Location: SA

Responding to Ignorance

Gail Kline Ghost BikeIn a stunning example of ignorance and insensitivity, the Salina Journal posted an editorial telling bicyclists “You’re not training for the Olympics” and “stay off county roads”. They’re basically saying “it’s your own damn fault if you’re killed”:

You’re not training for the Olympics

The death Friday west of Salina of bicyclist Gail Kline, who was struck by a hit-and-run driver, is an appropriate time for us to make our annual appeal for bicyclists to stay off county roads during harvest.

Harvest will be later this year, with some predicting that farmers could be cutting into July.

Whenever it occurs, the danger for bicyclists increases dramatically. Sharing narrow county roads with no shoulders with normal vehicle traffic is dangerous enough. Throw in semis and other wheat trucks and farm equipment in a hurry to get through harvest, and the danger rises to the it’s-just-not-worth-it level.

So, for the couple of weeks during harvest, we again ask that bicyclists stay off county roads. Stay in town to ride, find some enclosed area, find some other safe form of exercise, such as jogging Or, just give yourself a rest.

Harvest is only once a year, and it doesn’t last that long. Whatever event you’re training for, it’s not worth the risk.

We want to keep you around.

— Ben Wearing
Executive Editor

So what’s the proper response to such idiocy?

Outrage at such a despicable editorial is understandable, and perfectly appropriate. The commenters on the Salina Journal web site have done a fine job expressing that outrage. I suggest you read them.

Personally, I’m torn between tearing him a new one and taking the high road.

I’m going to try to avoid expressing the anger I feel at this assault on decency, and instead attempt some reasoned responses:

— Everyone, no matter how many wheels their mode of transport uses, and no matter what it’s powered by, has the same right of free travel on public roads.

— It doesn’t matter for what purpose someone is using the roads, whether for transportation, recreation, or commerce, they’re public roads, and the law doesn’t prioritize or discriminate — everyone has equal rights to free travel on public roads.

— People ride bicycles on public roads for a variety or purposes — transportation, recreation, exercise, tourism, training — and all are equally valid.

— It’s not unreasonable for every user of a public road to have the expectation of arriving at their destination safely, without fear for their life, without being abused by other roadway users, without being bullied for their choice or travel.

— Any “risk” a bicyclist assumes by riding on a public road is due primarily to the threat from drivers of motor vehicles, which are larger, heavier, more powerful, and are too often piloted by people who are distracted, oblivious, or irrationally angry. Bicyclists pose no threat at all to drivers of motor vehicles. A lecture on road safety would be far more appropriately directed at those who can cause the greatest harm, and who therefore have the greatest responsibility to avoid harm.

— It is extremely easy to pass a bicyclist — simply wait until it’s safe to pass, then move into another lane and pass. It’s so simple that thousands and thousands of motorists manage to do this every day, with no “accidents”. Sorry if that delays you for a few precious seconds, and requires you to move your foot a few inches from the accelerator to the brake.

— The vast majority of people using the roadways are doing so safely. Professional drivers — and this includes operators of agricultural vehicles and equipment — have a well-deserved reputation for safety and respect for other roadway users. The exceptions are a menace to everyone else, and the person who killed Gail Kline made themselves a criminal (leaving the scene of a collision resulting in serious injury or death is a felony) through their callous and cowardly actions.

— There is no “appropriate time” to suggest that bicyclists stay off public roads.

— Implying that Gail Kline, and any other bicyclist injured or killed by motor vehicles, caused their own death — particularly after a criminal ended Gail’s life by striking her with his vehicle, then leaving her to die along the road, while running away to hide — is a disgusting thought. Blaming the victim is never appropriate.

— Bicyclists are not some alien species. Bicyclists are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, neighbors, and friends — just everyday folk who happen to travel by bicycle. They are loved, and they’re worthy of respect, and care.

Another entirely reasonable response is suggested by the inestimable Steve Tilford: Email this Guy and Tell him He’s an Ass: “Better than emailing Ben and telling him he’s a complete ass, it would probably do better to email his boss, Olaf Frandsen, the editor and publisher of the Salina Journal. Here’s a link to Olaf’s email. It will only take a second to tell him that this is completely inappropriate and that his executive editor, Ben, is an idiot.

Another appropriate response is the Saline County Gravel Century, scheduled for this Saturday, June 8th at 8am: “As a remembrance/memorial for Gail Kline, a cyclist killed in Salina by a hit-and-run driver on May 31, AND as a response to the asinine editorial put out by Ben Wearing of the Salina Journal, pleading with cyclists to stay off the roads, especially around harvest time. No thanks, Ben.

What are your feelings about the Salina Journal editorial?

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About The Author

By Randy Rasa, editor/webmaster at Kansas Cyclist, the web's premier Kansas cycling information site, featuring authoritative guides to Kansas cycling clubs, bike shops, organized bike rides, touring, trails, and much more. [learn more]

16 responses to “Responding to Ignorance”

  1. Paul Johnson says:

    I’m not seeing the comments section.

  2. Brian L. says:

    Good points all around, Randy. Another one: His comment “…throw in semis and other wheat trucks and farm equipment in a hurry to get through harvest…” — it sounds like he’s saying “If a harvest driver runs someone over, it’s okay — they don’t have to obey the law because they’re working on harvest.” Ugh.

  3. Paul Johnson says:

    @Brian L.: Also really reminds me of South Park’s Wacky Molestation Adventure episode where the kids are harvested by a John Elway statue.

  4. Mike says:

    Link that shows comments…

  5. Bill Novak says:

    Thank you for allowing me to “count to 10”. I sit where you sit. Have you considered an editorial position for “the Journal”? I hope they may be hiring. May yet another cyclist R.I.P. (…and wife? mother? breadwinner, grandmother? volunteer? community activist?)

  6. jdmitch says:

    Just sent the boss a nasty-gram. I find victim blaming in all it’s forms appalling, but this was especially so.

  7. One thing that bothers me about the message of the editorial, and something I’ve seen pretty frequently in the last few weeks, is the writer’s obvious belief that people who bicycle do so solely for exercise or recreation. Whether the people on county roads in the area ride for fun, exercise, or transportation, the editorial is still disrespectful and wrong-headed, but if people can’t even get it through their heads that bicycles are a legitimate means of getting from A to B we’ve got a long way to go.

  8. Dereck Waggoner says:

    I see that they have disabled the comments section for the article. I had made a comment along with many others and now all of the comments have been removed.

  9. Randy Rasa says:

    The comments there seem to come and go; perhaps they did indeed disable the comments, or maybe they’re having technical difficulties. I’ve archived some of them, and will repost if the originals don’t come back…

  10. Paul Johnson says:

    The t.co link above seems to show the comment thread.

  11. Very well said Randy. I feel for her family. We should do something for them.

  12. Beth K. says:

    Don’t forget his follow-up article, where he “explains himself” by describing the victim in graphic detail to elicit an emotional response in a blatantly exploitative manner. He continues to shift blame away from the driver and onto the rider and implies that cycling (nothing more than just a form of “healthy exercise”) is not worth the risk of death, and refers to cyclists as “irritants.”


  13. David Hunter says:

    It seems to me that the powers that be have no problem making us all pay taxes to keep OUR ROADS safe and modern constructing. So this make me part owner of these U S ROADS. Stop texting and driving and pay attention to what you are doing while operating these huge air polluting machines we have been so blessed with. Americans are too spoiled with our transportation. We needier trains, and wider bike lanes so we all cam enjoy the beauty of this great land we live in. Please stay focused while driving your cars, trucks, and farm equipment so we all can enjoy the roads of America. Have peace and respect each other. There is plenty of room for us all. Make cycling a family adventure. Slow down and enjoy the blue sky’s and clean up the air. Also, love one another!

  14. Felicia Day says:

    I agree with the editorial. Too many bikers think they own the whole entire road and won’t move over or aid drivers in anyway. I’ve been stuck behind a bicyclist who wouldn’t move over two feet so I could pass. I like to bike, but show some common courtesy people. Do you really think that farmers want to sit behind you for miles and miles going 10 mph because you’re out for a leisurely ride?

    What does it hurt you do stay off the back country roads for just a little while? It’s not like there aren’t other places to ride? Just as the farmers don’t own the roads, neither do you.

  15. Paul Johnson says:

    Felicia: As a cyclist, you should know that there’s not always a safe and legal opportunity to move over. Farmers typically aren’t going much faster than bicyclists anyway, farm equipment doesn’t move fast. And if you live on a back country road like I do, “staying off the back country roads” means having no access to work, food, or social activities. Pardon the fuck out of me for not being a hermit!

  16. Scott Norris says:

    Just another example from the Anti Cyclist Kingdom a/k/a Salina Kansas! On my way to work today I decided to count the number of Cyclist on the Streets of Salina and did not see one! Decided to drive around a little more in search of maybe just one, and failed in my quest. The Journal and the Kingdom have accomplished what they set out to do and that is to rid the streets of Cyclist in favor of the smoking cell phone addicts that pay so much more attention on the streets than any cyclist ever would. Hail to the Journal and the City for the pen is mightier than common sense and compassion!