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  1. #1
    -=Barry=- The Human Car's Avatar
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    Let ChipSeal Ride

    From http://commuteorlando.com/wordpress/.../let-him-ride/

    A defense fund and website has been set up for ChipSeal. Please visit Let-Him-Ride.com and pass it on!

    Some background

    In my post The Enforcement of Imaginary Laws, I shared the story of my friend ChipSeal’s arrest for riding in the road. ChipSeal has had one trial, for the citations and arrest in the City of Ennis, TX. They wanted to charge him with driving in the road where a shoulder is present, but TX statute does NOT require a cyclist to drive in the shoulder. When they finally decided what to charge him with, they chose “impeding traffic.” Unlike Florida, Texas code does not specifically exclude non-motorized vehicles from that statute. However, there is plenty of legal precedent in other states that human-powered vehicles are still, by definition, excluded. Nonetheless, the jury was given bogus and improper instructions which easily confirmed their own beliefs in the taboo against bicycle driving.

    The bogus instructions:

    An operator of a bicycle commits the offense of FAILURE TO OBEY MINIMUM SPEED REGULATIONS (IMPEDING TRAFFIC) if the operator of a bicycle drives so slowly on a public road as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.

    He was found guilty on all three counts, despite that there were multiple lanes in his direction of travel and motorists needed only to change lanes to pass. Please note, in the link to Steve’s post, the officers’ supervisor AND the chief of police attended the trial. This goes well beyond misguided or rogue officers. It is a departmental problem. No wonder the judge maneuvered ChipSeal into a jury trial, it might have been a political nightmare for him to uphold the law in the face of that.

    At this point, an appeal victory is essential to protect the legal rights of cyclists in Ennis, TX (and, perhaps, beyond). In addition to the Ennis appeal, ChipSeal faces a trial in county court for his arrest (for operating a bicycle on the road) by an Ellis County deputy.

    Prejudice substituted for law

    Aside from the egregious misrepresentation of the statute, since when is changing lanes to pass slower vehicles not a normal and reasonable movement of traffic? Where exactly do you set the bar for that? Just before the first traffic stop (last October), the officer was impeded by a car in the left lane, stopped and waiting for a gap to turn left. The officer couldn’t change lanes immediately to pass the stopped, left-turning car because ChipSeal was driving past in the right lane. So, he pulled ChipSeal over and cited him for impeding traffic.

    Personal implications

    First and foremost, RANTWICK says it best:

    I just ride the way I think best knowing that I have a legal right to do so and leave it at that. When I heard that my online friend ChipSeal was being denied that same right in Texas despite the fact that he is entitled to it under the law, it made me angry. For me, this isn’t about cycling advocacy. It is about a friend getting screwed over. My friend wants to fight for his legal rights by appealing recent court decisions. When I put myself in his place I would want to fight too, but I wouldn’t have the money to mount a good defense and neither does he.

    ChipSeal broke no laws. He merely insisted on driving his bicycle (his only mode of transportation) in the manner he felt safest AND is granted to him by statute.

    Here are the issues in order of importance to me. My friend’s rights have been trampled. A fellow cyclist’s rights have been trampled. An unemployed American with no car is being denied the right to travel by human power in a safe and legal manner. Vulgar, Culture of Speed bias has trumped both law and fairness.

    United we stand

    No matter how I might choose to ride as an individual, on a given road, in given conditions, I fully support another cyclist’s choice — whether that be in the shoulder, the right tire track or the left side of the right lane. What’s been somewhat disheartening (though, sadly, not surprising) in this saga, is the way the state and national advocacy organizations have refused to support ChipSeal. But cyclists across the US and Canada are coming together to support him.

    News from across the pond

    Last week Anthony Robson at CityCycling Magazine sent ChipSeal and me two articles about a cyclist who was wrongly cited, wrongly convicted and then won his appeal in the UK. Here is an excerpt from The Law According to Telford:

    On mention of his story there was a degree of incredulity in its reception by the cycling community. Many espoused legal viewpoints with reference to the Highway Code, with legitimate concentration on the illogical application of the law to the cyclist. It seemed to most that it was only a matter of time before the case would be dropped.

    But the case survived.

    Backing for Daniel, and the strength of his argument, seemed, however, to be getting stronger as the matter rolled on. The Cyclists’ Defence Fund took up the baton and the might of John Franklin was enrolled as an expert witness.

    You can read the follow-up article after the appeal here.

    Anthony has featured ChipSeal’s plight in the current issue of CityCycling. Read Stateside Shenanigans… and the whole issue, it’s a classy publication!

    What can you do?

    Times are tough. Most of us don’t have a lot of spare cash. But if you have a buck or two, every drop in the bucket will help. ChipSeal has another court case in Ellis County and an appeal in Ennis. His right to travel depends on winning those cases. He has an attorney, but we (his friends and, hopefully, the cycling community at large) are covering the fees.

    If you’d like to have a souvenir for your donation, you can visit the CycleDallas gift shop.



    If you simply can’t spare any money, it’s OK. You can help by passing this site on to friends and helping raise awareness of this case.

    Thank you!
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  2. #2
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    I was wondering what had transpired for chipseal. yes, interesting case. clear cut anti-cycling bias on behalf of the arresting officers, judges and jury.

    too bad chipseal got convicted. sucks. wonder how far ennis is from Austin, and what local texas bike advocates think of the case?

    yes, the VCist, bicycle drivers' glib 'slow moving vehicles impede traffic and so should bicycles' is probably a bad tack in cycling advocacy. removal or lack of bike specificity in traffic law likely contributes to this issue by treating a bicyclist just like any other vehicle.


    chipseal, of course, could have been sharing the highway by riding out of the roadway on that right of way - 50mph road and 8 foot shoulders? Come on, learn riding FRAP sometimes finds a vehicular cyclist on the shoulder of a road, riding vehicularily!

    i do feel that texas laws were misapplied and chipseal was wrongly convicted of inapplicable charges in his case.

    Chipseal, previously described his riding style in BF with an air of political theater about it, and this appeared to be his desired outcome- to push a test case for cyclists rights in texas.
    Last edited by Bekologist; 03-09-10 at 07:55 AM.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  3. #3
    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    An alternative to adding bicycle-specificity to the law would be to clarify that the law does not apply to any vehicle incapable of safely traveling faster than it is at that place and time. This would protect drivers of Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, mopeds, golf cars, tractors, horse-drawn carriages, and Segways in addition to cyclists. Rather that attempting to make cyclists a specially protected class, this would simply clarify that the impeding traffic statute only applies to those vehicles that have the capability to be operated at higher speeds, not just when higher speeds would be safe.

  4. #4
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    OH, operators of slow moving, human powered vehicles shouldn't be citable for impeding traffic.

    Slow moving motorized vehicles should be regulated more strictly than slow moving human powered vehicles.

    Bike specificity in law and treating bicycle operation as distinct to motor driven operation is increasingly MORE important in the new century. In a few years anyone will be able to piece together a go-cart out of a wheelbarrow, some extra laptop batteries, and fifty bucks in parts from home depot! Just kidding of course, but this is not far off the mark from what american (or chinese!) ingenuity will offer in the near future.

    as to chipseal, he should not have been cited for impeding traffic, and impeding traffic laws need to be clearly written so as to apply only to motor driven vehicles.
    Last edited by Bekologist; 03-09-10 at 08:09 AM.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  5. #5
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bekologist View Post

    as to chipseal, he should not have been cited for impeding traffic, and impeding traffic laws need to be clearly written so as to apply only to motor driven vehicles.
    How about applying SMV laws only to motor vehicles that have the capability to move at higher speeds... a tractor or combine for instance that was on the shoulder AND straddling the far right lane would "impede traffic" as judged by this case... and those motor vehicles do not have the ability to move at 55MPH.
    Last edited by genec; 03-09-10 at 03:12 PM.

  6. #6
    -=Barry=- The Human Car's Avatar
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    I've heard that this section of roadway has intermittent shoulders and has rumble strips. I hate rumble strips!
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  7. #7
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    I think it's time to:

    a.) get Governor Lance in the mix;
    b.) throw Texas out of the Union.

  8. #8
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Donation made...go get em, buddy!
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  9. #9
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    ...this is another Selz V Trotwood precedent setting case, I believe, if that's how the appeals/precedent process goes in texas - If chipseal effectively conveys to the blind justices the law and how it reads in his favor.

    good luck!

    seems time to more equitably regard bicyclists in the state of texas.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  10. #10
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    How about applying SMV laws only to motor vehicles that have the capability to move at higher speeds... a tractor or combine for instance that was on the shoulder AND straddling the far right lane would "impede traffic" as judged by this case... and those motor vehicles do not have the ability to move at 55MPH.
    I wonder how texas law treats SMV-Impeding? is it like in CA or ID, or WA, ostensibly applying to bicyclists, that under certain conditions a vehicle incapable of moving faster is required to pull off the roadway to allow faster traffic to pass?


    SMV laws need to apply more stringently to vehicles that are motor driven and privately operated not for agriculture, gene. SMV-impeding laws need to be written so as to clearly exclude human powered vehicles.

    A FRAP mandate is much more acceptable than laws regulating bicyclists as being capable of 'impeding' traffic.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  11. #11
    Senior Member gcottay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DX-MAN View Post
    I think it's time to:
    . . .
    b.) throw Texas out of the Union.
    Wouldn't that be like punishing shoplifting by providing the keys to the store? <G>
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  12. #12
    You gonna eat that? Doohickie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bekologist View Post
    as to chipseal, he should not have been cited for impeding traffic, and impeding traffic laws need to be clearly written so as to apply only to motor driven vehicles.
    That's the problem right now: In Texas, the Impeding Traffic law is *not* clearly written to exclude cyclists. When viewed from a car-centric perspective, I can see where ChipSeal could lose his appeal. Chip has to remember (and I'm sure his counsel realizes) that he is not arguing what the law should be, but rather seeking dismissal of a case based on the laws as they currently stand.

    Texas law "kind of" excludes bicycles from the Impeding Traffic law through these sections: "A person operating a bicycle has the rights and duties applicable to a driver operating a vehicle under this subtitle, unless:... a right or duty applicable to a driver operating a vehicle cannot by its nature apply to a person operating a bicycle." So if a bike is not capable of traveling more than about 20 mph, the theory goes that the cyclist cannot be charged with impeding since traveling that speed is part of the nature of riding a bike. More on Texas Traffic Laws and Bicycles here.

    I have had discussions in the past with ChipSeal about these issues but I probably shouldn't put my recollection out there while the cases are pending. I wouldn't want some net-savvy prosecutor to use my faulty, non-legal memory against him.
    Last edited by Doohickie; 03-10-10 at 07:52 AM.
    I stop for people / whose right of way I honor / but not for no one.



    Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

  13. #13
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DX-MAN View Post
    I think it's time to:

    a.) get Governor Lance in the mix;
    b.) throw Texas out of the Union.
    Careful with that, Texas has long held that they want to be a separate independent republic and has threatened to succeed on many occasions.

  14. #14
    CRIKEY!!!!!!! Cyclaholic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    Careful with that, Texas has long held that they want to be a separate independent republic and has threatened to succeed on many occasions.
    Not only that, they've also threatened to secede as well!

  15. #15
    Senior Member dougmc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    Careful with that, Texas has long held that they want to be a separate independent republic and has threatened to succeed [secede I assume] on many occasions.
    That was only our governor -- he does not speak for the majority of the state on that matter.

    As for the "Republic of Texas", that was another kook (and while their leader shares my last name, I am not related to him!)

    Don't hold us all to blame for the actions of a small minority ...

  16. #16
    Senior Member dougmc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bekologist View Post
    ... SMV-impeding laws need to be written so as to clearly exclude human powered vehicles.

    A FRAP mandate is much more acceptable than laws regulating bicyclists as being capable of 'impeding' traffic.
    But bicyclists certainly are capable of "impeding" traffic -- for example, this charge is often used against Critical Mass participants who "cork" -- and it probably fits there. (It's also popular with police as it 1) goes after those who are doing more than most, and 2) in Texas it's a Class B misdemeanor, which typically means a trip to jail.)

    But I would certainly support the law being reworded a bit to make it clear that if you're going at a reasonable speed for your vehicle, using the road as intended, you are NOT guilty of "impeding" traffic. Such wording should be vehicle agnostic, so it applies both to bicycles and tractors. (That would also make it easier to pass, not being a simple cycling issue.)

    As it stands, the law supports moving to the shoulder to let faster traffic pass, and it's pretty commonly done on two lane roads (not so often on four lane roads, however -- there's little need) -- but the law doesn't require it.
    Last edited by dougmc; 03-11-10 at 10:08 AM.

  17. #17
    You gonna eat that? Doohickie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dougmc View Post
    But bicyclists certainly are capable of "impeding" traffic -- for example, this charge is often used against Critical Mass participants who "cork"
    In Texas the law states that cyclists are to ride no more than two abreast. In CM events, they are obviously riding more than two abreast... but it's a different law anyway, and not one that ChipSeal was breaking.
    I stop for people / whose right of way I honor / but not for no one.



    Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

  18. #18
    Senior Member dougmc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doohickie View Post
    In Texas the law states that cyclists are to ride no more than two abreast. In CM events, they are obviously riding more than two abreast...
    I don't think you understood my point. CM participants tend to break several laws, including the "no more than two abreast" one -- every group ride of any size breaks that one on a regular basis. But the police rarely ticket for that, at least not here -- instead, the go after red light runners (usually pretty cut and dried) and corkers (who really would be the ones who are the trouble makers.)

    If you're not familiar with the term, "corking" refers to parking your bike in front of a car so the car won't try to move, usually to prevent traffic from going into the intersection which is full of massers going through. And if the car has a green light and you're parked in front of him -- you ARE impeding traffic. Intentionally.

    As far as I know, this is the same law that ChipSeal was convicted of violating, though of course the circumstances are totally different than what I just described. (Though I'm not sure that this is the law he was convicted of. "Impeding traffic" does not exist in the Texas Transportation Code. http://law.onecle.com/texas/penal/42.03.00.html is the law I'm thinking of, "§ 42.03. OBSTRUCTING HIGHWAY OR OTHER PASSAGEWAY." which isn't even in the traffic code at all. It's the one that has been used on CMers here.)

    And even though the term "impeding traffic" doesn't exist in the TX Traffic Code, the City of Austin does have a fine for it -- $167 fine -- listed on their court's web site.
    Last edited by dougmc; 03-11-10 at 11:27 AM.

  19. #19
    You gonna eat that? Doohickie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dougmc View Post
    If you're not familiar with the term, "corking" refers to parking your bike in front of a car so the car won't try to move, usually to prevent traffic from going into the intersection which is full of massers going through. And if the car has a green light and you're parked in front of him -- you ARE impeding traffic. Intentionally.
    Ah... no, I didn't know what corking means.

    Quote Originally Posted by dougmc View Post
    And even though the term "impeding traffic" doesn't exist in the TX Traffic Code,
    Impeding traffic is in the traffic code though....

    Sec. 545.363. MINIMUM SPEED REGULATIONS. (a) An operator may not drive so slowly as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.
    If I'm not mistaken, this is what they ticketed ChipSeal for. There is the exception of "when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law." As I said above, here is the text that allows what ChipSeal was doing: "A person operating a bicycle has the rights and duties applicable to a driver operating a vehicle under this subtitle, unless:... a right or duty applicable to a driver operating a vehicle cannot by its nature apply to a person operating a bicycle." From a cyclist standpoint, becuase it is not in the nature of a bicycle to go much in excess of 20 mph, it's okay for him to "drive so slowly as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic."
    Last edited by Doohickie; 03-11-10 at 12:00 PM.
    I stop for people / whose right of way I honor / but not for no one.



    Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

  20. #20
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclaholic View Post
    Not only that, they've also threatened to secede as well!
    damn spelliing chekker.

    Not you... the one on my computer. I knew I was spelling it wrong, and just let the comp take care of it... NOT.

    I seem to recall that Texas often claims to have some sort of article to allow them to secede in their statehood.

    And of course the state has more than it's share of crackpots... who have done everything from print their own money to attempt to establish their own republic.

    From a cycling perspective, the 70MPH posted speed limits on narrow shoulderless two lane country roads is also somewhat insane... not sure if any other state is quite that crazy. (I have recent pics of said roads... as I grew up in Texas, and go to visit my crazy relatives from time to time.)

    As far as supporting Chipseal... I really have to agree with him, as I have bike toured across the state on very similar roads that he was arrested upon. (although I did readily move aside when traffic approached... if I could)
    Last edited by genec; 03-11-10 at 12:16 PM.

  21. #21
    Senior Member dougmc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doohickie View Post
    Hmm, it would seem that I've always misread that passage. You're likely right ...

    And considering that ChipSeal trying to pedal at 65 mph would probably give him a heart attack, I imagine that the "safety" part is trivially satisfied -- and yet it would seem that the jurors weren't even given that part of the law.

    And considering that traffic was light, it seems unlikely that he was "impeding the normal and reasonable movement of traffic" at all.

  22. #22
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dougmc View Post
    Hmm, it would seem that I've always misread that passage. You're likely right ...

    And considering that ChipSeal trying to pedal at 65 mph would probably give him a heart attack, I imagine that the "safety" part is trivially satisfied -- and yet it would seem that the jurors weren't even given that part of the law.

    And considering that traffic was light, it seems unlikely that he was "impeding the normal and reasonable movement of traffic" at all.
    He was "impeding" the sheriff... apparently that was all that mattered.

  23. #23
    babylon by bike Standalone's Avatar
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    I donated some dollars.
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  24. #24
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dougmc View Post
    But bicyclists certainly are capable of "impeding" traffic -- for example, this charge is often used against Critical Mass participants who "cork" -- and it probably fits there. (It's also popular with police as it 1) goes after those who are doing more than most, and 2) in Texas it's a Class B misdemeanor, which typically means a trip to jail.)

    But I would certainly support the law being reworded a bit to make it clear that if you're going at a reasonable speed for your vehicle, using the road as intended, you are NOT guilty of "impeding" traffic. Such wording should be vehicle agnostic, so it applies both to bicycles and tractors. (That would also make it easier to pass, not being a simple cycling issue.)

    As it stands, the law supports moving to the shoulder to let faster traffic pass, and it's pretty commonly done on two lane roads (not so often on four lane roads, however -- there's little need) -- but the law doesn't require it.
    The lay may support moving to the shoulder to allow faster traffic to pass but texas bike specific statute seems not to require that highway position of bicyclists. i believe this is one of chipseals prime beliefs- that texas law DOES NOT REQUIRE USE OF THE SHOULDER BY BICYCLISTS.. This case could be a precedent setting case in texas similar to trotwood v selz findings bicyclists are incapable of impeding traffic while operating their choice of vehicle at its design speed on roadway.

    Personally, i feel a bicyclist operating a bicycle should never be subject to impeding traffic regulations. certainly not on a four lane roadway where traffic can change lanes to pass. bicyclists do not impede traffic, we are traffic. Critical mass participants blocking traffic are engaging in civil disobedience and breaking some other law, not laws regulating if, when and what kind of slow moving vehicles are required to pull onto a shoulder to allow faster traffic to pass.


    Regulating human powered vehicles distinct from motor driven devices is beneficial to bicyclists and overall roadway safety both.
    Last edited by Bekologist; 03-12-10 at 10:11 AM.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  25. #25
    Bicikli Huszár sudo bike's Avatar
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    Tangentially, I wonder how often the SMV law in California is applied for bikes. I haven't extensively searched, but I couldn't find it offhand...

    I know it's something along the lines of 'If you have 4 or more (maybe it was 5?) vehicles behind you, you must pull over and let them pass when able to safely'. I believe, in theory, this applies to all vehicles: cars, trucks, bikes, tractors, etc. This seems fair enough to me on those long country roads that are high speed, especially since it applies across the board. Doesn't mean you must ride on the shoulder of course, just that you must pull over to allow faster traffic to overtake. It's also independent of whether you are traveling the speed limit and others are speeding.

    This of course is some major thread drift, so I'll leave it at that, but I was just curious....
    "The bicycle is the noblest invention of mankind. I love the bicycle. I always have. I can think of no sincere, decent human being, male or female, young or old, saint or sinner, who can resist the bicycle."

    - William Saroyan

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