By Christopher Cudworth
So my friend Monte sent me a link to a video, now taken down at Deadspin.com, of a confrontation between a bulked up angry man and a group of cyclists who apparently did something to annoy the man while driving.
Except there seemed to a whole lot more going on with the angry man than a simple disturbance in his journey by car from here to here. He seemed to be seriously fucking angry at the entire idea of cyclists using the road at all.
The video lasted about 7 minutes with the man yelling, even standing nose to nose with one of the cyclists who stood over his bike without budging. Even in the face of coarse attempts at intimidation, the cyclists admirably held their ground and asked questions about why the guy was so mad.
But the video was not the entire story of this confrontation or its documentation on the Internet. There were comments to be made in the section below the video. And one of the very first comments read this way:
There was an affirmation of this sentiment by another viewer as well.
So the landscape is clear enough. Some people hate cyclists on principle. Others hate cyclists for running stop signs and other offenses. And cyclists either use common sense or they don’t while riding on the roads. It’s that simple.
This debate reminds me of a sign on a hilly road commonly used on group rides and such. The sign reads: CYCLISTS USE CAUTION.
Of course you could change the sign to fit the attitudes of angry drivers by putting a bit of invective at the beginning. Then it would read. FUCKING CYCLISTS USE CAUTION.
Or this: CYCLISTS USE FUCKING CAUTION.
Or this simplest version, preferred by those too impatient to consider any other version, which would simply read: FUCK CYCLISTS.
The original road side really tells the right story. Cyclists who don’t use caution will find themselves in dangerous situations. They also piss off a lot of drivers.
But people who refuse to use caution while driving their vehicles are far more dangerous to the health and well-being of others, not just cyclists. They whole mantra ‘FUCK CYCLISTS’ actually expresses a much deeper societal anger issue because that kind of anger comes from a different place than inconvenience. It seems to come from a general dissatisfaction with anything that stands in your way.
The same sort of sentiment drives adverse political debate. It easily turns into FUCK LIBERALS or FUCK CONSERVATIVES.
That type of anger is readily pointed at anyone that doesn’t seem to agree with your point of view or your station / position in life.
That anger turns into FUCK WOMEN or FUCK BLACKS or FUCK WHITES or FUCK MEXICANS or FUCK FOREIGNERS.
At some point it’s all just FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK. This or that.
Which show you don’t have the self respect or responsibility to function in civil society.
But Seriously, F*** Cyclists who don’t obey the law, or at least use judgment out in traffic. Running stop signs with traffic present? Dangerous and stupid. Cutting in front of oncoming traffic without sufficient margin? Idiotic. Riding in groups without letting traffic get around you? Arrogant, selfish and illegal.
You know the fucking rules of the road. Use them. Otherwise the angry yelling guy is right. The woman shrieking out the window at you to ride on the bike path is right. The stupid kids who yell when they buzz within a foot of your bikes? They’re all right if you don’t behave with conscience.
Of course you can do all that and still run into Mr. Angrypants whose whole worldview is based on ideologies like Fuck Cyclists. There’s little you can do about them. They’re not angry at you specifically. They’re angry at themselves for some reason. They just drive around looking for people to yell at that give them a reason to feel like they’re superior in some way.
Cyclists are a handy target for that kind of anger. Those of us who lived through the first waves of the running boom can tell you it used to be ugly out there. It’s gotten better the last 30 years or so. People have gotten used to runners on the roads. Now they pretty much ignore us.
But cycling has only recently surged in popularity. The angry and disenfranchised soul abhors the notion of popularity because it excludes them, turns them into The Other. That’s not right or true, but it feels that way to some.
It’s all worse because we dress so weird. So un-American really. At least that’s how it appears.
There’s a road where none of this happens somewhere. A road where drivers appreciate the art of separating hazards and are not blaming cyclists for making them slow down for 10 seconds, or for being late to their next appointment.
But that road is still down the road a ways. Or perhaps it’s just one of those mirages caused by summer heat that makes it look like there’s a cool lake floating above the road surface.
Let’s ride ahead and see. And hope it’s not just a mirage.