Matthew Parris in his Times column today posted a brief apology for his Christmas attack on cyclists. (See my post yesterday.)
Today Parris wrote:
“I offended many with my Christmas attack on cyclists. It was meant humorously but so many cyclists have taken it seriously that I plainly misjudged. I am sorry.”
Not much, but he did admit to a misjudgment, I’ll take it. Thank you Mr. Parris.
It just goes to show cyclists as a world wide group, do have a voice. When we all come together as in this case, it is a loud voice indeed and people can't help but hear it.
Let’s hope lessons have been learned and some good will come out of this. Maybe Matthew Parris and some of his fellow journalists will at least tone it down in the future.
Matthew Parris in his Times column today posted a brief apology for his Christmas attack on cyclists. (See my post yesterday.)
I have lived in Charleston, South Carolina, since November 2001. It has been my privilege to meet, and count amongst my friends, many talented artists, writers and songwriters.
One of these is Red Evans, a writer and author. Red and I belong to a writers’ group who meet at a local Barnes & Noble once a month. We share our writings and offer each other our suggestions and input.
Red is a former radio DJ, and in the 1970s was a TV news anchor for Channel 2 here in Charleston.
Early last year Red would read to us from a manuscript he was working on. He has a wonderful clear voice, as one would expect from a former broadcaster. He is a funny man, and his humor shows in his writing; he had the group laughing ’til our faces hurt.
Red’s book was subsequently published; it is called “On Ice.” An unusual and hilarious road trip story about a corpse being kept literally on ice in a kiddie-pool in the back of a pick-up truck.
The body of Tyrane Percival is being transported by friends from West Virginia to Louisiana for burial in a plot next to Tyrane’s former lover who had died very young many years before.
Red was at the last writers’ meeting at the end of November and reading from a new and equally funny manuscript for another new book.
On Christmas Day, I got an email from his family, saying Red had terminal cancer, which had spread to his brain. This came as a huge shock; he had given no indication at the meeting just weeks before that anything was amiss.
At that meeting, we wandered off the subject of writing and on to the subject of “News.” Red remarked, “Don’t get me started.” He then proceeded to go off on an extremely insightful tirade about the media, both in print but in particular, TV news.
He pointed out that there is no news anymore, television and cable stations put out a series of trash magazine articles. These are also injected with the broadcaster’s opinion; this was strictly forbidden in Red’s day.
He told us, “We had to report the news straight faced and couldn’t even show by facial expression or tone of voice, whether we approved or disapproved.” He added, “And that’s how it should be.”
I wasn’t even going to mention this next part, but Red’s words were recently brought home so clearly to me. I am talking about the article in the London Times by Matthew Parris, in which he suggested people should string piano wire across country lanes in England to decapitate cyclists.
The cyclist crime to deserve this punishment? Littering the countryside with discarded energy drink bottles.
This is not news; this is an amateur rant one would expect to find on an amateur blog, not in the Times. It is not even good investigative journalism, there is no proof cyclists litter the countryside. As we all know cyclists carry refillable bottles in a cage on the frame.
Growing up in England, the Times was to me the pinnacle of journalism. Now sadly they have lowered their standards to the rest of the tabloids, and print trash just to sell newspapers.
If Matthew Parris had substituted Muslims, or Gays, instead of “Lycra clad cyclists,” he would have caused a huge public outcry; he may have even been arrested.
The reason I wasn’t planning on mentioning this? It was done for sensationalism. The writer knew he would get support from the general population, and that he would get a rise out of cyclists. I felt I should not take the bait, and perpetuate this trash.
However, Red Evans made me realize it goes deeper than this one article. This type of “humor” is no better than the racist jokes that were told, (not too long ago) and today are no longer acceptable. By poking fun at a minority group, it makes the majority somehow feel superior.
The problem is, it is highly dangerous, because as history tells us it excites violence against these minority groups. Before we know it, it is open season for cyclists on our roads. But cyclists are not animals to be hunted down, (or run down) they are human beings, somebody’s son, daughter, parent, or spouse.
One of the reasons for WWII was because certain people wanted to round up minorities and kill them. To suggest we do the same now, even as a thinly veiled joke is an affront to those who died in that war, and is in extremely bad taste. It is beneath the Times to print such trash.
Red, my good friend, it is my privilege to know you; I am a better and wiser man for having met you. You pointed out how another part of the fabric of our society is disintegrating.
I stopped watching the “news” and buying newspapers some time ago, they make me depressed. The fact that Comedy Central can put on a nightly show poking fun at the TV News shows there is a real problem.
Professional journalists and the media cannot be trusted to correct the decay; they are only interested in their bottom line. It is maybe up to amateur bloggers like myself and all the other little bloggers out there, to bring this to people’s attention.
Fight on Red, my positive thoughts go out to you and your family.
Looking forward to 2008 and the future, I intend to keep this blog going.
I recently went past posting number 200; it has become increasingly difficult to write more technical stuff, even though this is what everyone wants, because I have covered many aspects of it already. History is less limited, so there will be more of that, I’m sure.
Industry people are starting to notice the blog. A major publisher, (Crown Publishing.) has just sent me a pre-release copy of “Major.” The life story of Major Taylor, by Todd Balf.
A book from a major publisher by a New York Times best selling author, (Who happens to be a cyclist.) will introduce a lot of people to Major Taylor, and to the history of the sport of cycling. I will be reading the book this coming month and posting a review probably around February when the book goes out on release.
I am looking forward to continuing riding my bike, and improving my level of fitness even more. I am a firm believer that the higher the level of fitness, the greater the riding pleasure. The greater the riding pleasure, the more a person is apt to ride, and so the whole process is self-perpetuating, after reaching that certain level.
My accident left me more aware and cautious, but not fearful of riding in traffic. I cannot allow fear to stop me from doing what I love. Some have a fear of flying, when logically the chances of dying in a plane crash are so slight that a person may as well discount it altogether.
The same with riding a bike. There is more likelihood of dying in an automobile than on a bike, and yet we feel safer in a car. One needs to rationalize that danger is perceived rather than actual. In over 55 years of riding, I have had two serious accidents on a bike (My first in 1970.) so the chances of my having another are remote.
Death is inevitable; I may as well fear living. That is not bravado, it is thinking logically. The alternative is to not exercise, slowly deteriorate, live out my final years in pain, suffering, and humiliation, and then die.
It is important that I stay physically fit to have the energy and the physical ability to do all the other things I need to do. I feel that my best work is still ahead of me. Cycling is extremely important to me; however, it is not my entire life.
My main creative passion is now songwriting. The photo (by Joshua Curry.) at the top was taken recently at the Monday Songwriters’ Night, which takes place every week at the Sunfire Grill, in West Ashley, Charleston.
When my accident occurred last year, I was in the middle of recording a CD. Much of this project includes the songs, the lyrics of which are in my book. It was put on hold and one of my priorities is to return to the studio and finish it.
The CD will also be called Prodigal Child, and will compliment the book. The book title came from a song of that name. I feel this is somewhat unique, how many novels have a title song; or for that matter, how many people have written a novel and recorded a CD?
I want to close this piece by thanking all reading this for your continued support. Most hits come from the USA, but many from Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. It is particularly satisfying to get so many readers from my native England. I get a fair number from countries like France, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland and more.
I also want to thank those who comment on the various postings; your highly intelligent and insightful comments add so much to the original article. I’m sure this brings readers back again to check out what is being said, and often sparks further comment.
It is satisfying when I get new comments on some of my older articles. I get an email every time a new comment is posted, so I do read them. For example, on the one about David Tesch that I wrote in December 2006, many people who knew him including his sister have since added their memories. Just last week someone who knew Dave from high school found the article and commented.
I can’t leave out my thanks to those who have bought my novel, Prodigal Child. I notice that Amazon.com has dropped the price again to $16.29; this is an extremely good deal for a quality hard cover book. My book is the only thing advertised here.
Blogging, as you may know is free, however, my archives page, which has been a huge success and I encourage you to use, is on my website. The website is also getting a large volume of traffic, and I have recently had to upgrade my web-hosting plan to deal with the increase. Those of you who have bought the book have helped offset some of that cost. So again, thank you.
As for the blog, I will keep writing, as long as you keep reading. It is a two-way street; it gives me a great deal of satisfaction, and forces me to write, thereby honing my writing skills. Just as building a lot of bicycle frames, improved my skill as a framebuilder. If others find my writings entertaining and informative, that is the ice cream on my apple pie.
I look forward to journeying into the next year with all of you as my riding companions. I wish you a happy and abundant New Year.
As another year draws to a close, it is a time to reflect.
When I posted an account of my accident on this blog, (Dec. 7, 2006.) two days after it happened, there were 20 comments from people wishing me a speedy recovery.
This was a large number when I consider that my blog only got a 100 hits a day back then, and 20 return visitors a day.
Those 20 comments probably came from the entire regular readership at that time. It was this thought that kept me going and helped me tremendously over the months that followed. The thought that people cared, and these were mostly people I had never met.
The bicycle and the love of riding was the common element that connected us. For four months my vision was so bad (From a damaged nerve.) that I couldn’t drive a car or ride my bike; I was pretty much house bound. My computer and this blog was one thing that prevented me from going stir-crazy.
I used a pair of eyeglasses with a piece of black electrician’s tape over one lens, so the computer screen did not appear double. After four months my vision was improving, I could now focus on the computer screen or a book, without the aid of tape on my glasses. It was just my distance vision that was still a problem.
My doctor told me I could drive again if I used an eye patch over my right eye. I tried this, but the eye patch would not fit over, or under my glasses; I went back to the single piece of black tape on the inside of the right lens.
Actually, this worked better than the eye patch, which blocked out all vision to the right. The narrow piece of tape cuts out the double vision, but still allows me to look to the left and right, without any blind spots.
I have a tendency to get arthritis if I am inactive. My joints were stiffening up, and there was some pain. When I ride my bike, the stiffness and pain go away; it was obvious I needed to get back on a bike. I did so in March of 2007.
After a couple of months, my fitness level improved and I discovered, quite by accident, a strange phenomenon with my vision. I had noticed if I worked on the computer for a while, afterwards my distance vision was good for a short while, before returning to double.
One day I decided to ride my bike without the tape on the glasses, and found I could see just fine. I got all excited thinking my vision had suddenly returned to normal. Later that day I drove my car and couldn’t see worth a shit.
I discovered, if I look straight ahead, for example, at the TV screen or a picture on the wall, I see a double image. If I keep my head straight and look up at the light fixture in the ceiling, I am perfectly focused.
Riding my road bike, my head is down and I am looking up all the time, so my vision is fine. All these strange variances in my vision convince my doctors and me that the normal vision will return eventually. The eye itself is fine; it is the nerve that moves the eye to focus that is damaged.
It is appropriate that my insurance claim and settlement came to a close this month; the end of a year being a symbolic time for putting the past to rest and moving forward. My next post will be the last of 2007 and I will write about my plans for the coming year.
Photo by Joshua Curry
If you didn’t read Part I, it is the post immediately before this one.
After my extreme misfortune of being involved in an accident, came a series of more fortunate circumstances.
I was not unconscious, but was in a somewhat dazed state and not able to think clearly for myself. It was a good thing that someone immediately called for medical help and the police.
The officer who responded was a motorcycle cop, and was maybe a little understanding of what it is like to be in the minority on two wheels, in a mindset that roads are for vehicles with a wheel in each corner.
I was taken to the hospital, and the police officer later visited me and took my statement before filing his police report. This was the second fortunate circumstance.
My attorney later told me that so often in an automobile/cyclist accident, the cyclist is seriously injured and goes to the hospital and the police officer only takes statements from the driver involved, and any witnesses. The accident report is filed and the injured cyclist never gets a chance to give their side of the story.
The police officer also wrote a citation for the female driver of the SUV I hit, for “Failure to Yield.” This turned out to be a pointless exercise, because some ten days later a judge dismissed the charge, because it was my word against hers. I did not even get a chance to describe the extent of my injuries.
The driver of the SUV stated in court; “I didn’t see him, I didn’t know what the Hell had hit the side of my vehicle.” I feel this was an admission of negligence, but the woman had some strange notion that because she didn’t see me, she was not at fault.
The day after my accident I called cycling attorney Gary Brustin; I called Gary because I had known him for many years. He is an avid cyclist, and owns a custom ‘dave moulton’ bike as well as a Fuso.
Gary Brustin handled the initial phase of the case, but because his business is in California he handed the case over to Peter Wilborn, an attorney from my home town of Charleston, SC. Peter is also an avid cyclist and specializes in cycling cases.
My next piece of good fortune was that there was a witness. Another female driver was also sitting in the center lane, behind the SUV, waiting to turn. She saw me, and saw the accident happen. My attorney contacted this witness and she came to his office and made a statement.
If this witness saw me, then the driver of the SUV should have also seen me, except that maybe she was focused on the “gap” in traffic, and where she was headed. However, my final piece of fortune was in the fact that the driver of the SUV had sufficient insurance coverage to meet the settlement.
My attorney Peter Wilborn has become a good friend and cycling companion; we have ridden many miles together, and sometimes we ride with a group of his other friends. He has shown me some quiet local country roads to ride on.
He advised me, and I pass this advice on, to increase my “uninsured and underinsured coverage” on my own auto insurance to $250,000 per person, $500,000 per accident.
I am not planning a repeat performance, but should I be in an accident with an underinsured motorist I can claim on my own auto insurance. If I were not to blame there would be no penalty imposed on me.
The other advice, if you are involved in an accident, call the police. Or get someone else to call and make sure the officer knows you wish to make a statement. If you are taken to the hospital before he arrives, have someone relay that message to him.
Get an attorney that specializes in cycling cases. The League of American Bicyclists has a list. A cycling attorney knows cyclist’s rights, and will know from experience how much to expect from a settlement, and get the best outcome.
An attorney will take a third of the settlement, but they take no money up front, and it is in their own interest to get the best settlement possible. Insurance companies are in the business if collecting money in the form of premiums, and paying out as little as possible in claims.
In my case, the insurance company stuck with their client’s claim that she was not to blame, and it was left up to me to prove otherwise. I could have collected the witness’s statement and negotiated this settlement on my own.
However, that would have been a tremendous amount of work and stress on my part, and I am convinced that the outcome would not have been as satisfactory as it was by leaving the case in the hands of a legal professional.