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Watchdogging Blogging

There was a link to my last Thursday’s post about the Matthew Parris apology, on a cycling blog called Turnings.

It posted my piece with the following comment:

“Here’s the problem, none of these cyclists who are forever watchdogging all the comments of others (and granted beheading is a bit strong) ever wonder or decry the fact that cyclists the world over are perceived the same way. What can we, as a community, do about the issues the press and individuals raise? No small impact the clothing, packaging, manufacturing, etc have on the environment, or the lawlessness and discourtesy that are often foisted on an unsuspecting public that has no framework to understand our point of view, and worse, we do it with a righteous attitude rife with implication that we are saving the world! How about we work on *that* some more?”

The comment by Daniel Berlinger makes an excellent point. Yes actually, I do wonder and think about the subject often. It seems at times we are our own worst enemy.

Cyclists are arrogant is always the cry, Lycra Louts in some parts of the world. In defense of the cyclist a person could say, is it any wonder they are arrogant, anyone would be after being cursed at, honked at, had stuff thrown at them on a daily basis; cut off, knocked down and even seen their fellow cyclists killed.

But, as the comment above points out, the public has no framework to understand the cyclist’s point of view, and do most care about that viewpoint anyway?

The cyclist can argue that he has the right to ride on road, and he does by law. Does he have the “perceived right” by public opinion? Definitely not, the mindset of some is that cyclists don’t belong on the road, and just by being there appears arrogant. However, is acting in an arrogant manner, and giving people the finger the best way to change public opinion?

The lycra and the helmet has nothing to do with anything, it is the cyclist’s different color skin. It is what sets us apart and causes others to judge us by our appearance. And, like any minority group, the moment we put on that skin and get on a bike we are all judged by the worst standard of behavior of those within our group.

Just because a person in a car hurls abuse at a cyclist because he impedes his way, is it any different if the cyclist then does the same to the pedestrian who steps out in front of him? Does the shouting and abuse help, or make the situation any better? We are all just people trying to get to and from somewhere or other.

Does it help the cyclists cause when a car has to wait at a stop light and a cyclist rides straight through; what gives him the divine right to do that? It is just plain rude, a person wouldn't push in front of someone in line at a movie theatre. Where is the difference?

Change in attitude on both sides is needed; however, it will have to come from the cyclist first. Why? Because the cyclist has the most to gain and at the same time the most to loose. Everybody gains something, but most road users can’t see that yet.

More bikes, less congestion, for one. Safety, and less people killed on the roads will be another. It will cause everyone to slow the fuck down, and realize they will still get where they are going on time, without the carnage we have today.

I think the best way to bring change about, is not by any cyclists’ rights movement, but by individual riders, clubs and small groups of friends who ride together setting their own rules and codes of behavior.

When I’m out riding, I expect sloppy and poor driving from some people. I see it all the time when I drive my car, so it is not going to change just because I am on a bike. I stay alert; I ride defensively, and try not to let it spoil my ride.

When someone is waiting to turn or pull out from a side road, and they see me and are obviously waiting for me to pass, I give a thank you wave. Even though they are doing what they are supposed to be doing.

I do this because it is no effort, it costs me nothing, but does a lot for the cycling cause. It lets them know that not everyone in lycra and a helmet is a jerk. A thank you wave will do more for the next cyclist they see on road. Giving someone the finger if they cut you off, will most likely make them deliberately cut off the next cyclist they see.

But this is just me; when some bike riders can’t acknowledge and return my wave as a fellow cyclist, I wonder if I am expecting too much of this same person to give a thank you wave to a motorist. However, think on this, if you can give the finger if someone wrongs you, it takes no more effort to recognize someone doing the right thing.

As for the save the world issue, that is a band wagon that many of us have jumped on. Let’s be honest with ourselves; if cars ran on pixie dust and had zero carbon emissions, we would still ride because it is what we do, we are cyclists. And the fact that millions of little polyesters died to make my jersey, is neither here nor there.

Any other watchdog bloggers out there care to expand on the subject and add their viewpoint.


Friday Fun

After the seriousness of the Matthew Parris debacle over last few days, I think it is time for a little frivolity.

The picture above appeared on the front cover of a Southern California furniture company catalog in 1991. The studio that did the photo shoot borrowed a Fuso FRX bike from a Los Angeles bike store as one of the props.

The picture depicts a guy lying in bed looking at his Stor furniture catalog, while his better half slips out the backdoor with his bike.

(Question: Why are the drapes hanging on the wall instead of the window?)

A caption for the picture might read:

“Fred flops flat on his futon flipping fervently though fotos, fastidiously finding facts on fine furniture, while, Fiona, a flighty and flirtatious French fem fatale, flees fleet foot with Fred’s finely finished Fuso.”

(Try saying that fast after a few beers.)

An alternative caption might read, “Your futon is too firm, I find the Fuso much more comfortable.”

The word “Fundamental” at the bottom of the picture could also mean the girl is having Fun while the guy is Mental.

As you can see from the enlarged part of the picture, (Left.) the bike is indeed a Fuso and the girl is suitably dressed in cycling attire.

Looking at the size of the frame I think there may have been a slight stand-over problem, which no doubt is why they were unable to show the girl actually sitting on the bike.

Of course some photographers know all there is to know about high fashion and models, but sometimes know little about bikes.

This is obvious in the picture below where they have assembled the bike with the fork backwards. I thought everyone knew that bike forks curve forward. Unless it’s a Stayer Bike.

Bike from Cynthia Rowley. God help us when fashion companies get into the bike business. Specs for the bike: It comes in Blue or Green.


Matthew Parris Apologizes

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.


My friend Red Evans, and the Times article

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

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 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.