Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Why Bother?

I was thinking on my ride in this morning. I was wondering how many motorists who saw me or passed me had possibly read Joe Soucheray's rant linked in my previous post. I'm not saying I felt like some sort of target, but the whole deal kinda got to me. I tried to use the hour and ten minutes of sunny 20 degree riding (actually quite pleasant this morn) to sort it out. It didn't take long before I arrived at a couple of conclusions.

It doesn't offend me that people don't "get it." I don't expect anyone to get winter riding, particularly if their lifestyle choices include chronic reliance on an automobile and an unabashed love of climate control. Winter biking defies logic to some, but it transgresses any measure of entitled judgment to say that winter bikers are stupid or moronic. Riding a bike in the winter is no more dangerous than walking, driving or snowmobiling. But to those who have no context and choose to simply pass judgment I'm certain it makes little sense. To me and many of my winter biking friends, however, getting in a car every morning to go to work makes no sense at all. Are we even then? No. There are many valid sides to an issue. Unfortunately, hate mongering has no patience for other viewpoints.

Some unnecessary nastiness aside --the flagrant name calling, as well as belligerently fanning the flames of drivers' ire -- the issue that gnaws at me most is the utter disregard for life expressed in the piece. There is no respect or decency in saying that you'd run over a cyclist, squash them like a bug and leave the body for the authorities to find. This is sickening. It is disgraceful that someone would publish it on a "news" site. It is equally disgraceful that someone could read it and go, "Yeah! Right on." But I'm sure many frustrated drivers did just that.

Bypassing bikers' existences as breathing human beings, equating us with bugs, is simply dismissing our presence as a supreme nuisance -- a blight on the otherwise sanitary and urbane life of a driver, as it is implied. The reality is quite the opposite, as drivers are dependent on a web of expensive factors (economic, physical, emotional, environmental) that must be maintained in order for them to operate their machines. It might allow you to travel in style and avoid the elements, but in a grand sense operating a car is far from refined.

If you are a driver who truly views bikers as a nuisance, you'd be much better off directing your energies thusly: 1) Convince legislators to appropriate more money for bike lanes and paths; 2) Call St Paul/Mpls street departments and request that they thoroughly plow lanes to allow more room for bikes on your "favorite driving route," or request that they plow thoroughly on secondaries. (All they have to do is get a copy of the Twin Cities bike map.) One reason drivers notice winter bikers is because quite often the peaceful secondary routes that normally keep us out of your hair are hardly plowed and much less bikeable in winter. These approaches do nothing about the crucial need for patience while driving. I'll leave it to you and your therapist to work on that issue.

I'll get to my ultimate point. Even if you are one who does smash insects, spray them or zap them with a fancy light, you have to admit one thing -- cyclists are not bugs, they're people. If you toy with the sentiments expressed by the quoted editor (and passively condoned by Mr Soucheray) you're advocating legalized murder. That is truly sickening indeed. This practice reeks of a time in our country when stuffed white men referred to other races and ethnic groups in animalistic terms and treated them as such. In my idealistic way I thought perhaps we'd grown past such colonialist behavior.

So, Joe, I'll refrain from calling you Joe Doucheray again in this post. (Although it's uncanny how substituting one letter in your last name can convey such an effective image.) After all, that was engaging in the same sort of name calling for which I deride you in this post. However, I want to state how truly sad it is that a "news personality" can make it a business and develop a following by catering to the lowest common denominators of intelligence and reason. Your brand of pandering challenges no one to reconsider their judgmental tendencies and polarization on issues; it simply cements the laziness of one-sided views and further atrophies your fans' already oxygen-deprived gray matter.

Thanks for doing your part to chip away at tolerance and respect -- sorely needed traits among many drivers toward their fellow motorists -- by inciting fear and ignorance. But most sarcastically, thanks for your efforts to further alienate drivers from other LEGAL users of the road.


Linden said...

thanks John... beautifully put.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the idea that if people are soooo offended by sharing the streets with bikes, they need to funnel that energy into working to get more bike lanes and like you said, get existing ones plowed or just get the streets cleared better in general. I had someone honking at me on 28th street the other day - it's **3 lanes!!**. No reason this man couldn't share and give up one of those lanes. Gah.