ROADS REPORT

Article December 28, 2000
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Don’t talk to strangers


Don’t talk to strangers


Riding your bicycle to work can be great exercise, not to mention a real money saver. Sometimes.


When a Bay Area, Calif., bicyclist stopped at a traffic light recently, he was approached by another man and told to hand over his wallet. At first, the bicyclist thought the would-be robber was joking, but when he realized he was serious he told the man to go away. This prompted the suspect to remove his belt and begin whipping the bicyclist with it. The bicyclist was able to get away, but then, for no apparent good reason, turned around and returned to the scene of the incident.


He found his attacker in a liquor store and sarcastically asked if he still needed money. The attacker then grabbed a 40-ounce bottle of beer and smashed it across the side of the bicyclist’s head. Luckily, just as the bloodied bicyclist was about to take another 40 to the face, a third man entered the store and tackled the suspect, holding him down until police arrived.


Tired of tires


Bill Davis of Smithfield, R.I., has found a unique way to drive the prices of real estate down on his street. For the past 20 years, he’s been piling used tires on his property and at one point had a collection of over 10 million (he said it was closer to 30 million.)


But that number has dropped since contractors were sent by the government to gradually remove his collection. Federal and state officials found the tires to be a fire hazard and ordered them removed at a cost of 79¢ per tire and sold as fuel. They said that if the tires were to ignite, each one would release about a quart-and-a-half of oil. Such an event could cause tremendous environmental damage to nearby Narragansett Bay.


Don’t make me get up


A group of disabled people who commute on Denver public buses are suing the Regional Transportation District, claiming the RTD is not concerned with their safety.


The Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition claimed the RTD failed to maintain the hydraulic lifts on many of its buses that are used to board riders in wheelchairs. As a result, they claim, many bus drivers won’t pull over if they see a wheel-chair at a bus stop making many disabled people repeatedly late to work or appointments.


Conversely, a Chicago taxi driver is suing the city for fining cabbies up to $750 for denying service to some potential fares. Drivers feel it’s not safe to pick individuals up in certain Chicago neighborhoods, but the city claimed that’s discrimination unless the driver’s life is being directly threatened.


Air bags on the rise


Starting late this year, General Motors will begin to offer curtain and dual-stage air bags in many of its cars.


The side curtain air bags will first be introduced in 2001 Saturns. Unlike standard side air bags that inflate from the side of the seat, the GM curtain air bags inflate from the roof and uncurl down in a fraction of a second upon impact. The system uses two sensors: one in the pillar between the doors to measure the force of any blow, and another between the driver and passenger seats that determines if the car is being hit by another car or just a shopping cart. The federal government believes the curtain air bag better protects against head injuries and could save 600 lives a year if installed in every car.


The dual-stage air bags will appear as a standard feature in GM’s larger 2001 models like the Bonneville, Impala and LeSabre. The cars will come with a system that measures the force of a frontal collision and decides whether to activate the air bag’s full power or a reduced 70% setting. GM believes this reduced strength bag is adequate in nearly all crashes and could reduce air bag injuries by as much as 20%.


Take me drunk, I’m home


An Englewood, Colo., councilwoman was arrested for driving intoxicated recently in the middle of the afternoon. The garden manager, who has represented her district since 1997, told police she had consumed three beers prior to taking the wheel at 2:45 p.m. She then preceded to fail a roadside sobriety test and became combative with officers. Her blood-alcohol level was registered at 0.20, twice the legal limit. The councilwoman missed the city council meeting the following Monday.


Toxic avengers


In one of the dumber robberies in recent history, a trailer containing 20 barrels of potassium cyanide was stolen from a warehouse in Linden, N.J. When the trailer was recovered in a park in Queens, N.Y., however, it was empty. Authorities worry that the thieves mistook the $3,800 worth of powder cyanide for some other chemical. Cyanide is used in the making of silverware and jewelry and is extremely poisonous when ingested.


They’re out to get me


A Duluth, Minn., man called police last month to report that 40 armed law enforcement impersonators were on his property ready to take away his 7- and 8-year-old children. Alfred Spears told the dispatcher that he was loading his guns and covering the windows of his home with blankets in preparation for the ensuing gun battle. The only problem was, the enforcement impersonators were all figments of Spears’ imagination.


Police went to Spears’ house to detain him for hospitalization but, with Father’s Day just a couple weeks away, the man sped off in a pick-up truck with his girlfriend behind the wheel and his two children and some guns in the floorwell. When police pursued, Spears climbed out the passenger-side window and began shooting at them with a shotgun, eventually disabling one patrol car. Police returned fire not knowing Spears’ children were in the car, but no one was injured.


The seven-mile high-speed chase ended when the man had his girlfriend drive to his pastor’s house. Once everyone was inside, Spears called 911 himself. After two hours of negotiations, Spears surrendered peacefully. He was taken to a mental hospital and faces eight years in prison, not to mention a really crappy Father’s Day gift.


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