Monday, March 8

Some Battles Choose Us

Battles We Pick
A long time ago, I picked a battle in our car club. I was irritated because the national organization was drifting away from a principle of being directly accountable to its members. That battle was won, and I was doubly fortunate, because my move to Texas also put an end to my role in things thereafter. Along the way, I found that many of those I opposed were pretty nice people, too. I took as a compliment one of them later telling me they were shocked at how I turned out to be pretty darned good. Yes, I was. I worked hard at it.

Myself, Complete with Helmet, Driving the JCNA Horner Award Winner

Battles That Pick Us
Now, it's a different time and a different place. I really LIKE to ride my bike. I know HOW to ride it in traffic safely, and I have absolutely, positively NO interest in bicycle advocacy. However, I'm concerned that the ChipSeal (really, let's be accurate and call it "the people versus Reed Bates") case in Ellis County will impinge on that. Regardless of what anybody might think or wish about WHAT Reed ought to do, the simple truth is that the case will proceed to a decision that may profoundly affect my lattitude to ride on any road as I think safest. In truth, taken to its logical, and somewhat absurd, conclusion, it might even affect my lattitude to operate the Land Rover as is safest. IMHO, I feel that absent exceptional circumstances, the decision on how to ride/drive safest should be left with the individual whose butt is on the seat. I may not agree with that decision in all circumstances, but I durn sure do not want people who do NOT ride bikes second guessing a cyclist riding decision based on simple "this seems scary" prejudice. I guess you could call me a "small government" kind of guy. Yes, I favor prosecuting people that ride against traffic and at night without lights, and that casually ride across intersections against red lights, but that is not the case in Reed's case. What he is facing severe fines for, and even potential jail time (nobody actually knows what the Ellis County charges will be), is for not getting OFF THE ROAD when a shoulder appeared. The official charges so far are "impeding traffic," but it was pretty clear that the "impeding" was created at the very moment when the shoulder appeared. Pure and simple. "Impeding" just happened to be the most convenient statute since the laws specifically say he had the right to ride anywhere in that lane he saw fit, and that he wasn't required to ride on the shoulder.

My Choice
When it comes to Reed, my feelings are very simple. I support his right to ride in accordance with the rules of the road and the laws of Texas. In accordance with those laws, it is HIS decision to make where on that road right of way to ride. In the final analyis, it's his butt on the saddle. What's more, if I have to fight for those rights, I'd rather do it now than find myself in the dock later as a defendant. My inspiration here is the knowledge that the choice of whether Reed fights or not is not mine to make, but I will certainly have to live with the results. My choice is either to fight for a precedent that supports my ability to make riding choices, or to hope things come out OK or to whine that I'd rather not have him doing this. I feel that's a pretty simple choice to make. Y'all may feel differently. In the Bates trial, I saw a witness for the State claim a cyclist was riding at 5-8mph when that cyclist was riding about 15mph, and that, in a 30mph zone, he represented an unreasonable danger to himself and others because he failed to ride on a shoulder, despite there being no law to that effect. That cyclist has ridden that way for thousands of miles and several years without even so much as a close call. Unreasonable danger? Perhaps, but as an engineer, I favor results, and the results support Reed. For crying out loud, when I drive my Land Rover, it seems some dweeb cuts me close daily, though I'm not driving slowly by any stretch of the imagination. Another State agent could just as easily have claimed I was impeding traffic when I was riding at 20mph (I would NEVER exceed the posted limit) in a school zone and I would probably have been convicted. I HAVE been honked at under those exact circumstances. Actually, to tell the truth, I might have been going at the exact same speed as the motorist in the lane to my left, but his speed will be kept confidential. I support MY motorists, but I do NOT support efforts to simply "get cyclists off the road."
Reed, in Red, at the Left, Shamelessly STOLEN from Doohickie

Lesson From the Past
I find my inspiration from my New England roots; Lexington, one stated "Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here." Reed HAS been fired on. The State has told him that exercising his judgment on how to ride safely is a criminal act. Fortunately, that first volley was not a court of record. I saw the videos of how he was riding. I saw nothing suicidal going on. What I DID see was a cyclist getting second guessed by motorists who have not ridden in his pedals. Even the State witness allowed as how he did not cycle and was not familiar with cycling safety training. This is not a guy who has a history of picking fights with the authorities. Even the prosecutor was surprised to hear he'd never been ticketed on his bike before the Ennis citations.

Photo from Wikipedia

I didn't choose this battle, and I'd rather not fight, but it's better fought now, than when I am someday cited myself for riding on my neighborhood street instead of on a dangerous sidewalk. If it's fought now and won, I can cite that as support for my own freedom to make my choice on how best to ride, utilizing my experience and training. If it's lost now, it means the fight will be that much more difficult, because I will NOT endanger myself to please someone who has NOT ridden a mile in my pedals. I WILL go out of my way to be courteous and to help my fellow road users, but doing so, and the manner in which to do that should be my judgment alone.

Where I Stand
I'll stand with Reed on this. I can't think of anyone who has ever commented on this blog, who I would not support in this regard if they were prosecuted for their riding choice. He may win, or he may lose, or he may even find a way to just run away and abscond with whatever we donate, but however it comes out, I'll have learned lessons that will ensure a favorable ultimate outcome. Whether I fight a battle of my own choice, or a battle foisted upon me by others, if I fight, I fight to win. If I cannot ride my bike with safety without being hauled into the hoosegow, I'll not ride at all. Myself, I believe this transcends minor differences cyclists may have about infrastructure or lane position.

Now I have to figure out how to get that "donate" widget to work. I can't say I'm completely up to speed on this newfangled computer stuff. If you see it here, you'll know I not only got it up, but it has been validated with a donation from me. What's more, I must note that people that support Reed aren't really organized - yet. But that herd of cats is getting a bit better organized every day. There's now a website that I hope will contain "just the facts" going up. I know there's a passionate advocate lobbying the old-line bicycle organizations. I know there's an improving legal situation as Reed heads into a "court of record" for the first time. Even the finances are rising. If you want to help, contact any of the blogs with a "donate" button, or even me. As Waco will tell you, we don't know what we're doing, but we're making progress. Nobody involved with this wanted it. Like or not, we got it.


Doohickie said...

*...considers swapping out the picture showing Reed with some kinda porn or something....*

Naw... I'll leave the picture there.

I'm glad you're giving this issue the kind of treatment it deserves. I've drafted a couple of posts on the subject, but upon inspection they never seem to strike the chord I'm looking for. You're more eloquent than I am.

...but I take better pictures.

Steve A said...

Amazing. I agree with Doohickie twice in one day! He Does take better pictures, though mine do show details of the back of Reed's helmet that Doohickie left unexplored.

cafiend said...

"If I cannot ride my bike with safety without being hauled into the hoosegow, I'll not ride at all."

That would, unfortunately, be fine with the vast majority of the motoring public. Even the ones with no overt beef with us probably wouldn't miss us if we all disappeared.

Better to say: when vehicular cycling is outlawed, only outlaws will ride vehicularly. Or something to that effect.

Steve A said...

People like the idea of people riding bikes. They just don't like the logical conclusion of them doing so as more than toys.

Also, upon consideration, I retract that safety statement. It is not credible in the same paragraph with "cyclocross." That is, however strictly for fun.

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