Bicycle riding, cidadas calling and a frog’s leap

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The July 16 edition of Time featured an article on the increasing number of people who ride bicycles. One avid bicyclist, Jeff Frings, was quoted complaining about the numerous instances in which motorists have called him unprintable names, sideswiped him, rear-ended him, and run him off the road. He has video records of his encounters and now uploads them to his website, “bikesafer.blogspot.com.” He bikes over 100 miles weekly in his hometown, Milwaukee.

Bicycling in Auburn and vicinity has increased markedly in recent years, and I for one am pleased that it has, especially in the number of students now using bikes to commute to class and for other necessary trips in and around town. Bicycling helps to alleviate traffic congestion and reduces air pollution caused by automobile exhaust. The city has wisely made many areas within the city more bicycle friendly by providing bicycle paths and lanes. It also enacted an ordinance requiring motorists to give a clearance of at least three feet between their vehicles and bicyclists when passing.

A few bicyclists don’t seem to appreciate some of the efforts made by the city to accommodate them. I frequently make trips to and from downtown Auburn on Wire Road, which is heavily traveled during much of the day. A lengthy bicycle path parallels a segment of the road. On several occasions I have seen a bicyclist riding on the road, along the segment. On the first such occasion, shortly after the path was constructed, I pulled over well in front of the biker and motioned for him to stop. I wanted to ask him why he was not using the path. He slowed, flipped me a ‘bird,’ and shouted, “(Expletive) you. I have just as much right to ride on the road as you do.”

Since 1932, 663 bicyclists on the average have died in the country each year from accidents, most involving collisions with motor vehicles. That number continues to rise, with a 21 percent increase since 2008. (National Transport Safety Board report) Thousands more suffer from broken bones and other injuries. Thus, any reasonable measure to reduce the number of bicycle-automobile collisions that does not unfairly infringe on the rights of bicycle riders seems justifiable and warranted. The city of Auburn should consider enacting an ordinance requiring bicyclists to use bicycle paths or lanes, where they are provided, along roadways within the city limits. Exceptions could be allowed when groups of more than three are riding. Such an ordinance, if enforced, would undoubtedly meet with the approval of motorists who are offended by bikers who refuse to ride on the paths the city spent millions to construct and, I suspect, considerate bicyclists would approve, because a few irresponsible bikers are now allowed to sully the reputation of bicyclists in general. I invite others to express their opinions on the matter, pro or con.

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Cicadas are finally calling in fair numbers. I recognize four species now giving voice. The morning cicada, the afternoon cicada, the sundown cicada, and one that begins calling about a half-hour before dark and quits shortly after dark. I refer to this one as the humming cicada, because of the low-octave hum, hum, hum sound it makes. Its call almost overlaps the katydids’ songs, but usually ceases about 15 minutes before the katydids begin.

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I made an observation of something I had never seen before and would be surprised if anyone else has seen it. Each evening two and sometimes three juvenile green treefrogs can be seen adhering, using their toe pads, to the exterior of a glass door in back of my great room. They feed on the small moths and other insects that light on the door. One night while I was watching, a moth lit about ten inches above where a frog was situated. The frog leaped, vertically, and simultaneously caught the moth and adhered to the glass surface. A horizontal, prey-catching leap of ten inches, or even one at a 45 degree angle would not have surprised me, but this frog’s long, vertical, successful, predatory leap, beginning and ending on a slick glass surface, was to me, nothing short of astonishing!

 

Bob Mount is a Professor Emeritus with the Dept of Zoology and Entomology, Auburn Univ. He is also chairman of the Opelika Order of Geezers, well-known local think tank and political clearing house. He writes about birds, snakes, turtles, bugs and assorted conservation topics.

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