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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bicyclists need to stay on sidewalk

I'll give Zack Colman credit for one thing. At least he has the courage to put his name and photo to asinine comments about bicycling.

Unlike most of the clowns who post comments anonymously or under fake names on newspaper articles about bicycling, Colman didn't hide his identity in a recent column that appears in the State News, the student newspaper for Michigan State University. Here's what he said about bicyclists:
Black 2001 Saturn SC2. That’s the car I drive — and if you’re a bicyclist on the road but not in a bike path and you see my car, I hope you’re wearing a helmet, because I might run you over.

Maybe not intentionally.

But you see, with all these things I can do in my car nowadays, such as choose a different song on my iPod, send a text message while driving or fall asleep at the wheel because I had to wake up for a worthless 8 a.m. biology lab, I might not notice you.

And, considering you are where you should not be, I might hit you.
Not surprisingly, the column has drawn a lot of comments. Mary Dougherty of the League of Michigan Bicyclists is urging people to e-mail Colman and set him straight.

In the column, Colman is under the mistaken idea that bicyclists should ride on sidewalks rather than streets, where they have a legal right to be in Michigan. In many Michigan communities, it's illegal to ride a bike on sidewalks. It's even illegal to ride bikes on sidewalks on Michigan State's East Lansing campus!

Here's another choice nugget from Colman's attempt at writing a column:
Bicyclists on the road are a driving hazard to people in automobiles, since many bicyclists make turns without using hand signals and ride too close to other vehicles when there is no designated bike path.

For example, I was driving to work Tuesday when a bicyclist pulled up in front of my car in the right lane on Farm Lane going northbound where it intersects with Shaw Lane. There is no bike path at this portion of the road, and I needed to be in the right lane to avoid the left turn only lane, but the bicyclist was in the way.

Some will say I could be more patient on the road.

But roads are for cars, not bicyclists. The bicyclist should not have been in the car lane.
Some people have come to Colman's defense, saying that it was intended to be satire. If it was, it was a pretty poor attempt. I speak from experience. I once attempted satire while I was still a college student writing for the Southwestern Journal, a weekly in Brighton, Ill. I failed miserably. Satire is a difficult form of writing to master, and satire clearly isn't one of Colman's strong suits.

I hope Colman learns from his mistake and grows up to be a responsible columnist.

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Roger 3 comments links to this post 2:18 AM

Lou Anna K. Simon
Michigan State University, President

Crime Reporting Unit
Michigan State University Police

1) Overview of Concerns:

I am reporting a written and publicly distributed death threat against numerous members of Michigan State University (MSU) students, staff and general public. I request MSU staff and the Michigan State University Police to address this death threat in a timely and professional manner to ensure the physical safety of those threatened. Secondary concerns with the article's encouragement of criminal behavior need to be addressed; but only after the physical safety is ensured of the bike community.

2) Primary Concern: Death Threat.

Zack Colman, staff writer for The State News, made specific death threats against the bike community in his recent article, "Bicyclists Need to Stay on Sidewalk" ( http://statenews.com/index.php/article/2009/04/bicyclists_need_to_stay_on_sidewalk ). In the article, Mr. Colman describes an specific target, specific weapon, specific method of assault and cites specific motivations for his assault; therefore, his statements exceed the First Amendment protections on speech and meet the threshold for criminal death threats. Mr. Colman specially states he is willing to run over members of the bike community with his motor vehicle as an act of road rage. A reasonable person would have cause to fear for his or her personal safety based on Mr. Colman's threat.

Due to extreme nature of Mr. Colman's threats; immediate and comprehensive response is required by the MSU police to address this issue. However, I must advise the members of the MSU Bike patrol to use extreme caution when dealing with Mr. Coleman as Mr. Coleman did NOT exclude police officers on bike patrols from his list of potential targets in the bike community.

I am requesting that Mr. Colman motor vehicle privileges be immediately revoked and not reinstated until after he is examined and assessed by licensed and qualified mental health professionals to assess the risk posed to by Mr. Colman to the public. A special focus on mental stability, anger management, and road rage tendencies should be included in the assessment. Appropriate corrective actions are requested to be implemented by MSU staff and police, to include criminal charges against Mr. Coleman.

3) Secondary Concerns: Intimidation to Encourage Criminal Behavior.

Mr. Colman states in his article that bikes need to stay off the road and bike on the sidewalk. Mr. Coleman describes his personal frustration at the speed that cyclists ride on campus roads as the justification for bikes to stay off the road way. However, the various Michigan Vehicle Codes and Michigan State University Obedience's that apply to bicyclists specifically grant the use of the roadway to cyclists, require cyclists to travel reasonable safe speeds and to NOT bike on the sidewalk. Therefore in addition to the death threat previously describe, Mr. Colman is also utilizing his position at The State News to intimidate the bike community as a means to encourage the bike community to violate State and University bike use regulations. It is unacceptable for Mr. Colman to attempt to force law abiding members of the bike community into committing violations of law. For reference purposes, the specific State and University regulations and laws are cited below:

Michigan Vehicle Code 257.657 specifically grants the same rights to bicycles to the roadway as any other vehicle (except for special reasonable exceptions).
Michigan Vehicle Code 257.660 (1) requires low-speed vehicles (to include bikes) to "shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care.."; such a requirement includes using the full lane if deemed required and practical for the circumstances
Michigan State University Obedience 33.09 states that "No person shall operate a bicycle at a speed faster than what is reasonable and proper with regard to the safety of the operator and others."
Michigan State University Obedience 33.13 states that "No operator of a bicycle shall cause the same to be driven upon or across any sidewalk..."
Michigan State University Obedience 33.14 Every person operating a bicycle on a roadway on the campus shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a motor vehicle.

4) Conclusion:

Death threats of any nature are unacceptable in any modern environment and are not protected forms of speech. The increasing number of national incidences of homicidal violence on academic campus coupled with the very real danger posed by road rage dictate that Mr. Coleman's threats must be taken at face value. The university is ethically and legally obligated to make the proper response to the threats and take any and all appropriate corrective actions. A RESPONSE is requested to this email.


Marcus Griffith
I work for an off-campus department of MSU. When I'm on the main campus it's always with a car, not a bicycle, but watching out for the bicycles and pedestrians is part of driving there. Especially on Farm Lane, you have to watch for the pedestrians. A co-worker once had a spectacular bike accident on that street in order to avoid a pedestrian who was crossing against a red light. Farm Lane is really not a good place to be driving unless you have good reflexes and eyesight. If Zach can't handle his Saturn SC2, maybe he should get himself an old Volkswagen Beetle or something and park it on the outer edge of campus where he can take a shuttle bus in.

I see from the online directory that he's a student in International Relations. If he ever does any international work, he might end up working with even more of a bicycle culture than you find on MSU's campus. Now would be a good time for him to start developing a better relationship with it.
Write the Michigan Secretary of State (the Michigan equivalent of DMV in other states), and ask her to revoke Zack Colman's driver's license:

He shouldn't be driving if:
1) He doesn't know Michigan traffic law;
2) He habitually drives while distracted
3) He has expressed a desire to assault other people with his vehicle.

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