Evidently, we should be glad there’s such a low turnout in local elections

Back when I was in college, one of my Political Science professors gave a lecture about low voter turnout in the U.S.

He pointed out that far more people turn out to vote in formerly totalitarian countries, because they understand the true value of the freedom we take for granted.

Then he flipped through a few surveys, highlighting the percentages of people who hate blacks, Jews, gays and other assorted minorities. As well as those who believe the moon landing was fake and the Earth is flat.

His point was that a lot of people don’t vote.

And maybe we’re better off for it.

Case in point, the 91 and counting comments that followed the brief story on the Times website about the proposed bicyclist anti-harassment ordinance. The overwhelming majority of which were of the standard “I’ll respect bikes when they (choose one or more of the following): respect the law, stop for red lights and stop signs, signal, stay on the sidewalk, stay off the sidewalk, get out of the lane, get out of my way, get a life, grow a pair, and/or stop wearing those ugly clothes.”

I read ‘em so you won’t have to. You can thank me later.

Take these two, for example, which pretty much sum up the tone of today’s conversation (and yes, I’ve left the spelling and punctuation exactly the way I found it):

Im a fireman. Experience has shown me that SPANDEX AND HEAVY STEEL DONT BELONG ON THE SAME ROAD!!!!!! Common since. Legislation is not going to change physics! Ride at your own risk!

Posted by: Steve | January 28, 2010 at 11:06 AM

Bicyclists are full of it. There are legally obligated to follow the motor vehicle code. However, I see them run stops signs, run redlights, and make sudden lane changes without signaling all the time.

If bicyclists want respect, they need to follow the rules of the road.

Posted by: Stump Barnes | January 28, 2010 at 11:09 AM

Then there was this one:

Here’s some ideas how to get people to be more vehicle friendly with cyclists;
1.Get cyclists to be more courteous with vehicles & pedestrians
2.Get cyclists to start opeying all driving laws
2. Require all cyclists to install I.D. licence plates on their bike’s so they can be identified when they either break a law, cause an accident, or start somesort of road rage.

Cyclists are known to be rude, obnoxious, law breaking jerks for the most part. They use strong profanity, they spit, they flip you the bird, and they provoke fights, knowing that they can easily get away because they can’t be identified. They seem to have all City Officials on their side, and since they are not wasting gas or polluting the air, they get away with just about anything. What’s it going to take to get Officials to wake up and realize that the root of the problem is the cyclists themselves.

Posted by: Dave Reynolds | January 28, 2010 at 10:12 AM

Dave, have you ever considered that if you’re running into so many rude, obnoxious, swearing, spitting, finger-flipping, fight-provoking, law-breaking jerks, that maybe, just maybe, the cyclists aren’t the problem?

Just a thought.

Anyway, after reading all those comments, I was truly shamed, realizing for the first time what dangerous scofflaws we cyclists must be. And understanding that, yes, these people are right to harass us because we pose such a risk to their two+ tons of glass and steel.

I mean, I might actually dent the bumper and get blood on their shiny paint and stuff.

So when I set out to ride today, I took notice of the drivers around me, hoping to learn from their example how to properly assume my place on the road.

Imagine my surprise.

Three of the first four drivers I saw ran stop signs. Not just a rolling stop, mind you — that’s what the fourth one did — but full blown, not slowing down don’t care if you’re in the way I’m coming through anyway stop sign running.

And for the first 1.83 miles, I didn’t see a single driver use a turn signal — and yes, I did make a note of it, because it was so surprising when someone finally did. And no, he wasn’t the first one to turn or make a lane change.

Far from it.

Then there were these four rocket scientists of the road.

I encountered the first two as I sat waiting at the front of the intersection for a light to change, just to left of the right turn lane. Next to me was a small utility truck, which kept inching forward. So I gestured to the driver, pointing out the “No right turn” sign directly ahead of him. Evidently, though, it doesn’t apply to small utility trucks, because he made his turn anyway.

Then the SUV behind him pulled up to the light. Unlike the previous driver, she waited patiently in the right turn lane until the light changed. Then went straight, nearly forcing me into the car on my left before she cut in front of both of us and sped off down the road.

But not before giving me the finger.

Although, to be fair, that was after I called her a jackass. Which I thought showed remarkable restraint, given the circumstances.

Then there was the driver in the Escalade, who saw me signal to move left into the traffic lane. And responded by speeding up to cut me, forcing me to jam on my brakes to avoid rear-ending the parked car ahead of me. Because there just wasn’t room for a massive Escalade and a bike in the same lane at the same time.

The real winner, though, came when I pulled up behind a car that was stopped at a stop sign, waiting patiently for a woman to cross the road. So the driver behind me crossed the yellow line onto the wrong side of the road, passing us both, then blew through the stop without slowing down — forcing the pedestrian to dodge out of his way.

So yes, I can easily see why all these people think we’re such dangerous, law-flaunting outlaws, undeserving of equal protection from law enforcement, since that right is reserved for real, law-abiding, gas-guzzling Americans.

I take comfort, though, in knowing that most of these self-proclaimed traffic law experts probably won’t be voting in the next election.

Oh, and Dave?

“Licence” is usually spelled with an “s.”

I’ll let you figure out where to put it.

7 comments

  1. jlyle says:

    I don’t understand the hatred of Spandex/Lycra voiced by these morons. Is there a twelve-step program for this affliction? These are the same motorists who are wearing clothing more suitable for the basketball court or playing field. Very strange.

  2. Digital Dame says:

    That maneuver you saw where the pedestrian had to dodge the car was also played out recently in a parking lot where I live. I wish I’d had the presence of mind to get the license number, but she was gone before I thought of it.

    And Dave: there you go, that’s where to put the ‘s’. My gift to you.

  3. Mensch says:

    Given that all of the comments I’ve ever got about my bike shorts came from young men (usually in pickup trucks) I suspect the aversion to lycra comes from a belief that “real men” would never wear such things.

    Re law-scoffing cyclists v. law-abiding drivers: this is a meme I see a lot in these discussions. Without excusing those riders who do blatantly (and dangerously) ignore traffic laws, I’d note that the general theme is that ANY violation by a cyclist is proof that ALL cyclists are idiotic, suicidal adrenalin junkies, whereas bad driving behavior is just an unfortunate diversion from the otherwise excellent behavior of the millions of generally fine, upstanding and careful drivers on the road.

  4. tracywilkins says:

    On one hand, as a cyclist, there is nothing that aggravates me more than seeing another person on a bike riding inappropriately. I think that just like drivers, we have a responsibility to ride correctly when we take to the streets. Unfortunately, there are a lot of “uneducated” people who really don’t know any better riding around out there on their bicycles that are adding to the stereotypical image of cyclists that a lot of motorists have.

    On the other hand, as much as I’ve enjoyed my visits to the west coast, I really think I encounter a lot less moronic behaviour here in Springfield, MO than you see on a typical day and I don’t typically see the kind of public ranting against cyclists that you guys do.

  5. The thing is, Ted, your ride wasn’t atypical. That’s everytime I get on my bicycle: right-hooked at least 3 times a day, passed too closely frequently, and I rarely see any car actually stop at a stop sign (or even red light when they are turning right). We all get irritated by seeing motorists and cyclists break laws, but the thing is, seeing someone else do something wrong doesn’t give us the right to ignore traffic laws too.

  6. gtinla says:

    This is such a tough subject, simply because there are idiots on both sides of the equation. I drive a car and I ride a bicycle and rarely have an outing with either without a head shaking experience.
    When driving, I encounter some selfish, illegal and dangerous acts by cyclists,often topped by rude and inconsiderate behavior. When I cycle, I can say the same of car drivers. On both sides the action of a few fuel the passionate emotions towards all. So, where to begin?
    Rosendahl’s declaration of ‘Car culture ends today” is nice, but that is where it ends, a declaration. Unless we start with basic education at the elementary level, a commitment to change infrastructure to separate bikes from cars and incorporate bike friendly (more than 2 bikes per bus/train) public transportation for long distance commute, and safe bike parking at the destinations, the car culture will remain.
    It would be such an eye-opening experience for our Council men and women, and our top law enforcement officers to join us on a bicycle for a week. The experience would include everyday tasks (i.e. grocery shopping), getting to work (incl. public transit) and recreational riding (street conditions and never changing traffic lights) – and, perhaps after that, we could actually start a conversation.

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