Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Making an Ass of Yourself on the WWW

A good friend of mine at work has told me there are some parts of the country where people, often inebriated and driving a pickup truck, have their last words on this earth written down as "Hey, Watch Me Do This". I thought of that while watching the video below, posted to the Web by a member of a paceline of bike racers (or racer wannabes) demonstrating the ability to trash a perfectly functioning paceline by screaming through a stop sign and then having to belatedly and abruptly (recall that you NEVER do anything abruptly in a paceline) brake for cross traffic, resulting in touched wheels or other bike parts and an excellent example of someone winning the coveted Ass Over Handlebars Award. That's a serious blunder, guys. Proclaim it to the world and get defensive about it? Ya just gotta there no limit to bad taste?

Prof. Andy Cline has taken particular umbrage with the cyclists in this video, suggesting it shows all that is wrong with sport cycling. I think highly of Andy's writing, but also think there might be a bit of overkill in Andy's voice in this case, given he is working hard to make bicycling a solution to environmental and urban problems while these folks are using bicycles as toys and with great hubris, flaunting the traffic laws and public decency, thus providing those critical of cycling with more ammunition of why we simply can't be trusted. To those who condemn these folks while not looking in the mirror, I caution you to remember the old admonition about not throwing rocks at others if you might be worthy of a few chucked your way.  This behavior is stupid, risky, and it puts us all in a bad light, but we should not condemn cyclists any more than we condemn motorists based on the widespread hubris show by Driving While Cellular motorists in Santa Fe or other locations with cell phone bans. We all derive from the same gene pool. Sadly, we all fail to recognize the connection between ourselves as bad actors and the fate we therefore deserve or impose on others. That's the bottom line as I see it.

Accidents don't just happen. They are often driven by supremely bad judgement or arrogance as shown in the example above. Racers, racer wannabes, and Weekend Warriors whose training plan doesn't include stop signs, as well as commuters who are too important or delicate to obey the law and painfully sacrifice a little momentum, are not immune from the results of their decisions. Their decisions can drive up the crash rates we all hear about when someone tells us how dangerous bicycling can be. As a bike racer back when I was a younger man, I learned that lesson about the tradeoff of safety vs. ego the hard way, via a very intense instructional moment with Mr. Pavement. Man, that was also the wrong day to be wearing a white jersey!

Politics aside, just be careful out there and stow the hubris. The traffic code is there for a reason.


Steve A said...

A lot more dramatic than videos I have posted, however. "This is a bus lane..."

Jon said...

Hmmm, that looks like a four-way stop, and it's hard to tell if the motorist actually stopped (they certainly slowed). You can get away with one party failing to stop and yield at a four-way, but not two. So don't plan on being the non-yielding party.

The first dumb idea was blowing through a stop sign with a paceline. The second was yelling at the motorist rather than using the time to evade. The third may have been stopping rather than doing a quick turn, although I doubt the lean would have been less disruptive to the peloton. Ugly. Looks like everyone got away without much more than road rash and anger, though.