January 24, 2017: Tommy Ketterhagen
November 23, 2016: Missy Hardeman
Over the past three years a 143 cyclists have been struck and killed in Texas by motorists. In over 70% of the cases no traffic citation is recorded by police for the motorist involved and the majority of incidents go without any justice at all. The current level of frustration and anger is prevalent in the cycling community as we mourn yet another needless loss of life. The big question is “WHY?” Why isn’t there justice and why are people so hateful, callous, or uncaring? As an avid cyclist as well as a continuous student of culture and sociology: I believe we are seeing the deadly impact of an impatient society.
My Way, Right Away
We live in a culture of the Burger-King mentality: “my way, right away”. We swipe right to get a date, we text instead of calling, our are groceries delivered to us by Amazon and our dinner by Uber Eats. We are constantly distracted and impatient to get … nowhere fast. If you have driven in any major metro area at least once, you will have experienced the extreme insanity of impatient driving – which is a completely useless exercise in futility. Drivers swerve frantically in and out of traffic while only ending up only a few cars ahead (or in an accident).
Our brains are constantly distracted and we are mired up to our eyeballs in a sense of hectic haste! Thanks to our smart devices (not phones, that’s just an app): we suffer from constant multitasking as we focus on everything in the world – all at once. Email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Texts, Internet, Tinder, LinkedIn, FB Messenger, and the list goes on. What we do when we drive is shameful and most of it has nothing to do with DRIVING. Every one of us is guilty of at least texting and driving.
Trust me, it can wait… and learn how to use the phone app.
Ignorant & Impatient
Our society is so overwhelmed with an unfounded sense of urgency that driving in an urban area is absolute mania. I find it ironic that I receive a warmer welcome on the city streets when I cycle through poverty-stricken areas. Most folks there aren’t in such a darn hurry and they certainly don’t have a superiority complex. Conversely, in wealthier neighborhoods: I might run the risk of being mowed down by some white collar worker in a Mercedes with an overblown sense of importance and two Big Macs away from a heart attack.
People are distracted, instantly frustrated as soon as they get in their vehicles, and terminally impatient. They have no concept that cycling on roads is a perfectly normal (and legal) mode of transportation thanks to the abysmal lack of education in the United States. Drive almost anywhere in Europe and it’s a completely different story. Due to cultural brainwashing: most Americans don’t even realize that cycling on the road is acceptable or how to behave when they see a cyclist.
Typically, that frantic feeling gets in the way of common sense and we see the deadly impact of an impatient society.
Unfortunately, the problem we cyclist face isn’t just distracted drivers with microwaved brains. When there is an incident involving a cyclist struck by a motor vehicle, most police officers do not even write citations. The majority of this behavior is caused by cultural brainwashing and money.
Love or hate Lance Armstrong, he did bring cycling out of the closet for America. Until then, cycling was something rarely even heard of. As a matter of fact, I grew up without the knowledge that one could actually cycle on the road. I didn’t realize it was a sport until I was in my 30’s. Seriously! Chalk it up to ignorance and understand that it represents for much of America today – including your local police. Ignorance isn’t bliss, but it is one major reason why some police officers do not seem to understand that cyclist have a right to be on the road and to be treated with the same respect as other vehicles.
We are often treated like pests.
The Root of Problem: Follow the Money
The biggest contributor to the seemingly callous behavior of some local police when dealing with an incident between cyclists and motorists is the fact that cyclists do not carry vehicle insurance. Forget loss of life, tragedy, or doing what is ‘right’. I may tick a few people off, but the fact is: many police officers will not process any more paperwork than he or she HAS to. Period.
Motor vehicle insurance carriers pack a lot of heat in the lawyer department. Plus, it’s a matter of course (normal procedure) to determine a cause and write a citation when there are automobiles involved. We cyclists fall out of the norm and we don’t carry bike insurance with big shot lawyers to sue people’s pants off should paperwork not be processed properly. You want to know why cyclist deaths are not being taken seriously from a justice standpoint: follow the money.
With the increase of cycling injuries and deaths, the rampant rate of distracted drivers, the absence of decent cultural education models on how motorist / cyclists should behave on the road, and the general apathy from a legal standpoint: I am wondering what our terminal velocity will become before the inevitable confrontation blows up?
Perhaps we should protest and have the largest ‘Critical Mass’ in history to ride on Washington. I’m not necessarily a huge fan of Critical Mass … BUT: it does bring cycling to everyone in a way you cannot ignore. It’s time to WAKE UP America and realize that cyclists are human beings with loved ones, children, mothers, fathers, siblings, and friends – just like everybody else.
For Pity’s Sake: please stop hating people different than you. I don’t want to mourn anymore.
Ride On my Friends – Please Come Home Safe
May the road be smooth, the wind ever at your back. May the dog bark but not chase and your water bottles be ever full. Know not the sting of pavement against skin or the terror of traffic. Pedal pleasantly onward savoring the sweet breeze and the warm sun. Life is a blessing and so let us be at peace with one another, brethren of the road.