It's 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 teacher posed.
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.
The 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.
"I'll 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?"
"That's 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.
"I 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.
But most recently I thought back to that day in science class when I read THIS and THIS story.
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 jurisdiction.
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."
It 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.
I'm sure 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 driving citizen.
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)
And 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.
When 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.
Because 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.
I 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!