I try to be a good citizen on my bicycle. I really do.
Sure, I understand the reasoning behind it, with the Washington Area Bicyclists' Association (WABA) and League of American Bicyclists (LAB) urging us to be ambassadors for the sport, and to behave ourselves. So I try to not run red lights, I try to use hand signals, and I try to be cool to other trail and road users, even when they cut me off repeatedly at red lights (a Porsche Cayenne a couple weeks ago, a soccer mommy in a Yukon last week). I even try to not be homicidally angry when some bus cuts across three lanes of the George Washington Circle, curbing me.
The idea behind being on good behavior on the bike, is you are engaging in discourse with other road and trail users. In effect, you are arguing that bikes and riders should be treated fairly, receive their just share of tax dollars, and should be part of the social interaction that occurs on our byways. This is a nice idea, the idea of arguing for our cause by letting our actions do the talking for us.
The only problem, is sometimes the people we are arguing with are stone cold idiots. And sometimes, they are even stone cold idiots on wheels.
I give you Brendan Hurley, of Alexandria. Brendan wrote a letter to the editor which was published in today's Wash Post. The letter was so dumb, so egregiously wrong in so may dimensions, that it merits that most laborious of blog beatdowns, the Fisking. Here we go.
A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I decided to grab our new bikes and take a leisurely Sunday ride along the Mount Vernon Trail.Your new bikes? I'm guessing you don't ride much, and I'm guessing already where you're going.
This trail is one of the Washington area's most scenic, running parallel to the Potomac River across from the District in Arlington. It's a beautiful area, with fantastic views of our nation's capital, lots of water and greenery, and many families and friends out together enjoying the parkland views."Yeah, hi, Washpost. Love the paper, read it every day, first time caller. You may not be familiar with the Washington area, but there is a trail that runs along the river, down into Arlington, it's really pretty. What's that? Oh, you live here and know about it? You've seen the trail? Oh, um, okay. Sorry, thought you all just lived in Manhattan and mailed it in from there, like Sally Jenkins or something."
We started down the trail about 11 a.m., carefully passing numerous walkers, joggers, kids and leashed pets along the way. But soon we were besieged by swarms of other bikers who had decided the trail was their private racetrack.Unlike every single other ride, good bad or ugly, riding the trail, they have no problems with walkers, joggers, kids and leashed pets. Funny, everybody I know finds *plenty* of those people to be irritated with.
I couldn't believe it when these packs of racers, all in their "cool" racing shirts, shorts and other gear, blew past us, at at least 40 mph.Like the force in young Skywalker, much stupidity in that paragraph there is. Where to start?
First of all, our "cool" racing shirts are actually to keep us from having heat stroke. They are literally cool. I know hair shirts are the latest thing and all, but in 100 degree heat, funny enough, most of us like to wear "cool" shirts. If Brendan means "cool" in the sense of clubs that he can't get into, well, lots of people wear really skeezy looking basic Performance or Nashbar jerseys, but if that's what Brendan considers cool... well, they make books to help out people with that problem. I'd start with reading ten years of back columns of "The Style Guy" in Bicycling Magazine as a primer, if I was in those desperate coolness-deprived straits.
As for the other gear, it's amazing. We wear "cool" shorts because, unlike the goat chaps Brendan was wearing, they don't chafe holes in our legs or butts when we ride our non-new bikes for hours at a time. Plus, if we have a tip, the 'cool' clothes are designed to rip, so our skin doesn't. You see, we ride *a lot* and actually have purchased gear to help facilitate that. I know activity-appropriate clothing is a weird concept for you, Brendan, but I assure you that if you try scuba diving in a snowmobile suit, or climbing Everest in a posing pouch, the concept will become clear to you.
And one other thing. 40 miles per hour? WTF? You know they average about 25-27 in the Tour de France, and only go much faster if they are going down a mountain, or sprinting for a finish. Somehow, I don't think all the cyclists who passed you, Brendan, were doing at least 40, though in your hysteria, it may have seemed that way. Few recreational cyclists are capable of going 30 on flat ground for any length of time.
Not only were they unconcerned about our safety (we, at least, were on bikes), they didn't seem the least bit concerned about the children and pets on the trail either.Yeah. Because, you know, on a 17 pound bike with 700x23 tires and a 1400 gram wheelset, you can just ride over anything you want without consequences. These bikes are basically like bulldozers - just ram recreational riders, trailers, Great Danes, crippled children who are recently orphaned... Whatever. We're a menace and the long trail of destroyed buses and cars that road cyclists have collided with is a testament to our destructive force. We have no concern for obstacles or the safety of others.
They appeared disturbed that others were using their private racetrack and were very arrogant in their attitudes and clear belief that we should all get out of their way.Yeah, that sounds pretty bad. What, were they passing unsafely?
More amazing was that this wasn't an isolated event. We saw speeding bicyclists, alone and in groups, scream past us multiple times in less than 30 minutes while we were on the trail. I am amazed I didn't see bodies strewn in the wakes of these careless riders. They obviously don't know the rules of the road when it comes to sharing the trail.
Yeah, that sounds awful. Those damned bikers screaming by. There you were, obeying the rules of the road, and they were crowding you out. Those fiends. Your first ride on your new bike, it's everybody else on two wheels who doesn't know the rules. I'm sure you were riding flawlessly there, Lance.
Of course you are right about all the people we kill spinning around the trail, but wrong on the strewing of bodies point. We are Type A people, so you won't normally see the bodies "strewn" behind us. We typically stack them neatly, by the side of the trail at major junctions. We just aren't the strewing types.
I can't believe that this type of speed racing along a one-lane trail would be permitted. It's an incredible danger, and the police should take action to stop it so others can enjoy the trail without fearing for their lives.You stupid, ignant bastard. The trails are two lanes - you stick to the right, pass on the left. Yes, there are plenty of dangerous riders out there, but if you were riding the trail as a one-lane road (and it sure sounds like you were) then there's a reason everybody who passed you came off like a jerk. I have to conclude that if everybody who passed you was a jerk to you, somehow arrogant and riding dangerous, that you, Brendan, were the one riding dangerously. Didja ever think that maybe, if literally everybody doing something you are doing thinks you are doing it wrong, and you are the only person who thinks you are doing it right, that maybe you ought to reconsider what you are doing? Just maybe?
In April The Post ran two letters about a walker hit by a speeding cyclist. Last August The Post ran a front-page story about aggressive riding and speeding on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail. The story reported: "More bicyclists have died on the trail -- three -- in the past year than in its first 31 years." Apparently, the problem of dangerous cycling on area trails has not gone away.
How did they die, smart guy? Huh? Two of the three were hit by cars, jackhole, and one guy tipped over and hit his head after a low speed collision with a pedestrian, who was apparently healthy enough after the crash to walk away - a hit and walk from the looks of it. One of those 'bodies strewn' by somebody in a cool jersey, the way you view it, was actually a six year-old, run down at a crossing by a truck. Yeah, we need to get these speed racers off the trail.
The Web site of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association spells it out: "The trails that make up the [D.C. area trail network] . . . should be used in a manner consistent with the safety, comfort and enjoyment of all. We urge all users to be respectful of others and to use the trails safely." It also says that riders should obey "a reasonable speed" and "slow down when the trail is crowded." The Virginia Department of Transportation posts similar admonitions on its Web site.
Yeah, so you are going to contribute by blocking traffic on the trail, right? It sounds to me like that's what you were doing. Can't think of anything else that would piss off every single road rider who passed you.
We saw no police officers patrolling the trail. After our 30-minute ride, my wife and I decided to get off the trail and settle under a tree for a nice picnic. After three hours, there still was no sign of any law enforcement official.
I guess the ordeal wasn't so bad that it put you off your lunch. And the reason you don't see police patrolling the trail is because, until you came along, it wasn't needed. Well, how 'bout we save the police the trouble, and we'll just detail a couple of them to give you a rolling enclosure each time you ride? I figure you ride, what, once or twice a year? We detail four officers to protect you from the big, bad bicyclists, and that would be cheaper than having to patrol all day, every day, just in case ol' Brendan decides it's time for a ride.
These speed demons should grow up. The park doesn't belong to them, and one day they are going to injure or kill a small child. No one is impressed at how fast they can ride. I think we'd all be more impressed if these riders would show a little more concern for the rest of us on the path.
Shorter Brendan Hurley: "Get the hell off the trail." This mirrors what I hear from morons on the roads from time to time: "Get the hell off the road."
Now I don't want to minimize the safety issues we have on the trails. I've gone on repeatedly about the bike trail guys, especially the numbnuts who hammer down the trail at rush hour on aero bars, which render a road bike fundamentally uncontrollable. So too the morons who want to race, for whom no obstacle in the trail, be it a baby trailer, an elderly walker or some fat guy in a blue jersey who really doesn't feel like racing after doing those intervals, is worth consideration.
But there aren't *that* many people riding like that, and the way woolen underpants boy here discusses the scene, it sounds like a combination of Rollerball, Platoon, and this year's Milan-San Remo crashfest. It simply isn't that bad. Yet this knucklehead's hysteria, and his rambling accusations of death and destruction being caused on the trail by anybody going faster than himself, is the kind of idiocy that fuels public campaigns to get trails shut down to cyclists. The only justice is that when it happens, he'll be banned himself. Sure, it will only keep him off the trail the three times he would have ridden before his hybrid is consigned to rust to death in his garden apartment in Arlington, but I'll take what I can get.
Thanks for making us all look bad, yourself included, Brendan. Idiot.
[Update: Anonymous 7:19: I appreciate the thought but zapped your comment. Yep, I Googled it too, but I'm not quite that vindictive. Thanks for the good thoughts though... Great minds think alike, and all that.]