Thursday, August 12, 2010

Spokes Up The Butt

Vehicle - The Ides of March (mp3)
The Road - Matt Costa (mp3)

Last year, I offered a less-than-glowing opinion of runners. Mostly I was having fun with it, tongue planted in cheeky places, poking the proverbial beehive with a stick.

Then last week, I read on our local online rag a piece about controversy between cyclists and pedestrians on one of our noteworthy stretches of public real estate better known as "Riverwalk." The drama concluded with a decision to continue allowing both wheelers and walkers... for now.

Cyclists -- don't call 'em bikers, dude; they're CYCLISTS -- have been a growing population in Chattanooga over the past few decades. As the smog of the '70s and '80s lifted and we became a greener, granola-friendlier locale, more people have come here wearing North Face and Birkenstocks and spending their free time kayaking, rock climbing, and cycling. Frou frou crap straight outta Stuff White People Like.

Several readers of this blog are cyclists, as are several other friends and acquaintances of mine. All of them seem like decent enough people, the kind of people who fight for freedom, justice, and the American Way. People who walk grannies across the street, who stop strangers from taking candy from cuddly widdle kiddies, who will spend thousands of dollars on their dying pet to make sure it receives Hospice care.

And back when they were a tiny, easily-overlooked minority, I felt pity for cyclists. They were neglected. They were not given proper respect. Motorists and pedestrians treated them like steerage or something.

But at some point in the past five or six years, cyclists in Chattanooga passed a tipping point. They started multiplying like bunnies or something. What used to be one lone biker trudging down the road has mutated into a cyclist's Hell's Angels, with five, six, sometimes 10 health-obsessives, all wearing sponsorship gear and funny looking alien technology helmets straight out of that crappy Independence Day movie. I almost expect them to have matching tats like dudes in the military or in frats.

While the rest of us have some place to be -- which is why we're in cars -- we're now obliged to wait patiently behind them as they bolt down the road at 25mph. Cyclists on the open road are the new tractors, the new old women who can't see over their dashboards. Except instead of old and pissed off, they're young and well-conditioned and pissed off. They're trying to beat their fastest time, and all these losers in their gas-guzzling vehicles think whatever they're doing is more important than that?!?

But here's the thing. Most of what those people in cars are doing is more important than besting a previous time cycling down a stretch of road. Yeah, I get that everything is relative -- hell, I practically repeat that phrase like I have Tourette's -- but in almost any comparative scheme in life, one day of exercise just ain't that mission critical compared to getting to work on time or picking up your kid from school.

Because bikers have a measurable population now, however, they're emboldened in ways they weren't when they were a persecuted pittance of people. They now think they have rights and shit, and that their rights are at least as important as those slow-ass walkers who are too busy gabbing to pay attention and runners who won't stop listening to their damn iPods long enough to hear a biker yell "To the left!!"

News flash, biker people. The older and slower you are, the higher you climb on the Right of Way Priority List. Retired grannies in wheelchairs trump everything. Wheelchairs trump walkers. Walkers trump runners. Then people on Big Wheels, then rollerbladers, then skateboarders, then cyclists, and so on and so forth until you get to truckers in big rigs. You are not equal to walkers. Walkers win. Truckers lose. You're somewhere in the middle.

If walkers or runners start making a habit of taking up a stretch of paved asphalt built for the primary purpose of allowing me to be a more efficient worker bee, and if they copped a 'tude about it when motorists dare to think they should move... they'd better buckle up for an increased assault of negativity as well.

As Dirty Steve said to Billy the Kid in "Young Guns," so I say to my cyclist pals: "Apologies Billy. We was just hackin' on ya." Nevermind that Billy goes on to explain that he recently killed a man for hackin' on him.

1 comment:

BeckEye said...

The thing I hate most about cyclists - other than the fact that they're in generally better shape than me - is that they only obey the traffic laws when it's convenient for them. We're supposed to treat them like any other vehicle on the road, but then if they decide to start weaving in between cars while in a traffic jam or to just blow through a red light, they seem to always get away with it.