December 10, 2011

My back pages

During my usual evening Google Reader session last night, I came upon a well-written post on one of my favorite blogs and I thought it would be worth sharing here:

It instantly reminded me of a time when I got really heated up about road behavior in the area and wrote a rather acidic post about it.  Compared to everything I've written before and since, the post I wrote responding to the stop-sign running and subsequent ticketing of several area cyclists on a weeknight group ride is still THE most-read post on this blog.  I felt strongly about my position on the matter and won't apologize for what I felt at the time - but, I think I've mellowed a little about it and many other things.  I'm not nearly the no-grey-area hardliner portrayed in the older post.  I have my way... others have their way.  Surely as I blew a stop sign just the other day, I'm not perfect - and I'm no longer interested in trying to be "right", in practice or in image.  We all make mistakes.  I'm not going to be so foolish as to say I'll keep my opinions to myself - but I'll certainly check myself before I'm so quick to check others.  I think, in that regard, perhaps I'm aging gracefully.   

Kent put it perfectly, and it's the same behavior for me:

I always stop at stop signs.

Except when I don't. 
In this case, I blew a stop sign to avoid having my leg chewed off by a very angry-looking rottweiler in full chase ... and I'm still confused about where this particular dog's "fence line" ended... seriously, he chased me for the better part of two miles, well beyond his property - confirming he wasn't interested in simply protecting his territory, as in most dog encounters.  He either wanted a good workout, or a snack.  After 3/4 of a mile, the 2-way, cross-traffic-doesn't-stop intersection came into view.  "Cujo" was still coming hard.  I had a good sight line in all directions and thankfully there was no traffic.  Had their been... well, who knows.  Zoom -- I'm across.  Atypically, the beast didn't hesitate at the crossing of roads.  There was no change in the rhythm of his paws beating against the pavement as he continued straight across the road after me, gaining.  I sprinted again, thinking "that oughta do it", only to hear the gallop gain amplitude again.   

"Geez, dog...give up!"

Down a hill and around a corner, I finally thought that I'd lost him...until he exploded from the trees at my right, having cut across the corner through the brush, trying to head me off.  "Holy...."  With the time I've spent in the saddle over the years my dog encounters are too great to count, but all of them were fairly benign and predictable.  I've never been  pursued with such vigor by an animal, and it was a little disconcerting... there was no barking, no snarling... just focus and teeth and blurred legs... scary dog.  I felt I made a far safer choice by running that stop sign rather than calling that particular dogs bluff.  Eventually, he peeled off and gave up the chase... and another afternoons training with "Eddy" came to a close.   

To my opinions on legality, yeah -- I broke the law.  I wouldn't have preferred it, but I'd have gladly paid a fine rather than endure having my calves stitched back in place in the ER... assuming the dog had the intention.  Even as I groaned to myself in disapproval while I looked frantically right and left to ensure there weren't any cars approaching, I couldn't see myself limping home with dog bite wounds being able to proudly proclaim "at least I came to a complete stop!"  Pick your battles, indeed.   

Of course, my unwavering position in the post from August 2009 was more about the reason than the act itself.  In any case, whether I was actually going to get my leg gnawed off or not, I still chose to break the law.

Another point in Petersen's discussion involves holding to the "social pact" we have with drivers and other cyclists.  I still hold my personal position of trying to set a good image of cycling in and around Johnson County, KS., and whether it be flawed or not is up to personal consideration by the reader.  My positions and my delivery are constantly evolving.  I certainly don't profess perfection, nor do I demand it in others - even if I occasionally get frustrated.  I still contend that certain maneuvers employed with the justification of salvaging ones average speed represent a risky practice - but, that's someone else's choice to make.  
I feel it's best to make safer choices, instead of reckless ones.  I agree with Petersen's take, where we're all better off for those safer choices.  Co-workers still thrill me with stories of cyclists they see blowing stop signs and red lights "right in front of them", so I have an impression that we can all set better examples than we have been - and I'll leave it at that.  While I'd still prefer cyclists be more careful, set a better example, and have more of a reason other than "everyone else is doing it", or "I didn't want to break pace", using these pages to spit venom and create division in the cycling community doesn't benefit anyone, and doesn't advance bicycling.
If you aren't a subscriber to Kent's Bike Blog, I highly recommend adding it to your reader, or blog-surfing routine.  Mr. Petersen has a patient, calm demeanor to his writing - and the prose is delivered eloquently and with a definite style and flair, while still taking a stance and making a good point.  Collectively, his blog could be read cover-to-cover and taken as a novel-in-progress, compared to the random ramblings I hastily post on occasion.  Proof that whether it be writing, or riding, or taking a stance on a touchy matter - I still have a lot to learn.   

Happy Holidays, readers - and be safe out there!

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