Is there anyone out there who hasn't heard enough drivers voicing violent thoughts on cyclists to be sick of it? The small minded, ignorant, and plain dumb people who say these things ought to give their anger some serious thought because any society worth it's salt would pull these person's driver's licenses rather than let them drive around in two tons of weaponized steel if it had any common sense, and it is only a matter of time until our society regains common sense.
From The Times, Dec. 27, 2007. It is titled (I kid you not): "What's smug and needs to be decapitated?" Read for yourself: "A festive custom we could do worse than foster would be stringing piano wire across country lanes to decapitate cyclists."
Hmmm... Let’s see. First we have an educated man writing in a public newspaper about decapitating people on purpose.
Note that Matt Parris is not saying that hey, if someone rides or drives recklessly, and have an accident, maybe they'll learn to be more careful. That would be well, harsh, but reasonable, all things considered, much as some cyclists including this one have often opined that if a careless driver hit a bike cop, maybe police would start taking drivers killing or injuring cyclists more seriously and the roads would be safer. But this cyclist at least has never advocated that bike cops should be slain, nor anyone else, for that matter, simply to teach a lesson. And certainly it's hard for a reasonable person to make such a statement about people who are doing nothing wrong and not bothering you. Yet that is what Mr. Parris is doing.
Most cyclists are not the hooligans of the road the media, the car culture, and the bulk of the ignorant public make them seem. Are there some bad ones? Yes. But you are still more likely to be hit by some guy in an Infinity than a guy on a bike doing anything wrong. Yet who is the target of Mr. Parris' homicidal rant? The cyclist, not the bad driver who may kill you and terrorizes the roads is who they desire to kill or who they wish would be killed! He's jokingly suggesting going out and killing people. Off with their heads!
Maybe this is how the Brits employ humor but here in America even with our freedom of speech protections that comes awfully close to inciting violence given hat drivers and other road users often do attack each other, and many times they specifically attack cyclists, either by throwing bottles, firing bb guns, or simply using their cars as weapons. The specific sort of attack that Parris mentions in his article was actually used several times in attempts to kill cyclists and motorcyclists in his own good country of England.
According to the BBC News (July 7, 2006): “A cyclist has been treated for serious facial injuries after riding into a wire which was deliberately left strung across part of a Swindon park.
The woman was cycling with her family through St Mark's Recreation Ground in Gorsehill on Thursday evening when she struck the wire. The impact threw her off her bike. She was taken to hospital with injuries which police said might need surgery. Anyone with information about the wire is urged to come forward.”
Maybe they should look up Mr. Parris and ask him if he has any idea who did it, since it sound remarkably like what he jokingly suggested in his column – as do twelve other incidents also reported in articles, where wire strung across the pavement was intended to decapitate riders and resulted in injury and damage. Since this sort of thing has actually been done recently in attempts to kill riders, perhaps Mr. Parris should have picked a better subject for his satire, to put it mildly.
And his claim that cyclists as a rule have a "brutish disregard for all other road users"? Oh, ple-ease. This sounds much more like the driver than makes a left turn as you are going straight through the intersection and runs you over, or the person changing lanes without signal, or the mother on the cell phone in the big SUV who is all over the road and thinks her pointless mindless blabbering about some stupid meaningless aspect of her pointless meaningless life -- like ohmygawd, I haven't been able to get down to the beach house in two days, my life is so hard -- justifies killing everyone in her path?
Really, you want brutish disregard for other road users, how about the driver who opens a door or turns without looking and kills a biker, or the person who gets drunk and plows into another car killing an entire family in one fell swoop? In all seriousness, how many families of four in sedans are killed by being hit by cyclists every year?
Perhaps he means cyclists moving further into the main lane of traffic than he expects. Many drivers do not understand that although the convention is for cyclists to ride to the side of car traffic generally speaking, they are still going to interact with other traffic on the roads when merging to go around hazards off to the roadside, when making turns, or when passing through intersections or traffic signals.
In many cases, non-riders often get shocked when American cyclists ride to the left of the white line that defines the edge of the road. What is shocking about this? Why would a person – the cyclists in question – be operating a vehicle off of the usable portion of the street?
On some roads there is a suitable paved shoulder outside of the white line and it is possible to ride there; on others the shoulder is covered with gravel or glass or debris; or is cracked and deteriorated; still other roads have no paved shoulder outside the white line, or a shoulder that is too narrow to travel on safely, perhaps only a few inches thick. The effective edge of the road for the cyclist fluctuates and may not correspond to lane markings. On one stretch of street the cyclist may be safe riding outside that white line – while a mile down the road the blacktop there may vanish, or the may be covered with gravel. The cyclist moves over to the left; his distance from the effective edge of the street remains unchanged; he is leaving himself as much room as possible between him and the cars to his left while still leaving a bit of room to his right, but the room to his right remains a constant between his wheel and the usable edge of the street.
However as that useable edge of the street fluctuates based on conditions – sometimes in spite of whatever markings are upon it – the cyclist will move with it. Thus cyclists and drivers must be careful to be aware of their surroundings. While this should be considered common sense, it instead ends up with the ignorant denouncing cyclists as heedless of other road users. Really? Is it the drivers fault if he doesn’t understand how bicycles and cars interact with road conditions and each other? This isn’t to say that some cyclists aren’t clueless, rude or idiotic, but rather to point out that most behavior that drivers regard as such is actually safe and reasonable and the misunderstanding is the driver’s error. After repeating the mistake of many other ignorant non-cyclists who denounce bike riders as heedless of other road users and careless, Mr. Parris then goes on to say that his ire against cyclists is also based on the fact that some British riders are littering(!). Littering, really?
Oh my gosh, I guess in England drivers never ever ever throw glass bottles on the roadway causing a cyclist to get a flat, they never flick lit cigarettes out windows, possibly causing you to flinch and crash or even burning a hole in your shorts, or simply throw their candy wrappers out the window? If being a slob was justification for decapitating people with barbed wire you can bet every single driver that has covered the roads in broken glass would be at the head of the line, especially since their litter is harmful and can cause flat tires. To the best of my knowledge no sports drinks come in glass bottles. Is throwing a plastic bottle or aluminum can by the roadside bad? Yeh, it's littering, it's slovenly and rude and makes a mess. But compared to the number of drivers the number of cyclists is relatively small. Therefore, the amount of litter from each... well, do the math. There would be more litter from cars, and it would be of a type that is likely to cause damage to other road users or their vehicles.
From a littering standpoint, one plastic bottle by the curb is as bad as ten broken glass bottles on the shoulder. However as road hazards, the ten broken glass bottles are a much more serious concern. And again, since there are a lot more drivers than cyclists, the number of cyclist litterbugs – like the number of cyclists with “brutish disregard for other road users” compared to the number of similarly inclined drivers – would be incredibly small. In other words, if there were any cyclists in the waiting-to-be-beheaded-for-littering line, they would be way, way way towards to back. But that itself should be the issue; for littering he’s jokingly suggesting decapitating people?
In the first place, killing people who are minding their own business with unprovoked sabotage is hardly funny, even in jest. And secondly, like many non-riders who have said things like “Love the photo, it made me day” after seeing a picture of a dead biker, or who responded to stories of accidents with “So we almost had a few less cyclists on the street, what’s the problem?” there is every reason to believe that satire or not in this case perhaps the bloke means it at some level. This is especially the case given that the type of crime he jokingly talks of encouraging has actually been committed on numerous occasions in the UK alone. Basically, this man has issues. But keep in mind this isn’t just some village idiot, this is a columnist at a well known newspaper.
However, the very idea of chopping heads off for a crime like littering makes one wonder. Either this is a sign that England has been too heavily flooded with Islamic extremists who have yet to adopt more western ways and moderate, or perhaps it's not the claimed littering that bothers Mr. Parris. Maybe it's that the people he's talking about are on bikes. After all, he doesn't say "to decapitate litterbugs." The littering thing is clearly the most convenient "reason" he could find; if not another one would surely have sufficed. His beef with cyclists isn't that they litter, or are heedless of other road users -- even in England the latter is a category surely reserved for most drivers. It's that they are on bikes that's his problem. He says quite clearly: "To decapitate cyclists." Imagine if someone jokingly suggested decapitating people who play music you don't like, or who are fans of another ball team, or even who simply have a different color skin?
Oh wait, that sort of thing used to be said all the time. But those people were narrow minded bigots and modern Western society now frowns upon them. Unless they are the bigots of the road, like Mr. Parris or his many American counterparts.
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