Sunday, April 15, 2012

Richard Hencke - It's not too late for you to pedal!

This is a response to Richard Hencke's Opinion article "Cycling advocates have lost credibility" from Santa Cruz Sentinel Sunday, April 15th.

Richard claims that the local cycling community is directly responsible for the deteriorating condition of his feet due to the fact that he has been forced to run and not ride his bike. He blames local cyclists for the inadequate roads in the county. He thinks that cyclists have been obstructing any and all road repairs in an effort to force folks out of their cars and on to their bikes. He states, "I would dearly love to ride my bicycle, but am unwilling to risk major trauma to do so and we are forced to pollute the environment and waste gasoline while being stuck in avoidable traffic jams".

As an emergency room physician you would think that he would be more familiar with the stats on vehicle related trauma vs bicycle related trauma. I can understand how this would seem backwards to him considering he works at a Hospital without a trauma center therefore most all trauma cases he could see are immediately flown out from the scene of the accident in an air ambulance to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center or Stanford. In 2009 there were 45,000 injuries to cyclists in the US and 2,400,000 injuries to motorists. Cyclists make up 1.8% of all road related injuries.

Living in Scotts Valley and car commuting to Santa Cruz he is willingly putting his life on the line everyday. I have been cutting folks out of mangled cars and loading them into air ambulances on a monthly bases since 1994 and have only been to a handful of bicycle related injuries in 18 years of public service.

He referenced Zayante road as an awful road for cyclists. This is a classic example day-lighting the difference between the art of cycling and the science of cycling and no one is to blame. I would not change a thing about E. or W. Zayante roads just like he would not change a thing about his morning commute on Hwy 17. For example, when negotiating the tight shoulder on lower Zayante one must pull over at times and allow the pockets of traffic to simply zip by. This allows you to take a moment and safely sip on some water or chat with your buds. There is an ebb and flow to traffic that one must be aware of. You will come across the occasional knucklehead, however the majority of folks are just like you and I - wanting to do the right thing.

Richard needs to know that not all cyclists are "extreme" and if he is willing to give up an afternoon of forced "brush dragging" or a stair-master workout, I am willing to point out some amazing roads that are absolutely sans-traffic. There might be a bump here and some gravel there and a dirt section thrown in for good measure, but that is what makes this county the greatest mixed cycling canvas in the world. My 8 year old asked me why he doesn't ride at Wilder Ranch or Nisene Marks. I told her that someday....... I think he will.

As most of you have noticed the "squeaky wheels" in our communities predominantly view these types of situations in black and white which is too bad because the only way to put this complicated puzzle together is to operate in the proverbial "grey" which will allow us to go outside of the box, share more information, decrease cost, increase inter-agency cooperation, and enjoy the moment.

(Health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks by British Medical Association)

"The gain of 'life years' through improved fitness among regular cyclists, and thus their increased longevity exceeds the loss of 'life years' in cycle fatalities. (British Medical Association, 1992) An analysis based on the life expectancy of each cyclist killed in road accidents using actuarial data, and the increased longevity of those engaging in exercise regimes several times a week compared with those leading relatively sedentary lives, has shown that, even in the current cycle hostile environment, the benefits in terms of life years gained, outweigh life years lost in cycling fatalities by a factor of around 20 to 1." -- Mayer Hillman, Senior Fellow Emeritus, Policy Studies Institute, and British Medical Association researcher (7, 8)

For the record:

I am very proud of the $65,000 that I have paid in property taxes over the years knowing that the 30th & 7th ave projects received a chunck of those funds.


  1. you rule Jake! GREAT POST! i recommend sending an abbreviated version to the Sentinel. maybe even as a guest opinion piece (that runs on Sundays). you speak so eloquently on behalf of bicycling and we need to drown out the wacky voices out there (that are all too willing to share their opinions and that newspapers are all too willing to print in the interest of raising ire and thus selling papers). thanks again for your great post, cory

  2. Great response Jake. I couldn't believe this guys arguments when I read the article. Your logic and experience and much more convincing and should help to show others, that a lot of these people who seem to demonize us cyclists, are just misinformed or in this case bitter.


  3. Great post Jake. I'm with Cory - that belongs in the Sentinel.