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Mailbag: Bicyclists, motorists make for a dangerous mix

Religious ConflictsTobacco ProductsAllan R. MansoorCancerTobacco Use

The Newport Beach Citizens Bicycle Safety Committee should include at least one member who does not ride a bicycle on the streets of Newport Beach for recreation or commuting.

After all, we non-bicyclists contribute monies, through our taxes, which pay for all of those never-ending miles and miles of bicycle paths, bicycle lanes, bicycle markings and other alleged "safety measures." Presently, bicycle riders are getting a "free ride." Bicyclists are the only group who share the road but don't pay their fair share.

How many bicycle riders actually commute to work every day? Probably less than 1%.

The rest are recreational. On any given day, older, leisure-time bicycle riders (65 to 85 years of age) dress up in clothes for "youthfulness" with bright vests, too-tight black shimmering elastic pants, otherworldly helmets and an all-too-common case of road rage.

Sadly, many hold bicycle safety in contempt while they aggressively meander into busy city street traffic in Newport Beach. They ride side-by-side, placing the drivers of cars, SUVs, trucks and themselves in peril.

P.J. O'Rourke once said, "Bicycle riders look like Wiffle ball-topped Woody Woodpeckers."

Woody Woodpecker silhouettes pepper the streets of Newport Beach from early morning until late at night. While many remain in their proper lanes and obey the traffic laws, there are other bicyclists who resemble rigid self-righteous environmental ideologues. And it is these bicycle riders who are causing huge hazards for the congested traffic flow in Newport Beach because they are prepared to break every traffic law.

Active bike lanes on city streets, vehicle lanes sharing the lane with bicyclists' lanes, and "sharrows" (shared roadway bicycle markings) are neither safe nor manageable.

In pilot projects, sharrows are placed 11 feet from the curb and about 4 feet from a conventional parking space for small cars, notwithstanding all the oversized gargantuan SUVs along every curbside.

Sharrows are supposed to slow down aggressive drivers where bicycle lanes do not exist. Placing sharrows in unstable, heavily trafficked streets confuses moving and parked vehicles. In actuality, by narrowing traffic lanes, motorists become more impatient and aggressive. Regrettably, bicycle riders may still crash into the opening doors of parked cars … with the injured bicyclists then thrown into ongoing motor vehicle traffic on the sharrow-narrowed streets.

I agree with permanent bans on cell-phone usage while driving, dogs sitting on driver's laps, GPS system viewing while in motion and all other distractions used by motorists in today's modern society. Distracted drivers exceeding speed limits and weaving around appear to be "ruling the road" for all of us: vehicle drivers and bicycle riders alike.

Does riding a bicycle keep the rider healthy and sane? Yes, if bicycle riders stay on sidewalk-like bike paths and off city streets. Otherwise, bicyclists place their very lives in the hands of inattentive motorists.

Here are a few recommendations for the committee:

1.) Because reflexes diminish with age, immediately restrict riders older than 65 from riding on busy streets;

2) Compel all adult bicycle riders to pay a registration fee and pass a licensing test about bicycle rules of the road;

3) If bicyclists insist on enlarging their "personal bicycle riding space," which forces changes to our long-standing traffic planners' engineered vehicle lanes in Newport Beach, then the bike riders should pay the bulk of the construction expense.

Carole Wade

Newport Beach

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Business trips automatically call for reports

Re. Mailbag: "A detailed report should follow Las Vegas trip" (May 9): Of course a person sent by an organization to a meeting or convention or seminar would willingly — possibly eagerly — compose and submit a report detailing how the organization could benefit from the expense. If an organization honors someone by sponsoring their representation at an event, why would they hesitate to share the benefit of the trip with as many people as could read the report? I have had 25 years' experience in middle management at various large corporations and this practice was understood!

My wife has had more than 30 years of service with the state of California, and this was her practice and culture as well.

Haven't we heard about "running the city like a business?" We wonder about the business experience of some of our council members.

Dan and Barbara Rycroft

Costa Mesa

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Outsourcing police and fire

Jack Wu asks "What if we outsourced both police and fire?" (May 12): He wonders why the city councils of Costa Mesa and Newport Beach wouldn't jump at the chance to save millions of dollars by contracting with the Orange County Fire Authority.

The city of Costa Mesa did receive a proposal such as Wu describes from the OCFA, but there was no apples-to-apples cost comparison. The savings offered by contracting out were illusory because they were based on closing two fire stations. It turns out to be cheaper for Costa Mesa to keep its Fire Department and close the two fire stations than to accept OCFA's proposal.

Bottom line: One size does not fit all. What is good for Santa Ana is not necessarily good for a different city.

Eleanor Egan

Costa Mesa

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Marathon's aftermath not so pretty

Living on Balboa Island, I am never happy to see the OC Marathon come to town and close the bridge and Bayside Drive. I always walk Sunday mornings, using the bridge and Bayside as my beginning point. I honestly do not like that I have to change my workout to accommodate this event. The ferry does fortunately provide an alternative, even though there is a minor cost involved.

What irritates me more than the inconvenience is having to look at the trash that remains from the marathon on my walks the following weekend on the Bayside sidewalks. A week after the marathon there are still dozens of energy gel pacs littering the sidewalk. Not only are these an eyesore, but also they are likely to end up in the gutters and storm drains and, eventually, our bay.

There is no excuse for the organization that put on the marathon leaving our city sidewalks in that condition. Please, city of Newport Beach, consider rerouting the marathon in the future and most certainly make sure they clean up after their event.

Shelly Trainor

Balboa Island

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Hutchens backs Mansoor

I find it perplexing that a reformist like Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens would endorse Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) for Assembly, despite his ineffectual performance in Sacramento and a history of race-baiting by siding with the Minutemen. This race-baiting resulted in costly legal bills and harassment of legal residents in public forums. Fortunately, Newport Beach City Councilwoman Leslie Daigle or Newport activist Bob Rush — Mansoor's opponents in the 74th District race — would be far more pragmatic leaders reflective of the makeup of this new district. Heck, they'll even get some bills passed too, unlike Mansoor.

Omar Masry

Newport Beach

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Koran's message not so peaceful

I have no doubt that there are "many lies" concerning Islam on the Internet, so allow me to go over what's true. While most Muslims are exceptionally gracious and peace-loving people, anyone who wants to commit violence has perfect justification for doing so from the Koran.

While violence in the Koran is sometimes for self-defense, at other times it is open-ended. Many passages in the Koran exhort Muslims to hate or kill or terrorize infidels (non-Muslims) wherever they find them.

See Suras 2:190-193, 2:216, 2:244, 3:56, 3:151, 4:56, 4:74, 4:76, 4:89, 4:91, 4:95, 4:104, 5:51, 5:32-38, 7:96-99, 8:12-14, 8:39, 8:60, 8:65, 9:5, 9:14, 9:23-30, 9:38-41, 9:111, 9:123, 22:18-22, 25:52, 47:4, 47:35, 48:16, 48:29, 61:4, and 66:8-10. (Note: English translators of the Koran sometimes try to soften the true Arabic meaning of some of these passages. For example, to "fight" really means to kill in Arabic.)

There are dozens of violent prescriptive statements like those above in the Koran. Osama bin Laden in the now-famous videotape discovered in Afghanistan in late 2001 is quoted as saying, "I was ordered to fight the people until they say there is no god but Allah, and his prophet Muhammad."

Such calls to violence are not mere distortions of the Koran by extreme radicals who twist the Koran for their violent ends; violence is an integral part of Islam. Violence is Muslim doctrine. Just as many Christians are ignorant of what is actually in the Bible, many Muslims, like columnist Mona Shadia are not aware of such passages in the Koran.

Randle C. Sink

Huntington Beach

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Why I support Prop. 29

"I want to quit smoking," pleaded Paul Wells, 23 years of age. He was 5 when he, his brother and sister arrived in the United States from Poland after a long adoption process.

He had it all: a wonderful adoptive mother, the nation's safest city (Irvine) to live in, an excellent high school, new friends and relatives. However, his life took a bad shift when he lit his first cigarette. It never crossed in his mind that as teenager he would be so hooked on cigarettes.

Wells began smoking at 15. Since he put a cigarette in his mouth, his fingers have not stopped reaching for those tiny rolled-up papers containing harmful substances. He knows cigarettes are bad, but wishes he had had a real choice when he was a teenager.

Without prevention programs against tobacco smoking at schools, teenagers like Wells are easy pray for Big Tobacco. According to government sources, each day more than 3,800 minors smoke for the first time, and more than 1,000 become addicted for life.

"I never saw a prevention class in my school," Wells said, with disappointment.

In 1998, the tobacco industry agreed on a monetary settlement with the states after prosecutors successfully proved this industry's disingenuous portrayal of their product in the market. At the height of the trial, Dr. Victor De Noble, former researcher at Philip Morris, became a key witness to unveil his former employer's unlawful activities. In the end, the big three, Phillip Morris, RJ Reynolds and Lorillard, agreed to repay the states $246 billion over 25 years because states had absorbed massive bills from cancer patients and other people affected with illnesses related to tobacco smoking.

This year, states are expected to collect $25.6 billion in revenue from tobacco taxes and the tobacco settlement. Nonetheless, only $456.7 million (1.8 %) will be allocated in youth prevention and cessation programs. That figure is about half of what states spent during the first decade of the agreement. To make things worse, states cut down another $61.2 million from prevention programs last year.

While states are doing less, tobacco moguls have multiplied their resources to lure teenagers into smoking. According to the Federal Trade Commission, in 2008 they spent about $10.5 billion in marketing. For every dollar states spent on prevention, Big Tobacco used $27 to market its products.

Our youth is Big Tobacco's primary target. An addicted teenager insures solid profits for at least 20 years or more. Adults, on the other hand, are no longer reliable "markets," as their health is beginning to erode, and it is just a matter of time before some of them seek remedies in public hospitals.

Our state might be in fiscal insolvency, but our willingness to stop a tobacco onslaught against our kids is not. Proposition 29 has all the ingredients to change the dynamics of smoking. On June 5, California voters have an opportunity to add $1 to a cigarette pack. It would be a major setback to the tobacco industry. If passed, the state will collect about $835 million per year, which will be used for cancer research, prevention programs and law enforcement.

High prices on cigarettes have been enemy No. 1 to Big Tobacco. The more expensive the pack, the less likely teenagers will get one. Even tobacco moguls recognize it.

"When the tax goes up, industry loses volume and profits as many smokers cut back," stressed Ellen Merlo, senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Philip Morris.

No wonder they have raised nearly $40 million to stop Proposition 29.

For Wells, quitting smoking isn't a personal decision anymore. He understands the need of a special rehabilitation program to get through his vice. Proposition 29 will give him precisely that.

Humberto Caspa

Irvine

The writer is a former Daily Pilot columnist now writing for La Opinion.

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