Friday, April 24, 2009

On those who ride bicycles...

I remember the days of my youth, when having a bicycle seemed to be like being handed the keys to the kingdom. What freedom! What a wonderful sense of empowerment to be able to cover so much ground without walking! I never seemed to hang onto my bicycles though. As I recall, every one was stolen within a short period of time. That's when I discovered borrowing bikes from friends. All of the perks, none of the major responsibilities for loss.

Years passed and I eventually grew up and abandoned the cycling phase. I believe I was 19 when I gave up my last 10-speed. The realities of life demanded that I have an adult mode of transportation. As recently as 2000, my better half went out and picked up an ageing but mint condition 10-speed bike for me, shortly after we arrived here in Ottawa. I used it briefly to commute to work along the Rideau Canal, though normally opting to walk the 20 minute trek. In the winter, I would sometimes skate in on the Canal itself, having the chance to enjoy a hot cider on the way home as well.

When cycling though, I would always abide by the rules which I had learned when I was just a child.

1) Always cycle with traffic.

2) Always cycle on the shoulder of the roadway, out of traffic.

3) Always signal your intentions to traffic.

4) Vehicles of any shape or description, always have the right of way.

5) When more than one, always proceed in a single file.

Those used to be the rules for cycling. Apparently sometime within the last 50 years, all that has changed. Now cycling is no longer about any of that. Nowadays we have those who imagine themselves as being Tour de France material, those who use their bikes simply for commuting, or those who think they are courrier messengers in New York City, newborn knights of the asphalt kingdom.

Those who thrash themselves against cars and busses in the bowels of the urban sprawl, clearly have a death wish. They do not so much circulate with traffic, as they do through and around it. This can only lead to bad shit happening. I have seen them many times, darting in and out, hopping lanes, cutting in... all without the benefit of any appreciable hand signals. Are they simply mentally deficient? Or perhaps like so many nowadays, they have been raised to believe that their safety is the responsibility of everyone else except themselves. We periodically read about one of them taking on a bus and losing badly. This leads to a mighty hue and cry for the next week or so, where like-minded cyclists rail against cars and trucks, while steadfastly refusing to exercise the least bit of common sense or to comply with the rules of the road.

The commuters, I'll give them space as they are normally well dressed for the ride (including reflective materials, lights when it's dark-ish...). They're just trying to get through the day and have decided that cycling is for them. They run solo or in pairs. They usually respect the rules of the road and I have absolutely no axe to grind with any of them.

The biggest chip on my shoulder is reserved for those 'Lance-Armstrong-come-latelies'. Those rolling clusterfucks, dressed in their howlingly gay-coloured spandex atrocities, who believe that simply because they are travelling in numbers, they possess some divine right to sprawl across a lane and a half of blacktop. I particularily like running into these retards as I'm wheeling along a county road out in farm country. You know... Those narrow two-lane jobbies where to run into a herd of these clowns forces you out into large, directly oncoming farm machinery. In my opinion, any of these assholes who extends beyond the single-file row, is fair game. It is patently illegal, not to mention dangerous.

Just because you happen to know ten or twelve other losers who like to dress in gear that leaves their tackle dangling in the breeze for their fellow cyclists to admire, does not mean that you have permission to create chaos on the roads. Running in a pack like that is only permissible if you are participating in an organized race, where the roads have been closed to vehicular traffic and you have a police escort. That's it!! Other than that, you're just another target on the road, my friend.

Bear this in mind: If you are on my roadway and you leave me with the choice of eating a combine harvester or possibly killing six or eight of you... that combine harvester is going to be plenty safe. Who knows... Maybe something like this is needed to send the message out to the rest of you lot. YOU are responsible for your own safety. Just as I am for mine. And I take my safety very, very seriously indeed...

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