Monday, March 15, 2010

Early Season Head Start

Racers in my area used to go south late in the winter to get a jump on training for early season races. Riders who lived in those warm climates never stopped training.

Transportation cyclists who live in places where they never have to stop cycling get the jump on motorist harassment and legal hassles ahead of those of us who take some time off in the winter.

ChipSeal is still embroiled in his battle with the authorities and some anti-cycling motorists in Ennis, Texas. His latest report is here. You can donate to his legal defense at Rantwick or DFW Point-to-Point. The donation button is at the top of the sidebar.

Every time Chip gets seen in the traffic lane, motorists phone 911 to report him to the cops. The gendarmes duly arrest him and take him to jail. The charges don't appear to stand up to the letter of Texas traffic law, but judges and juries will no doubt be offered other interpretations by the prosecutor.

Meanwhile, here in the formerly frozen north, cyclists are bursting out of their cocoons and comparing coping strategies. One unlikely fellow traveler told me about an encounter with a driver from out of state, during summer tourist season, pulling over to cuss him out for "slowing down traffic" at a time when the motoring public is doing a bang-up job of slowing itself down with no assistance at all from the two-wheeled community. The cyclist this driver chose to confront is peculiarly well suited for such an encounter, because he is as regular a guy as you will find.

Aaron runs a very popular lunch spot. He's the kind of person who can talk to anybody. He didn't turn the motorist into a friend and advocate, but he held his ground on behalf of all street-clothes cyclists who choose to ride to work. I feel really good knowing people like him are part of the equation. In the final analysis, a bunch of riders like Aaron do more than most professional cycling teams to make the point that bike riding is for everyone, the more the better.

"It's tough at the beginning of the season," Aaron said Saturday as we discussed our respective commuting routes. "Drivers aren't used to seeing us."

As I watched a driver weaving all over the road on Saturday, probably texting, I wondered if they see anything. On the plus side, the weaving wordsmith was at least driving slowly as he fumbled with the keypad. It might give him an outside chance of spotting a cyclist in his peripheral vision in time to swerve into oncoming traffic instead.

Daylight Relocating Time signals the beginning of my commute, so I guess it's on. I'm glad to be able to get out of the car. I do wish it could be nonstop fun with no a**holes, but we are still dealing with the human race here.


Steve A said...

A small number of those a**holes are necessary to give us perspective on the vast majority of people that just want to get along.

cafiend said...

As long as the encounter is brief, rare and involves no contact. The other thought that goes trough my mind is that the aggression of the few reflects the desire of a greater number who simply lack the will to act.

I have said before that a lot of motorists who acknowledge that cyclists have a right to use the road would still be quite happy if none of us exercised it. They would rather we grew up and got over it. Quite like my first wife.

Interestingly, she was in love with the entire state of Texas. That was who she left me for. The whole state. I was flattered that it wasn't just a single person.

Keri said...

Cafiend, Interesting thought about the aggressive few vs the neutral majority. I suspect they are emboldened by the belief that their anger is supported by the social norm — that all the other drivers around them feel the way they do. One could certainly get that impression from the comments in newspapers. IMO, bullies are essentially cowards.

Good story about Aaron and the motorist who was probably infinitely more delayed by other cars on the road. Bias is blind to its own absurdity. That story really illustrates what we're up against in this culture... a distorted belief system unwittingly carried out by many in law enforcement.

Cheers to spring and getting back on the bike!