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Kicking Bikers to the Curb

Eight cyclists were ticketed on Sunday for failing to come to complete stops during a charity event in Loudoun County. Authorities said they had received complaints from motorists about cyclists crowding the roads and running stop signs.

By Mike McPhate  |  June 12, 2009; 12:01 AM ET
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Although I certainly support enforcing our traffic laws, the problems I have regarding these particular tickets was that they were issued during a charity event. I've seen cops block off traffic for marathons, walk-a-thons, parades, and other why weren't they doing so for THIS event? Walk-a-thoners don't worry about jay-walking tickets, marathoners don't worry about pedestrian walkways or roadrules, etc. So why were THESE "charity workers" expected to stop at every corner as if they were just out doing an every-day ride?

Posted by: WilyArmadilla | June 12, 2009 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Though I fully support bikers rights to use the roads equally with motorists, they must follow the rules of the road. They should be held accountable, otherwise it's a free-for-all. But, I would also include ticketing those who ride on the sidewalks. Pedestrians face enough hurdles in this motorized area without having to dodge wheeled vehicles on sidewalks.

Posted by: jckdoors | June 12, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse

As a pedestrian, I think cyclists are more a danger to me than cars are. Cars stop at red lights and stop signs at least MOST of the time, but cyclists never do.

What's so freakin' hard about yielding the right of way in an intersection to a pedestrian? You'd have to stop your Lance Armstrong impression for a few seconds? Honestly, I think the tight Spandex cuts off the circulation to cyclists' brains.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | June 12, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

I honestly don't understand why they aren't ticketed for impeeding traffic. The very definition of "impeeding traffic" is traveling 15mph less than the posted speedlimit (10mph in some areas). I'm pretty sure the cyclists on Reston Parkway aren't doing 30mph!

Posted by: ITSec_Guy | June 12, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

This event happens every year on roughly the same roads. These are very rural areas with negligible traffic. The last time I road it, I was passed by cars maybe ten times per hour. Moreover, the riders are so strung out, with the exception of a very few teams that stick together in a tight pack, that the accusation that the riders are "crowding" anything is an outright, ridiculous lie. The police ought to apologize for being so untruthful. That is unacceptable.

How can there be a safety issue if there are very few other vehicles on the road? There is none--another ridiculous lie. The cops were just trying to make a rather stupid point. And I think many of the riders come from urban and suburban areas, so of course you have that wonderful anymosity between rural and urban folks simmering all the time.

I grew up cycling in a very rural state. Yes, cyclists do blow through stop signs IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE WITH NO CARS AROUND. So what? And no, reasonable police don't worry about things like this (especially for an ANNUAL CHARITY EVENT). But everyone within 200 miles of DC has some sort of chip on their shoulders.

Posted by: Wallenstein | June 12, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

A few cyclists run a stop sign and a bunch of out of shape motorists take out their prejudices on cyclists. I was riding my bike on Braddock Road once with a helmet in light traffic and some jerk blasts their horn at me. Hello tons of room use another lane. Natural for drivers to rage at slower vehicles and bully cyclists No surprise bigger is better mentality.

Loudoun county is notorious for the lack of sidewalks, shoulders and trails. For example if you want to push a baby stroller from McDonalds to Dulles Town Center you have to walk on the road because the stroller gets bogged down in the grass. Beautiful landscaping but No sidewalk and no shoulder. Obviously pedestrians and cyclists are at the bottom of the food chain here.

Posted by: jercha | June 12, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

I have a suggestion: Take them all to court and have the judge require the fines be paid directly to the charity to have the penalty expunged.

Therefore you have the enforcement that is required by law, and the charity gains its necessary support. Everybody wins.

Posted by: morgangale | June 12, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

I wouldn't classify cyclists as "completely reckless"--there are many who are, but many many more who DO follow the rules of the road to the letter. People just don't seem to notice these cyclists (just as they don't notice the hundreds of cars following the rules but do notice the guys weaving through traffic, speeding, and blowing through traffic lights). Cyclists should be treated like cars--ticket them (us) when they are breaking the law just as drivers are ticketed for similar infractions.

Posted by: Sarahfran | June 12, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

1. the word EVERY does not belong in any type of argument...there is no EVERY...people don't notice those who don't obey rules, rather those who break them...i've never had a motorist thank me for stopping at a red light or a pedestrian thank me for not blocking the crosswalk as i'm waiting for my green light

2. many drivers and walkers don't cycle, but many cyclists are also drivers and walkers...many of us respect the other groups and follow the letter of the law

3. it is ridiculous to ticket at a large charity event as pointed out above...walkers for breast cancer don't get ticketed (i have walked for breast ca 2x and for leukemia/lymphoma 1x) nor do marathoners or any runners at a sizable event get ticketed (done that, too) ...this would seem to be a vendetta, bordering on a hate crime

4. i have had to slow my bike as i am in a bike lane to avoid jaywalking peds crossing when their light is red and mine is green, to avoid cars parked in bike lanes and to avoid drivers opening doors into a bike lane and have been honked in a bike lane if i ride the left side of it to avoid doors...have been honked at following the letter of the law and occupying space on a roadway without a bike lane, something i am legally entitled to do

5. stop the hate

6. share the road

Posted by: MelOnWheels | June 12, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

@MelonWheels, ditto.

Posted by: spagball | June 12, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

I can understand not wanting to have charity riders ticketed - give them the same consideration as runners and walk-a-thon participants - in an organized event. But I have had cyclists blow through stop signs and red lights in front f me and when I calmly (not easy to do at that time) pointed out they had to obey the rules, too, I have been sworn at etc. with my kids in car - very nice. If you want to share the road - share the rules or be ticketed.

Posted by: BosSox59 | June 12, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

This is Absurd!
A charity ride for multiple sclerosis?
It's like having a marathon, and ticketing the runners for crossing streets at a DONT WALK sign.
I've seen lots of marathons on television , and I've never seen runners waiting for a DONT WALK sign to say WALK again.

The road is supposed to be closed to cars. The Police are supposed to be directing traffic, and stopping the cars at each intersection the bike route crosses.

Show me video of a marathon race , where the runners are waiting for a DONT WALK sign to change.

Posted by: AviationMetalSmith | June 14, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I completely agree that cyclists should obey traffic laws. In theory. However, there are just too many situations in the DC area that warrant breaking the law. I would never fault a cyclist for running a red light, say, at 38th street SE and Pennsylvania Ave SE. Should the cyclist wait for it to turn green, s/he would be mowed over as s/he struggled to clip in or accelerate. In fact, for the safety and sanity of everyone, I would encourage cyclists to - safely - run red lights in situations where they find themselves on a car-sewer.

Which bring me to the larger point: It is difficult to fault cyclists for breaking laws and ignoring signage when the bulk of it intended for drivers and the infrastructure is built to facilitate the high speed movement of a multi-ton steel contraption. Just keep in mind that DC is not the most cycle friendly city out there. If there were dedicated bike lanes, bike signals, Idaho stop laws, and the like, I'd understand wanting to cite cyclists. Until then, however...

Posted by: supersmax | June 17, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

While I think it is a bit outlandish to ticket cyclists at a charity event for all the reason listed above, I think it is exceptionally important for all vehicles (bikes and legs included) to follow the laws of the road.

That being said, this means we all have to KNOW the rules of the road. Because all of us have been a pedestrian and a motorist, we know that running a red light is illegal; same with jay-walking (despite many of us being culprits).

One of the biggest issues that creates such animosity between cyclists and motorists is that too often either the motorist or the cyclist or both do not know the cyclist's rights.

It is important that we all know what laws bikes must abide by because as it ends up there are a lot of things cyclists are allowed to do that many others view as illegal. Once we're all on the same page, we can decide who needs to be cracked down on.

Posted by: vckennedy | June 17, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

People need to realize:
1. Bicycles are not cars
2. Bicyclists are not pedestrians

There will be more and more bicycles on the road every year, so we need to deal with that and figure out what rules they should and shouldn't follow. Currently they are a nuisance for both drivers and pedestrians, because they mostly just pick and choose what rules they are going to follow.

I would support some kind of "crack down" as long is it (1) involved enforcing fair, bike-oriented rules, and (2) avoided expensive tickets, because many bicyclists wouldn't be able to afford them.

Posted by: xiann | June 17, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

As a biker, yes, I do blow through stop signs and red lights, but I'm always cautious only to do so when there is no oncoming traffic, otherwise I'll wait for an opening or a green light. Trust me, we've got a lot more on the line than you drivers do! But if I cause a scare, sure, I'll take a ticket...

The difference is that it takes a lot of physical energy to build up that momentum, so instead of tipping my toes down after a complete stop as drivers do, I've got to pedal my way back to cruising speeds again.

Generally, urban bikers are not welcome on the curb or in the street, so we try to take whichever is less congested. Drivers and pedestrians are going to have to deal with us just as we put up with them until the city puts down some more bike lanes.

And just a note to all you disgruntled drivers out there, I get around town faster on my bike than driving or metro, it's cheaper, it's exercise, and it raises your mental awareness and mood as you're out and about in the city...

As opposed to sitting in an enclosed space, waiting to get somewhere, and everything from red lights to road work to anything that moves in the vicinity is seen merely as an obstacle on your A to B.

Oh, AND we don't pollute.
Love yourself, love your neighbor, love your planet, ride a bike.

Posted by: snuffleupagus | June 17, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Obey the laws, cyclist or driver. But let's be realistic. There is a traffic circle in Lovettsville in Loudon County with 3 stop signs. I watched cyclists on a large organized Sunday ride this month (not for charity) pulled over one by one by County police for failing to come to a complete stop on this merry-go-around. Had they slowed to a near stop? Yes. In a couple of cases, they had clearly stopped moving forward, but immediately started off again, without putting a foot on the ground, because it was clear that no other vehicles were in the circle, or at the corner at which they had stopped. That is not 'blowing through stop signs'. The deliberate targeting of cyclists in this manner creates misunderstanding of the laws, shows a complete disregard of the practicalities of cycling, and discourages cycling as sport or transportation. I understand some of those cyclists produced driver's licenses when asked, and can expect to have points added to their driving records, and potentially increased auto insurance costs. Shameful police practice, that.

Posted by: jodanyo | June 17, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

The Hierarchy of Motion should govern behavior on roadways. The more simple and natural your form of motion, the more right to the road you have. Automobiles Yield to Bicycles and Pedestrians. Bicycles Yield to Pedestrians.

It is the responsibility of all users of the roadway to be mindful of their surroundings. A pedestrian is unlikely to injure another pedestrian in the course of walking down a road. It is quite possible that a cyclist could injure a pedestrian. It is assured that a motorist will injure and even kill a pedestrian or bicyclist. The increased danger that you pose to others while driving a bicycle or motoring means that you must be all the more mindful and respectful of those moving in a more simple and natural way.

Posted by: Motiononics | June 17, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

I think this question is completely inappropriate, promoting aggression towards bikers is a very dangerous exercise. We need to be supporting education and biker awareness as well as traffic enforcement for all who use the road, not hatred and road rage. Bicycles have as much of a right to use the road, by law, and a whole lane on the road as vehicles do. Please support tolerance in your polls not aggression as is symbolized in the subject of your poll.

Posted by: austenlc | June 17, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

It's a current popular misperception that cyclists are *all* scofflaws. There are MANY scofflaws among pedestrians, cyclists AND drivers. Can anyone reading this swear they have NEVER a) walked against a light on an empty street? b) turned right on red light even if the sign prohibited it or rolled through a 4-way stop sign? Take a moment to honestly answer and put it into perspective with this issue.

I think the most confusing issue is the CROSSWALK marking across the road. Crosswalks mean YIELD. So having a STOP sign for those on the trail and a YIELD for road traffic makes no sense. Pick One.

Everyone has to be considerate, because we are ALL out there and no one is going away. Another way to look at it is, even if a cyclist is slowing you down for a moment, think of how an additional car or two in that cyclist's place would affect you. Same way, only you'll soon be able to pass that cyclist!

Posted by: kiry | June 17, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

The laws need to be overhauled regarding bicyclists... survival while riding is my priority. There is no better time than the present to lobby for more relevant bike laws -while we have a mayor who is also a cyclist. Auto and pedestrian traffic in the district is and always has been dangerously congested and the ability of cyclists to negotiate the "grey zone" is legendary... there is no advantage to "crash and burn"...I have been hit three times in the past three decades by motorists ignoring their obligations to follow the traffic laws.. I have never hit a pedestrian... never caused a collision... I ride to live and get there safely...if it takes a little bit of "chicanery", well....

Posted by: aliasjhnsn | June 17, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Ahem. This is an absurd poll. Banning bicycles? W. Post, you are not promoting civil public dialogue. Instead of asking for people's opinions, how about asking them for something factual:

- Do you make a rolling stop now and then while driving? Me: I do.
- Do you obey 25 MPH speed limits while driving? Me: sometimes.
- Do you stop for pedestrians at crosswalks while driving or riding a bike? Me: sometimes.
- Do you stop for "STOP" signs while riding a bike? Me: sometimes.
- Do you know the law as it pertains to bicycling? Me: yes, but I know I'm in the minority here.
- Do you j-walk? Me: yeah, I do.
- Should I be throwing stones: no.

The laws are OK, I try to to obey them whether I'm driving a car, riding a bike, or walking. But I don't always. Traffic cameras are OK, ticketing bicyclists is OK, but probably not during a "charity ride." Driver education (for bicyclists and motorists) certainly could use some work. Law enforcement training, with regard to bicycle traffic, certainly could use some work.

There are a lot of productive things to be done, lets do those instead of snipe at one another.

Posted by: damosk | June 17, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

This poll sucks. I'm a cyclist and I watched another cyclist get hurt yesterday in a fall on 14th Street, and I resent the implication in the answers above that somehow there has to be an evil party in this.

Some cyclists are rule-abiding and diligent, and some motorists are morons. The reverse is also true. What I would support is an aggressive driver and cyclist education program so that EVERYONE knows the rules of the road. Cyclists have some rights that motorists have no clue about, and they have some responsibilities they never uphold (like always wearing a helmet, obeying all traffic signs, etc.) Plenty of room for improvement on both sides. Stop with the childish questions already.

Posted by: mediawatcher | June 17, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

I Support Bike Lanes!

Posted by: jaxxxon | June 17, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

It's safer for bikers, safer for drivers, and safer for all if we bikers out there act like true vehicles on the road and obey traffic lights and stop signs. That said - I have a hard time coming to a complete stop at a 4-way stop in a residential neighborhood with no one coming. So - I propose a deal with all you motorists who share my road. I promise to come to a complete stop at every stop sign (stopping at stop lights is a given) if you promise to use your blinker when turning.


Posted by: nelsein | June 17, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Laws should be different for cyclists. Current traffic laws were written with motor vehicles in mind with certain add-ons for bicycles. Bicycles and motor vehicles are very different in many ways including awareness of surroundings. Lawmakers need to take these aspects into consideration. Now I'm not saying that cyclists should be reckless ever. But when laws are written and facilities are created for cyclists, then cyclists tend to feel respected and therefore give more respect.
And what better way to encourage people to get out of their cars and onto more ecological and sustainable forms of transportation...
Change the laws, discourage driving.
Feel free to contact me.
Meredith Begin

Posted by: mbegin | June 17, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

That's like hunting geese in a cornfield. Charity rides tend to draw cyclists whose main cycling experience is riding on multi-use trails. They're going to expect special treatment on the road because they're on a *charity ride*, which, to them, is like a sort of special holiday.

What would be more helpful than targeted enforcement against cyclists would be routine enforcement of traffic laws every day. I routinely see cyclists riding against traffic, with no lights after dark, or disobeying stop signals/signs, but I have only twice witnessed police taking action against such behavior in the 26 years I have lived in the Washington area.

It's also worth noting that while all area jurisdictions require a substantial amount of formal training for driving a motor vehicle, training on how to ride a bicycle is generally limited to perhaps an hour in elementary school and occasional pamphlets handed out by police and bicycle advocacy organizations. Until the bicycle is taken seriously, on a daily basis, by law enforcement, traffic planners, and the like, most bicyclists will continue to act as if a bicycle is a toy, and saturation enforcement on charity rides is not going to do one whit to improve safety.

Posted by: Pogo3 | June 17, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Bottom line - cyclists must follow laws the same as drivers.
Comments by damosk perfectly match my sentiments.
As to the tickets given at the charity ride I did notice the claim that bikers were moving about 1-2 mph instead of a full stop [aka a rolling stop.] Doing so, while being prepared to fully stop, may be safer since it allows the cyclist to keep his shoes locked into modern pedals. It can take a couple or more seconds delay while coasting across an intersection to get shoes clicked back into the pedal mechanism. During this time the cyclist is distracted and less nimble. Getting up to speed and clearing an intersection is much faster from a 1 - 2 mph start.

Posted by: roberttown | June 17, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

You have to remember where this occurred to put it in perspective: Loudoun County is frankly the land of Roobus Americanus. They deserve what they get.

Posted by: robert7ii | June 17, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

this "survey" is ridiculous in that it only allows for either/or answers, and insists on categorizing "cyclists" and "motorists" as if they were all the same, and that only one of these groups could ever behave badly.

obviously some cyclists behave inconsiderately and in ways that endanger others. so too some pedestrians and some motorists. it seems to me that police should punish the behaviors that most endanger others, whether these be speeding on city streets (something that is far more dangerous to others than rolling stops by bikes), rolling stops by cars (this is not something exclusive to cyclists!), bikes blowing through stop signs, or pedestrians walking out in the street against the light, btwn cars, or without looking.

further, the lack of similar questions about drivers and walkers contributes to the notion that biking is a questionable or perhaps illegitimate form of transportation. why should this be? why is it ASSUMED that cars have the right to be on the road and pedestrians on the sidewalk, but the bicyclists are somehow interloping here they don't belong?

Posted by: jenny15 | June 17, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

I do not support a crackdown but I don't think motorists are entirely to blame. I moved to DC from Portland, Oregon. I biked everywhere in Portland and cars were used to looking for cyclists. That same culture and awareness does not exist here in DC and I do not bike here like I did in Portland. Unfortunately, cyclists need to be hyperaware and ride defensively. I support public awareness and education campaigns aimed at motorists and lobbying for more bike lanes. I don't think cyclists should be ticketed for transgressions like slowing then rolling through a stop sign, like many motorists do, but I do think they should follow the rules, wear helmets, etc., for safety and to build goodwill with motorists. I agree that it's not all "us against them". Even though I support use of roads by cyclists and enjoyed commuting by bike in previous years, I still get annoyed at cyclists who are all over the place and not obeying the rules of the road while I'm driving.

Posted by: uinta71 | June 17, 2009 7:04 PM | Report abuse

Unbelievable! As a commuter bicyclist I deal every single day with ABUSIVE motor vehicle drivers who try to run me off the road despite the fact that I am a VEHICLE by Maryland Statute. Problem is I can't win... If I ride near the curb, cars pretend I am not there and run me into the curb (glad I was wearing my helmet during that flip). If I ride in the center of the road (as a vehicle) people try to "buzz me" and scream words I can't post.

About three weeks ago, someone actually back tracked after going though an intersection to pursue (stalk?) me and tell me to get off the road and get on the sidewalk (bicycles riding on the sidewalk are illegal by the way). I asked the motorist to leave me alone but he decided to continue following (stalking?) me until I made a bunch of turns onto side streets and onto a sidewalk that was hidden from vehicle traffic and was able to escape (I guess I am fortunate that the police weren't around to cite me. I probably ran a few stop signs in my flight too). I now carry my cell phone on the front of my backpack so I can call the police in the event of serious harassment and can get a picture of a license plate (who knows how that will work out if I have to call some day).

I have had more than enough of having to deal with ABUSIVE CAR DRIVERS. I am sorry that my LEGAL means of transportation slows you down for fifteen seconds while you change lanes to pass me, also sorry that I have to go on main roads for about 3 miles of my 15 mile commute (which is only 11.5 miles by car).

Sure wish this area was a little more bicycle friendly... Funny, I thought this area voted for liberal democrats who scream about global warming. Oh, yeah, I forgot, global warming is something that everyone else needs to do something about, since it is far too inconvenient to walk, take a bicycle, ride the bus, or take the Metro! Instead we’ll blame our gridlock on a few people who use alternate means of transportation and play run the bicyclist off the road…

Finally, to all those motorists who are try to send me a message each day… Guess what I am very aware that your car is bigger and faster and deadlier than my little bicycle, but I am not getting off the road, so DEAL WITH IT!

Posted by: rroessle | June 17, 2009 8:36 PM | Report abuse

As a biker I find it easy to get heated by the fact that this question was even asked. However since it was asked I feel the need to comment. There are jerks who ride bikes and jerks who drive cars. Road rage is prevalent amongst every population of commuting humans, even pedestrians. However road rage in a car is far more dangerous. Cars cause more deaths in the U.S than anything else. Biking promotes physical fitness and provides a partial solution to our countries obesity and energy problems. Instead of banning bikes, new biking and walking roads should be established for commuters that connect to public transportation. This has been successful throughout Europe and parts of South America. In stimulating the economy and fighting GRIDLOCK, one of DCs biggest problems.

Posted by: acscorza | June 17, 2009 8:41 PM | Report abuse

First of all, I am all for progressive laws within downtown DC to help cyclists. Sure, cyclists inconvenience cars sometimes, but overall we lighten the traffic load in the city, free up parking, and are eco-friendly. I can't speak to the suburbs because in general the suburbs are not very bike friendly. Secondly, the way this poll is framed is a clear symptom of the fact that people who commute on bikes are the minority compared to people commuting in cars. While rule breaking bikers often inconvenience drivers, reckless drivers often kill or injure rule abiding cyclists and destroy their bikes as well. I work at a bike shop and believe me, many people come in who have been hit by cars. Often this is because: people do not signal before a turn and make a right turn directly in front of a biker in a bike lane, rear end bikers stopped at lights because the driver isn't paying attention, or just force a cyclist off the road. So rule abiding cyclists have plenty to complain about too, but we have a much smaller voice.

Posted by: jhughe22 | June 17, 2009 8:47 PM | Report abuse

I would support a "crackdown" on cyclists if it were focused on truly dangerous behavior (wrong-way cycling, night biking without a light and rear reflector, CWI, etc...) and if it came with a comparable crackdown on drivers and pedestrians. There are 10 times as many pedestrians as cyclists and 25 times as many drivers as cyclists. So for every officer you have cracking down on cyclists you need 10 cracking down on pedestrians and 25 on drivers.

Or you could measure it by fatalities. In which case the enforcement ratio for drivers/cyclists/pedestrians should be about 500/1/0.

In that case, yes, I'd support a crackdown.

Posted by: cranor | June 18, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

I think this is hugely complicated issue with broad implications for transportation, the environment, health, energy consumption, foreign trade, and national security.

I don't favor a wholesale "cracking down" on either side. I do favor making the roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Enforcement of existing laws isn't sufficient in the long run. In order to make the roads safer, we also need better education, better road design, and policies that recognize the inherent differences between autos, bicycles, and pedestrians.

With respect to enforcement of existing laws, of great concern to me is that after cyclist Daniel Hersh, a Navy SEAL, was struck from behind and killed in Virginia Beach on April 19th, Commonwealth Attorney Harvey Bryant refused to file charges because the driver said she never saw the cyclist ( The only explanation I have seen as to why the driver didn't see the cyclist is that there was glare from the morning sun.

So while I don't favor "cracking down" on either side, I find it totally unacceptable that drivers can employ the "I never saw him" defense and kill with impunity. I want better education, better road design, and better policies. In the meantime, I want better enforcement of existing laws.

Posted by: WhitakerS | June 18, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

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