Sunday, August 10, 2008

Bike rage and second class citizenry

I have a colleague who is Georgian, the Tiblisi style of Georgian. Russia is currently invading Georgia stating that ethnic Russians need to be protected. The problem is that today, those same Russians have gone beyond the ethnically Russian areas and are now bombing Georgian industrial areas. Putin, smart guy that he is, knows that Bush is a lame duck and can't do anything, and China isn't going to do anything during the olympics. Pardon the word, but this self defense line by the Russians is tantamount to a "ruse".

What does this have to do with biking? I'm glad you asked. You see, politically, Georgia doesn't matter. They aren't a world power, they used to be under domination of Russia, heck, even Stalin was from there. Georgia is small, and if you want to overrun it, it might just be a question of timing.

Most people in the U.S. drive. Most people identify with whomever they aspire to be, not those from whom they came. Cycling is cheap, and outside of expensive materials, competition and clothing, not very well respected. For this same reason, most people are against an inheritance tax because they imagine that they too will someday "have to" pay this tax, which very few pay. People want to feel powerful on the road. They want to be the person who enforces the law. They will always go for the larger car, the truck, the bling, any way to assert their power. Bikers do this with bling. This shows that they are serious users of the road and can be respected. Critical Mass riders try to take back the roads; they are Georgia. The world doesn't care about CM or Georgia because the casual news observers says "hey, it's internal, they were Russians before 91, and they didn't used to be on the road either".


On page three of the NYT article, you find a statistic wherein 2/3rds of bicycle plaintiffs lose. Let me tell you, cyclists don't go to court unless they are maimed. Dead ones only have the legal recourse of their families, and non dead, non maimed ones are told by police, as I once was after I was assaulted by some teenage boys in Fremont, "should I really make a report? It will be a lot of work to get the plate number from the 911 call you left. I'm surprised you can't remember it two days later" when the police finally showed up.

Yes, I'm mad that the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and the whole world shrugged. I'm mad that Russia invades Georgia and people just want more Olympics. I'm mad that a driver ran over a couple of bikers, and they are the ones arrested. I'm mad that I can be assaulted on the road by a driver, get the plate number, I.D. the driver, name the car and distinguish where the dents are, relay that information to 911, and he doesn't even check the 911 call.

Drivers identify with drivers. Cylists are different and don't have recognizably powerful avatars like drivers do. Juries filled with drivers aquit drivers who kill or maim cyclists because they are biased. Drivers protect themselves. I'm glad that the Wobblies came out against the private automobile. I'm glad they saw it as a false sense of upward mobility. The Wobblies lost that fight, but they were right in the end. Ask yourself if you identify with Russia or Georgia, cyclists or drivers, the U.S. or Iraq. Ask yourself which side you are on.

And when the undercover cops infiltrate CM in Seattle this month on August 29th and either escalate a disturbance or create one so that they can try to shut CM down and discredit it in the eyes of the "bike shouldn't be on the road" public, I will remember the invasions of Georgia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and I hope that I fight as valiantly as people in those countries have fought.

Roads are public rights of way. You as a citizen have access to them. Bicycles are recognized as vehicles by international treaty. Stand up for those rights. Use the roads, all of them.

1 comment:

Nick Spang said...

Excellent analysis, I think you have gotten to the heart of the matter we are facing here. Most comfortable citizens won't bat an eye at the problems of others, but will feel immense solidarity with others who share the status quo.