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Storm: Sometimes you just can't win — or can you?

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Kip Sloan rides his bicycle surrounded by vehicles on Regency Boulevard on Saturday morning. (Abbey Mercando/The Daily Reflector)

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Janet Storm

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Most of us have heard the phrase, “You can’t win for losing.” It reflects a kind of pessimism that I ordinarily like to shrug off, but there is some truth in the heart of the sentiment.

I have been thinking about that phrase ever since I encountered a bicyclist pedaling down the sidewalk near my home. I was walking with my two little dogs, and we hustled over to the side to clear the way. 

He shouted, “Excuse me,” as he whizzed past us. While I appreciated his politeness, I have to admit I was a bit put out that he was on sidewalk instead of the street. Yet, as I thought the matter over, I really couldn’t  blame him — at least not too much. 

Cyclists have a tough time here. We have had dozens of Bless Your Heart submissions to the paper demanding that riders get off the roads and onto the sidewalks “where you belong.”

Those submissions are almost always answered by other readers, who demand that bicyclists get off the sidewalks and onto the streets, “where you really belong.”

So where is a cyclist to go? I get the feeling that some people in this town only like bicycles when they are strapped to the roof of a car or rolling up and down the family driveway.

See what I mean about can’t win for losing?

Here’s another example. When the weather looks threatening, especially during the winter, people get very upset if local schools do not cancel classes. “You’re putting our children’s lives in danger!” is a frequent cry.

Yet when the missed days add up and students have to attend classes on planned days off, many of those same folks wail a different tune: “You’re ruining our vacation times!” 

Do these folks even recognize the “can’t win” corner they have backed school officials into? The number of days students must attend is mandated by the state. School officials can’t just hand in a note saying, “Excuse us for not having adequate instruction time this year, but the Smith family prepaid for their condo in Myrtle Beach.”

One more example: the new red light cameras are drawing a lot of complaints from drivers who say they cause more problems than they solve, and if the city really wants to end its light-running woes, it ought to station police officers at busy corners to hand out tickets.

Yet not too long ago when traffic cops were handing tickets out at several corners here, the paper received angry letters and Bless Your Heart submissions complaining that police should not be wasting their time handing out traffic violations when there were “real crimes” that officers ought to be investigating. 

Can you say “just can’t win?” Face it, people are going to be unhappy about receiving traffic tickets, no matter how they are delivered.

Maybe instead of fostering these can’t-win scenarios we ought to be working to create solutions.

Let’s put in more bike lanes. That’s where cyclists really belong.

Let’s explore education options, like online classes that students can attend when the weather is bad.

And hey, let’s stop running red lights — or at the very least let’s recognize that traffic violations injure or even kill people every year and therefore qualify as “real crime” worthy of police time.

We don’t have to live in a can’t-win world. We just have to look for solutions to the problems that make us pessimistic and aim for victory.

Contact Janet Storm at jstorm@reflector.com or 252-329-9587.

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