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Letters to the Editors

Safety up to cyclists, drivers alike


© St. Petersburg Times
published November 20, 2002

Re: Recent tragedies involving bicyclists.

While many people have said school hours should be changed so students won't bicycle in the dark, the fact is that people will bicycle in the dark. I cycle half the year in the dark when going to or from work. I see other people, from young to very old, bicycling in the dark, too.

From five years of commuter bicycling in Pinellas, studying bicycle safety, talking with motorists and bicyclists, and personal contemplation, I've concluded that people can do a lot to prevent crashes.

Bicyclists: Day or night, you want motorists to see you as soon as possible, recognize you are a bicyclist, and have time to maneuver safely. Lights, clothing, and how you operate your bicycle are all important in making this happen.

Florida state law [F.S. 316.2065 (8)] requires bicyclists to have a white light on the front that can be seen from 500 feet and a red tail light and red reflector on the back that can be seen from 600 feet. The law says you may use more lights and reflectors than is required.

Keep bicycling. You're gaining experience you can pass on to children and other adults. Also, you're giving motorists the opportunity to learn how to drive safely when near bicyclists so when they encounter children, they'll drive safely around them.

Motorists: You can do things to help yourself see bicyclists and have time to maneuver safely.

Never speed, tailgate, or hug the curb.

Hearing "You're not even doing the speed limit!" shows that some motorists weren't taught what the speed limit means. The posted limit is the maximum, not the minimum. It's okay to drive slower than the maximum to avoid crashing when encountering fog, wet pavement, pedestrians, bicyclists, police and other emergency workers at crash sites, thick rain and debris, blind curves, bridges and overpasses when sight distance is blocked, and so on.

Parents and guardians: Schoolteachers and law enforcement officers can only give classroom and parking lot instruction. Only you can give your children on-road instruction to learn how to look for cars, judge motorists' speed, judge their own capabilities and other essentials.

Teach your children the laws and safe habits early. Get children used to wearing helmets when they are very young. Many teenage and adult bicyclists learned or were taught bad habits. Now, it's difficult to re-educate them. Teach by example.

Educate yourself so you can teach your children. Call the Pinellas County Planning Department or go to your local bicycle shop and ask for fliers such as "Bicycles are Vehicles." Visit Web sites of the Florida Department of Transportation's Pedestrian/Bicycle Safety Program (www.dot.state.fl.us/safety/ped_bike/ped_bike.htm), the League of American Bicyclists' Better Bicycling Fact Sheets (www.bikeleague.org/educenter/factsheets.htm), the Florida Highway Patrol (www.fhp.state.fl.us/html/BST.htm), and Bicycling Life (www.bicyclinglife.com).

The laws have changed over the years; Florida's laws do not duplicate those of other states. Things you were taught as a child may now be illegal or have been found to increase your chance of a crash.

Ask your local bicycle shop for a touring bicycle club near you. In Pinellas, the St. Petersburg Bicycle Club Inc. and Suncoast Cycling Club members want to help you and your children. Riders of all ages are welcome, even riders who haven't exercised in a long time.
-- Kimberly Cooper, St. Petersburg

Laws on epileptic drivers solve problem

Re: Flashing lights are necessary, letter, Nov. 13.

The letter writer's comment about an epileptic driver who could be triggered into a seizure by flashing lights much better fits my idea of the word "dangerous."

Evidently the writer knows nothing about epilepsy or the driving laws in the state of Florida. An epileptic person must be seizure-free to drive here. Most are on medication to control the seizures, and therefore they are able to drive. It is just like any other person with a disability driving.

If a person has heart disease but is on medication to control it, should he not drive because he could have a heart attack? Wake up and educate yourself.
-- Patty Harms, St. Petersburg

Libraries can't take all donated books

As a retired professional librarian, I feel that I must reply to the letter, Pinellas Park preferable to Kenneth City, Nov. 6 in the Neighborhood Times.

Professional or competent librarians do not and cannot receive any and all books donated by well-meaning citizens. The librarians must accept only books they might purchase themselves for the library. It is best to ask always before "dumping."

Professional libraries have a book order policy to which they must adhere. Discarded books might take up library shelf space and never be looked at by anyone.

Most non-librarians have only the faintest idea of what goes into the training of a librarian. While libraries might be grateful for your donation, they must adhere to their policies, which should be made by the librarian and the library board of directors.

As in all volunteer endeavors, it is always best to ask first -- call ahead.
-- Mary (Molly) Gill, Largo

If you use the parks, keep them clean

Our forefathers had the foresight to create parks in Largo. Today, with the increase in population, new parks are being built. The joy of being able to walk quietly and observe nature is an asset for living here.

However, we as residents have an obligation in using these parks. There is no excuse for seeing waste paper, cans or bottles being left in these environments. Most people walk for exercise and relaxation. Many of us bend and lift, trying to keep the park spotless. But why should we have to do this? What right does anyone have to discard their leftovers in public places?

For example, my wife and I walk at Highland Recreational Park and find trash to pick up each morning. The people at the nightly games should be responsible for discarding their trash in the containers provided there. Teams and participants should be denied the privilege of using the fields if they cannot pick up after themselves. These coaches or participants should police the fields that they are using. It should be spotless when the lights are turned off. This would set an example for the young people who also use the play fields.

An employee told me that the city does not have the tools to clean up the waterfront. Highland Pond was a disgrace to see, with bottles, cans and paper floating about. I made a device with a net and pole and cleaned the lake myself. Now, everyone can enjoy the birds wading along the shoreline. It is a pleasure to walk in this park. What about all the other parks in our area? Are there other senior citizens who are helping to keep them clean? I hope so, because we want litter-free parks for our future generations.
-- Lendall Haskell, Largo

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