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Cars OK- Bikes Evil (a rant, sorry)(6 posts)

Cars OK- Bikes Evil (a rant, sorry)LoGear
May 23, 2003 1:33 PM
Am I the only one surprised to learn that it's OK to drive my air-polluting, gas-guzzling SUV through the National Cemetery, but not my bike?
I've frequently visited the Tahoma National Cemetery near my home in Kent WA. Today I decided to ride my road bike instead of my Jeep. I was surprised when a worker came out, stood in front of my bike, and informed me that it's illegal to ride a bike on the road through the Cemetery. He asked which grave I was visiting- I told him "all of them". He stated that although cars are OK, riding a bicycle is "exercise"- and that the Cemetery is a national shrine, within which exercise and recreation are illegal. After his lecture, I told him he'd made his point, and asked him to step aside to let me pass (I was already on my way out). As I pedaled away, his parting shot was a reminder that the speed limit is 25mph. (I'm flattered by that one!)
Anyway- my opinion is that the men and women buried in the National Cemetery gave their lives for our freedom. Every time I've ridden through that site, I've reflected on the sacrifices which were made. Our press let us know that in Afghanistan, the Taliban didn't allow children to fly their kites. But our bombs "freed" those people...
Sorry for the rant- but does anyone else see the irony in this? Does anyone have any suggestions on how to challenge this law?
A few years ago in DC there was a big fuss about that rule changeMB1
May 23, 2003 1:52 PM
Arlington National Cemetery was a very popular (and safe) commuting route for cyclists. When the National Park Service decided to change the rules there was a really big ruckus.

DC cyclists are very well organized but the Veterans Groups carried a bigger stick. It is not what you know, it is who you know.
Yes and nokenyee
May 23, 2003 3:31 PM
You have to see it in their shoes. They believe it disrespects the dead. Your biking their to them is no different than playing naked volleyball on the grounds.

A compromise would have been to ask them to run a bike path next to the cemetary so it's easier to visit. I'd bet if you told you were visiting a specific grave and the bike is your transportation, you would have gotten in w/o problems too.

Yes and nobburgbiker
May 23, 2003 5:00 PM
I was there just last year with my mom and we were there to visit a specific grave. We rode our bikes from home so it was our only mode of transport to the grave. We got permission and a map to visit the grave and from what I could tell riding our bikes to the site was fine.
Interesting Cultural Shift --Gregory Taylor
May 23, 2003 6:37 PM
The attitude that one cannot engage in anything other than respectful, "serious" activities in a cemetary is actually fairly recent. Until the mid-20th century, it was not uncommon for cemetaries to be viewed as places to stroll or have a picnic, especially on Sundays. Folks were respectful, yes, but no more so than when they went about doing other things. I suppose that American society was less ooked-out by death back then -- it was something that was part of everyday, um, life. The death rate was much higher, people were born and died at home, and their familes often prepared and buried their dead themselves. They also didn't warehouse their dead back then, like we do now. Instead of burying them off in a crowded plot or some condo-like mausoleum, they put them close by, right in the church yard, so family could visit each Sunday and they would be remembered. It's also interesting to compare this attitude with, say, the French, who run tours down in the catacombs to go look at the bones.

The "shrine" spiel that you got from the worker in the National Cemetary has some legs, in my view. Military cemetaries are a very different deal. Like it or not, a part of our society says that should behave in a way that honors the sacrifice of the combat soldiers buried there. The military graveyards in France, Arlington, Gettysburg, Antietam, etc., can be awe-inspiring places, and it is not unreasonable to expect respectful behavior from those that visit. This is especially true when you realize that the fundamental cultural task of a National Cemetary is to recognize, honor, and in part validate the sacrifice that each one of those headstones represents. It collectively makes us feel better as a society to honor those that fall in armed conflict. How and why we honor them is an interesting cultural study in and of itself -- you could write quite a book comparing, for example, magisterial faux-Temple monuments (such as the Tomb of the Unknowns) that were constructed post WWI with the understated-yet-powerful Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., and what that shift says about our culture and its attitude toward war and the men who die in them.

Back to the topic -- yes, it would be jarring to have legions of runners and riders in spandex and jog-bras trooping past the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington, for example. I can see their point. Frankly, I'd like to see them bar most of the tourists that show up at Arlington. They can be amazingly obtuse and disrespectful, with little sense of where they are or how they should behave. But I'm just grumpy and old...
re: Cars OK- Bikes Evil (a rant, sorry)harry hall
May 25, 2003 7:52 AM
This reasoning is a$$ f&*%ing bacwards, especially considering the wars of George I and II. To drive an oil-burning vehicle through a veterans cemetary would seem like a desecration--our national idiocy re transportation has killed too damned many US military men and women already as we wage war to keep the cheap oil flowing. The VA is stone, dead wrong--these days, driving is treason.