I must respond to the April 8 guest column in which the writer questioned the “veracity” of my Jan. 22 column on the use and abuse of the Legacy Trail by electric vehicles. It was a nice, four-syllable-word way of calling me a liar.
It pains me to have to defend my integrity, but during a newspaper career of more than 50 years – one that saw me hold the role of senior editor at numerous daily newspapers – my veracity was never questioned. And my veracity should not be questioned now.
The writer’s specific contention was that I could not have caught up to the two high-speed electric machines I referenced because I was going 10 to 12 mph and they were claiming to be traveling 29 or 30 mph. As my column clearly stated, the riders of those electric machines had stopped by the side of the trail to compare notes on their speed. Obviously, it’s easy to catch up to riders who have stopped riding.
The writer also ridiculed my observation that it was sad to see a young girl without a helmet riding an electric machine that was tricked out to resemble a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. He wrote that any decision to let children go without helmets is “on the parents” and “really none of our business.”
Well, wearing a helmet happens to be a state law, and one that parents have no right to opt out of following. It is a short step from that to letting parents decide if they want to use car seats and seat belts, give their children the normal childhood vaccinations, secure their firearms or fence their pools.
All “on the parents,” I suppose.
The writer also sneered at the thought of any kind of enforcement on the Legacy Trail, and he made a snarky reference to using a “Karen-approved radar gun.” However, we do seem to nearly agree on one thing: speed is the main problem on the trail. The writer thinks the groups of road-bike enthusiasts are responsible for this problem; I think the worst speeders are those using electric motorized vehicles. But, above all else, this should be clear: all users of the trail should be held to the 15 mph limit.
In my column, I suggested that Sarasota County fund a Sheriff’s Office deputy to “show the flag and make informational contacts.” But I said nothing about using radar guns. I believe the presence of someone in a Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office uniform would have the same effect on all trail riders as it does when motorists see one of the department’s vehicles on the street – they hit the brakes. I doubt, for example, that a deputy would have to tell a parent twice that state law requires helmets for children.
On another point, I have to laugh at the obsession some people seem to have with what others are wearing while on the trail. The writer wrote that one trail user’s shorts were “way too short” and his shoes “garish.” Like a gymnast or an NBA player, for example? He also mentioned “spandex” – a reference that was also made by a recent letter writer in an apparent attempt to deride real bicyclists on the Legacy Trail. (And, no, electric-machine riders are not real bicyclists.)
In order to educate the uninformed, let me explain about the “kit” shorts and jerseys that real bicyclists wear. The kit is there for a reason, and it is not a fashion statement. First, few kits are actually made of spandex, because spandex traps heat and moisture, which could lead to rashes, blisters and saddle sores. Electric-machine riders don’t get these because their physical efforts are much more limited.
As far as bike shorts are concerned, they are tight because the compression helps with circulation and because a lot of extra cloth bunched up in the crotch can cause rashes, blisters and saddles sores. If you doubt the value of real bike shorts, you’ve never biked 130 miles in a day – as I have.
Meanwhile, the reason why bike jerseys are brightly colored is a pretty simple one: to improve the riders’ visibility to any motorists who are driving nearby.
Finally, for those offended by bike shorts, their consternation can’t possibly top mine when I am passed on the Legacy Trail by an electric machine going 10 or 20 mph over the speed limit – while being operated by someone with a blaring boom box and a Texas-sized behind hanging over a Rhode Island-sized seat.
If anything deserves the writer’s sarcastic “Oh, the horror!” line, that certainly does.
Roger Morton is a semi-retired Sarasota journalist with more than 50 years of newspaper experience. In 2020, he completed the Transamerica Trail, a 4,200-mile bicycle ride from Yorktown, Virginia, to Florence, Oregon.