It's been a while since we had a good, old fashioned righteous rant, so sit back, grab a cup of whatever motivates you, and keep an open mind, because I am nothing if not blunt, and there's ah gonna be some folks out there that may be a tad bit offended about this one!
I wasn't able to set up any interviews today (but have one tomorrow that looks real promising!) but I did have to go to LabCorp this morning to pee in a cup, which is where our story begins!
(and Lo and behold, THIS is a rant about, of ALL things "Bicycles, Bicycle Safety, and Bicycle etiquite!)
The LabCorp office I went to is on Belcher in Clearwater, just south of Sunset Point Road. For those who don't live here, Sunset Point Road runs East/West and is a pretty well traveled 4 laner. The city, in what would appear to me as a consolitory gesture, has a bike lane on either side. This bike lane is roughly three feet wide and it's only partition from the hazards of automobile drivers is a thin white line. The conditions at some points, are is as if when they poured the asphault they were really only concerned with the comfort of the car driver, and had emphasized making their part smooth. The outer edges (where the bikes are) is akin to riding your bike over one, long antique wash board! Needless to say, grip your handlebars tight, but keep you elbows lax, our you're going overboard! However that's not the point of this rant. For the route of this story, I'm going to have to take you back, some 40 years to get that across. SO...Mr. Peabody, if you please, set the Wayback Machine, to 1975 and we'll do a flyby through New Hampshire.
Back when they had things like "Youth Centers", "School activities" (that did not involve corporate sponsers looking to hook kids on their wares) and "Cub Scouts" there was such a thing as "Bicycle Safety Awareness" something that any kiddo, looking to jaunt about town on two wheels, was expected to engage in. See, back then, you had to register your bike with the local police department, and safety training was a prerequisite. This is called "YANKEE SMARTS!" Okay, sure, lot's of places did it, but you get the point.
There was one part of the training which is crucial to the story, as it's very basic, common sense, injinuity has stuck with me all these years: "which side of the road a bicycle should ride on"! The Yankee's WISE answer? AGAINST the flow of automobile traffic!!!
YES FOLKS!! Contrary to what every donut munching, coffee sipping, "hiding behind a tree with nothing better to do" police officer around here will tell you!
See, here in Florida (and many other states I can only assume) mandate that bicycle go with the flow of traffic! This is, in a word, (okay TWO words) "F#$^!NG STUPID!!!!!"
And WHY you might ask? I am GLAD to tell you!
First and foremost, for the bicycle rider, is that when you "go with the flow" you have ABSOLUTELY NO TIME TO REACT!!! Unless you recently had eye's surgically implanted in the back of your head, you have NO idea what's coming up behind you and if, in fact, the car driver even notices you AT ALL! WHAT? Some of you might ask, "How could a driver NOT see the cyclist?" Simple. Because SOME of these idiots are NOT paying attention!
Since 2010 the amount of "car on bicycle" fatalities has INCREASED 40% in the State of Florida ALONE! Yes...I said forty freaking percent!!! And here's a tidbit, the group MOST LIKELY to be singing in the Celestial Choir are Males over the age of twenty! Yes, my fellow Floridians, we are NUMBER TWO in bicycle related fatalities (a very close second to California)
Why is that you may ask? Well, the comparisons are not easily acquired, and some, I am certain, are due to unsafe bicycling habits (yea, there are some Hot Dogs out there that don't pay attention) and the increasing amount of folks opting to ride their bikes instead of shelling out the kids college fund to fill up the tank, BUT there is an underlying factor on the car driver side, that CAN NOT be ignored!
Yep. That old chestnut! Before you think I'm just being over reaching, and picking on something that spikes my ire, anywho, let me throw this one at you...
Texting related fatalities have been steadily on the rise, spiking dramatically in, you guessed it, 2010!!! In teenage drivers, to the WHOPPING sum of 57%!!!!!! Texting while driving is now the LEADING cause of traffic fatalities in teenagers since 2011!!!! Almost two to one against "drinking and driving!!" Oh, but don't for a minute think the older age brackets aren't sending out notes to friends, coworkers and families while they SHOULD BE looking out that big glass window in front of them! Oh NAY, NAY! It's a bloody epidemic, and do NOT think for a moment that the laws passed AGAINST texting while driving has had ANY effect. Because ALL studies prove otherwise, and they are completely ineffectual.
Now, as a devout bicycle rider, I am faced with one conundrum; Do I follow the letter of the law?
I like to think of myself as a "law abiding citizen" but here's the rub; Laws are made to protect us, and serve the common good, right? Well here's a law that, deliberately, put's MINE and every other bike riders life in JEPORDY!!
Going back to old Yankee wisdom, if you are riding against traffic, it forces the driver to notice you. One thing I always teach my kids about coming to an intersection, and preparing to cross, is to ALWAYS make sure to make EYE CONTACT with any drivers at the intersection, to make SURE they see you! Doesn't matter if you have the light, or crossing signal! You may have the right of way, but you get into a fight with 2000 plus pounds moving as low as ten miles an hour, you're are going to loose and loose BIG!
So, when you drive against traffic you SEE what is coming towards you, and more importantly, they see you! Look, I will trust MY ability to react over the hopes and prayers that the idiot coming up behind me is ACTUALLY doing THERE job as a driver and paying attention to what's ahead of them! Why in GOD'S NAME should I be concerned with the comfort and convenience of them? What? Because I'm forcing them to do their due diligence and pay attention to the road? NAH! I'm going to worry about my hide, because if some shmuck is in the process of setting up a "hook-up" and can't be bothered to look where he's going, I want the time to do a tuck in roll into the embankment and land on some soft sod, rather than become a hood ornament! And anyone traveling on their bike down the side of some busy run of strip malls, gas stations, and fast food joints KNOWS it's REALLY convenient to see the morons in desperate need of a Big Mac or to pick up their dry cleaning veering quickly into a parking lot with no consideration for cyclists or pedestrians alike. Oh I don't know HOW many close calls I have had while in the middle of the entryway and almost been clipped by a careless driver! And that's riding WITH the flow! (yes, I've done my fair share of barrel rolls over some startled driver's hood who was otherwise focused on "extra special sauce on a sesame seed bun!") The worst of which was a COP, who was not looking up, as he was, SURPRISE, SURPRISE... TEXTING!!!!
And riding on the sidewalk, while providing a little bit of security, can be just as troublesome at the aforementioned crossings. Being able to see who's coming and going is a real blessing. Not to mention, the trouble with sidewalks is there isn't anything in the Florida statues that denotes if it's even LEGAL or not to ride on the sidewalk. There is mention that a bicycle on the sidewalk has the same requirements and responsibility as a pedestrian, and there is certain etiquette expected when passing a walker, BUT, get some bored patrolman with nothing better to do in the evening, and they'll write you up a ticket to the tune of $186.00 for riding on the sidewalk, against the flow of traffic without a light (yep...personal experience folks!) .
ALL this being said, some may ask "what got you on THIS kick today?"
Well, remember the "peeing in a cup"? Once I left the office, I headed north on the West side of the road, cut through the CVS parking lot and headed West on the East bound side back towards Keene Road. I got about half way there, passed the bank, and that's when the blue lights came on! OH BOY! Strange for the earlier morning hours, but I pulled into the BP at the corner of Keene and waited for the officer to do his roundabout. Went through the whole "ID please" (which, oddly for me, I ACTUALLY had it on me!) then the "Why I was stopped" was for riding on the wrong side of the road. Now, maybe it's because I was just in a "mood" but the old Yankee Mouth came out and I confirmed the fact that Yes, I KNEW the law, and where I was expected to ride, but that the law was "stupid" and I'd be damned if I was putting my life in "car driving idiots" hands!
Oh yea....I have a sign hanging in the shop, my lovely wife found for me, that sums things up "My death will probably be caused by being sarcastic at the wrong time"
I then went on to site, briefly, my justification for riding the way I was, with the closing question "why should a cyclist have to "go with the flow". His answer was every bit as infallible as a parent telling a child "BECAUSE I SAID SO!" when he responded "because it's the law!"
That makes as much as sense as saying "the Grand Canyon is so big because it's large!" I guess he didn't get my point, and I wasn't going to debate it with him. He let me off with a "warning"
(side note folks! Some ask me from time to time, why cops seem to "harass" cyclists, well it's for a couple reasons. Cyclists are easy targets. We are VERY unlikely to try and outrun a police car so it's a potential ticket to boost there sales quota for the day! Not to mention the stigma attached to anyone NOT wearing spandex and riding a bike is simply, "why would any grown person choose to ride a bike and NOT drive?" Obviously if they are on a bike it is because their license was revoked, for some transgression or another, ergo: "where there is smoke, there's fire". Pull over the GOB, run his ID in hopes of finding a warrant! EASY pickings for a collar and to make themselves look good to the Duty Sargent! No fuss, no muss! Cynical? Nope, informed! We have several police, State and County employees who are regulars around here, so this has all been confirmed!) and sent me on my way. Honestly, I wish he HAD written me a ticket! That way, I could have stood in front of the judge, and at least have my disdain for the dangerous practice down on record! Someone HAS to revisit this moronic practice. Yes, there have been studies done on this subject (you can find them online) but I have two problems with the results. Statistic need to be gained through controlled study groups IE; for every 1000 observed for, you need 1000 against. In one particular finding out of 3,684 cyclists observed riding with the flow of traffic, 56 accidents occurred, but in the same period of time only 538 "wrong way" cyclists were observed resulting in 23 accidents. Obviously, the percentage was higher, but in my opinion, not a fair comparison. Also, all the study's point to the automobile driver's responsibility for "observing traffic laws", and how they operate and pay attention to the road, and turns and such" Again, this leaves OUR fate in THEIR hands! This study was done in the mid 90's, I will refer you back to the more recent statistics regarding "distracted drivers". As I said, we need to revisit things! The solution offered to cyclists, which is hailed as the cure all, is the use of a handle bar mounted rear view mirror?! Have they ever tried to use one of those things? It's like trying to read the fine print of a contract while it rested on an agitator! You can't see a bloody thing in one of those, especially with the conditions of bike lanes! the sad reality is, that when riding a bike around here, whichever side of the road your on, your life rests in the otherwise occupied hands of the car driver! Me? I want to at least have an edge!
Climbing down off my soap box now!
Yesterday, managed to get out two newbies, couple sharp looking and clean DAILY BANGER SPECIALS!!!!
Also, thanks to the anonymous gent that dropped off a trailer full of donations this morning. Couple of them, with some extensive work, should prove to be nice rides!
So with that, had best get a move on!
See ya soon!
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