Thursday, May 10, 2012

Serve and Protect

Most of my blogs I write while I'm out riding my bike. Not so much commit them to paper -- does anybody do that any more? -- as map them out in my head.

It it's something that happens on the ride, or something I see, or just the route itself, the blog is easy. I try to get pictures of the most interesting or pretty things, and then I just have to describe stuff.

Sometimes, however, I get an idea. These things don't usually do well in my head -- I'm not a smart man, Jenny -- but often bounce around and make little noises and bruise the backs of my eyeballs.

Monday, I got an idea when I was passed very closely by a Lee County sheriff's car.

It's not the first time that a law enforcement vehicle of one kind or another has failed to follow the "three-foot law" with me. It happened with a bunch of us near Kingston Springs, TN, a couple of winters ago, even through the road was fairly empty, straight, and the cop did not have his lights or siren going. The three-foot law -- which states that you should give a cyclist at least three feet of clearance when passing in a vehicle -- was pretty new in Tennessee then. It's been in effect here in Florida for almost six years.

My idea on Monday was to write a blog asking members of law enforcement to follow the three-foot law themselves when they pass a bicyclist. I know that they never seem to enforce it -- according to an article published last May Florida police issued 337 citations for the law in its first five years, and I've heard numbers are even worse up in Tennessee -- but I think it would be nice if they at least led by example.

And the more that idea bounced around in my head, the more my head said back, "screw that."

Look, I know that being a cop is hard work. People are breaking the law all around you, and you would probably rather focus on catching murderers and rapists. If you had to pull over every car that went a couple of miles over the speed limit, or didn't quite come to a full stop before turning right at that red light, or made a technically illegal lane change ... well, you'd be really busy.

I mean, you probably don't have the time to enforce some of those new laws against cell phone usage. It's hard to tell if that fellow was weaving all over the road because he's an idiot, or because he was answering an e-mail from his boss. He didn't hit anybody this time, so you let it slide.

You gotta focus on the murderers and rapists, right?

But, what do you do when the texting shmuck kills a family of four next week? And will it bother you when the guy that never moves over for cyclists kills one?

So, I'm not going to ask you to just follow the law yourself. Instead, I'm going to ask something more from all of the police officers, sheriff's deputies, and state patrol men and women out there.

Do your job.

Serve and protect, right? Uphold and enforce the law. And that means all of the laws -- not just the "big" ones or the obvious ones or the easy ones or the popular ones.

How would you feel if you had cancer that required surgery to remove it, and when the doctor opens you up there's a bit more than they thought -- not bad enough that you won't survive, but it's gonna take some time. Should she just say, "Ah, forget it?" What if she just cut out the parts that were easy to get to, and left the rest?

What if firefighters had the option to skip a house fire if the address is for a small house? Or if we gave them the choice to not respond if they are at least 90% sure that nobody lives in that house right now? Nobody's gonna get hurt ... probably.

You're probably saying now, "Be careful what you ask for -- you may not like it when you get it." Maybe your right. Maybe I'll be really pissed off the first time that I get a ticket for driving 46 in a 45 mph zone, or going through a stop sign on my bicycle in one of the neighborhoods that Naples riders frequent for fast training.

But if these are the rules and everybody is forced to start playing by the same rules, I'll adjust. Because when everybody starts playing by the rules, when I am out on my bicycle they will pass me safely, won't veer into me while sending a text, or make an illegal lane change that winds up with me being dragged under their trailer. If we can stop that, then maybe I can live long enough to adjust.

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