IMAGE: Illustration © William L. Brown
OP ED • BY BOB SHELDON
I first met John in 1976 on the famous journeys organized every spring and fall by Bob Dollar. We’d ride Skyline Drive from Front Royal to Waynesboro on Saturday, and then ride through the valley back to Front Royal on Sunday. Bob would organize celebration dinners in Waynesboro and then a sit down lunch half way through Sunday’s ride. John added to the levity of the dinners and lunches with his good humor and positive attitude. Nothing slowed John down, not even the 11,000 feet of climbing on Saturday and then the steeper pitches on Sunday. I remember John working on other rider’s bikes, always lending a hand and encouragement, a tradition that followed him throughout his life, actually part of his DNA, always helping others on their journey. John and Lynn were the most gracious, friendliest, best prepared, considerate, always willing to help others, law abiding cyclists I have ever met. They always stayed to the right side of the road.
John and Lynne loved riding Brevets (200, 300, 400, and 600K rides) with Stan Miller, another law abider, riding on the right edge of the road, carrying an array of tools and experience (a shop mechanic for 25 years), always wearing visible clothing, mirror, considerate of others, always willing to help kind of cyclist. Similar to John and Lynn, Stan, whorode as far to the right as possible but on the shoulder of Route 27, was hit by a truck driven by a drunk driver at 6 p.m. on June 25, 2010. The driver was going as fast as 60 mph; no matter how well prepared Stan was, he didn’t have a chance.
The United States as a nation should adopt the same drunken driver laws that European nations have implemented. Such laws access a fine of up to 15 percent of your salary if you’re caught driving under the influence. This law has significantly lowered the number of people injured or killed by drunk drivers. In fact, Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich was found guilty in 2002 of drunk driving, ironically crashing into and destroying a bike rack. Even with only property damage he was fined 15 percent of his salary.
Photo by Mary Ellsworth.
In memory of John, Lynn, Stan, Tom Palermo, and many other cyclists injured by drunk drivers, we should, by any means necessary, fight to change the driving-while-under the influence laws in the US. Let’s adopt the European standard, fining the drunken driver 15 percent of their salary, putting teeth in the law, thereby reducing the number of drunken drivers, and improving safety of the road. We should mobilize a call to action, using the Pedalers, WABA, League of American Bicyclists and many other advocacy organizations to change the state laws on drunk driving.
We use all our resources: the internet, social media, letter writing, petitions, contacting all the legislatures we know, use the press and television stations, NPR, sit-ins if necessary, etc., to change the laws to honor the incredible spirits of those killed and injured by drunk drivers. For example, in Maryland with the state legislature now underway, you organize a group to protest on the first day of the legislature. You use signs to get the attention of the TV stations and the media. You go from legislator office to office demanding change. As Jim Morrison proclaimed, “You Cannot Petition The Lord For Prayer,” but you can change the laws. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved in changing the drunken driving laws. Thank you.
Bob Sheldon is a Takoma Park resident, community activist and avid bicyclist.