BLAMING THE VICTIM
DEAR MS. BARNETT: I've been following this story closely, partly because I'm a bicycle commuter and fixed-gear bike rider ["Collision Course," Erica C. Barnett, Sept 20]. If there's evidence that the fixed cog on Bryce Lewis's bicycle contributed to the accident, I haven't seen it. If there's objective evidence of excessive speed on the part of the cyclists, I haven't seen it. Further, in photos, a brake lever is clearly visible on the handlebar of Bryce's crushed bike. As far as I can tell, Bryce was riding legally in a bike lane and had the right of way when he was struck. So why all the talk about fault and blame on the part of the victim? Why no acknowledgement that large, overloaded, fast-moving dump trucks are a common traffic menace? I imagine the truck driver feels terrible, but that doesn't mean he wasn't also driving carelessly or going too fast.
Is it so hard for people to acknowledge that tragedy sometimes strikes the undeserving? Public criticism—and yes, this talk about "no helmet" and "the danger of fixed-gear bikes" does amount to public criticism—of a young person who leaves behind a grieving family and friends seems a particularly selfish and mean-spirited way for people to dodge whatever painful emotions and questions of life's uncertainties might arise from looking directly at a tragic event and its implications. And I can think of no other reason why reporters would jump automatically to the question of blame, when so many other, more important, issues are raised by this accident—for example, whether bike lanes are safe as designed, whether truck drivers are properly trained, whether drivers in general know how to share the road with cyclists, and on and on. I wish you would have focused on more important issues and shown more sensitivity to Bryce Lewis and those who care about him.
CAN'T WE ALL COEXIST?
ERICA: As a bicycle commuter since June 2005 (6,500 miles and counting), I read your article "Collision Course" with interest and sadness. I concur with your assessment that we'll never really know for sure what happened, though this tragic event should confirm to all that life is precious—too precious to assume cyclists will ever be seen by all trucks, cars, and buses; too precious for cyclists to ignore posted traffic signs and signals, like a bike commuter did yesterday in Kenmore (less than 100 feet from where earlier this year pedestrians were struck by a construction truck, one killed).
I'll continue to bike commute because in my opinion the benefits outweigh the associated risks. Thanks for shining light on the inherent danger associated with cycle commuting, and we can all continue to implore city officials to adopt complete street planning (Stone Way, please) that allows cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians to coexist in Seattle.
MS. BARNETT: Freewheel bikes go much faster downhill than fixies do, they are just safer to do so. The freewheel ratchet does very little to slow down a bike. However, a fixed-gear bike has a finite top speed because the pedals keep pushing the legs around in circles and the legs naturally don't go in circles, causing drag. I find when fixie riding that I have to drag the brakes (regular bike brakes, not fanciful backpedaling) to keep the pedal revolutions to a respectable level so that I don't get bucked off. By contrast, a free-wheeled bike by definition has separate brakes that will stop it quite well and I can coast as fast as gravity, road conditions, and air pressure will let me. I find my higher top speeds are attained coasting on a freewheeled bike where I know I will be able to stop with real brakes.
STRANGER EDITOR: I thought you had stopped carrying Troubletown, but it turns out you just moved it. Fuck you for moving Troubletown. If you don't move it back to the "Last Days" page, I'll flip to the new page. If you keep moving it around now that I've found it, I'll hunt it down. If you decide to get in a snit about this and cancel it, please tell me so I don't spend a lot of time looking for it.
HEY, DOUCHEBAG! What the hell is up with taking Matisse [Control Tower] down to every other week?!?!? It was bad enough when it was just the print edition that pulled back on this witty, intelligent, credit-to-her-kink Mistress, but now I hear you're yanking her from the weekly web version, too, relocating her to every other week on BOTH fronts!!!
I'm not the only one who's pissed: Many of my friends read only two or three columns from The Stranger each week, and Matisse is one of them. We're all really ticked off.
Bring Matisse back every single week, both in print and online. Do it. Do it now!