Social activism is much more fun on paper

About 2 months ago, 3 riders in single file in the bike lane were run down on McDowell Road near Hawes in Mesa, a road I’d ridden hundreds of times.  The driver was busy setting her GPS and somehow missed 20 cyclists.

2 weeks earlier, a cyclist was killed a mile from our home at Thompson Peak Parkway and 100th Street, riding in the bike lane in broad daylight.  I ride this intersection several times a week commuting to work.  I was numb and stupefied when the news came out that because no laws were broken, the driver received only a $420 fine. The yellow arrow is a bike lane sign, the red arrow where he was killed. So prominent its a stock view on Google Earth.

Arizona, along with Montana and Alaska, are the only states that don’t have vehicular homicide laws. Arizona is one of the few states that don’t have a distracted driver law.

This is a quote from the Arizona Republic article: “According to the Scottsdale police report, witnesses who were in a car behind [the suspect’s] SUV said they saw a bicyclist in the bike lane. They said they saw the SUV “slowly fade into the bike lane and then hit the bike rider from behind.

This woman should be in jail. Her defenders say it was an accident, a momentary mistake, we all make them.  That is our overweight self-absorbed auto-centric denial.  How many momentary mistakes have killed someone? Its not momentary when the people behind you can provide play-by-play, and its not a mistake when you choose to not pay attention. Its not a mistake when you choose to get in the car after drinking, its a choice, right? RIGHT?!  Our laws are so inconsistent the bitch didn’t even lose her license for a month.

Like Snoop said “niggaz was ready ta loot”, bust caps off in dumbass egocentric careless North Snottsdale trash in their 2-ton death machines, but the best outlet I could find was this Rally to draw attention to the problem.

It was almost 30 miles from home to the capitol. I met up with 100+ others 8 miles south, then we rode en masse.  I took my CX bike, cause that’s what I ride when I’m riding urban. Why would i ever ride willingly across the city through miles of traffic and bad neighborhoods, and not do it on canals and thorn-resistant tubes and stop for beers? Stupid move with 99 other roadies, not a single one carrying a flask. Thankfully i did not wear baggies, but my visor and spd pedals had people wondering what dumpster i pulled those out of. *sigh*…tridorks…

I have not been in a big pack in a long time, and only once where we rode without escort or road closures during Flight of the Pigs. The roadies seemed far too casual about playing in traffic. I spent the better part of 4 hours tucked way the fuck over in the bike lane, and way the fuck near the front where I could see first-hand the intersections.  Most of the others were just chatting and hammering and sometimes getting 3 or 4 wide and drifting more and more into the road, sometimes even into the outside lane.  ‘We‘ caused a car accident that happened right next to me, cause ‘we‘ began drifting into the outside lane, a car slowed down, and the car behind rear-ended him.  I jumped the sidewalk while shit transpired in my wake.  That’s why i rode the CX bike.

I ride the road a lot, I’m very comfortable, but I mostly assume I’m invisible. I don’t ever get complacent. You die when you get complacent. That such complacency was on display on THIS ride made me think its not complacency,  On the MTB, on crazy climbs, riding gnar, at pump track you expect to fall, to bailout, to session, to drop your bike, to HAB, to get bloody. Its a full body experience, and you are constantly reminded about your body’s fragility against bigger, harder heavier things.  Roadieing is so clean, so minimal, so weightless and aero you feel you are sailing naked through sunshine. In a pack you are in a vacuum and can’t even hear the wind. On the mtb you are used  to being alone, away from help, a police escort or a SAG wagon or a water stop or a doctor.  The day after the rally the rear wheel on the Bird deflected the wrong way and I ploughed my right hand through a cactus descending a nasty spot on Windgate. A segment dangled from my index finger for a hundred feet til it shook loose, but i kept riding another few hundred til the pitch eased enough to stop and care for myself. I screamed pulling a dozen spines out of my knuckles, cause no one else was coming to help.  MTBing is not about tightly-controlled  circumstances on mandated loops posted on Strava.  Roadieing is about structure, routine, and large packs of clean-shaven drone-like others. Seeing frivolous assumptions of safety, even after horrific accidents where those riders did everything right, pierced me with unease.  Would you call gnawing phlegmaticism a form of shock, after the crunch of an accident next to me, passing the spot out and back where the rider was murdered, then being around so many people who seemed so careless amidst so much danger?

The two hour ride to the state capitol building was, on the whole, stressful and not much fun.  There were probably ~500 cyclists total riding in from all over the Valley. The vibe wasn’t somber, but was very subdued. The rally was to the point and only lasted an hour, more for media and press releases.  There were a few speakers including Jerry Lewis, who replaced Russell Pearce. Lewis relayed the story of how he got hit in the junk with a padlock thrown from a car, during his campaign against Pearce. There was a short speech by one of the riders run-down on McDowell Road near Hawes last month. He thanked the first responders who saved his life, and if I am not mistaken among them were a couple of MTBrs coming from the NRA pit. There were also some media campaigns announced that hopefully will be viral and help raise awareness.

Then all the various groups promptly gathered up and left, with little fanfare or shwag or all the other trappings of 500 riders getting together. It just added to my sense of doing this out of duty, rather than desire. I didn’t know a single person in the Scottsdale group, and never got a name. People were polite, but most of the conversations were about training, or races, or other things that aren’t my scene.  My durable bike and how I could afford to ignore everyone’s signals about road hazards were about all I talked about, the little I talked. Conversation got less and less as my fatigue keeping up with speedy bikes built, until i got shot out the back on the last 5 miles back to the meetup, then slogged another 10 miles to my house. 60 miles ending at 1pm in +100 heat.  I was very very tired. That afternoon Alana made me get in the hottub with her while we watched Genevieve’s swim meet. I was pretty sure I was gonna die, right there, death by good parenting.

When I got home I saw that the sister of the guy who got killed near our house had responded to my FB post, and thanked us for our efforts towards change. How do you respond to a stranger like that?

my deepest condolences to you and your family. i ride this intersection several times a week during my commute, including today to the rally. I think about it every time i go through there, and participated today in memory of your brother.

Most mtbrs think this is not their issue, and there is some truth to that. But its about anyone who uses the roads – runners, kids, riding to THs, commuting, pub crawls, walking your dog, or in your car knowing that there are laws protecting you against stupid and irresponsible drivers. If you’ve ever almost been in an accident cause someone is texting, this is your issue too.

3 Comments

  1. Mostly well written, except for some “F” words language. Mrs. Margett F. Gullette, my school teacher for grades one through six taught me that the only excuse for using foul language is that you lack a command of the English language.

  2. @Jim where’d you go to school, Little House on the Prairie? At Princeton, saying fuck was just fine

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