hard to believe that it was almost 30-years-ago that I was sitting in
my High School Physics class answering a pretty random question the
He simply asked, “What’s the most dangerous weapon you’ll ever own?”
Hands shot up and answers streamed in.
“A huge hunting knife,” one guy said.
“No way man,” the class burnout chimed in, “It has gotta be an AK-47,” he added with a dangerous smirk.
“I’m gonna drive a tank,” the ROTC wannabe said, and did a “bang bang you’re dead” gun trigger motion with his right hand.
science teacher looked at him and said he doubted he would ever own a
tank, so let’s keep it to something that we can all buy.
Everybody scratched their heads, but nobody came up with a better answer.
give you a hint,” the teacher added. “It weights between three and five
thousand pounds, and most all of you will own one very soon.”
The class thought hard and finally one bright student said cautiously, “a car?”
right,” the teacher almost yelled! “All of you will soon be behind the
wheel of the most dangerous weapon you’ll ever own.” He went on to
ask, “can someone tell me the potential energy of a three thousand
pound hunk of steel moving at 75-miles an hour?”
No one answered.
didn’t think so,” the physics teacher added and went on to calculate
how much energy, and more importantly how much damage a three thousand
pound car moving at 75-miles an hour can do.
I often think back
to this moment in my misspent High School education when I read a news
story about a car plowing into a farmer’s market or bus stop.
Inevitably the driver survives, but the people in the way of the
speeding car die.
I also think back to this day when I’m on the
road on my bike and a six thousand pound SUV passes me so closely that
my left elbow almost gets hit by the passenger’s rear view mirror.
The Boulder Daily Camera story reported:
“Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden is standing by a column he
penned last week in which he singled out Boulder cyclists as leading to
an increasing number of conflicts between motorists and riders in his
In his “Bull’s Eye” column,
posted on the sheriff’s Web site, Alderden said many cyclists “cop an
attitude when stopped,” and that “many of the cyclists with attitudes
are part of the Boulder cycling community.”
seems that many law enforcement officers find cyclist (at best) to be a
road going nuisance, and (at worst) a public scourge that should be
ticketed and run out of town like pesky street vermin.
that many of you would agree that some of our police officers will go
out of their way to dispense immediate and harsh treatment to cyclist,
while at the same time completely ignoring the many sins of the car
I say this because I know that I could jump in my car this minute and within 3 miles of my home I would easily spot:
– A car with a broken turn signal or headlight
– A driver making a left or right turn without so much as a head gesture (let alone a turn signal)
– A car stopped illegally on the side of the road with no apparent means of safety marking
A driver, eating, talking on the phone, texting, putting on make up,
reading, speeding, and perhaps even writing, without the slightest
chance of getting a ticket.
At the same time I could jump on my bike and ride for an hour and be:
– run off the road
– cut off
– honked at
– yelled at
– dangerously ignored
– spat upon (Yes, This has happened to me on a number of bike rides)
what’s really worrisome is that I have yet to see a police officer,
ever ticket, warn, or acknowledge, any driver that has almost killed me
with their three thousand pound weapon.
To be fair, I’ve also
witness countless times when cyclist have brazenly broken the law by
ignoring stop signs, or stop lights, or any other rule of the road they
see fit to break.
But let’s keep this in perspective folks and members of the law enforcement community.
a car runs a red light most likely; horns will sound, plastic will
break, iron will crunch, personal information will be exchanged, and
insurance agents will be called.
On the other hand when a bike runs a red light most likely; the cyclist will die.
instead of three thousand pounds of rubber and steel traveling at
50-miles and hour, a cyclist only has twenty pounds of carbon fiber and
perhaps 170 pounds of flesh and bone traveling at 20-miles an hour.
You don’t have to be a physics teacher to figure out what happens when the two collide.
I think that drivers, cyclist, and especially police officers would be well advised to remember this basic physics lesson.
recall it every time I mount my bike and it really scares me to think
that others, especially the police who are meant to enforce the rules
of the road, don’t!