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LETTERS for April 24 issue

By Staff | Apr 24, 2014

Drivers must watch out for cyclists

The Hawaii Bicycling League extends our condolences to the family of Karl Hagen, who was hit from behind and was killed on Honoapiilani Highway in Kihei. Karl was hit while bicycling in a bike lane, a separated space for bicyclists to ride that should be safe from motorists.

The Hawaii Bicycling League calls for the application of the state’s Vulnerable User Law in this case. When a motorist breaks the law and kills or seriously injures a pedestrian, bicyclist, wheelchair user, road worker, police officer or other person on the street who is following the law, the lawbreaking motorist is subject to more severe punishment, such as elevating a misdemeanor to a felony. The purpose of the Vulnerable User Law is to remind all motorists to exercise extra care whenever they are driving near vulnerable users. Our human bodies are no match for a vehicle weighing 20-50 times more than us traveling at a speed that increases the force of impact into a deadly blow.

While motorists need to be vigilant, vulnerable users must also follow the law, as Karl was doing, and watch out for hazards on the road, including cars and trucks. Bicyclists also have a duty to treat pedestrians with extra care.

Advocating for safety on Hawaii’s roads is a tradition that goes back to King Kamehameha and very likely before him. Public roads and trails are for everyone to use, and we have a mutual obligation to each other to use roads safely. Kamehameha proclaimed the Law of the Splintered Paddle (Mamalahoe Kanawai) in 1797, which stands for the principle that everyone has the right to be safe on Hawaii’s roads. This was made part of the Hawaii State Constitution in 1978.

The Hawaii Bicycling League is a 39-year-old Hawaii 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose mission is to enable more people to ride bicycles for health, recreation and transportation through advocacy, education and events. Please see www.hbl.org to see the range of education, advocacy and events to promote safe and enjoyable cycling. Bicycling is fun, healthy, environmentally friendly and saves money. The Hawaii Bicycling League teaches a workshop called Walk Bike Drive (www.hbl.org/walkbikedrive) that teaches motorists how to be careful and safe around bicyclists and pedestrians.

There are many ways drivers can cause crashes – by being impaired (drugs, alcohol, sleepy), by being distracted (cellphones, talking, eating, reading, makeup while driving), by speeding and rushing, and by being inattentive, among others. It isn’t clear what exactly happened in the Hagen tragedy. One positive step, however, was the adoption in 2013 of a law making it illegal to hold a cellphone while driving, which has resulted in many citations and strongly reminds drivers that distracted driving is illegal and dangerous!

The Hawaii Bicycling League, police, prosecutors and many concerned people are fighting to keep strong Hawaii’s law (HRS 291C-137) by retaining the principle that holding a cellphone while driving a car must be banned. Cellphone use should only occur when a driver is off the roadway with the car motor off. Proposed amendments threaten to make the law unenforceable.

Please support keeping the bill strong to eliminate distracted driving, which is dangerous and deadly. Please tell the House and Senate Transportation Committee chairs, Rep. Ryan Yamane(repyamane@capitol.hawaii.gov/808-586-6150) and Sen. Kalani English (senenglish@capitol.hawaii.gov/808-587-7225) that you want to keep the current law as-is to prevent future roadway deaths from cellphone use.

CHAD TANIGUCHI, Executive Director, Hawaii Bicycling Alliance


Give citizens a raise by lowering taxes

In Mayor Alan Arakawa’s plan, he wants to give government employees a raise – by raising taxes. But if he were serious about giving people a raise in take-home pay, he would lower taxes, not raise them.

After all, government employees have to pay taxes, too. If taxes go down, that means they get to keep more money for themselves.

I’m a teacher at King Kamehameha III Elementary School. We teachers recently got a raise, but it was accompanied by federal tax increases, which meant that my take-home pay was cancelled out. Most of my “raise” went straight back to the government.

But here’s an idea: lower taxes!

By lowering taxes, we would all get a raise – a big raise! Property owners, and even renters, would feel a big relief! After all, property taxes are usually just passed on to the renters, too.

I was a renter in Lahaina, until the price of my rent skyrocketed. Today, I can no longer afford to live in Lahaina; in fact, I’m moving away. Ask anyone at my school if I’m a good teacher, and they will say hands down, yes. But Lahaina is losing good teachers like me because it’s too expensive to live here. Many other good teachers, and good workers, are leaving Lahaina because the numbers simply don’t add up.

Of course, some functions of government would probably need to be privatized. But that’s a good thing. Often times, the private sector can do a better job than the government anyway, and they can make a profit doing it. When counties around America privatize their functions, they often make big surpluses.

Privatize… and you’ll have a surplus. Lower taxes, and good workers will stay on the island. Lower taxes, and we will all get to keep the fruits of our labor. This would cause a boom in the local economy – and in the mayor’s political ratings. Raising taxes is bad math. If you really wanted to give a pay raise, lowering taxes would give a pay raise to everyone!



Candidate for Congress Busting the myths on legalizing cannabis

This is a response to the recent letter “Don’t legalize pot.”

So many thoroughly debunked arguments, and so little space to address all of them. I will try to tackle the biggest myths surrounding legalizing cannabis. It should be noted that all of these same talking points were used to argue against medical marijuana, and they all turned out to be false. Legalizing medical marijuana did not result in more crime, more traffic accidents or increased usage among either teenagers or adults.

A recent University of Chicago study analyzed traffic data in all 19 states that legalized medical marijuana, and found an average of an 8-11 percent DECREASE in traffic fatalities over the first full year of legalization. It was found that legalizing marijuana is associated with a decrease in both the amount of alcohol consumed and frequency of use, leading researchers to conclude that legalizing marijuana causes less accidents because people tend to drink less.

As far as the effect on crime, researchers at the University of Texas have found that legalizing medical marijuana did not result in the increase of crime in ANY category, and found a slight decrease in homicides and assaults. Even preliminary studies in Washington and Colorado are finding that full legalization has not resulted in increased marijuana use, which is consistent with results in other countries such as Amsterdam, Portugal and Uruguay, where cannabis use has remained steady.

As for the medicinal qualities of cannabis, these are well-documented, and the overwhelming majority of scientific research confirms that marijuana can be used to treat a wide variety of patients, including those suffering from glaucoma, seizures and cancer.

To answer one of your questions – yes, marijuana is much, much safer than cigarettes or alcohol, according to science and the mathematical body of “statistics.”

Marijuana prohibition has been tried for over 70 years, and it has been a complete and utter disaster of a policy that has improved nobody’s life in any way. It is time we start living in the 21st century and recognize the marijuana prohibition for the complete failure that it is.



Take responsibility for the feral cat problem

When Michael Nakano was principal of Lahainaluna High School, he gave me permission to catch, neuter and release the feral cats on the high school property.

Members of the community below the campus continued to dump their unwanted cats on the high school’s property. These cats drove out the neutered cats and, of course, multiplied. I could not keep up with trapping, fixing and releasing. Mr. Nakano had me catch all the cats. I had to take them to Maui Humane Society, where they were killed.

The only answer to the cat problem is personal responsibility, compassion and intelligence. I have spoken to very nice people who deceive themselves into thinking these cats can be dumped in the cane fields and survive by catching mice. I’m sure it’s easier to think that way instead of taking responsibility.

D. WALTON, West Maui


Install rumble strips on all state highways

(The following letter was sent to Glenn Okimoto, director of the State of Hawaii Department of Transportation.)

I am a cyclist that lives on Maui, and I spend many hours riding the roadways here.

This weekend, one of the members of our cycling community, Karl Hagen, was killed when he was rear-ended by a pickup truck that had drifted into the bike lane.

Karl was a safe and conscientious cyclist, wearing the proper safety gear, but he was defenseless in the path of the truck, struck without even knowing he was about to be hit.

There is something available that might have saved his life: rumble strips. If the Piilani Highway had rumble strips installed along the edge of the traffic lane, then Karl might have had a chance. He either would have had a warning and been able to get out of the way, or the driver might have been able to correct his path and get back in the traffic lane in time to avoid a collision.

The state has chosen to install rumble strips in small sections of Highway 30 in Kahana and also a small section of the same highway between McGregor Point and Maalaea. Why haven’t they been installed along all the highways in Maui? As someone who frequently drives and rides the Pali, I know that at least 80 percent of the drivers cross into the bike lane every time they round an inside corner, and it’s only a matter of time before this results in another tragic accident. Why no rumble strips here?

Please install rumble strips on ALL state highways in Maui.