Friday, January 06, 2006

Reservoir dogs

Date: Jan. 5
January mileage: 72.7
Temperature upon departure: 24

There's something about bicycling on top of a mass of water that's so ... ethereal. Something about gliding atop the epitome of a smooth, flat surface; about the silencing strength of snow against the grind of wheels and the darkness of evening settling over a frozen landscape. Geoff and I hit the reservoir today after a harrowing descent down the rutted-out ice roads above. The sudden change amounted to the difference between weaving through Los Angeles traffic and an joy ride on the Bonneville Salt Flats ... all of the speed, and none of the stress.

After the ride I was eating a giant burrito and browsing the Anchorage Daily News when I came across a letter to the editor titled "Hopefully, violent collision with SUV knocked sense into winter cyclist." Of course, I knew that reading a so-titled piece of work would probably cause the burrito to churn uncomfortably in my stomach, but I read it anyway.

"I was initially sympathetic to the piece published Dec. 25, 'Cyclist happy to be alive after violent hit-and-run by SUV,' Mitch Lewis of Palmer began. "However, I had to wonder why the author didn't mention the obvious: This is Alaska, it is winter and the streets are covered with snow and ice. Am I the only one who saw this?"

I can just see Mr. Mitch Lewis of Palmer approaching the downed cyclist on the highway shortly after the accident.

Mr Lewis: "I'm sorry to see you're hurt, but I'm afraid to say you have no one to blame but yourself."

Cyclist, fighting for consciousness through a nasty concussion: "Um ... I'm pretty sure that SUV hit me."

Mr. Lewis: "Yes, but, it's winter out. (which is the best argument he poses in his letter)"

Cyclist: "I know."

Mr. Lewis: "So, if you agree with me on that fact, you can't deny the unreasonable risk of cycling in the winter in Alaska" (for Mr. Lewis's sake, let's just say he means the months between September and July.)

Cyclist: "But I was in control that entire time. That SUV hit me. From behind."

Mr. Lewis: "It's an infallible fact that Sport Utility Vehicles are impervious to the perilous conditions of winter roads. Therefore, sir, it must be your fault."

"To wish him back to the same place and frame of mind that would encourage him to ride a bicycle on the same snow- and ice-covered streets of Anchorage that he was almost killed upon in the first place, would be a misuse of glad tidings," Lewis wrote. "I hope he had a bit of common sense knocked into him and he takes the bus when the weather and streets warrant it."

And, Mr. Lewis, I hope you have a bit of common sense knocked into you when your SUV hits an ice patch on the Seward Highway and careens into the Turnagain Arm at 80 mph. Well ... that sounds a little too vindictive. My point is, the risk of any form of travel is increased by snow and ice. Personally, I feel a lot more in control navigating winter conditions down the 1,000-foot elevation drop of West Hill on my mountain bike than I do in my car. I only wish I could feel the same sort of confidence in the traffic barreling down with me.


  1. How mean spirited and small minded can a guy be (he asked, rhetorically)?

  2. Grrrrr. On the ICEBIKE list we're having a conversation about a Canadian radio DJ who made the same observation.

    How's this for the SUV driver -- a 16-wheeler slides out of his lane and into the SUV. It's obviously the SUV driver's fault for sharing the road with large trucks on the ice.

  3. Letters (or should I say trolls) like that are the reason I stopped reading "news"papers a long time ago. It's more of the same old blame the victim rubbish that gets trotted out everytime someone wants to rile some readers.

    Oh well, I suppose Lewis has had his little 15 column inches of fame, now if he can just crawl beneath whatever rock he lives under, the rest of us can get on with our lives.

  4. Well, I suppose you accept the risks of riding in the winter -- risks like bad drivers in large vehicles -- but I don't see how it's any more your fault if you're hit in the winter than if you're hit in the summer. Or in the rain. Or in a fog.

    I don't know what other driving programs are like, but I know that here in Alberta, we're berated with the fact that you must drive with due care and attention at all times. Right of way is given, not taken. You can have the right of way, and still be sued because you just weren't being careful enough. It's to protect us from people that drive 70 kph in a 70 kph zone, but do it in terrible conditions and are out of control. Sure, the person didn't technically exceed the speed limit, but they were certainly driving without 'due care and attention'.

    I don't know how you're supposed to respond to people like that. It's like people that don't believe in global warming, or evolution, or COOKIES. How do you argue with a person that denies the existence of cookies? You can't; a position arrived at in the absence of logic can not be changed by an argument of logic.

    Is it wrong that I hope the guy is hit by a sliding SUV while he's walking down the snowy and icy sidewalk that's beside the snowy and icy road?

  5. It appears that Mr Lewis is unfortunately, an advocate of the same crowd that tries every so often to limit cycle access to roads year round.

    "There is no doubt the person who hit him was probably under the influence of something; alcohol, stupidity or whatever. However, where does Turner's responsibility come into play?"say's Mr Lewis. This is intolerable, in that the accident, if it had occurred between 2 motor vehicle, would never have raised any spectre of Chris Turner having ANY responsibility at all. OK, rant over.

  6. I got this from

    M Lewis
    street address not available
    Palmer, AK 99645
    (907) 746-4334

    Let's give him a piece of our minds.

  7. Jill, Thank you for your post on my site ( I am enjoying your site immensely. As a mountain biker, I tend to stay away from roads where the vehicles are larger than I am. People for some reason just don't see bicyclists. At least when I fall off my bike in the mountains, it is usually my fault.

    We had a wonderful woman killed on her bike up the lonely Entiat Valley. Her husband survived, but she was hit and thrown 100 feet and died instantly (we hope). The driver had dropped his cigarette onto the floorboards of his pickup and bent down to retrieve it. Sad.

    Keep up the wonderful posting and keep visiting us at


  8. Geez - I wonder if this moron is related (or the same as) the one who wrote in to complain about traffic on the Glenn. He said that the speed limit is the speed limit, regardless of conditions, and was annoyed that anyone would dare drive 35 on a highway -- even in the slow lane -- when the speed limit is 65.


Feedback is always appreciated!