ERICKSON: Sharing the road

November 1, 2013 

On Sunday, 78-year-old Ahmad Rasheed killed Walter Leggett. It was an accident. Leggett was riding his bike and Rasheed hit him. It is just a tragedy. When I convinced my wife to move to Macon before our marriage, Leggett hired her as his legal secretary.

Leggett was a kind soul. In my years practicing law, if ever I ran into a difficult estate matter, Walter was usually the first person I called. He had handled so many estates and experienced so much. He was always generous with his time mentoring young lawyers. Over the past few days I have encountered more and more people who knew Walter. It seems everyone knew him. The positive impact he had on countless lives is tremendous.

We can all feel at a loss, whether you knew him or not, for losing such a happy, warm soul. “Well done my good and faithful servant, come and share in your master’s happiness,” are undoubtedly the words Walter heard when he arrived at home with his Creator.

I am told Walter is the fourth person in Middle Georgia to die this year in a collision between a bike and car. The statewide toll is higher. Bikers, pedestrians and cars all must share the roads. We all have an obligation to co-exist in those lanes and cooperate on the roads.

Three North Georgia state representatives authored legislation to require bicyclists to get license plates for their bikes and pay fees to use the road. Their legislation, which ultimately died, would not have exempted children’s bikes, though the law targeted cyclists riding in groups. The law would have made things even worse for drivers.

Instead of encountering one mass of cyclists, the law would have required cyclists to ride single file down a road with spacing between -- extending the distance cars would have to pass the cyclists. No longer could a father ride on the outside with his child safely by the road. They too would have had to ride single file. It was a silly law used as leverage to spook cyclists in Hall County.

Talking about this on my radio show, I was taken aback by the amount of hostility to cyclists on the road. A friend tells me he rides the backroads of Middle Georgia and has been harassed by drivers who’ve tried to steer him into a ditch; he has had food thrown at him, dogs have been let loose to give chase and other friends of his have competing horror stories.

“They act like they own the road,” said one caller to my show agitated about cyclists. “Well, they kinda do,” I replied. We all do. We must share the road. It is certainly an aggravation for many of us to come across a large group of cyclists clustered together in areas where it is difficult to pass. But we have to accommodate them as much as they have to accommodate us in our cars.

As more people take up cycling for exercise, we are all going to encounter this more and more. Worldwide, cycling continues to attract participants, with an American increase of over 45 percent since 2002. This trend will require us all to work together for peaceful and safe coexistence on our roads.

Walter Leggett has died. Ahmad Rasheed’s conscience will, in his final years, be haunted by this tragedy. All those affected should be in our prayers and we should all pray that Middle Georgia loses no more cyclists or pedestrians (10 pedestrians have died on Macon’s roads this year). We must learn to share the road.

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.

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