Marsha and her chainsaw...
Wouldn’t you know it? I haven’t been on the commuter bike for about 10 days, not since the winter weather rolled in on November 29th. The ride home that day was cold and wet, directly into a stiff north wind. The bike sat in the garage on the floor stand since then.
Naturally, when I went out to the garage to ride it to work today, it had a flat tire! Now, why didn’t I notice that last night as I cleaned and lubed the chain? It was a minor annoyance. I simply swapped the front wheel from the Bianchi and set off for work.
This morning I had a moderate headwind from the south. The temperature was an almost balmy 55F and I was working hard – and sweating hard – within a few miles. My anorak billowed like a parachute, adding even more drag going into the wind. To make matters worse, I had the theme from “The Brady Bunch” going round and round in my head. It was irritating and slightly maddening, but the tempo fit with my cadence as I ground along, and it distracted me from the effort a little bit. I toyed with alterations to the lyrics, some of them definitely obscene and others quite gruesome.
“Mrs. Brady – liked her brandy – and she downed it by the gallon every week.”
The roads were still wet in places, with treacherously slick railroad tracks and water-filled potholes. I had to pay strict attention to them too, and again, that helped get my mind off the wind.
When I finally arrived at the north gate, there was a brand new guard standing in the roadway glaring at me. He insisted I slow down almost to a stop so he could scrutinize my identification badge. Motorists, of course, just hold their badges up to the windshield and get waved through, but you never know when some pesky cyclist could be a terrorist.
“Just then Marsha – got out her chainsaw – and she hacked him into little tiny bits.”
Regardless, I made it in on time.
Not all my time was spent on the fun-filled lyrics, however. I thought about the dependency that’s fomented by some of our so-called advocacy groups. There were a few items I’d read over the weekend that kind of percolated for a while. One was written by a cyclist who bemoaned the fact that she couldn’t get from A to B on her bike because there were no bike lanes connecting the two. So she was ‘forced’ to drive somewhere to ride her bicycle. There were a couple of pieces with the usual ‘you can’t ride ABC Street because it’s too dangerous/too fast/too narrow/ too whatever’.
Many cyclists think this way and too many of our alleged advocacy groups encourage them to do so. They hype the danger of riding in traffic because their agenda calls for bike lanes on every street and roadway in the nation. Never mind if this is good for the community, good for cyclists, or good for the taxpayers. It’s VERY good for the organizations involved. Thunderhead Alliance, Bikes Belong, and sadly, even the League of American Bicyclists endorse such projects.
These bike lane proponents claim to have the needs of cyclists in mind when in fact their projects are mainly beneficial to motorists. Bike lanes do not serve the real needs of cyclists because they encourage a timid, subservient attitude in the cyclists who use them. Organizations who endorse such projects reinforce the attitude that cyclists are not meant to use our public roads and that cyclists have an inferior right to those roads. In the civil rights era, they would have been referred to as ‘Uncle Toms’. For those of you too young to remember, that’s an epithet – not a nice thing.
So the message here is to know your place, and don’t expect much more. That is, don’t expect much more unless you join the organization and send in your dues. It really does revolve around the politics of fear. In this case, the fear comes from riding in traffic, and rather than try to overcome the fear, these organizations prefer to pursue government-funded facilities. That’s fine, but the ever-increasing amount of TEA-21 money has not produced a corresponding increase in the number of cyclists. It’s money that could go to other projects that benefit today’s road cyclists.
Imagine for a moment that bicycling education programs received even a tenth of the TEA-21 money. We could reach into the schools with something like “Road User Education”, a curriculum to educate students regarding motor vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians, in effect providing them with the information regarding the proper way to share our public roads. This would involve multiple perspectives including all modes of travel. It’s very true that the world changes when you see it through someone else’s eyes.
OK. I’m done ranting for today. I’ll go back to contemplating Marsha and her chainsaw.