Monday, April 20, 2009
“The power of words”
College kid writes column warning cyclists he’ll run them over as he changes the playlist on his iPod because bikes don’t belong on the road.
Cyclists organize a Critical Mass ride in East Lansing.
Walk and Bike Lansing! includes the column and reaction on its task force meeting agenda this week.
Folks got educated, according to Jessica Yorko, program manager for Walk and Bike Lansing!
Many didn’t know the rules of the road before. Now they do. (For the record, bicycles are legally allowed on the road and not on the sidewalk on MSU’s campus; they are allowed on the roadway in Michigan except for highways and interstates or where marked; they are allowed on the sidewalk in Lansing, except where marked.)
As some of you know, Zack Colman is the author of a column that ran in the MSU student newspaper the State News, that generated a lot of heat. He advocated bicyclists ride on the sidewalk and off the roads “where you should not be.” The hottest trigger was likely his indication that he might run cyclists over with his Black 2001 Saturn SC2.
Zack says the strong reaction from avid cyclists has rattled him. He got death threats. He even filed a police report.
“I am sincerely sorry to have upset so many people and that my words got taken in the wrong way,” said Zack in phone interview Tuesday afternoon.
Here’s what Zack had to say about his column, the reaction from readers and his future:
B: Were you trying to rile people up?
Z: “I knew the way that I wrote the column would upset some people but did I expect people to send me death threats, clog my email with more than 400 emails? Did I expect people to find my cell phone and interrupt Seder dinner? No.”
B: How serious was the column?
Z: “It got misconstrued. It was never meant to be an attack. It was meant to be sarcasm….
If you're removed enough from the situation you can see the sarcasm. I didn't realize how big a problem angry motorists are in the community. I’m not an angry motorist. Maybe I took the sarcasm too far.”
B: Will you be writing a follow-up column?
Z: “We've decided it's best not have me comment on this any more.”
B: Do you own a bike?
Z: “I own a bicycle myself. I don't have it at school... I'm not a skilled enough cyclist. I don't feel comfortable riding here. Using hand signals is not natural to me.”
B: So what are you writing about next?
Z: “I’m planning on writing a column about Autism Awareness Month. My brother has Asperger’s Syndrome...I've tried to make every column hyper-localized: schedule changes to the academic calendar, restaurant changes in East Lansing. But this topic is very important to me… I don't want anyone to think it's a cop-out column in any way.”
B: What are your thoughts on the Critical Mass ride that was held as a direct result of your column last Friday?
Z: “I was driving down Division on Friday at the time the cyclists were in front of the State News I decided to turn left on Albert instead of going down Grand River... It shows you the power of words. It's good to see that people can get together for a cause.”
Thanks for the interview, Zack!
Zack is a junior at MSU, majoring in journalism and international relations. This is his fifth semester on the State News staff. He has covered the capital beat for this past election season and he’s covered football and hockey.
P.S. - the counterpoint author did get back to me, but I've run out of time and space for this post. So stay tuned!
Labels: zack colemen