Freedom of Navigation Exercises


For a couple of hundred years, the U.S. Navy has asserted its rights under international treaties to cruise in international waters – currently 12 miles offshore of sovereign nations, although some countries assert a right to much larger swaths of ocean (historic example: Libya, which could not begin to enforce it).

Sunday, an intrepid crew of middle-aged cyclists conducted freedom of navigation exercises, asserting once again the legal right to occupy and use the streets and highways of New Albany.

I’m grateful for the chance to join them for the early stage of the New Albany Bicycle Coalition’s Bastille Day Tour de New Albany. Thanks to coordinator Ed Parish who laid out the course with delightful signage.

Rumor has it that yours truly severely overestimated his stamina and was forced to drop out early in the excursion. If the rumor is true, this writer still enjoyed the cruising and expresses his gratitude to the mother hen who dropped back to make sure my mother-in-law’s prediction of heat stroke and heart attack did not come true. Six miles ain’t bad in 95 degree sunshine with a ground level ozone alert.

My rumored failure (another version of the story has me pushing the pace and putting the laggards to shame) may well be a function of my dereliction in training. In short, I can’t pull a hill for diddly. My cycling has been in 2-mile bursts on relatively level ground – maybe an incline or two, but nothing like the post-Beharrel sections of the run. Maybe next year, if I can find the training time.

Thanks for letting me ride along, if only for awhile, and please feel free to repost this at the Coalition blog site (see links at right).

My alleged drop out did, however, lead to an interesting and serendipitous encounter with a distraught family at the scene of a horrific accident that occurred on Saturday about 2:30 p.m. And this has as much to do with the Coalition’s goals and freedom of navigation as anything the ride was concerned with.

Teenager Tyler Richardson was struck on Slate Run Road on Saturday, and is now in intensive care with massive abrasions and head injuries, although the word is there will be no permanent brain injury. We riders, in fact, encountered Tyler’s siblings while riding, although we did not know why they were assembled on the west side of Slate Run.

Some facts are in dispute, but there is no question that speed and car driver impatience along Slate Run Road are endemic. A witness reports that the strike vehicle did not brake or slow when it encountered Tyler, who was thrown 55 feet and whose bike was propelled 108 feet southward. A blood-soaked swath of grass and tire tracks through a neighborhood yard attest to the fact that the offending vehicle continued on farther than the victim, which lends credence to the witness allegation of excessive speed, if not acceleration, in the presence of bicycular traffic.

My afternoon proved to be far more incident-filled than I can go into here, and while I hope the primary journalistic organ of New Albany will investigate this matter beyond the police report, I want to extend my thanks to the city official who responded to our plea for answers. On a summer Sunday afternoon, your responsiveness was greatly appreciated by all and reflects well on your concern for the people you serve so ably. Thank you.

So, guys and gals who missed me on Le Tour, just know that my afternoon was far more interesting than you might have guessed. Wish you could have been there with me to advocate for the respect for bicyclist rights and bike paths.

And to my mother-in-law, you may have been right that I was filled with hubris in thinking that I could keep up with experienced riders. Heat stroke was incipient at one point, despite hours of pre-ride hydration, but I’m glad I started with the pack and was able to lead them through my neighborhood and beyond before dropping back. In fact, the bear jumped on my back just a few feet from your house. I should have pulled in for a glass of tea. But then, my afternoon would have been far different, wouldn’t it?