vehicles hit the road
In 1997, when I started bicycling 9½ miles to work, I was bicycling among a lot of large trucks and SUVs. When gas prices started really spiking about 2004, the number of smaller vehicles started increasing while larger vehicles started decreasing. More two-wheeled vehicles (motorcycles, mopeds, scooters and bicycles) began showing up on the roads. When you drive a car, you're going too fast to notice. When you bicycle, you see.
Despite hearing people say they'll never stop driving no matter what the gas price, it will happen. Florida's 2008 minimum wage is $6.79. Tipped employees, like waiters, get less. At $6.79 per hour, working 40 hours per week, with 52 weeks each year, and less 15 percent for taxes, that's $12,004.72 per year.
Since the St. Petersburg Times noted that car ownership costs over $10,000 a year, it's obvious that many self-supporting earners stopped owning cars long ago so they could afford rent and food.
As the cost of living increases, people at higher incomes will switch from cars to two-wheeled vehicles.
So, it's imperative to explain Florida road laws and safety to residents and continue explaining to future residents. Here are things to consider:
Bicycling is safer than you've been told. Bicycling is safer than scuba diving, swimming, motoring (riding in a car) and water skiing. If you want safer transportation, you'll need to do airline flying.
If you find yourself behind a two-wheeled vehicle, thank your deity the person riding it is trying to live on his income instead of committing armed robberies to pay car or housing expenses. Realize that when riders go down, it's often vertical with not much sliding. Car drivers should pass motorcycles, bicycles and other vehicles carefully.
Some motorists have a hard time calculating the speed of two-wheeled vehicles when approaching from behind. Think what you would do if you saw a sign reading "bridge might be out ahead."
You'd take your foot off the gas and maybe put on the brake a little until you could see what was happening ahead. Then you'd take the appropriate action.
When motorists and two-wheeled riders arrive at stop signs and right-turn-on-red intersections, stop. Look left, right and across the road, too, at what's coming toward you. Wait long enough to let the message go from the eyes, up the nerves and into the brain. Wait long enough to estimate how long it will take for you to enter or cross a road and how long it will take for each approaching vehicle to reach you.
If you miss a chance, remember there will be a break between the packs of cars. If you must lay down your bike in the road, will the motorist have time to apply the brakes and stop for you? Give extra stopping space for large, heavy vehicles like delivery trucks and PSTA buses.
If you're in a hurry because you got up late or are rushing between activities, look at your schedule and remove what you can.
Teach your children how to do chores and delegate them, or reduce expenses so you don't need to work so many hours.
If you keep driving too fast, you might end up dead, which means all those activities will stop fast. If you drive safely enough, you'll live longer so you'll eventually be able to do the things you don't have time for now.
The posted limit is the maximum in ideal situations. It's okay to drive more slowly when you encounter two-wheeled riders, PSTA buses, front-end loaders, pedestrians, etc. Wet pavement, following motorcycles, fog, night driving, blinding rain and other situations warrant leaving extra space between you and the vehicle in front, too.
Kimberly Cooper, St. Petersburg
Bike, bus: liberating
Americans like convenience. I have been one of the guilty. As a child, a bicycle was my main mode of transportation and my most rewarding experience. My friends and I biked miles and miles in the summertime to all our destinations.
As a child and teenager, to get to school or go shopping in the city, a 20-mile journey, I boarded the bus, most times walking a mile before I arrived at the bus stop.
Sometimes the weather was hot as Hades. In the winter my legs would be numb from the cold. There were no options. If you wanted to get somewhere, you hopped on your bicycle or the bus.
These days when driving my car to a destination, I plan all my errands for one day of the week, usually with a companion. I no longer drive around to a quick stop here and there multiple times per day or per week.
The price of gas has brought that way of life to a screeching halt. I am happy I learned to ride a bike at an early age. Although now a senior, I look forward to riding my new bicycle to do errands and take in the scenery.
And I will also now look forward to the trips on the bus to places I have not visited in a while — not worrying about traffic jams, crazy drivers and long red lights.
I'll just do the thing I love best when riding the bus: getting immersed in a good novel while someone else is in the driver's seat. I no longer feel guilty. And this, I believe, is a new independence.
Michele Shriver, Palm Harbor
To reduce crime
The opinions of the editorial board and of St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker regarding the ongoing crime in St. Petersburg, and what should be done to curtail it, sound familiar.
I have found through my 36 years in law enforcement, until I retired, that the various programs (community policing) have not curbed crime in the high-crime areas of any city.
The community itself is also to blame, due to mistrust of police officers, quick actions against the police officers and defense of the "thugs" who are killing and assaulting and are in police custody.
I found that a police department that places all its efforts in going after the thugs and a community that supports those efforts are the winners.
Police officers should be on the street going after the bad guys instead of speaking to small groups of citizens who cannot control the thugs who are out to harm them.
Van E. Vergetis, Holiday