Older bridges make everyone slow down
The Sun's article on modernizing rural roads makes passing mention of pedestrians but omits any discussion of bicyclists ("Unstraight and narrow," Jan. 13). However, the picturesque roads of rural northern Baltimore, Harford, Howard, Carroll, Frederick and other outlying counties are used year-round by casual and serious cyclists (including me).
As the article pointed out, "obsolete" and "structurally deficient" bridges, such as the lovely wooden bridges on Cuba Road and on Pocock Road, not only preserve the rural character of the roads but also serve to slow down traffic.
This makes the roads safer for everyone - for cyclists and pedestrians as well as motorists.
Of course bridges that are unsafe should be repaired or replaced. But widening small, low-speed roads facilitates speeding, which does no one any favors.
York Road bridge also needs upgrade
The York Road bridge across Western Run in Hunt Valley should be added to the list of bridges needing upgrading ("Unstraight and narrow," Jan. 13).
This historic road carries a lot of traffic as sprawl has grown in northern Baltimore County.
But with its two narrow lanes, the bridge looks like it was built for horse-and-buggy traffic.
And the pedestrian walkway is very narrow, making the bridge hazardous to cross by foot or bicycle.
Article takes sides in neighbors' spat
The Sun's article "No address, no options" (Jan. 8) claims that 20 people have a "big problem" with my agency, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, because it "rendered their land useless" by not officially acknowledging an old rural trail to be a legitimate connection to a public road.
The article misses some important points.
This issue is really a neighborhood dispute.
Some neighbors want to open up the farm road The Sun's reporter described as a trail and transform a historic pathway into a public road - which it never has been. But other property owners in the immediate area strongly oppose that idea because of the potential for new traffic.
It is not accurate for The Sun to leave the impression that all the neighbors are in accord.
It is also incorrect to imply that my agency's inability to treat the "farm road" as a public road leaves the land owners with no options.
For instance, one of the land owners quoted in The Sun's article told another newspaper that he once tried to reach a private deal to gain access for his parcel, but negotiations fell through.
The property owners featured in the article hope to convince a court - or, apparently, the court of public opinion - that an old farm road is a public road. Then they wouldn't need to pay for access to it.
But my agency doesn't believe it's appropriate to suddenly declare an old rural trail - portions of which have not been used for more than 50 years - a public road, without clear legal justification, just to favor the pocketbook of one neighbor over another.
The writer is acting chief of media relations for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.
Dismissive attitude ill fit for high court
Regarding the arguments before the Supreme Court concerning voter identification laws in Indiana, I was enraged by the Notable Quotable attributed to Justice Anthony Anthony M. Kennedy: "You want us to invalidate the statute because of minimal inconvenience?" (Jan. 10).
What does an individual of his standing consider to be "minimal inconvenience"?
What does a man with an exalted position know about inconvenience in the lives of ordinary people - especially poor people who face nothing but inconvenience every day?
Justice Kennedy's snarky comment is telling about the attitude of a court that is smugly defending the patrician class.
J. D. Goodyear
Polling just distorts choices voters face
Other than bringing money to the polling companies, polls have no positive value that I am aware of ("Pollsters look back at where they goofed," Jan 10). And there are at least three ways polls can muddy the waters.
First, a person might not vote if the polls indicate that the candidate of his or her choice is ahead. The voter might think his or her vote is not needed.
Second, a person might not vote if his or her choice is behind in the polls. The voter might think that his or her vote will not help.
Third, some voters jump on what they consider the bandwagon. They simply vote because a candidate is in the lead, according to the polls, and therefore think this is the person for whom they should vote.
It's bad enough that our system of nominating a president in effect disenfranchises many, many states.
We don't need the added complications of polls swaying voters.
Leaders again reach into our pockets
Like the writer of the letter "Driving to Delaware for new purchases" (Jan. 9), my husband and I will be driving to Delaware for most of our purchases. So now instead of the state getting an extra 1 percent of my purchases in sales tax, it will lose the 5 percent it was getting.
The politicians have reached their greedy little hands into our pockets too many times.
I only wish more people were close enough to Delaware to save money by shopping in that state. Then maybe the people in charge in Maryland would learn to control their spending, instead of expecting us taxpayers to bail them out when they overspend.
Oh, well, it's a nice dream anyhow.
Climber's decency sets lofty standard
High-altitude mountaineering is a notoriously selfish sport (practicing it often leads to long absences from home and divorces and involves a high risk of serious injury and death). Climbers in the Himalayas and other high places have routinely accentuated this self-absorption by cutting and running once they lay siege to peaks in impoverished lands. The lofty hills are playgrounds.
But Sir Edmund Hillary, who died at 88 on Jan. 10, was different ("Unassuming conqueror of Mount Everest," Jan. 11).
After Sir Edmund and Tenzing Norgay, his Nepalese partner, were the first to summit Mount Everest in 1953, he made a commitment to raise money and return often to Nepal to help build needed schools, hospitals, airfields, clinics and other facilities.
A few other mountaineers got the message and now do likewise.
For Sir Edmund's decency toward fellow humans as well as his adventure to 29,000 feet and other outdoor escapades (including searching for the Abominable Snowman), the New Zealand beekeeper's rope is tied to history.
Ernest F. Imhoff
The writer is a former reporter and editor for The Sun.