Equal opportunity, meet elitism …

Adam Platt’s Nov. 27 commentary (“The city’s strongest schools should not be sacrificed”) raises piercing questions and reveals barely hidden elitism. Just what does Platt think he and his fellow Southwest High School parents would be “sacrificing” by directing the resources of the Minneapolis public schools to those who desperately need them? I think the answer, as I perceive it, is typical of those that have plenty: You should be thankful to be able to shine my shoes. I’m giving you the gift of serving me.

Platt’s perceived protection of (in the headline writer’s words) the “foothold” of high-performing students is nothing if not elitism being guarded. It tells me, and others who are parents or guardians of students who attend Roosevelt, Edison and other urban high schools that lack millionaire parents, that we should be indebted to better-off kids simply because of their ability to bring the average of test scores up. But equal opportunity is for all, even the kid who struggles in class because his support network isn’t home (they’re away working two or three jobs to pay the rent).

Build the Southwest High School addition, and, if the Southwest parents feel the need, perhaps they can include a shoeshine station or two.




Confusion about laws? Yes, that’s quite clear

The Nov. 27 counterpoint by Kirby Beck, bicycle safety expert, misquotes the law (“Right of way for bikes at an intersection? It depends”). That pedestrians may not “suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield” applies only to crosswalks without traffic signals (169.21 PEDESTRIAN. Subd. 2. Rights in absence of signal). Beck implies that motorists can take the right of way by racing ahead and threatening pedestrians about to cross with green “walk” signals.

Beck is correct about the “walk” signal controlling the crosswalk. Once “don’t walk” is displayed, flashing or steady, pedestrians (or riders intending to use a crosswalk) can no longer start to cross (169.06 SIGNS, SIGNALS, MARKINGS. Subd. 6. Pedestrian control signal). Had Scott Parker, the bicyclist who wrote the Nov. 24 commentary to which Beck was responding (“My two wheels vs. their badges), stated that he had a “walk” signal, there would have been no need for speculation about what he knew, and the burden of crosswalk safety would have been placed clearly on the driver. Bicyclists may not be aware that they become pedestrians when they are in crosswalks, so pedestrian laws apply. Motorists may be unaware of that, too. Many seem less willing to yield to a bicycle than to a pedestrian.

Another missed education opportunity here by both commentaries regards the near-universal violation of the turning law by motorists crossing bike lanes (169.19, Subd. 1 (g)). A driver, after signaling, must drive into the bike lane when it’s safe, then make the turn from the bike lane. Just driving across a bike lane to turn is illegal. The same philosophy applies in the absence of a bike lane. “Both the approach for a right turn and a right turn shall be made as close as practicable to the curb or edge of the roadway” (169.19 Subd. 1(a)). In other words, motorists must eliminate space on their right that might invite any vehicle to pass them.


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Beck makes a good point when he says that bike use laws are not self-evident. He is also correct in concluding that this incident can be a teachable moment. But then he opines that ultimately the major conclusion that readers should draw from Parker’s commentary is Parker’s ignorance of the law. Not only is there no mention of a police officer’s duty to know and understand bicycle safety laws, but Beck also demonstrates his ignorance of the criminal-justice system by insisting that if the officers had issued the appropriate traffic citation, it might not have been so easily dismissed.

Parker made it abundantly clear that there was no ease in getting the inappropriate and unprovable misdemeanor (potential jail time) charges dismissed. If the police had issued a traffic citation, as Beck suggests, in fact, this could have been a teachable moment for both Parker and the two officers. But the officers chose the path of confrontation and intimidation rather than choosing to “protect and serve.”


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I would like to compliment Beck for a very informative, and needed, commentary on cycling in the Twin Cities. I can add evidence to his speculation that law enforcement officials probably don’t know much about cycling rules. After being warned by a Three Rivers Parks policeman to be more cautious while crossing Beltline Boulevard in St. Louis Park, I responded that as a cyclist in a crosswalk, I had the right of way and cars should stop. No, no, he corrected me, cyclists don’t have rights in crosswalks!

Beck’s commentary should be required reading (with an accompanying comprehension test) for Twin Cities law enforcement officers.




The less drama, the better, no?

During deer season, the Star Tribune offers a weekly sports section feature with great photos and stories about deer hunters’ successes. I was dismayed, however, that editors chose to celebrate (“A bountiful hunt,” Nov. 27) the story about the young man who took a sprinting deer at 80 yards (per the young hunter’s description).

I was reminded of the words of one of my dedicated deer-hunting uncles, who said that, once having heard the dying travails of a gut-shot deer, never again would someone attempt anything but a careful, well-aimed shot. Beyond that, perhaps editors might consider, as regards shooting a rifle at running animals, “Now, what could ever go wrong here?”