Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on February 25th, 2008 at 3:46 pm
“How would we solve this biking
problem? Well for starters, why
don’t all major roads have
A year before a tragic fate befell Austin Miller, the 15 year-old Beaverton student wrote an opinion article on bike safety for his school newspaper titled, “Please Do Not Run Me Over.”
Writing under the pseudonym “Charlie Elsewhere”, the article (full text below) was published in The Savant, the school newspaper at the Art and Communication Magnet Academy in Beaverton, where Miller was a sophomore.
Reading through it, I had mixed emotions. As a father, I found it chilling and immensely sad. As a bike advocate, I found it frustrating. I also had no idea that Austin was so well-versed in bike advocacy.
He was aware that his daily commute put in harm’s way, but he was mature about it beyond his years.
Below is the article, published with permission from Austin’s family.
- Please Do Not Run Me Over
by Charlie Elsewhere, Columnist
It is well known that these days, the roads and parking lots of our public places are growing with numbers of bikers. With wild peddling racers zipping down the road and through intersections, it is apparent that drivers would need to have an increasing awareness for how they turn the wheel.
Long ago, I lived in a place called Vortex Sorrows. In this town, leagues of bikers ruled the streets-hardly a car was there to be found. When the ever growing and popular motorcar came to town, there was an outrage. “Too fast!” said Vortex residents. “And loud and polluting!” it seemed for the drivers of the town there would be no sympathy. And yet, more and more people found an easy escape to the time consuming, expensive and difficult task of biking, which was to buy cars which pollute their environment, loose the aspect of exercise all together and spend over four times as much on gas. I remained constant. I did not succumb to the new, hip trend of car buying. I eyed no sedan dealership, no gas station-only bike galleries and shops. It never occurred to me that I might get more pleasure out of having less money and more weight for the simple exerting exercise of peddling five miles to school and back.
Within a time span of about two weeks, what was once a league of bikers which would join me on my morning route became nothing but me, that strange kid Logan who no one liked to talk to, and a road packed full of red brake lights. Every day, I would hop aboard my bicycle, clip on the helmet and take off toward home, and on my way I would often see red, frustrated faces of the motorcar drivers as they slammed on their brakes and honked their horns. Me? I was smooth sailing, begin the juices flowing and the chemical reactions reacting to push a cloud of good feelings into my mind and body.
And yet soon, even Logan took to the big yellow school bus, and I was left alone. I later petitioned to bring back the art of cycling to Vortex Sorrows-in full. I put up posters, ran for town jr. mayor, and petitioned for new laws restricting the amount of driving that could be engaged in during weekdays. Just when the future of Vortex’s residence began to seem brighter, a revolution happened against me and I was run from the town.
A lot of drivers seem to get frustrated by myself, and other bike loving pedalists. Usually I wouldn’t think so, but attempted hit and runs and getting chased through Mrs. Higden’s Hydrangea garden by an SUV crazed Blackberry loving business man was a slight indication that there may be ridged feelings over the way we ride. Now, to set the record straight, I give no excuses for bikers-or drivers-who brake laws and endanger their and other people’s lives. Anyone who shares the road with me and the rest of us needs to be aware that they are not the only ones, and their lives depend on everybody working together. Unfortunately, in this day and age, I see more drivers whining and complaining about biking behavior than actually trying to do something about it. If I spent all my waking hours crying over every time a driver cut me off, nearly hit me, did hit me, or any other offense, would anything be done about it? No. Talking about how much you hate bikers is not going to solve the fact that they are here-they are here to bike, to bike safely, and they are not going anywhere.
How would we solve this biking problem? Well for starters, why don’t all major roads have bike paths? With an increasing number of adults who choose the healthier way to get there and back again, they too travel on the same roads as any driver would on his or her way to work. Instead of complaining about having to share a road with a biker, why not ban together to get bike paths made standard, so that they can stay out of your way. There are so many things that can be done, and are so obvious it just makes one want to scream. And yet there are some things that have no solution.
Bikers will always be here; as long as it costs less than driving, helps us stay fit and pumps those feel-good chemicals throughout our body, we will remain on the early morning pavement, and that will not change. There is no excuse for a driver who does not pay attention and mind not only other cars but bikes. You cannot control other people’s actions, but you can control your own. Why anyone would rather sit inside a massive metal death trap for their commute is beyond me, but there are those with family, disabilities and other impairing things keeping them from biking. There will never again be a society 100% dedicated to driving or biking. It is like all other integration that had to happen in history-it takes time, patience, and a great deal of compromise.
There will always be hard feelings about this subject-we can only hope that no one will get hurt or loose a loved one due to a lack of responsibility and respect for the road. These are dangerous times, and especially for bikers, our fate lies not only in our hands, but in the hands of the drivers of which we share the road. I am glad for every day I reach the X point unscathed, but besides doing everything I can for myself, I cannot control you, I can only mutter these few words in a hope that it might do good: please do not run me over.
According to the Savant’s Co-Editor-in-Chief Megan O’Doherty, this article will be re-published in their next issue. O’Doherty and her staff will dedicate the issue to bike safety and will also include articles on how to get involved with bike advocacy, tips for motorists, a diagram of turn signals for cyclists, and a spread of Miller’s artwork and poetry. The issue will be distributed at the school next week.
More Austin Miller coverage here.