Over the past 10 years of living off and on in the Little Rock area, I have noticed an increase of bicycle use in the city. Therefore, I wasn't surprised to see the major article covering the phenomenon in the Arkansas Times. This is largely considered to be a positive shift to most “green-thinking” citizens. However, having resided in and witnessed how other “bike-friendly” cities function, and noting blatant differences between bikers of those communities (namely Portland, Oregon, and Denver) and those in Little Rock, I thought a less-popular, almost-never-voiced point of view should be aired as well.
Portland has more bikers and public transportation patrons than autos in the city. It has become ugly and politically incorrect to drive a gas-guzzling SUV there. In Denver and in Portland, you can get anywhere on a bike that you could in a car, due to bike lanes. But bikers there use better sense, too.
I cannot keep count of how many times I've seen bicyclists on the section of Riverfront Drive between Rebsamen Park golf course and the Big Dam Bridge who unabashedly take up the main road, riding abreast and preventing car traffic from traveling the speed limit. This is a road that has a bike lane, a lavish jogging and biking trail running the entire length. If you tried this type of idiocy on a bike in Portland or Denver, you'd definitely get honked at, if not run over completely, “environmentally conscious” or not. This type of riding is dangerous, and, as a bicyclist myself, I don't appreciate the audacious and selfish stereotype that these few irresponsible bicyclists conjure and perpetuate for us all.
Yet here in Arkansas, where “green” ideas are still “progressive” and very much burgeoning, ignorance still largely rules. And I'm not just referring to the absentminded ditz conversing on a cell phone while driving a Tahoe the size of a church bus all for herself. I'm also referring to the self-righteousness rampant in the newer, spandex-encased version of a road hog. In Portland, biking is so routine that I hardly ever heard a biker “patting himself on the back” in the way that I hear bikers boasting of their benevolence here. It's embarrassing that some citizens of our modest city act as if they're the best thing since sliced bread just for riding a bike. Yes, biking is largely a better and more conscientious way of travel; but doesn't it defeat the purpose if you're going to be self-righteous and bull-headed enough to take the only portion of the road designated for a car when you have two lanes designated specifically for bicycles? (And then further to flaunt and juxtapose yourself as superior in comparison to those whose road you're usurping?)
Yes, physical fitness and limiting the use of petroleum are exemplary. I jog on the river trail. But you won't see me jogging down the middle of the cars' lanes and then shaking my fist at them when they honk for me to get out of their designated path. In fact, while jogging, I've had more scary near-collisions with careless bikers than with careless motorists. If you want to spend less money on gas and be more physically fit by riding a bike, then that is a great choice for yourself. But if you want respect while on your bike, then first use some sense (and courtesy) toward others who deserve to use their portions of the road as well. That way, you won't create a reputation for yourself that's as easily demonized as the gas-guzzling, but often more humble, motorists.
I am a citizen activist working very hard on my own time to get Arkansans to participate in the political process. It's an uphill battle. Arkansas voters, like voters across the country, feel out of touch with the political process. They feel that the legislature is an “in-crowd” and that voter voices aren't heard when they speak up. They think politics is a waste of time.
Last week, the esteemed women of the Arkansas House of Representatives made a gesture that reinforces these old prejudices. The sham bill, HB2204, would have allowed “therapy for the hypogycgoudoleboism system”. (Don't bother looking it up. It's not a real medical issue. One is meant to pronounce the last syllables of this word “good-ole-boy-ism”.) This bill made it onto a committee calendar last week, and the full text, such as it was, was duly placed onto the Assembly website for all to see. I'm sure the committee had a good laugh at this little joke.
As a citizen, I'm not laughing. For one thing, it's not that funny. What's worse, it demonstrates that our lawmakers don't take lawmaking seriously, and it makes a complete buffoonery out of the legislative process. This year, the April Fools are Rep. Beverly Pyle and her co-sponsors.
Leah Hennings, DVM
I found some of the statements in the article about national health legislation, particularly those from Betsy McCaughey, quite amusing. She expresses fear that under the Obama administration a government office “could end up telling doctors how to treat their patients.”
What is amusing about this (and McCaughey, if an expert, should know) — doctors are being restricted on how to treat their patients right now! However it is mostly due to insurance company policies, not a government agency. Whether one is better than the other could be debated, but I am not sure it would be worse to have the restrictions come from “evidence-based medicine” enhanced by “comparative effectiveness research” as long as that is transparent and there is representation from all parts of the health care team, including patient representation.
Does it not seem curious there is resistance to having medical policy decisions based on evidence?
I work in radiology, and what most patients do not know (but should find out) is the extreme variation between different health plans, even from the same insurer depending on what kind of policy, as to what is covered and what is not including things like screening mammograms or MRI scans. Many companies now utilize “Radiology Business Managers” — other private companies who in effect decide whether a doctor's order for a test will be approved or not (with similar process for drugs and other treatments). What drives the decisions by these “RBM” is not very clear.
I don't trust the “man behind the curtain” approach now in practice. Government may be worse, but if developed in open debate, perhaps there is a chance the public will know what it is getting.
Philip J. Kenney, M.D.
Chair, Department of Radiology
Ernest J. Ferris Professor of Radiology
University of Arkansas
for Medical Sciences