed, no doubt, but it won’t be fixed by bloviating politicians. For those who are here illegally, and for most unskilled workers trying to enter the country, becoming a U.S. citizen is nearly impossible. Any good immigration attorney will tell you that. What’s depressing is that Trump is too smart not to know this, and he’ll probably at some point admit as much.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when our politicians play us so openly, and unabashedly, and we continue to fall for it. And I’m supposed to be the cynical one. It’s weird the things that surprise us, and don’t. I saw a video on YouTube recently of cats with Trump hairdos. It was in no way surprising. But Trump’s recent GOP dominance? I’m still a little stumped.
– Scott Bass
Cycling issues are complex
The August feature on cycling was a good start into this somewhat complex topic. Having been an avid road rider in recent times, I’d like to offer some insight.
Less than 10 years ago I joined the popular RABA (Richmond Area Bicycle Association) and had a great time riding around Richmond. Serious recreational riders (as I was) choose remote roads to ride on. These roads are well-suited as rider speeds, often averaging 20 mph, work better with little traffic and few stop signs. Some readers may not know that cyclist shoes are clipped to the pedals. It takes some practice to engage the shoes quickly when starting from a stop. This explains why bicyclists often don’t obey stop signs unless traffic dictates.
In the Richmond area we find hills, trees and destinations far apart. Sadly our more traveled roads often have sand, gravel, etc. on their shoulders. During certain seasons, tree leaves, branches and nuts add to the mix. Debris gets pushed to the side of travel lanes and ends up on the shoulder. Most bicycles cannot safely navigate there; riders might lose their balance or get a flat tire – potentially leading to a crash. I wouldn’t (nor would most RABA riders) consider riding in a designated bicycle path that’s part of the main road unless we have a robust path-cleaning operation.
• The lovely Virginia Capital Trail is 52 miles long and will cost about $60 million (funded in part by donations). Imagine the cost in our congested environment? This Capital trail is not used during the annual Capital-to-Capital bike ride. It can’t handle that kind of volume nor is it designed to allow “serious rider” speeds.
• I would suggest that serious riders accumulate the majority of “rider miles.” Others might use a trail system periodically, but regrettably we live far enough away to make a bike path network very costly.
• Please keep in mind riders should wear helmets, may not use earphones in both ears (shouldn’t use any in my opinion), and, most importantly for some, cannot use a cellphone.
There are lots of complex, costly issues wrapped around various interest groups with different needs. A lot can be accomplished by educating drivers regarding bicycling safety.
Safety is a two-way street
In reference to your article about the renewed interest in cycling in the Richmond area [August issue], I often see articles reminding drivers to give cyclists 3 feet when driving on the local roads. Unfortunately, this usually comes about after a terrible accident involving the death of a cyclist.
While agreeing that drivers need to be more watchful, I also believe that cyclists need to follow the rules of the road more carefully as well. While I was driving on Huguenot Road after dark last fall, a man on a bike cut across the road in front of me. He had on a dark coat, no helmet and no light on his bike. I nearly hit him and continue to be traumatized today. I would have been devastated if I had killed someone.
I think that if cyclists want to share the road with cars, they should also have laws that protect them and the car drivers. All cyclists should be required to wear helmets, wear reflective clothing and have lights on their bikes. They should be required to follow all the same laws that motorcycles do, such as staying in one lane, signaling and stopping at stop signs and stoplights. Let’s all look out for each other and use the roads safely!