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Oakton Opinion: Don't Ride Into Autumn

My Labrador retriever and I are not bicyclist-friendly. Sorry.

My 65-pound yellow Labrador retriever, Autumn, was pulling me through our Oakton neighborhood on a leash.

We came to the intersection of Valewood and Wayland. This should be a safe streetcorner for a pedestrian of any species. It's a four-way stop.

A bicyclist moving at high rate of speed passed close to us, never slowing down, not stopping, as if the sign didn't exist. He would have needed to be only a couple of feet closer to ride into Autumn.

"That's a stop sign!" I yelled.

The cyclist's response was a popular finger gesture whose meaning is pretty clear to most Americans. It's the first time I've ever seen a bicyclist give a hand signal.

I've been driving an automobile for 56 years and have never seen a bicyclist stop at a stop sign or a red light, or signal a turn.

Small wonder an "us versus them" mentality seems to be stoking conflict between bicyclists and everybody else all over the country.

No one slips more readily into the role of victim than an American on a bicycle. "There are ... people that use their cars to intimidate and harass cyclists," Greg Billing of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association told the Detroit Free Press after tensions flared between bicyclists and drivers in Motor City.

Say what? Does Billing have any idea how scary it is to be driving a car — or, in the case of my dog and me, walking — and to come upon a person on a bicycle?

Every day, especially in summer, I see cyclists riding along without a helmet, or without mirrors or both. Every year, the news tells us of at least one bicyclist killed in a traffic collision in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. On any given day, a word search will turn up a dozen or more cyclist fatalities around the nation. The news stories often seem slanted to make the motorist the villain.

A different word search will produce numerous opinion pieces to the effect that bicyclists and motorists must learn to get along. Nothing about pedestrians. Nothing about dogs. What these opinion pieces inevitably have in common is their bias toward cyclists who are uptight about being trod upon by meanie motorists.

Although details may vary from one locality to another, a person riding a bicycle on the street is usually subject to the responsibilities levied on drivers, including obeying traffic lights and signs.

They're stereotypes, of course, but in my observation bicyclists come in two categories. There's the utilitarian worker, trundling along in old clothing on a rusty Schwinn, using those two wheels just to get to work. And there's the in-your-face Lance Armstrong clone wearing Speedos and peddling a skinny racer. Count on the first person to be approaching you by riding in the wrong direction on the wrong side of the road. Rely on the second to ignore a red light, a stop sign or my dog.

Now, here's the thing.

My dog can talk.

Autumn only speaks when we're alone. She doesn't want to become a celebrity and be forced to cope with fame, glory, groupies and all that. But just after the cyclist brushed past us we were alone, so my dog looked up at me.

"How come you humans aren't as smart as us dogs?" she asked.

That's a real stumper. The rules that permit bicycles to share the road were created for a different era, when traffic density was lighter and pedestrians were fewer. By playing the victim, cyclists distract us from the simple and the obvious: It no longer makes sense for them to peddle on the street.

Spare me the argument, please, that bicycles are environmentally friendly. There is nothing energy-efficient about the cost to society of having to take care of cyclists when they become real victims. So cycling is great exercise? OK, get a recumbent exercise bike and ride it in your basement. But there's something I don't want you to do.

This is an especially scary time for Autumn and me because the weather is good, it's summer, and cyclists are out in droves. Fortunately for terrified motorists, pedestrians and dogs, the number of cyclists drops sharply when the season becomes colder and wetter.

Before fall arrives, I would love it if my fellow Oakton residents and Americans everywhere would adopt some common sense. That means rigid enforcement and severe penalties for bicyclists who violate the law, which appears to me to be all of them.

Or ban them. Completely.

In the meanwhile, enjoy your summer. But come to a halt at the stop sign.

And don't ride into Autumn.

Writer's Note: Robert F. Dorr has provided one photo, of his dog Autumn, for this piece. The other two photos have been uploaded to the site by user J Anderson. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Robert F. Dorr August 06, 2012 at 06:15 PM
No. The pictures were removed because I required it not because you requested it. You would have faced further action if they hadn't been removed. Perhaps you recognize that you made a grave error and, if so, thank you for that, Thank you, too, for recognizing the significance of the ageist slur for me, which would not have been tolerated under the ethics codes of any other publication. Now that we've solved the problem of you defiling my work, why not do some work of your own? Write your own full-length commentary on this topic and ask the editor to consider it for publication. I'd like to read it. I'm sure everyone reading this thread would like to find out if you can make a contribution of your own.
Heidi August 06, 2012 at 09:32 PM
I'm very relieved that the lovely (and talkative) Autumn was not injured.
George August 07, 2012 at 01:27 AM
Come on guys. I've been a rider for over 60 years. I didn't stay alive by not watching traffic. Dorr is correct in saying that many bikers ride like they own the road.I lost a prized breeding bull because a group of cyclists spread across a two lane country road. I was trying to take my bull to a major university vet school. I followed for 30 minutes before i could turn off to the clinic. Bottom line is cyclists need to keep their situational awareness keen and pay attention to those around them.
J Anderson August 07, 2012 at 11:21 AM
George - In fact I don't think any of the cyclists who have responded are claiming that it doesn't happen. Of course it does and I get mad at those that do it but it's the 100% claim and that they should be banned from roads and sidewalks (meaning banning cycling entirely) that stuck in our collective craw as well as the implication that drivers are mostly immune when we all see drivers texting constantly let alone speeding, right on red w/o stopping etc. At the next stop light take note of drivers with their head down trying to hide the phone. The issue is that everyone needs to be responsible in their respective activities - driving, cycling, walking, running, roller blading etc. I think that is all we are saying. That being said, the bull story is simply tragic. The cyclists were naturally unaware and it's unfortunate that there wasn't a chance to pass or for them to single out so you could....though understand a truck / trailer isn't very quick. On group rides, if we are being followed...we single out.
T-Bird August 07, 2012 at 02:11 PM
I'm going to add lots more photos, and I'm not going to remove them. Your "work" is trash and your threats are hollow, and deserves little respect.
Robert F. Dorr August 07, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Here's one definition of a troll: "One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument." That appears to be the definition, also, of an opinion columnist. So "feckless," "ignorant" and "arrogant troll" are fine. They're not about my age, race, religion or orientation so they're perfectly acceptable. I'm discovering as a result of being converted to an activist by this experience that the number of people who ride bicycles is much greater than I thought, the number killed in traffic accidents is about what I guessed (very roughly, two each day in the United States) and the age of the median cyclist is older than I thought (somewhere around mid-thirties). I've also discovered that while a lot of people think it's okay for cyclists to be on the road, a surprisingly high number of people believe otherwise. T-Bird, if you write about me again please spell my name right: I'm Robert F. Dorr, or Bob. There is no one here named "Robert Dorr." Thank you for commenting on my work. Your contribution means a lot.
T-Bird August 07, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Robert Dorr is nothing more than a feckless troll. It is shameful that the Patch would even post this drivel. You don't plan on responding, but yet you responded to the first negitive comment? Your "flooded with letters" one day after you post this garbage? You are "unfamilair with the local laws" regarding bicyclist, yet you decree what all bicyclisit should be doing? And somehow, you have omnipitent knowledge of what all bicycilist are doing now? Really? And are you actually saying that violating traffic rules by motorist in Fairfax is rare? And your ad homninum response is to "ban all bicycilist"? And then, although your comments have no actual facts other then your all-knowing observations, you demand "facts" and rationale from others?? Ignorant and arrogant troll. That is all you are sir.
Bill Jesse August 07, 2012 at 04:34 PM
"This cycling habit occurs all over it seems. Here in Victoria BC we get the 'rat packs' of about a dozen or so Lance Armstrong 'wannabes' who ride in clusters taking the whole of the road. At stop signs the leader slows and looks for traffic and the rest blast through. This happened to me where my choice was to drive into the oncoming lane or run into the pack. Fortunately there was no other traffic. When I got home I emailed the Victoria Cycling coalition and stated that if it happened again and my only choice was to hit the pack of cyclists, I would. Their reply was something about bring criminal charges against me. Bring them on I say. Incidentally I am a keen cyclist riding a thousand plus miles each season. I do observe stop signs as my skin is softer than the bumper of a vehicle."
T-Bird August 07, 2012 at 04:39 PM
FYI Bill - those criminal charges are called murder. By making those calls and posting this, you just proved intent and premeditation. Idiot.
Eustacius August 08, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Many cyclists could benefit for a vacation in say, Germany, to learn bicycle behavior. Bigger safety issue is motorcycles and all the "Easy riders" that I now see hugging the center line with their feet just nudging it. Taxpayers have to provide for all the legless wonders who are also brain damaged due to the exercise of their "right" to ride in their chair at highspeeds with no helmets. But, if you think all this is bad, try taking your horsie out on the roads! Every year some yahoo spatters an Amish family in their buggy because the roads belong only to highspeed motorized transports, right?
Micky December 03, 2012 at 12:34 AM
I find bicyclists really irritating. They speed on the sidewalks and they expect me to move for them when I have my kids and 2 dogs with me they are a nuisance and should ride only the roads. The End.
Robert F. Dorr December 03, 2012 at 12:55 AM
As Micky is undoubtedly aware, bicyclists are not supposed to be on sidewalks at all, ever, at any time under any circumstance. If I had my way, they wouldn't be allowed to endanger everyone else on the street, either. There is no argument in favor of bicycling that holds up under scrutiny, not environmental, not economic. Once again yesterday, as happens so often, my dog Autumn and I were nearly hit by a bicyclist who was where he shouldn't have been and was heading in the wrong direction. This is tyranny by a tiny few and we need to change our laws to ge them off the sidewalks AND off the streets.
J Anderson May 18, 2013 at 01:02 PM
I happened to return to this article today as I wanted to share it with someone given yesterday was Bike to Work Day and last week was Bike to School Day. I guess I missed the last two comments from Dec 2012 as I thought this thread had ended . Despite my desire to not engage this anymore.....I have to. Mr Dorr continues his hatred of cyclists and is frankly WRONG when it comes to bikes on sidewalks. Some jurisdictions don't allow bikes on sidewalks - I think DC is the only one locally. I am not aware of any ordinance in Fairfax County or Towns like Vienna that prohibit bikes on sidewalks. If he had his way, riding my bike w/ my kids to the ice cream shop or soccer practice would be a banned activity. Does he really advocate for that activity to be banned? I'm not riding my kids on Maple Ave - who would, that leaves the sidewalk as the only alternative. If you have a different solution Mickey and Mr Dorr I'd be glad to hear it but we know there isn't one. Stuffing a kid into an SUV for a mile ride is not a solution. Mr Dorr simply needs to go away and stop his personal tyranny on cyclists. He is welcome to his opinion - 100% wrong as it is. His desire to ban bicycling is a pipe dream at best but will in fact turn into a nightmare for him as more and more people decide that sitting on Maple Ave, the beltway, etc etc is no longer something they want to engage in and opt to ride to work or school or to the ice cream parlor.
Robert F. Dorr May 18, 2013 at 01:18 PM
The only tyranny is that imposed by bicyclists, who have no place among vehicles or pedestrians, on the rest of us. Mr. or Ms. Anderson, who doesn't seem especially eager to be identified by a full name, is right on one point: If I had my way, riding his bike with his kids would be banned activity. Not sure what the law says but common sense dictates that bicycles do not belong on sideways. Just yesterday, observed a cyclist using a pedestrian crossing to pedal across an intersection in the face of a red light. The poor motorist or pedestrian at the mercy of someone like this has no way to predict what direction the cyclist will come from, or where he will go next. The fact that your destination may involve ice cream for your kids highlights the fact that this irresponsible behavior endangers children everywhere., Fortunately for me and unfortunately for Mr. or Ms. Anderson, polls show that cycling is on the decline.
J Anderson May 18, 2013 at 01:46 PM
Huh? Seriously? Mr Dorr - you have completely marginalized yourself on so many levels. Bike share programs are being installed in many cities and membership is rising. Businesses are seeing benefits after initial concerns. Bike To Work Day in the Metro area broke last years record and in Fairfax County 75% more schools participated in National Bike to School Day. Many studies show the younger generations are not driving their cars - for many reasons - and opting to walk, bike or use transit. Note bicycling is one of those choices. Banning a bike ride to the ice cream parlor ? Seriously? It's laughable. I don't even understand your comment about irresponsible behavior . There is no such thing as a pedestrian crossing ... it's a cross walk and VA law supports bicycles using such. And I bet if I stood on that same corner I'd see a pedestrian cross against a red light, a car speed to get thru a yellow light and a car turning right on red w/o stopping let along if a pedestrian is present. As far as polls.....please provide a link to such. I'll start w/ this Rutgers/VATech study. http://www.utrc2.org/sites/default/files/pubs/analysis-bike-final_0.pdf And if you want more....go nuts. http://www.bikesbelong.org/resources/stats-and-research/statistics/participation-statistics/#Recent%20trends I don't know why I'm even engaging Mr Dorr.....but I don't like 'wrong' getting the last word. - Jeff Anderson 8^)
Robert F. Dorr May 18, 2013 at 03:19 PM
Perhaps you know Virginia law better. In most places, you do not ride a bicycle on the sidewalk, or against traffic on the highway, or against a red light. I should have used "crosswalk" instead of "pedestrian crossing" but my meaning was clear. Let me know the section of the law that says it's okay to use a crosswalk to weave through cars moving perpendicular to you against a red light. You and your fellow cyclists are inflicting your tyranny on normal people who don't need hokey Lance Armstrong clothing to jack up their sorry self-esteem. Even if you weren't violating the law, rules that permit bicyclists in the same space as motor vehicles and pedestrians were forced upon us by the trivial minority you represent. As for the last word, if you want it you need only to post one more time.
J Anderson May 18, 2013 at 04:44 PM
Mr Dorr - As a student of history I'm surprised you aren't aware of how the American Highway system came to be. "The League began as the League of American Wheelmen (LAW) in 1880. Newport, R.I. was the location of the founding meeting -- and was responsible for defending the rights of cyclists from its start. The League of American Wheelmen is credited with getting paved roads in this country before the reign of the automobile. http://books.google.com/books?id=MJgSAAAAYAAJ&pg=PP7#v=onepage&q&f=false By 1898, the League of American Wheelmen had more than 102,000 members including the Wright Brothers, Diamond Jim Brady, and John D Rockefeller! Wait...didn't the Wright Brothers own a bicycle shop? Pretty trivial minority I reckon. And is this a bicycle in the National Air & Space Museum? Best get that removed. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:WrightBrothersBicycle.JPG One can and should at times ride a bicycle on a sidewalk...if the law permits one to do so. As far as against traffic or thru a red light - that is stupid behavior but such is not limited to bicyclists. We have all acknowledged some bicyclists do that - but you fail to acknowledge your beloved drivers and pedestrians also engage in stupid behavior....with the former leading to significantly more deaths in a year than bicyclists in a decade.
Stephen Szibler May 18, 2013 at 07:50 PM
Victim hat? Never seen a cyclist? Although I can't disagree with your statement that cyclists should obey the law and that "salmon" (bikers riding unaware on the wrong side of the street) and "ninja" (someone mentioned cyclists riding without lights or reflective gear at night), are annoying at the least, your opinions loose all relevance to a helpful dialogue when you speak in hyperbole and vastly ridiculous generalities. As a pilot as I am, with higher than average observational skills, I have to assume you're outright lying when you claim you've never seen a cyclist signal or obey traffic laws. When others salute this type of "discussion", I have to assume its just an emotional game to them with no hope of understanding the issues involved. Just a way to vent and try to rile up the majority. As a pilot you should be aware of the heightened responsibilities of someone in control of an aircraft compared to someone driving a car. To try to compare a 140 lb. cyclist to a 3000 plus lb. automobile in collision results is simply absurd. The fear of swinging a bat at someone's head compared to receiving the impact on your head is simply a bad analogy. With an automobile, as with any deadly weapon, you have a much higher responsibility. (Continued)
Stephen Szibler May 18, 2013 at 07:52 PM
Although that cyclist had a responsibility to slow and stop and not injure either of you, it ain't the same as a car bearing down on you at the same intersection. This is not to rationalize the cyclist's wrong, but I wouldn't be surprised if Autumn wasn't really thinking, "I thought you taught me to look both ways before crossing the street." Here's my generalization. Only in America would someone say that bicycles were created for a different era or that it doesn't make sense for them to be on the road. They are well integrated on modern roads in much more advanced societies than ours. Some of the problem is the the lack of local government's foresight in planning for multiple means of transportation, but ignorance and the type of hyperbole you're engaging in is only helpful if you're clear about what you really want. Hopefully it's that cyclists need to be more mindful of others, and you should simply state that after engaging in your fun, but if its not, and you really believe these things, then please, just get your own TV show with Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and rest on your fame and fortune - just don't provide anything useful.
Nate Wilburn May 18, 2013 at 09:46 PM
Never thought I'd see Robert F. Dorr's name on a list with Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.
J Anderson May 20, 2013 at 08:56 PM
From the 'wish I had a Russian dashcam" chronicles. Sitting at Lewinsville Rd and Spring Hill Rd intersection - waiting to turn left onto Spring Hill towards Tysons from Lewinsville Rd. I am 4th in line in left turn lane. Light is green both directions and steady stream of cars coming. It's an odd turn in that you basically go head on for a bit...so it's best to wait and not try and gun it. Light turns yellow......but it's clear there is not enough time for 1st in line to go. 3rd in line decides to go.....turns into right lane in fast jerky motion. Massive screech of brakes right next to me as approaching car locks it up. The 3rd car in line then makes the left turn thru red light - after having jumped out of line and going around the cars waiting, nearly causing a rear-end accident let alone going thru a red light and the potential of an accident there. 100% a-hole move. Potential accident could have included at minimum 5 cars ..... But remember - bicyclists are scofflaws and should be banned.
J Anderson May 21, 2013 at 11:01 AM
FYI. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/carltonreid/roads-were-not-built-for-cars-book-and-kindle-and?ref=card
Robert F. Dorr August 07, 2013 at 08:14 AM
Happened again, worse than ever. Today (August 7, 2013) a bicyclist pedaling at a high rate of speed rushed through the "STOP" sign at Valewood and Wayland without slowing down and without looking around.This may have been the fastest I've ever observed a bicycle in motion. He passed within a few feet of Autumn and me. We need to get these lawbreakers off our streets.
J Anderson August 07, 2013 at 10:13 AM
Mr Dorr, Despite our disagreement on bikes on roads, whatever this cyclist did is inappropriate at best. That goes without saying honestly but I have no doubt this person drives his car the same way as he rides a bike. It's not a bike thing. Looking at a map, that intersection is buried in a neighborhood and it makes me think you have a neighbor that is doing this vs. some random cyclist. Oddly, it's almost a year to the day when you penned this column. That being said, this past Friday I was on Vale Rd near Difficult Run. I had a rear and front flashing light on my bike and was riding safely in a predictable manner according to all VA law. A car passed me safely...giving me more than the current 2 foot buffer per VA law. A second car followed and it forced me off the road onto the grass/dirt. It was clearly within the 2 foot buffer per VA law. I subsequently met the driver at the Stop light at Vale/Hunter Mill, recorded the license plate and called the Police. They came and told the driver of said vehicle that he was 100% in the wrong and that he had to pass safely AND that bikes had the same rights as he did on the road. The driver changed his tune from the initial reasoning he gave to me to the Officer and claimed he didn't think he was that close. My point is we all must be careful out there and that we all have rights to use the road. The officer spent 20 mins chatting with me after the driver left and basically told me that the number of infractions drivers are doing is countless - to the point he doesn't even bother trying to education them or ticket them. The new Texting ban is a good example...he basically said the law is written so poorly that it is a waste of time for him to enforce. Given cars account for over 40k deaths a year and the leading cause of unintentional death of children - that should be our concern vs banning cyclists.
Robert F. Dorr August 07, 2013 at 10:20 AM
Mr. Anderson, it must take incredible courage to pedal a bicycle on a main road used by automobiles knowing that you have zero influence over whether you live or die. I'm sorry to learn the officer's attitude toward those who text -- and by doing so increase the risk to you considerably. Those who text and drive are easy to spot. And if one of those culprits collides with your cycle, it won't be the culprit who gets crumpled.
J Anderson August 07, 2013 at 10:33 AM
Texting drivers are risk to all users of the roadway as well as those walking their dogs. This is not just a bike vs car issue. I'd also venture to say that any driver runs the same if not more risk regarding influence of life vs death given the behavior of so many other drivers - rolling stop signs, texting, right on red, speeding etc.
Robert F. Dorr August 07, 2013 at 10:56 AM
There's no way you can make a case that driving my car "runs the same if not more risk" from those bad drivers out there. If one of those drivers hits me, I have a pretty good chance of surviving.
J Anderson August 07, 2013 at 11:08 AM
Cars will always win over a bike but the more people that bike the safer it becomes. That is a fact and supported by data in numerous communities. If the greatest cause of children's deaths are in auto accidents, then why do so many parents feel that driving their child to school is safe. The issue isn't with cars, bikes or feet but those don't take their responsibility seriously and frankly feel their need to rush or read a text is more important than someone else's safety.
Robert F. Dorr August 07, 2013 at 11:58 AM
"[T]he more people that bike the safer it becomes?" And you say you have documentation? That defies logic. Even if a handful of bicyclists observe all laws and conduct themselves with safety in mind (something I have never witnessed) how could anyone be safer with more bikes on the road. Bicyclists, who are in greater danger than drivers or pedestrians, would be safer if no bikes were on the road.
J Anderson August 07, 2013 at 12:42 PM
As Reagan said to Carter - There you go again. As an author who engages in research for your books, I'm sure you have the skills to find the facts if you desired.....however I'll give you this as a starting point. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuBdf9jYj7o I'd also venture to say that drivers are safer today w/ more cars on the road than the early days.....because of safety innovations, better infrastructure, better education and because simply put...more people drove. And because the road system we have today was envisioned and planned out by a handful of bicyclists. That is fact....as I believe I've stated previously.

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