Sunday, August 28, 2005

Cyclist 101 (Satire)

As I wrote in “Walking 101”, with fuel prices increasing to heart-stopping levels, more and more people are looking for alternative forms of transportation. Some have discovered a novel means to get from point A to point B – walking. But walking is only one way to replace motorized transportation. There’s another called ‘bicycling’ or ‘cycling’. For those of you who’ve mastered the arcane art of walking, bicycles offer another challenge. My own son, for example, learned it’s possible to walk across the living room and change the channel on the television set, something he could not do without the aid of a remote control prior to learning about walking.

For some motorists, walking is too limited. It’s not fast enough, or it doesn’t get them across the vast distances they need to travel. Sometimes it’s nearly half a mile to the nearest grocery store, and that’s obviously too far to walk. There must be a better way.

For distances too far to walk, yet short enough to avoid driving, consider riding a bicycle. Riding a bicycle is much like driving a motor vehicle, though the speeds are much lower. However, cycling is unlike driving because the bicycle operator is required to maintain his balance on two wheels while moving his feet in a circular motion called ‘pedaling’, and he must do this while paying attention to road conditions, traffic, pedestrians, and wayward dogs.

This is difficult to believe, but the bicycle was invented long before the motor vehicle. Over a century ago, back in the Pleistocene, people used it for basic transportation. Cave paintings depict early men riding bicycles as they hunted mastodons. The popularity and low cost of bicycles put many livery stables out of business. Henry Ford saw the assembly lines churning out bicycles and applied the idea to the manufacture of automobiles.

If you’re determined to attempt riding a bicycle, remember this line from Samuel Clemens “Get a bicycle, you will not regret it, if you live.”

But before going into Bicycling 101, let’s review what motorists commonly know about cyclists. Most motorists see bicycle operators from time to time. From inside a motorist’s cocoon of steel and glass, the typical cyclist looks like any other potential axe murderer or wild-eyed maniac. Here are some of the more common types:

Sidewalk cyclist: A maniac riding on the sidewalk.
Vehicular cyclist: A maniac riding in traffic, obeying rules and regulations.
Wrong-way cyclist: A maniac riding against traffic (see Darwin).
Recumbent cyclist: A maniac riding a rolling lawn chair.
Mountain biker: A mud-covered maniac with a mud-covered bicycle hanging on an immaculate SUV.
Pack or peleton: A rolling group of maniacs.
Darwin: Possibly the patron saint of intellectually-challenged cycling maniacs.

Never feed cyclists. They’ll learn about the easy handout and return again and again. They subsist quite nicely on their regular diet of Gatorade and inhaled bugs so please don’t feed them.

Do not honk at cyclists. They’ll return the one-fingered salute, or on some occasions, all five fingers – for emphasis.

Keep your windows tightly closed when near a cyclist, especially at a red light. They smell very bad. They spit in all directions, though they can achieve good distance by spitting down wind, and cyclists ALWAYS know the wind direction. They are known to shoot ‘snot rockets’ from their nostrils. These are their GOOD points.

Never engage recumbent cyclists in conversation about their outlandish machines. They’re referred to as ‘bents’ for good reason. They’ll extol the virtues of their bicycles until your eyes glaze over. You’ll wish that, like a muskrat, you could gnaw off a limb in order to escape. Bent riders are the bicycling equivalents of Moonies. Do not get sucked into the cult.

Never ask vehicular cycling maniacs a simple question about bicycling unless you have a lot of time for a complicated answer citing at least three different studies, mountains of statistics, and the obligatory reference to John Forester. Trapped muskrats have it easier.

If at this point, you’re still committed to joining the ranks of socially-challenged, morally impaired bicyclists and become yet another Spandex-clad affront to public decency, I have just one thing more to say.

Welcome!

The first step is learning to balance. If you’ve mastered Walking 101, it’s likely you’re capable of mastering this skill as well. Most cyclists learned this in grade school and many of them haven’t progressed since. So despite having the ability to balance and the knowledge of how to drive an SUV the size of a small country, you may not be prepared to ride a bicycle in traffic.

Here are a few tips:

Stop signs and red lights.
If you regard these as merely ‘advisory’ when riding your bicycle, see ‘Darwin’ again.

Sidewalks.
Sidewalks are for pedestrians, people who walk as a means of locomotion. Cyclists ride on the street, safe from pedestrians.

Railroad tracks, trolley tracks, manhole covers, painted lines.
Very slippery, especially when wet. They cause cyclists to fall and collect patches of ‘road rash’. Pavement is also likely to tear away large sections of spandex, possibly opening the cyclist to an indecent exposure charge.

Seams, cracks, and grates in the road surface.
When wide enough, these can trap a wheel and cause a crash. See ‘indecent exposure’.

Helmets.
If you prefer to go without one, see Darwin. Helmets are not a substitute for common sense, nor do they protect against all hazards.

Pedestrians.
Pedestrians are capable of changing speed or direction in a single step. Their actions are highly unpredictable. Skaters, small children, and dog walkers are all potentially pedestrians.

Impeding traffic.
If you’re stopped by a police officer saying you’re impeding or obstructing traffic, refer him to the “Binary Instruction Handbook for Law Enforcement Officers”. It says that in a 35mph zone, for instance, you can be stopped for speeding if you’re traveling at 36 mph. You can be stopped for impeding traffic at 34 mph. The handbook is available as a hard copy, Word document, or pdf file. Additionally there’s a comic book version available for county sheriffs.

Dogs.
Dogs feed on slower cyclists. Try to stay in the front or middle of the pack. Of course, everyone else will have the same idea, leading to an impromptu sprint. If riding alone, you’ll discover the true value of sprinting. Think of dogs as meat-eating personal trainers planning to dine on your leg.

Motorists.
After riding on the street, you may believe that motorists are maniacs in motor vehicles. Congratulations! You’ve come full-circle. While some cyclists believe that motorists are deliberately trying to kill them, it is not true. There’s seldom anything deliberate about it. Motorists may be distracted by a cellular phone, an AM radio talk show, screaming children on the back seat, an inflammatory article on the sports page, or a fumbled burrito that just landed in their lap. When they inadvertently run over a cyclist or pedestrian in such a situation, they inevitably say, “But officer, I never saw him!” They sometimes pay a stiff fine totaling several hundred dollars.

Welcome to the ranks of the cycling elite! You can say with pride that you’re riding a bicycle to save money/lose weight/shaft the multi-national oil companies/turn your back on consumerism/help the environment/cause wide spread panic/get rid of static cling/ or like I do, to take over the world! (With apologies to Pinky and the Brain, of course!)

(Seriously, if you’re thinking about taking up cycling as a way to save on fuel costs, please consider taking a League of American Bicyclists Road1 course. See http://www.bikeleague.org/educenter/index.html for a course in your area. The goal of Road1 is to educate cyclists and make them safer, more confident riders in a short time. Many of us have learned the hard way – through long and sometimes painful experience – what Road1 teaches in a few hours.)

3 Comments:

Blogger Fritz said...

You had me cracking up all through this article, Ed! I've posted a link to it at my Boulder bike blog.

12:15 AM  
Blogger George said...

Seriously funny!

I've done the same and will be linking to it on my blog.

Good stuff.

7:52 AM  
Blogger Jake von Slatt said...

. . Never engage recumbent cyclists in conversation about their outlandish machines . . .

Oh, so true, so true . . .

Hackwit

2:35 PM  

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