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Letters to the Editor

Tuesday October 14, 2003


Editors, Daily Planet:  

The bicycle advocates who favor speed bumps do not speak for all bicyclists. Speed bumps can damage delicate items, shake loose packages and recycle goods, and create a hazard when drivers swerve into the gutter/bike lane so one set of wheels can avoid the bump. We’d much rather share the lane with a wheelchair than with a swerving car. California law states it is illegal for pedestrians to walk in bike lanes when sidewalks are available, but obviously they are not available for people in wheelchairs. 

Cars and trashcans blocking the sidewalk were in our way too when our kids were little and riding or wagoning on the sidewalk. In most cases, cars are left there parked in the sidewalk, not just there temporarily for unloading. 

Widening the sidewalk won’t help if no effort is made to enforce rules against parking on the sidewalk. It may even backfire if it creates enough room for a car to be fully off the street (and on the sidewalk) in a place where there wasn’t sufficient room before. Imagine what would happen if cars blocking the sidewalk were routinely ticketed or towed even if no one phoned in to complain. That is, the parkers would complain, but sidewalks would be clearer and safer. The sidewalk cracks and holes would still need fixing, of course. (It’s not a problem because no wheelchair users use your street? Maybe they can’t.) 

We agree with Steven Finacon (Letters, Daily Planet, Oct. 7-9) that we need to pay to allow our trash collectors enough time to set the cans neatly along the curb. They used to place the cans back along in peoples‚ back or side yards. 

Making the major streets easier to cross would make side streets a more useable option. 

Finally, we want to express our amazement that the person who hit Fred Lupke did not get a ticket for driving at an unsafe speed. If visibility conditions prevent you from driving safely, drive slower, until you are moving slowly enough to be safe. That used to be the law. 

Barbara Judd and Robert Clear 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

How courageous of Ms. Weir to have gone to her office despite the warning left on her voicemail that if she did go she’d be risking her life. (“Telephone Bomb Threat Follows Campus Debate,” Daily Planet Oct. 7-9). The U.S. often being a trend setter, I hope that Palestinian suicide bombers will take note and start announcing in advance the day, time and place of the deadly act they intend to commit.  

Kathryn Winter 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

It has been widely misreported that Fred Lupke, much-loved Berkeley activist who was struck by motorcar while riding his wheelchair along Ashby Avenue and later died of his injuries, was breaking the law. This terrible untruth was first propagated by the Berkeley Police Department (which despite years of citizen efforts, holds an abysmal record on knowing and upholding the rights of non-drivers).  

Lupke rode his wheelchair in the parking lane on Ashby Avenue, where the sidewalk is dangerously impassible. There is no law against doing so; no law requires those who use wheelchairs (who are legally pedestrians) to stay on the sidewalk. Yet the driver of the vehicle that killed Fred certainly violated the unsafe speed law (CVC 22350) by driving into the setting sun—which by her own admission, blinded her—at such a speed as to throw him 55 feet! She also violated his basic pedestrian rights. But aggressive, kill-risky drivers are commonplace—even as the police fail to cite or arrest them. The true culprits of this death are Caltrans, who engineered the dangerous condition there and have stubbornly refused to tender local control of Ashby Avenue to the city through which it passes, even after numerous similar tragedies. Perhaps they still pine to build the community-crushing Ashby freeway. 

Ashby is a trap lined with pedestrian and bicycle-slaying features. Caltrans’ constantly changing lanes endangers drivers and non-drivers alike. The driver who killed Fred surely made a rapid lane switch into the briefly vacant parking lane where Fred was forced to ride. Such racetrack-style lane switches increase speeding and are especially deadly to pedestrians, unseen by drivers jockeying to pass. The vicious cycle perpetuates: another fellow activist against this madness has been cut down by it. 

It’s time for the institutional biases to go, and for all travelers to be protected equally. Fred’s death was no “accident.” 

Jason Meggs 

California State Coordinator 

Bicycle Civil Liberties Union 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

After the balloting that climaxed our recall circus last week news junkies are free to turn again to the four-ring circus taking place in the nation’s capitol. 

In Ring One, Congress dithers over the four score and seven billion bucks der leader needs to Continue to hang onto the tiger’s tail in Iraq. 

In Ring Two, Rummy, aged white male secretary, contends with Condi, young brown female advisor, over who gets top position. 

In Ring Three, verbal contortionists twist failures into successes, invasion into liberation, occupation into rebuilding and spin each death into a step on the road to democracy.  

The magical acts in Ring Four follow the theme of putting different saddles on the same ol’ donkey. Inability to find WMDs proves the deception of Hussein the Mad. Tax cuts turn into jobs. The horrific scene of three thousand dead civilians is conjured over and over into fantasies of a future in which tens and possibly hundreds of thousands are rescued in the nick of time from “the most lethal weapons known to man.”  

In due course Fourth Ring acts are mimicked by the congressional performers in Ring One, thus completing the circus circuit. 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo