“The sad state of society”? Another View…

The sad state of society
Posted by Duppie on July 10, 2012 at 10:05pm in Bikes and Bicycling

photo by Duppie

Today, about 5:30PM, temps in the upper 70’s and a nice breeze from the Northeast. All in all a great day for a bike ride outside.

ID Gym on Lincoln is putting their spinning bikes outside for an upcoming class.

Made me think of this quote of U.S Rep. Earl Blumenauer

“Let’s have a moment of silence for all those Americans who are stuck in traffic on their way to the gym to ride the stationary bicycle.”

Perhaps Some Truth?

But there are some reasons we humans undertake to do the things we do and they are not always divined correctly by lookers on. In fact there are some good reasons not to be outside getting your exercise on a roadway. Take for instance this recent report from my cycling club’s email list:

Bad Accident Today
From list serve for Elmhurst Bicycle Club

We had an accident on Jeff’s morning ride out of Elmhurst this morning.

We were on the second half of our 30+ mile ride heading southbound on Swift road in Addison.  I was following Mary Ann, and she was taking a drink from her bottle when her front tire hit an imperfection in the pavement.  Everything happened so fast!  She went down on her left side and I was somehow able to avoid her on the right.  Unfortunately, Nancy S. was behind me and was not able to avoid Mary Ann.  Nancy collided with Mary Ann and went airborne over the bars and landed badly.  Both ladies had damaged helmets, but Mary Ann was able to get up shortly after the fall with some bloody scrapes.  Nancy however was in pretty bad shape and several of the riders tended to her immediately (Nikita, John, etc.) and convinced her to not move or attempt to stand.  Elizabeth called 911, and the Addison Fire and Ambulance teams showed up.  Larry G. and a couple other riders set up a road block to divert traffic (it was two lanes in each direction with a center turning lane and Nancy was down in the far right hand southbound lane).  Even though Mary Ann was able to walk and was very coherent, we and the paramedics convinced her to go in to get checked out.  Both Nancy and Mary Ann were taken to hospitals (secured to backboards) in two separate ambulances.  Susan Sperl rode with Nancy in her ambulance.  Susan had called Keith to bring their minivan, and we loaded up Nancy’s, Mary Ann’s, and Susan’s bikes into his van.

If I overheard correctly, the ambulances took them to Glen Oaks hospital.  Please keep Nancy and Mary Ann in your thoughts and prayers.


An Alternate View

I do not recall ever reading about a peloton-style crash occurring on a stationary bike training ride. I am certain that there have indeed been some incidents where folks were injured when one of these massive bikes came tumbling over onto a rider who slipped off following a seizure of something of that sort. But on the whole while boring such devices can be they are probably safer per mile ridden than bikes outdoors. And that would be especially true when riding among the automobiles that are in close proximity to anyone riding a bike outdoors.

And then there is recent reminder of riding in even less populated areas than Chicago:

Posted by Tom Held here:

Deaths inspire cyclists to ride, remember and remind

Bicyclists in Wisconsin have responded to two fatalities in recent weeks by riding, remembering and reminding.

“Our lives today move very fast,” Kevin Hardman, executive director of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, wrote in a piece inspired by the tragedies.

“But when driving an automobile, our responsibility demands that we carefully watch for others. Please be patient when you’re behind the wheel. Your family, your friends and your neighbors are just around the corner.”

In the recent cases, those neighbors were a mother and a father and leaders among their cycling groups.

Troy Tousey, 48, was killed on June 6 when a car hit him from behind on Highway Y, a few miles north of Sheboygan. Tousey was near the back of a group on an evening ride when he died, becoming the second bicyclist killed in Wisconsin in two weeks.

His obituary brings home Hardman’s point: that those bicyclists aren’t just anonymous figures in shorts and jerseys, but husbands and wives, sons and daughters.

“Troy loved the outdoors and was an avid snowboarder when in Colorado.

“His summers were spent putting thousands of miles on his bicycle. He was a bicycle trainer for Maywood Environmental Park and most Wednesdays and Saturdays he could be found riding with his friends here in Sheboygan.

“Troy and his family had recently returned from their dream vacation where they visited France, Belgium, Holland and Spain.

“Troy enjoyed taking his son Tate to Packer Games. On a summer evening, Troy enjoyed hosting house concerts in his backyard surrounded by his Michigan Avenue friends and neighbors. He took great pride in cheering on his twins at their first triathalon. Troy was vice-president of the Etude Group Governing Board, which is part of the Sheboygan Area School District.”

The same week that Tousey was killed, Hardman traveled to Wausau to join friends of Tammy Gass in a memorial ride to honor the 44-year-old killed near Mosinee. Like Tousey, she was hit from behind by a motorist who failed to avoid her on a county highway.

Both Tousey and Gass were riding in a proper and legal fashion, according to the initial police reports.

Gass’ first husband, Gregg Bednorski, also was killed while bicycling. Four years ago, he crashed into a truck parked on Highway KK, the same highway on which Gass died. She left behind a new husband, four children and a group of cycling friends.

Hardman learned from them.

“During our ride, Tammy’s friends shared their sorrow at the loss of their friend,” he wrote. “Many of them told me that Tammy would want something good to emerge from this tragedy, and that she would want everyone to continue riding their bicycles. Her friends told me their view that all road users need to share the road and that all road users need to show more respect for others than they do now.”

An Alternative Model

Ride of Silence (handout)

Since Duppie broached the subject, I think it necessary to explore the matter of “The Sad State of Society” a bit further. In my limited capacity as observer of the cycling scene here in Chicago it would have been my notion that what occurs in the I.D. Gym was the least of society’s worries. After experiencing a mini-Critical Mass ride in a setting where none should have existed I am loathe to admit that such rides are themselves a symptom of “The Sad State of Society”.

A more fitting format might be that of the Ride of Silence. This is a ride held annual (as compared to the monthly alcohol-permeated Critical Mass). In contrast the Ride of Silence presents a chance to:

  • Honor Fallen Cyclists
  • Promote Road Safety
  • And to Make a Difference
  • Let the Silence Roar

I would have dearly loved that part about silence to have been the operative mode during the interfaith ride I mentioned above. Instead there was the constant production of noise that one associates with a parade contingent seeking to draw attention to themselves. And the lack of safe riding skills exhibited on the ride was frankly appalling.

Club rides in my experience are seldom as hectic and certainly more orderly. We try to coexist with automobile traffic whenever possible. You never slap cars on their hoods and roofs in a supposed act of safety. That only frightens drivers who would otherwise have been somewhat tolerant of your presence and could result in bodily injury to a cyclist who encounters and irate drive.

In fact the entire atmosphere of antagonistic behavior that surrounds the Critical Mass environment seems unworthy of the fallen riders whom we all agree deserve our honor and vigilance where the issues of bicycle safety are concerned. I instead see more red light running, wrong side of the road riding and general scofflaw behavior from cyclists than I can frankly tolerate.

I routinely ride Milwaukee Avenue. I cannot imagine what the traffic on it and the cross streets it encounters if motorists behaved in exactly the same manner as cyclists along that or any other roadway. It would mean that:

  • cars routinely failed to stop at stop signs
  • ran red lights as a rule
  • routinely turned without signaling their intentions
  • gave one another and cyclists “safety bumps”
  • avoided using seat belts at the same rate that cyclists avoid helmets
  • drove without brakes (in the fixie bicycle manner)
  • and ventured out of a night to drink with other drivers at the local pubs before heading out fully intoxicated “to maraud and have fun”
  • and should I forget few if any of them would have rear lights or even headlights because heck that would be too conformist

And of course motorists would set up a forum like The ChainLink where they could bitch about the dangerous behavior of cyclists while completely ignoring their own. Now that would constitute a very sad societal state indeed.