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Council declines to repeal bicyclist harassment law

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 4:21 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Ian Thomas, executive director of the PedNet Coalition, discusses the City Council's ordinance on the harassment of bicyclists on Aug. 17.

This story has been corrected to report that the Columbia City Council tabled a proposed amendment to the bicyclist harassment ordinance that would have added protections for pedestrians and people who use wheelchairs.

COLUMBIA — Keeping track of where the city stands on protecting bicyclists from harassment lately has been about as difficult as riding a bike across Interstate 70, but the Columbia City Council tried to remedy the situation on Monday night.

The council on Monday night reaffirmed its commitment to an ordinance it passed on June 15 that makes harassing bicyclists a misdemeanor. In doing so, it rejected on a 4-2 vote a proposal by Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade to suspend the ordinance for six months to allow the community to determine whether there were better alternatives. Only Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill sided with Wade.

The ordinance passed in June makes it a Class A misdemeanor to throw anything at bicyclists, to threaten or knowingly endanger them or to deliberately frighten or disturb them. Violators can be fined $1,000 and/or be sentenced to a year in jail.

In a separate vote earlier in the meeting, the council decided to table for two months an amendment to the ordinance that would have added protection for pedestrians and wheelchair users. The amendment had the overwhelming support of those who spoke to the council. Council members, however, felt the issue would be better addressed after a task force that will be appointed to study the relationships among motorists, bicyclists and others has done its work.

Several people who spoke in favor of the amendment also opposed a repeal of the initial ordinance, which Wade had argued in hindsight was passed too quickly and without adequate public input.

Supporters of suspending the ordinance have argued that the ordinance codifies something that already exists and that this is not an issue of motorists versus cyclists. But there were few voices in support of the suspension on Monday night.

Those who opposed a suspension of the ordinance said that it would send the wrong message and that the new law is effective in countering cyclist harassment.

Others said education would be the key to bridging the gap between communities.

“I see the controversy fed not by information, but by misinformation,” Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said.

Even after the public hearing, Wade argued the suspension was a good idea, given the feedback he had received from constituents who feared they’d be ticketed or prosecuted if they inadvertently threatened a bicyclist.

"There is also the perception that this ordinance symbolizes that they will be held responsible even if they’re obeying traffic laws,” Wade said.

Later in the meeting, the council also rejected on a 4-2 vote the idea of spending $9,500 to promote a community dialogue on the relationship between motorists and bicyclists. Only Wade and Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser voted in favor. Thornhill said the need was rendered moot by the council’s decision not to suspend the harassment ordinance.

Although the task force has time to find ways to amend the ordinance, Skala said not suspending the ordinance allows for the basic need for protection.

"It's a safety matter, and safety doesn't wait," Skala said.


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Comments

Matt Wilkinson August 18, 2009 | 1:26 a.m.

OK - now can we all move on past all the rancor.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr August 18, 2009 | 4:04 a.m.

Correct this is already on the Missouri Law Books.

Just remember that all of you councilmen who voted to keep it in place next time re-election comes around because you just might not make it back into your seats again after this blunder.

(Report Comment)
Ron Ribiat August 18, 2009 | 6:59 a.m.

The photo caption that "The ordinance now includes all bicyclists, pedestrians and wheelchair users" is incorrect. The vote to expand the ordinance to include other modes (i.e. pedestrians/wheelchairs) has been tabled, and will be discussed again after the taskforce makes a recommendation to Council.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley August 18, 2009 | 8:54 a.m.

This is "stupid government" in action....

All of the things this ordinance covers is already a crime under the Missouri Statutes. It is not a matter of having the laws in place, it is a mater of enforcing them.

Damn Right, Chuck! If there were ever a reason to boot these "Dipsticks" out of office, this would be it....

Rick.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr August 18, 2009 | 9:34 a.m.

>>> Damn Right, Chuck! If there were ever a reason to boot these "Dipsticks" out of office, this would be it <<<

They will not be getting my vote and I will do all I can to be sure all of my friends do not vote for them either after I explain this stupid crap they are trying to pull on this community needlessly.

I encourage everybody who is against this Ordinance to do the same. It is the only way to send a message to this inbred cabal of a city government we must put up with.

(Report Comment)
Circle Man August 18, 2009 | 9:54 a.m.

Yea boot em' out if you can. The only problem is, you'll actually have to take part in a process that removes you from behind a keyboard. The lack of people complaining about this ordinance last night was indicative of a minority.

Face it, there is an issue and the concerned people are better citizens than the modicum of complainers on this web fourm.

(Report Comment)
Robert Morrow August 18, 2009 | 10:38 a.m.

I, for one, will be voting to remove Jerry Wade. His proposal to suspend the ordinance was foolish pandering to a vocal minority.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle August 18, 2009 | 10:56 a.m.

Done, blathered about endlessly, blathered about some more, now reconfirmed. The harassment ordinance is here to stay. OK, let's move on. Perhaps next on the council's agenda could be to rescind the ordinance that requires all motorists to honk when passing other motorists or cyclists?

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle August 18, 2009 | 10:59 a.m.

We'll see just how many of Columbia's voters are really fed up with the city council and mayor during the next election.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 18, 2009 | 11:57 a.m.

Chuck and Rick, my understanding is that Chief Burton disagreed with your claim that the contents of the ordinance do not duplicate state law completely. What statute are you guys working off of?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr August 18, 2009 | 12:09 p.m.

John Schultz the one obviously you skipped over reading that has been posted on this site and on the Trib by many.

Obviously Chief Burton does not familiarize himself with State Law.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr August 18, 2009 | 12:15 p.m.

Circle Man all it takes is citizens voting and I assure you an internet campaign in that direction is not hard at all do get started.

(Report Comment)
Circle Man August 18, 2009 | 1:04 p.m.

Sure thing Charles. We've seen the dismal numbers of angered citizens at this ordinance 2x now; one at the town hall meeting and the numbers last night at the City meeting.

These paltry numbers are bearing light on the few internet posters who are spreading mis-information.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 18, 2009 | 1:51 p.m.

I, for one, commend Councilmen Wade and Thornhill for realizing the publc relations, community tone and practical impact the ordinance had and will have on Columbia. It is obvious to me that the town's power lies with organized groups such as the PedNet Coalition and not the sentiments being conveyed by cyclists and motorists at-large.
Low turnouts at a meeting could be indicative of the disdain we feel for those sitting on their thrones at city hall and throne dwellers should never discount low attendance as lack of interest or concern. There are many other venues for residents to communicate their unhappiness with the manner our city leaders lead us down the path of absurdity.)
Unless the ordinance also requires bicycles to display registration tags and also includes enough concern for motorists who are startled by illegal moves and behavior from the cyclist, which I consider bicycles harassing motorists, the ordinance is an unfair document which elevates the importance of bicycles at the complete disregard of the motorist. It is obvious to me that Ian Thomas wants bicycle riding to be elevated to a special interest/protected class at the expense of motorists. It is also obvious that this town needs a motorist coalition/lobbying group to protect those who drive cars in this town. Until such an organization is formed and puts public pressure and exposes this favoritism towards PedNet and GetAbout, this ordinance is a one-sided win. A win for PedNet yet a loss to our town's integrity.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking August 18, 2009 | 4:10 p.m.

Ray wrote:

"practical impact the ordinance had and will have on Columbia."

Has there even been a practical impact? Has even one driver been charged under this ordinance (which has been in effect for several weeks now)? Has any cyclist tried to press charges under this ordinance? No.

BTW, I've never heard one person even mention this ordinance outside of the two online newspaper forums.

Far more angst and anger has been generated writing about this than has been brought by any direct effect of this ordinance on drivers and cyclists alike. Can we stop complaining and get on with our lives?

DK

(Report Comment)
Robert Morrow August 18, 2009 | 4:56 p.m.

I commute on a daily basis and I have experienced improved relations with automobile drivers since the ordinance was enacted. The City Council did the right thing last night and they should be commended for it.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 18, 2009 | 5:14 p.m.

Chuck, please quit dodging and post the state law YOU claim makes this ordinance irrelevant. I'm sure a civic activist like yourself would love to stick it to me and Chief Burton, so please, please post the state statute and your analysis of how Columbia's ordinance is duplicative.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 18, 2009 | 7:11 p.m.

DK wrote:
("Has even one driver been charged under this ordinance (which has been in effect for several weeks now)? Has any cyclist tried to press charges under this ordinance? No.")
Then what purpose does the ordinance serve? Is our city council now in the business of passing insignificant ordinances? Is the passing of the ordinance a public relations ploy for Robert Johnson and Ian Thomas to show off their own self-importance? Is the ordinance being used to further justify a 22 million dollar expenditure?
IMHO, the ordinance is symbolic of the way our city leaders do business. It seems to me that there's an inner-circle which is taking care of their own, at complete disregard to the general public.
Kudos to Mr. Wade and Mr. Thornhill for seeing beyond that and acknowledging the silent majority.

http://www.columbiamissourian.com/storie...

http://www.columbiamissourian.com/storie....

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr August 18, 2009 | 8:14 p.m.

Well John here is one link to start:

http://www.pdfdownload.org/pdf2html/pdf2...

Here are more provisions of that law posted here as commentary:
http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/2009...

Another to the entire section:
http://tinyurl.com/nya48r

That will keep you busy as I at this time am not going to review every story just to find that one post.

Maybe Ray Shapiro has it book marked?

All this ordinance is really is a mirror of an already existing MODOT Law on the books now.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr August 18, 2009 | 8:45 p.m.

And to add more here for John to chew on:

>>> 307.188. Rights And Duties Of Bicycle And Motorized Bicycle Riders
Every person riding a bicycle or motorized bicycle upon a street or highway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle as provided by chapter 304, RSMo, except as to special regulations in sections 307.180 to 307.193 and except as to those provisions of chapter 304, RSMo, which by their nature can have no application. <<<

This plainly states they are already covered under state law.

There was no need for this localized law except for show boating for a specific group of people.

I'll find you more tidbits John.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr August 18, 2009 | 8:49 p.m.

>>> 307.190. Riding To Right, Required For Bicycles And Motorized Bicycles
Every person operating a bicycle or motorized bicycle at less than the posted speed or slower than the flow of traffic upon a street or highway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as safe, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction, except when making a left turn, when avoiding hazardous conditions, when the lane is too narrow to share with another vehicle or when on a one-way street. Bicyclists may ride abreast when not impeding other vehicles. <<<

>>> 307.193. Penalty For Violation
Any person seventeen years of age or older who violates any provision of sections 307.180 to 307.193 is guilty of an infraction and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not less than five dollars nor more than twenty-five dollars. Such an infraction does not constitute a crime and conviction shall not give rise to any disability or legal disadvantage based on conviction of a criminal offense. If any person under seventeen years of age violates any provision of sections 307.180 to 307.193 in the presence of a peace officer possessing the duty and power of arrest for violation of the general criminal laws of the state or for violation of ordinances
of counties or municipalities of the state, said officer may impound the bicycle or motorized bicycle involved for a period not to exceed five days upon issuance of a receipt to the child riding it or to its owner. <<<

Chew on all of that John and learn how to keep up on your reading.

All of this is already covered under MODOT already.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr August 18, 2009 | 8:55 p.m.

One more via city code:

>>> Sec. 14-494. License--Required.
No person who resides in the city shall ride or propel a cycle on any street or upon any public path set aside for the exclusive use of cycles unless such cycle has been licensed and a license or permanent stamp is attached thereto, as provided herein.
(Code 1964, § 12.1410)
Cross References: Licenses, permits and miscellaneous business regulations, Ch. 13. <<<

If this city would actually learn to enforce the laws and ordinances already in existence then none of this issue would have had to create such a boondoggle.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 18, 2009 | 10:06 p.m.

("HARASS
Definition:
1. keep bothering or attacking somebody: to persistently annoy, attack, or bother somebody

2. exhaust enemy with repeated attacks: to exhaust an enemy by attacking repeatedly

ha·rass·er noun

Word Usage
See embarrass.")
http://encarta.msn.com/dictionary_186161...

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 18, 2009 | 10:11 p.m.

("Aggravated harassment in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor.
S 240.31 Aggravated harassment in the first degree.
A person is guilty of aggravated harassment in the first degree when with intent to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm another person, because of a belief or perception regarding such person`s race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation, regardless of whether the belief or perception is correct, he or she:
Damages premises primarily used for religious purposes, or acquired pursuant to section six of the religious corporation law and maintained for purposes of religious instruction, and the damage to the premises exceeds fifty dollars; or
Commits the crime of aggravated harassment in the second degree in the manner proscribed by the provisions of subdivision three of section 240.30 of this article and has been previously convicted of the crime of aggravated harassment in the second degree for the commission of conduct proscribed by the provisions of subdivision three of section 240.30 or he has been previously convicted of the crime of aggravated harassment in the first degree within the preceding ten years.")
source and more:
http://definitions.uslegal.com/h/harassm...

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 18, 2009 | 10:49 p.m.

Chuck, out of all of the duplicated and irrelevant (don't just link a Trib story and say look at the comments or the entirety of Columbia's chapter 14 if you think there is something of import there) content you linked, the only one that might possibly be related to Columbia's bike harassment ordinance is 307.188 (http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C300-399...) which reads:

"Every person riding a bicycle or motorized bicycle upon a street or highway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle as provided by chapter 304, RSMo, except as to special regulations in sections 307.180 to 307.193 and except as to those provisions of chapter 304, RSMo, which by their nature can have no application."

If there is a state statute protecting car drivers from harassment and the other activities outlined in Columbia's ordinance, then I suppose Columbia's ordinance would be considered duplicative. I took a quick gander through chapter 304 (http://www.moga.mo.gov/STATUTES/C304.HTM...) and found:

Motorists to exercise highest degree of care--violation, penalty.

304.012. 1. Every person operating a motor vehicle on the roads and highways of this state shall drive the vehicle in a careful and prudent manner and at a rate of speed so as not to endanger the property of another or the life or limb of any person and shall exercise the highest degree of care.

2. Any person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a class B misdemeanor, unless an accident is involved then it shall be a class A misdemeanor.
(L. 1996 H.B. 1047)

Effective 3-13-96

*No continuity with § 304.012 as repealed by L. 1987 S.B. 83.

(2002) Riding lawn mower is considered a motor vehicle under section. Stonger ex rel. Stonger v. Riggs, 85 S.W.3d 703 (Mo.App. W.D.).

I would appreciate any lawyerly (not Chuck) commentary on this statute and Columbia's ordinance if we have any lurking about.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 18, 2009 | 11:17 p.m.

Ray, I don't think bikers are considered any of the protected classes that you listed.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 19, 2009 | 1:42 a.m.

John:
Nor should they be.
If ANY person feels they are being physically assaulted, harassed or placed in imminent danger or peril by another, they already have the right to contact local law enforcement officers and log a complaint.
This ordinance is an insult to every person protected by laws concerning race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation.
If the state wanted to protect spandex wearers, they would have already included them as a protected species.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking August 19, 2009 | 3:48 a.m.

Ray wrote:

"Then what purpose does the ordinance serve? Is our city council now in the business of passing insignificant ordinances?"

These ordinances, like many others, are simply tools that citizens and law enforcement can use in specific situations. Many of the situations are uncommon, but enough cyclists have had problems that they persuaded council this was needed. Obviously enough motorists don't feel that this ordinance is such a huge imposition (like you've repeatedly said) to offer any sort of rebuttal to Council.

"Is the passing of the ordinance a public relations ploy for Robert Johnson and Ian Thomas to show off their own self-importance? Is the ordinance being used to further justify a 22 million dollar expenditure?"

No. The ordinance was requested by Councilwoman Hoppe in response to an incident reported to her by a constituent. Many other cyclists supported it when it was first passed. Ian Thomas has been a cycling (and walking/wheeling) advocate since long before the $22 million existed, and so has Robert.

This is not some huge dark conspiracy to take away your car (although I think a lot of people (and the country) would be better off considering a car as transportation of last resort). It will not affect you if you don't fall prey to road rage. Relax - your easy-motoring world is not going away, unless you abuse the privilege.

DK

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 19, 2009 | 4:14 a.m.

("Thanks to a flurry of emails and calls from area bicyclists and a good turnout at the Columbia City council meeting tonight, an effort to suspend the Columbia bicyclist harassment ordinance has been stopped.
I was able to attend the city council meeting today and was very pleased to see so many supporters of the ordinance out at the city council meeting.

The many emails, calls, and personal words of support at the city council meeting carried the day. MoBikeFed was pleased to be part of that effort, alerting our members in the area, as did PedNet and other local bicycling groups.

The result of the meeting is that the current bicycle harassment law is retained, with no amendments or changes for now. And there will be no suspension of the harassment ordinance.")
source and more:
http://mobikefed.org/2009/08/your-advoca...
("Members of PedNet in Columbia and the areas' bicycling community have been working with the Columbia City Council to introduce a model bicyclist harassment ordinance.
The MoBikeFed legislative committee had an opportunity to review the proposed language and give input to Robert Johnson of PedNet, who has led the effort to move the legislation forward with the city council.")
source and more:
http://mobikefed.org/2009/05/bicyclist-h...

Friday, July 24, 2009 at 6:24 a.m.

("COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- Crime victims in Columbia can now report a broader variety of offenses from their computers.

The city police department allows residents to report thefts and acts of vandalism online. The program has been expanded to include reports of bicycle harassment...")
source and more:
http://www.connectmidmissouri.com/news/s...

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 19, 2009 | 4:36 a.m.

Hey, DK:
I don't abuse my car.
I also follow these rules, which were already on the books:
304.012. Highest Degree of Care. Every person operating a motor vehicle on the roads and highways of this state shall drive the vehicle in a careful and prudent manner and at a rate of speed so as not to endanger the property of another or the life or limb of any person and shall exercise the highest degree of care.
Explanation: Motorists may not do anything, even something that otherwise appears to be legal, that endangers a bicyclists, pedestrian, or other motorist.
--What's the deal with bicycles cutting me off, passing me on the right, jumping on and off sidewalks, running red lights and not having any lights at night?
How do you suggest I report these hazards on the road? Do they have glow in the dark license plates? Will they lose their driving privileges?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr August 19, 2009 | 4:39 a.m.

John Schultz it is all lined out here too:

http://cc.bingj.com/cache.aspx?q=modot+m...

As stated all it is and will be is a duplicated law already on the state books and the only reason I can see for this going on is to become the latest city with these "Fashion Laws and Ordinances".

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 19, 2009 | 4:41 a.m.

("Pennsylvania's DUI Laws Apply to More Than Just Motor Vehicles
A Montgomery County, Pennsylvania resident convicted of Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol a few years ago, traded in his motor vehicle for a bicycle; to prevent himself from receiving any future DUI related charges. He never anticipated being charged with a second-offense for Driving Under the Influence, while riding his bicycle.")
source and more:
http://www.philadelphiacriminaldefensela...

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 19, 2009 | 4:51 a.m.

Hey doobs:
I got an ordinance for you.
How about we pass a bicycle sobriety/stoner ordinance which advocates for CPD to have drug sniffing canines whiff bicycle backpacks. You know, sort of like those motorist sobriety check points us drivers happily endure.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking August 19, 2009 | 8:23 a.m.

Ray wrote:

"How about we pass a bicycle sobriety/stoner ordinance which advocates for CPD to have drug sniffing canines whiff bicycle backpacks."

Wouldn't bother me. I haven't partaken in at least 25 years. I've also never ridden after drinking more than maybe one beer. However, you've got to wonder if the expense of doing that would be justified.

You may not abuse your car, but you can certainly abuse your driving privilege. Using a 3000 pound vehicle as a weapon against a 200 pound unprotected cyclist would certainly qualify as abuse. Just don't do that and this ordinance will mean nothing to you.

Why do you seem to spend so much time looking for cyclists who are breaking the law? Most of them don't, but you don't seem to notice them, or acknowledge that they exist. All we hear about is how much of a distraction and inconvenience those irresponsible cyclists are for you. Perhaps it's your perception of the situation that is at fault here?

DK

(Report Comment)
Glenn Rice August 19, 2009 | 9:40 a.m.

Charles Dudley Jr wrote:

"Just remember that all of you councilmen who voted to keep it in place next time re-election comes around because you just might not make it back into your seats again after this blunder."

Yes, this issue is so much more important than the city budget, roads, sewers, growth, crime, economic development, and all the other trivial matters that Council members deal with as full-time, unpaid jobs. You Council people really screwed this one up!

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr August 19, 2009 | 11:56 a.m.

Ya Glenn Rice every city across this nation should have double and triplicate laws and ordinances on their city books that are all ready in place most times on the state law books.

Yup every city should you betcha by golly molly in this society where alot are screaming bloody murder for a smaller government foot print across our nation.

Yup by golly gee let's inflate those laws and ordinances even more by heck.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 19, 2009 | 9:25 p.m.

("Here's McHenry, as quoted in the Congressional Record:

"A major component of the Democrats' energy legislation and the Democrats' answer to our energy crisis is, hold on, wait one minute, wait one minute, it is promoting the use of the bicycle.

Oh, I cannot make this stuff up. Yes, the American people have heard this. Their answer to our fuel crisis, the crisis at the pumps, is: Ride a bike.

Democrats believe that using taxpayer funds in this bill to the tune of $1 million a year should be devoted to the principle of: "Save energy, ride a bike.'' Some might argue that depending on bicycles to solve our energy crisis is naive, perhaps ridiculous. Some might even say Congress should use this energy legislation to create new energy, bring new nuclear power plants on line, use clean coal technology, energy exploration, but no, no. They want to tell the American people, stop driving, ride a bike. This is absolutely amazing.
Apparently, the Democrats believe that the miracle on two wheels that we know as a bicycle will end our dependence on foreign oil. I cannot make this stuff up. It is absolutely amazing.")
source and more:
http://www.streetsblog.org/2007/08/09/co...

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking August 20, 2009 | 4:13 a.m.

Riding a bike is only one way of saving energy, and it's silly to think it would solve any "fuel crisis". However, it would get someone around in case of a fuel shortage, like they had last summer in Atlanta. Had people thought ahead that gasoline might not always be available, a lot of the confusion and violence that happened there could have been avoided.

Part of the reason we use so much energy is we want things NOW. We demand to get places in the shortest times possible, and we demand that everything from seasonal vegetables to prepared food be available on our schedule, not nature's. Taking longer to get places under your own power, and cooking seasonal foods at home instead of prepared or fast foods, can really cut down on one's energy use (and expenses).

Supply side energy solutions take a long time to come on line, and have the problems of NIMBYism, fuel supply, and perhaps environmental consequences. I'm OK with nuclear, but it's hard to finance and slow to build. "Clean" coal doesn't currently exist in any form anywhere, and the amount of new oil we can produce is limited. Conservation and efficiency, including human powered transport, must be a part of any energy policy.

DK

(Report Comment)

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