On passing cyclists

For people who ride bikes, there's bad news from California. The governor, Jerry Brown, has vetoed a bill that would make it unlawful for drivers to pass bicyclists closer than three feet.

According to a report in Bycycling magazine, the governor said he was worried about a provision allowing drivers to cross the double center line if it could be done safely in order to pass someone on a bike. He was worried that the state might get sued if this  resulted in a head-on crash.

Jerry Brown's rationale was baloney. The bill plainly said crossing the center lines was OK only if safety allowed it. And while anybody can sue anyone for any reason or no reason, collecting from the state of California under those circumstances would have been impossible.

In Oregon, as it happens, we have the kind of law that California was trying to get. It requires not three feet but enough space so vehicles won't hit a cyclist who falls over, and that's at least three feet, maybe more. Our Oregon law also allows drivers to momentarily cross the double lines if they can do so safely in order to avoid hitting the person on a bike.

In this case at least, Oregon is ahead of California in a matter of safety and common sense on the roads. And it 's a good idea to call attention to this safety law as more people take to our roads on their bikes. (hh)

Albany news: Sign action put off

The Albany City Council said "not so fast" Wednesday to the idea of electronic message boards at schools and other institutions in residential zones. At their regular meeting Wednesday night, councilors voted unanimously to table -- or postpone action on -- an ordinance that would allow the signs. Councilor Floyd Collins was not there, and his colleagues wanted to wait till the next meeting on Nov. 7, when he's expected back.

Albany law does not allow changeable electronic message signs in residential zones. The pending ordinance is the result of a request by the booster club at West Albany High School, which wanted to replace the existing reader board outside the school on Queen Avenue with a larger, electronic one that could be programmed from inside the building.

Councilors expressed various reservations about details of the proposal. One, Jeff Christman, pointed out that on one block of Queen, there are two schools and two or more churches, all of which under the proposal could apply for permits for electronic signs.

Barb’s Book

The cover of Governor Roberts' memoir.

Barbara Roberts was our governor in Oregon from 1991 until early 1995. Before that she was a state representative  and the secretary of state. She has also held other offices, and now she's on the board of metro, the regional government in Portland. People may know all that. Not long ago, an audience in Lebanon was reminded that Governor Roberts also is an author, and when you read her new book, her second, you gain a new appreciation of this lady's talent not merely as a leader but as a writer too.

The book is called Up the Capitol Steps. In it the former governor, now 75, recounts her life, from growing up in the small town of Sheridan as a school girl in the 1950s through her careers as a mother, wife, political pioneer and finally as a university teacher in political science at Harvard and Portland State.

Her story in public life is one thing, and it's obviously interesting, especially for Oregon residents who followed politics during those years. To mention just one episode, there's the story she tells of her getting lost in Victoria's Secret causing a brief panic among the state troopers assigned to protect her.

But her life outside of politics is even more appealing to the reader. She and the people around her have lived through a great deal, and she tells the story swiftly and in prose that is strong and clear. This, you conclude, is one tough lady who has overcome just about anything life or fate can throw at a person.

She's still going strong, as her Lebanon audience learned. If you want to learn more, get her book. It's "Up the Capitol Steps," by Barbara Roberts, published by the Oregon State University Press. (hh)

A bike ride before it got cold

It doesn’t feel warmer

A cold bath for birds

A cold weather front was whipping through the mid-valley on Tuesday afternoon, just as the public television program Frontline was preparing to broadcast a program on global warming titled "Climate of Doubt."

The reason there is a climate of doubt on this issue is not propaganda. It's not the activities of various skeptics, who for a while now have been derided by their critics as "deniers." The reason for doubt is that the public does not see any noticeable warming taking place.

Tuesday afternoon in the mid-valley, for instance, was just an ordinary day in October near the 45th parallel. We live in a very temperate zone of the planet. In western Europe, we share the same latitude as the south of France and the north end of the Adriaric Sea. And on Tuesday afternoon, we had a temperature of 48 degrees and a cold rain being whipped sideways by blustery wind.

In the media we are often told that our weather has warmed up, that the last decade was the warmest on record. But to news consumers, that's you and me, it doesn't feel any warmer. And on days like Tuesday, it seems like things have actually gotten colder earlier in the fall than before.

Human impressions should not count in this debate. What matters is not what people feel but what is shown to be true by precise measurements over the years. After all, people can't imagine or see the reality of nuclear physics either, and yet we have seen that hydrogen bombs actually go off.

The trouble with climate science is that it is essentially about weather. And weather is what we all experience every time we are outdoors. So no matter how many scientists claim that mankind is making the world a little warmer, we don't believe it when we shiver in October and have to crank the thermostat up. (hh)

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