Commentary

The Alderman And The Bicycle

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FFW Editorial

First-term alderman Matthew Petty stole a bike from the University of Arkansas campus, and it’s a hot topic around town. Some people are defending him; others are calling him a thief.

Petty has said that he made a mistake and is using the argument that the bike (it’s actually a three-wheeled bicycle or tricycle) that he took was a beater and he thought it was abandoned. Petty has said that he was going to fix the bike up, recycle it and that it was not his intention to steal. Petty commented on the incident on the Fayetteville Flyer blog but posted nothing about it on his own blog.

Even if it can be justified that there is a “right” reason to cut a lock and take something, there is something more disturbing about this situation. Specifically, that someone elected to a position of power, to represent and speak for the citizenry, has acted in an arrogant and immature manner, without regard for others.

Shouldn’t those in public office be even more aware than the rest of us that there are proper channels to maneuver, especially in questionable situations? Our aldermen and other elected officials navigate these waters on a regular basis. Why did Petty not first check with police before he took the bike?

I get pretty fired up when I hear about people cutting locks and taking bicycles. When I lived in the city, my bike was my only personal transportation. I didn’t have a car. I let the bike get rusty and funky because I’d heard it’s generally the nicer bikes that are stolen. I commuted to work by public transportation and the bike never moved during the week. One day, someone cut the lock and took it. Maybe they thought it was abandoned.

I moved to another city, didn’t have a car there either, but had another beater bike to get me around. I brought it to Fayetteville, locked it up outside. The tires were flat because I rarely rode it. I needed my car to get me to where I was going most of the time. Someone cut the lock took that bike, too. Did they think it was abandoned?

Does anyone remember the Free Weekly City Bikes? Way back when the Weekly was just a pup, some of the folks working on the paper and several volunteers fixed up some old donated bikes, painted them up crazy, put professionally made signs on them designating them as Free Weekly free rides. We put them on the street for anyone to use. We did two rollouts and the bikes disappeared both times, a total of more than 25 bikes. Maybe because they were just sitting around town, people thought they were abandoned.

The last bike that was stolen from me was a blue three-wheeler like the one Petty took. It was in pretty bad shape when I got it five or six years ago but was perfect for my grand idea of pedaling the Free Weekly downtown delivery route. After pouring money into it, even the most athletic delivery folks had a hard time riding it. The bike was locked up in front of the Weekly office with a big Free Weekly sign on the back of the basket. I thought it was a nice eye-catching PR kind of thing and imagined riding it in parades.

Obviously I’m a little sensitive about locks being cut and bikes being stolen, but the real issue here is the judgment of an alderman.

Our elected officials should be held to the highest standards. Those who lead should be capable and willing to make fair and mature decisions. The actions of Alderman Petty show a serious lapse in judgment and I wonder if he is up to the task of making serious and often complex decisions for his constituency and our city.

Susan Porter, Editor

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