Bob Levey's Oct. 27 column, "Bike Messenger Watch: More Horrors," does little to help anyone. Mr. Levey tells the stories of two Washingtonians hurt by some bike messengers and then, from the cocoon of his column, says four times that we should get bike messengers off the streets. Although he shows a respectable compassion for the people hurt by bad messengers, his naive and idle cries are uncalled for. A serious look at the entire situation is needed to find constructive answers. For starters:
Yes, bad bicyclists need to be stopped. No, we don't need to ban all bicyclists. There are plenty of good people working hard and riding safely as bicycle messengers in the District. Having worked as a messenger for the past five months, I've met some of them. All are answering the city's need for deliveries.
Every day, law offices, businesses of all kinds, government offices and private individuals call in orders for messengers and pay hefty sums for their services. This system not only supports the messengers but also pressures them to ride unsafely. Rush deliveries and filings have saved the shirts of many workers in Washington. Indeed, several bikes can usually be seen outside the delivery entrance of Mr. Levey's place of employment. Bikes are simply the cheapest, most efficient means of delivery downtown.
The city needs to get rid of the bad bike messengers and the negative pressures on messengers while retaining the messenger business. A tougher police watch would help. Courier companies that insisted on mature and courteous workers would help. Licensing might help.
Washington would also do well to deal appropriately with the eternal safety hazards caused by wandering pedestrians and irresponsible car, truck and bus drivers. So, to Bob Levey, I say: stop making simplistic, generalized and, yes, unfair attacks on bike messengers.
ANNE BECK Rockville
Having sat out for so long, I feel it is time now to join issue with those who believe that the greatest threat to urban civilization as we know it is the bicycle.
First, one should recognize that a far greater threat comes from motorists who, in their collective haste to get to and from work, ride roughshod over the rights of those who are not encased in the protective shell of an automobile. When I was living in New Haven and in Boston, I thought it was only drivers in those cities -- and, of course, in New York -- who exhibited such blatant disregard for niceties such as red lights and stop signs. However, since returning to Washington I have yet to see a motorist ticketed, despite the numerous traffic violations I observe each day. It seems that the D.C. authorities are not up to doing more than fining the owners of parked cars for meter violations.
Second, much of the behavior of cyclists that is considered offensive is really defensive -- made necessary by the conduct of motorists who forget both that bicycles are entitled to use the streets of our cities and that they are operated by living human beings vulnerable to being severely injured by a driver's thoughtlessness.
Finally, the complaints of pedestrians and joggers would find a more sympathetic ear if made by persons who were not frequently lost in their own world created between the earphones of their Walkmans.
DAVID B. GLAZER Washington