So alcohol’s ‘Happy Hour‘ is back once again! It is clear that this is a problem for those whose job it is to keep our streets and roadways safe. Alcohol plays an overwhelming part in the number of fatalities that occur on our roadways. This is not a ‘new thing‘ unless you have been living under a rock.
What is a bit disconcerting is the fact that bicyclists, Urban Bicyclists in particular are concerned about this. If you take a look at the groups that most cycling forums in Chicago consist of, you will find that things like Brevet Riding, Bike-Camping and even British-style Bike groups are all the rage. But none of these groups is quite as large as those whose main focus is binge-drinking combined with midnight riding.
This last group is clearly one of the biggest and perhaps holds the largest proportion of forum users. So why does ‘Happy Hour‘ present a problem for the membership of such forums?
Safety On Our Streets Is Less Related To Infrastructure Than We Think
Short of mounting barricades to prevent drunk drivers from ever entering a bike lane, little can be done to stave off the carnage that results when both bicyclists and motorists decide to ‘team up‘ in the serious enterprise of operating their vehicles while ‘under the influence‘. One bicyclist decided to celebrate his graduation with a bender and ended up paralyzing himself and having to seek remedy for his medical costs from the City of Chicago.
What really concerns me is the disconnect between ‘binge drinking behavior while biking‘ and the same enterprise engaged in by motorists. The root problem is the same. And yet cyclists cannot seemingly enjoy watching the Tour de France unless they have a pint at the ready. And one pint quickly turns into three if the usual national protocol is followed.
Then of course if you are a car-free cyclist your only recourse is to take to the streets on your bicycle is a less than pristine condition and hope that you do not encounter anyone else who has been engaged in the same practice.
We Need To Get Serious!
I’ll shut up about cyclist binge-drinking if cyclists will stop being such whiners when someone driving a car manages to hit one of them on the way home. After all the outcome is completely predictable. Again, we know this from decades of data about attempting to operate a boat, airplane, truck, automobile or motorcycle while intoxicated. And in Europe the list includes bicycles.
The big difference is that there often are no laws on the books that clearly define the limits of intoxication for cyclists, because cyclists are riding ‘toys‘. Their operators are essentially ‘children‘. There are no tests to pass or registration required to operate one of these things. And so we delude ourselves into thinking that we can carry on in the manner of drivers where alcohol is concerned.
We even hold fund-raisers whose themes are alcohol-centered. How on Earth do cyclists who claim to be concerned about the drinking habits of motorists no understand that their actions are contributing to the generally relaxed attitudes towards binge-drinking?
We are all ‘freedom first‘ when it comes to registration and licensing for ourselves. We hate the idea of having ‘spot checks‘ on our behavior where it concerns following the Rules of the Road. We are of course all for having everybody else put under the strictest scrutiny for their behavior, just not us.
Well, the end result is the restoration of ‘Happy Hour‘. It is good for business and a great way to raise funds. And do not be surprised if bicycle forum gatherings occur at just about that time of the day.
The day we decide that the carnage on the roadways is too much for us to contribute to the general societal nonchalance is the day I will take Urban Cycling seriously. When we are willing to sacrifice our pleasures for the greater good rather than have yet another pub or tiki-bar crawl, I will know that we have come of age.
But until that time I would respectfully request that you STFU on the binge-drinking issue. Whiners are not welcome at this bar.