Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"I'm here because you broke something"

I keep getting annoyed but before I can fully focus and complain the weather runs in front of me, screams like a peacock and then fans out it's tail feathers and I completely lose my train of thought in a jumble of "ooo, so pretty, oooooo.." I love the weather especially in the early morning when the breeze is feathery light and there is just the right mix of cool and warm air slithering over my face and arms in a fabulously sensual manner. 

Where was I.

Oh.  Yes.  A week or so back, when I was deep into my obsessing about how to bicycle the nine miles to work in the company of the dauntless Rapunzel and not die or be injured I saw a (not very helpfully timed) article on cnn.com (admittedly not a bastion of taste) about how (newsflash!) a person driving a car can beat the living crap out of a person riding a bicycle and face exactly zero in consequences.  

I'll pause so any bicyclist reading this can get over their surprise. 

I was a little excited about seeing this unhappy problem get some attention but I was also a little sad because (1) any drivers out there who did not already realize that they can run a bicyclist over and face nada in consequences have now been educated and (2) the featured picture, of a woman in traction, was pretty depressing and serves to reinforce the idea that bicycling is an activity reserved for suicidal maniacs.

I then read the comments because (as my mother has been saying for decades now) I never learn.  I read through that swill so you don't have to and the comments fall nicely into two categories which I have digested and spat out for your benefit.

The occasional bicyclist:  These were pleading desperately for their lives, saying that they themselves never run red lights, really Aunty Em!  Oh dear and yes, we hates those awful bicyclists who *do* run red lights and agree that those bicyclists get what they deserve but please don't run *me* over, okay?  OKAY?

The incompetent trolls:  These are the guys (pretty much always guys for whatever reason although some pose as young women) still living in mom and dad's basement who don't actually own a car (it was repo'd) but when they drive mom's Ford Fairmont, well they love to run over bicyclists!  They like to run over pedestrians and cars and housepets as well, cause that's just how the roll!  To these people all I can say is:  Please.  A well-placed troll is a joy to be taken in by.  The rest of you are just embarrassing.


  1. "cyclist" is becoming an extremely unhelpful abstraction, a trigger word of prejudice and ignorance. When a person is injured in an accident, it's time to focus on the person, and drop all references to whatever means they happened to be using to get around, or get to work. It's like getting attacked at work, and having people consider whether I write with a pen or pencil. Since I am a pencilist, should I expect, or accept, injustice?

    1. Or like a woman who gets attacked and people ask what she was wearing at the time :/

  2. I read the comments on that piece and they were utterly, utterly terrifying. I'm about to move to New York and want to cycle there and they were the most off-putting thing I've come across so far about its atmosphere for cycling. She was hit by a hit-and-run driver, there was no suggestion she was in any way in the wrong and she was very seriously hurt. And all the comments were about how "that'll teach cyclists to run red lights". If, as I have previously theorised (http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/why-no-man-is-island-even-in-his-car.html), you can tell a lot about a society from behaviour on its roads, it was rather worrying.

    1. cnn.com is *exceptionally* bad. For comparison, there was an article about autistic children and people were making comments to the effect of "they should not be allowed in restaurants" etc. etc.

      That said, I don't think of myself as a total wilting violet but I consider bicycling NYC to be pretty much for the hard core. If you are in the state and not the city, it might be better? Biking SF is very different from biking the suburbs, as I do.

    2. Chafed,

      Thank you. I will now add a CNN.com discount to any future comments I read on there.

      I'll be working in mid-town Manhattan (although our office is going to move to TriBeCa soon) and living probably in Brooklyn. This is, in other words, firmly in New York City.

      NYC certainly doesn't seem the most bike-friendly place I've ever encountered. The canyon streets in Manhattan don't feel like they have the human scale for it. But the way I'm looking at it is that lots of people come to London, suck their teeth and say, "I think you'd have to be mad to cycle in London". Yet, by a mixture of knowledge of safe, quiet routes and practice and many other things, I cycle in every bit of London, from suburb to Hyde Park Corner. I'm hoping I'll learn similar techniques for the Big Apple. I'm certainly liking the look of the bike paths along the Hudson and East Rivers, and over the bridges.

      This will all, of course, look less wise and clever if next year you're reading the tragic story of someone who sounded like he might have been the author of the Invisible Visible Man blog had been crushed underneath a speeding NYC garbage truck or some such.

      All the best,