When is it socially acceptable to threaten the lives of innocent people? When they are riding bicycles


Savannah has a well-deserved national reputation for being mannerly, a distinction local convention and tourism officials have used in marketing the Hostess City of the South. But it’s important to remember that not everyone in charming old Savannah is courteous, as a glimpse at the reader-supplied content on the Savannah Morning News’ Web site will reveal.

For instance, it appears at least one person in this “wonderfully hospitable and gracious city” feels comfortable boasting about his or her willingness to murder innocent people. From the Vox Populi section of the Savannah Morning News on Dec. 2:

“Please tell all these wannabe Lance Armstrongs to get on the streets with bike paths. One of these days they are going to pull out in front of someone, mainly me, and, ‘adios.'”

Well, at least this person said, “please.” It’s interesting that threatening the lives of cyclists, at least anonymously, is socially acceptable. Socially acceptable enough not only for a person to send this to the Savannah Morning News, but also socially acceptable enough to win the approval of the paper’s editors. Imagine if someone called in these comments:

“I hate it when people cut in front of me in the supermarket checkout line. One of these days I’ll bring my gun to the store and ‘adios.'”

“People who have loud conversations on cell phones annoy me. One of these days I’ll pull out my hunting knife and ‘adios.'”

Would the Savannah Morning News publish these threats? If not, why was the threat to kill “wannabe Lance Armstrongs” treated differently? Was it the intended victims’ mode of transportation or the murder weapon (a car) that made the threat more palatable?

Still, I’m glad the Savannah Morning News chose to publish this comment. It is a reminder that there are those in our community who wish to do cyclists harm. It’s worth noting this comment was published on the same day as this NPR story. It reports the conviction of a driver in Los Angeles, who made good on his threats against some wannabe Lance Armstrongs by assaulting them with a deadly weapon: his car.

As a cyclist, the main threat to my safety comes in the form of inattentive, impatient, impaired or inexperienced drivers. The vast majority of motorists I encounter are friendly and courteous, though increasingly distracted. However, it’s a fact that there are people in this most mannerly city who have used their cars as weapons against cyclists. Others — even if they are simply making idle threats — can easily have them published in the daily newspaper.

This entry was posted in Crime, Transportation on by .

About John Bennett

Transportation, land use, local farming and green building are all potential topics for Sustainable Savannah. The goal is to aggregate content about local events and projects, so there will be a central place to review everything that’s happening. The site is aimed at encouraging collaboration and information sharing between groups and individuals currently engaged in sustainability efforts. The site can also provide a snapshot of Savannah for green-minded people who are considering visiting or moving to the area.

10 thoughts on “When is it socially acceptable to threaten the lives of innocent people? When they are riding bicycles

  1. Omri

    Savannah might have this reputation for courtesey, but the South as a whole is losing it. I live and bike in Boston, where bicycling is seen as just another way to be a frugal Yankee, and the most discourteous driving I see is during parents’ week or arrival week in the local colleges, and invariably involves Southern license plates.

  2. mthwdcn

    This is a problem endemic in the States, not just Savannah or the south. To say that the south is “losing it” evidenced by bad drivers during a stressful/busy week is shortsighted.

    I think John’s point about ever increasingly distracted drivers is the problem. Drivers who are aggressive towards cyclists are probably jerks no matter what comfy chair they’re sitting in.

    My 2010 Resolution is to call in positive messages to Vox Populi everday – just to see how many get published.

  3. Andy

    Yeah buddy, this is far from being an exclusively Southern problem. Leave superiority and scapegoating out of the discussion, please.

  4. zach

    This is not acceptable. Though, as much I share in agreement the hate for being nearly squished by unattentive/rebellious SUV drivers, I think it is only fair to state that Savannah does have it’s fair share of equally unattentive/rebellious cyclists. More transportation education all around would definitely help the situation.

  5. Dave

    I’ve thought about this a lot, as I read online news articles here in Portland that relate to bicycle issues… there are often comments very similar to this, and often in direct reply to another commenter. “I have a lot of insurance, and you’re not going to do any serious damage to my car…” or “wait until I meet you in a dark alley…” kinds of comments.

    And then just below is the disclaimer from the media outlet reminding people to keep their comments civil, or they will be removed.

    A bit of a double standard?

  6. Bill

    I’m a firm believer in “bike karma” I believe that if I am courteous to motorist, rather than trying to impose my legal “right to the road” that motorist will be more courteous to me. I hear fellow cyclist all the time saying how they are constantly being yelled at and having close calls with cars. I’m an (almost) daily bike commuter, and I have ridden in some very heavy traffic. I have had a few close calls, a couple were my own fault. I believe in taking responsibility for my own actions, and accepting that the current road system is not ideal for cycling. With that in mind I get on my bike and head out into traffic eveyday, participate in the government process to ensure the needs of cyclist are being addressed, and try to be a positive example of a RESPONSIBLE cyclist. There ARE idiots out there, some drive cars, some walk, and some even ride bikes.

  7. FJP912

    As I recall the basic Defensive Driving 101 lesson from high school drivers ed, the motor vehicle driver needs to look out for the safety of others on the road, be they other drivers, or cyclists, or pedestrians, even if those other parties do not always make the best decisions. And that is especially true as to pedestrians and cyclists who have less ability to move quickly than cars do.

    Having said that:

    1. Cyclists can help by practicing defensive cycling. Frequently cyclists weave around and make other unpredictable moves.

    2. As appalling as the attitude of the original commenter is, I have a simple question for every cyclist who has expressed outrage: Do you wear a helmet? I cannot think of any place I have ever been that has a lower rate of helmet use than Savannah. So much so, that when I first moved here in 2005 I wondered if there was some kind of obscure city ordinance banning them. I hope that those who are wagging their fingers about safety are also taking steps to protect themselves.

  8. Mark Arsenal

    Of course, being a pedestrian is even more dangerous, since we have to watch out for both motorists and cyclists, both of whom seem to presume we don’t exist.

  9. Jennifer

    Even the “Minnesota Nice” people are very rude to bicyclists. A cousin of my husband’s posted something on Facebook about how he would laugh if he saw a bicyclist dying in the street. Nice, huh? I guess he forgot that he’s “friends” with a bike commuter.

  10. Clara

    Why are there not more bike lanes? how can bikers stay in bike lanes when there are only 2?!

    additionally the person in the car might consider getting out and riding a bike too. that would solve the issue – right?

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