What parallel universe are St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and City Council member Karl Nurse living in?
"It would be a friendly gesture" if bicyclists realized "they're not the only people on the road," Nurse said, according to the Times. "Crack down on bicyclists," Foster is reported to have said.
These are two people who plainly have never tried to navigate traffic in this area on a bicycle. Tim Butts of the St. Petersburg Bicycle Club put it correctly when he suggested that "the much more prevalent behavior of motorists" is the problem.
I've been riding a bike in Tampa for years and have never seen the behavior of a cyclist become anything more than a momentary inconvenience to a motorist. But I have seen many times when the behavior of motorists became a potentially serious injury or worse to a cyclist, including myself. And of course, there are those cyclists who have died in bicycle versus automobile accidents, but no motorists get hurt in these collisions.
Let's plop the mayor or the council member onto a bicycle for a month and see what they think about getting to work and to activities in traffic, and see if they think they're the only people on the road. The truth is, many motorists think bicyclists are to yield to them on all occasions, right of way or not.
Bicyclists don't need more recreational paths. We need clearly defined bike lanes on the main thoroughfares that allow us to get to work safely and without occupying motor vehicle lanes. And still you can't trust a distracted driver who wanders into your lane, or makes a turn in front of you because they're looking only for cars.
Mike Ahrens, Tampa
Sharing the road
It is about time. Walkers on Coffee Pot Bayou can attest to the noncompliance behavior of bicyclists who ride along the bayou and the surrounding area. They ride three or four abreast and fly though intersections, ignoring stop signs, cars and pedestrians.
Two riders quoted in the article confirm the behavior of the majority of bicyclists I have witnessed. They seem to be saying, "I am a bicyclist who expects motor vehicles to 'share the road' with me, however I don't have to observe the rules of the road."
And yes, when driving my car, I give bicyclists more than their share of the road.
Jan Stone, St. Petersburg
Crack down on cars
Although I do not live in St. Petersburg, I know the hazards of sharing the road with motorists. I don't ride as much as I used to, but I have been abused by insensitive and rude motorists who don't know how to share the road with cyclists. Horns are blown at me, objects are thrown at me, I'm yelled at, deliberately buzzed (a motorist passing by too closely and running you off the road) and cut off, just to name a few. And I follow the rules of the road.
If St. Petersburg's mayor is adamant about cyclists following the rules of the road, then he needs to be just as adamant on motorists doing so. I can't begin to count the number of cars I witness running stop signs. Just imagine the revenue the city could generate if it got enough police patrolling the neighborhood streets and issuing tickets for every car running a stop sign. It just might close any budget deficit.
Sheila Wilson, Temple Terrace
A needed warning
Tampa bicyclist Holly Petrak, who was ticketed in St. Petersburg for not stopping at a stop sign, said that motorists would get mad if a group of 50 cyclists stopped at every stop sign, slowing traffic even more. Motorists would not likely get mad if bicyclists were to move to the right-hand lane, the bike lane, or to the right of a single lane so that cars and bikes could move concurrently.
As for Petrak not wanting to have to unclip her bike shoes to ride safely and within the laws, she can find long stretches where there are no stop signs such as the Pinellas Trail or the south Fourth Street and Pinellas Point Drive area.
Joan Gnagy Campbell, St. Petersburg
Enforce laws equally
It is unfortunate this controversy continues. This recent crackdown, however, is misguided. Most people would agree the cyclist is at the losing end of a bike/car encounter. Cyclists are not running stop signs because of some death wish. They have assessed the traffic situation long before they run the stop or red light. This does not make it correct and by law a citation is the penalty. In some small way it does facilitate a faster flow for motorist, but by no means is it justifiable.
For the most part the cyclists are putting themselves in danger and seldom anyone else. The statistics would probably show few deaths from running of stop signs or red lights.
The bigger issue is education of auto drivers. How many people know we are to be treated as a vehicle? Sixteen cyclists were ticketed for a violation. How may motorists were ticketed for violation of the "3 foot law" (giving cyclists that much space when passing) that day? A proportionate amount? Doubtful!
Let us enforce these laws equally and proportionally. Let's not make the cyclist the scapegoat because they are fewer in numbers and don't have the support of 99 percent of motorists or the lobby power/money of the auto industry. Besides most cyclists are also auto drivers. Yes, they did pay for the road too!
Mark Blitz, Clearwater
First, make the school day and year longer Aug. 30, commentary
More school time is a step in the right direction
The logic and simplicity of the five suggestions made by David Colburn and Brian Dassler to improve public education by increasing class time certainly deserve serious consideration. For too long European and Asian students have outperformed U.S. students conspicuously. If we are to compete in the new global environment, we cannot allow our schools to languish in mediocrity. Our students must be motivated and challenged to do better. None of the suggestions are, in my dated opinion, outrageous or even terribly difficult to institute. Making the school day and year longer is a step in the right direction.
In the same vein, we should be de-emphasizing sports and other distractions in favor of academic study. If memory serves me, when I as a student in Brooklyn, N.Y., early on we had three paths to choose from: academic, which was geared to facilitate college entrance; commercial, which stressed office and business skills; and vocational, which laid the groundwork for tradesmen.
Long ago, it was recognized that not every student would pass the college entrance exams. Nor was that fact a mark of disgrace or reproach. Students had a goal, one designed for success in their chosen field.
Orfeo Trombetta, Seminole
First, make the school day and year longer Aug. 30, commentary
There are problems
As a high school teacher, I support in principle the idea of both a longer school day and year proposed by David Colburn and Brain Dassler. However, there are almost insurmountable problems with this idea that other countries such as Japan and Israel do not have to deal with.
First of all, having a longer day and year means that educators will have to be paid more for this added work. In today's economy, it is highly doubtful that more money will be available any time soon.
Secondly, many students of all ages have to be on buses at 6 a.m. (or even earlier in some cases). If it is impossible to start the day earlier, which goes without saying, when will students have this extra time? Yes, some students head straight home after school. But what of the high number of students who take part in afterschool activities? Will these be sacrificed for a longer school day?
I am not making a blanket condemnation of these ideas; in fact, some of their plans are necessary. More parent interaction and involvement is a must. I wish there were easy answers, but this is not to be.
Ronald Medvin, Tampa
As car sinks, rescue frees elderly couple Aug. 30, story
Screen older drivers
It's people, not guns, that kill. But it's people, not cars, that kill many, many more. And in this latter case something can be done without creating a furor — more significantly, without creating voter backlash.
Do not licence people who are incapable of driving safely. This applies mostly to the "pre-dead."
If someone cannot see properly, a licence renewal should be denied. The same should apply to those whose reaction time is not up to the need.
Annual testing should be introduced at age 70, at least.
I am 75, an admitted pre-dead driver, and I approve this message.
David Derrick, Pinellas Park
As car sinks, rescue frees elderly couple Aug. 30, story
Limit license renewals
First, I would like to say that I am very glad that Joseph and Ruth Schlesselman survived the ordeal when their car went over the seawall in Dunedin.
Second, I would like to acknowledge the bravery and quick thinking of the three men, Courtney Douthit, Joseph Sentelik and Eric Corum, who put themselves in danger to save this lucky couple.
Third, I would like to ask, "What is wrong with the DMV?" My father, who was 80 years old with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, was issued a new licence every renewal time by mail. If I hadn't insisted he no longer drive by taking his car keys away from him, he probably would have gone over a seawall, or worse, hurting or killing someone else.
He passed away a few years ago, but up until his death he fought with me almost every day about his right to drive, because he had the legal right to do so. I am over 60 and would have absolutely no objection to being tested every few years for my safety and for the safety of everyone around me when I am driving, but I know in March, when my licence is up for renewal, I will send in my check and once again get my licence in the mail.
If everyone over a certain age were tested, it could be a win-win situation. The DMV could charge a very small fee and make money, and lives would be saved.
Carol Vigneault, Spring Hill
Vietnam veterans' top disability claim: diabetes | Aug. 31, story
More vets are deserving
Ever since I put in my first claim with the VA, I have said that the "boots on the ground" policy limiting benefits was a scam. If this article doesn't prove me right, I don't know what does.
Plenty of Vietnam veterans are a lot more deserving of benefits than the guy mentioned in the story, but they are denied the claim based on "boots on the ground." This guy spent only enough time in Vietnam to buy cigarettes and take pictures, yet the VA grants him benefits even though he can't prove that he was there.
I don't know who should be more embarrassed: him for putting in the claim or the VA for granting it. Lawmakers should be more concerned with how the VA conducts business than what amount of money it will cost to grant claims. If the Agent Orange Equity Act ever gets passed, veterans who have legitimate claims will finally get them.
Harry White, Vietnam Blue Water Navy veteran, Spring Hill
It's part of war's cost
We live in a world turned upside-down from decades ago when returning soldiers had to fight to get attention for deadly lymphomas linked to herbicides. Now the Veterans Administration has published new "rules" on presumptive conditions caused by exposure to Agent Orange. This will now include three previously denied conditions that include ischemic heart disease and Parkinson's disease for affected Vietnam veterans.
These "rules" now go to Congress where they have 60 days to approve or (heaven forbid) deny the new presumptive conditions.
It is high time for this nation to "man up" and be willing fund these "costs" of war, just as they have the ongoing conflicts we are now undertaking.
Steve Johnson, disabled Vietnam veteran, Holiday
Education is the answer | Aug. 29, letter
A too easy scapegoat
This writer uses a too broad brush when he resorts to the often repeated theme: "our outdated, nonproductive, union-run, public school system."
The idea that public schools do not offer outstanding educational opportunity for those who want it and are willing to work for it is simply wrong. True, we have two school bodies, those who want an education and those who don't. If you want it, select the curriculum, attend and study, and with parental backing, you will get a sound education.
My students in chemistry and physical science often returned and told me they could have skipped the first year of college. They became doctors, engineers, teachers, lawyers, etc.
Please stop using public schools as a "scapegoat" for every evil in society. And do your part by voting against Amendment 8, which would negate the already-passed state constitutional amendment to limit class size.
Henry L. "Harry" King, Clearwater
District rethinks hiring plan | Sept. 1, story
I was really glad the Times exposed a teacher of such poor quality and ethical standards. In these difficult times our children and grandchildren need excellent teachers and role models. The system responded with swift and excellent judgment in denying a position to a person with these dubious qualities.
Kudos to Pinellas school superintendent Julie Janssen and Palm Harbor University High School principal Kristen Tonry for protecting the integrity of the school system as well the rest of the fine teachers who work for our children!
Peter Serbanos, Clearwater