Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bike Week: Hurrahhhhh...yawn.

Are you enjoying Bike Week?

It is just SO different from every other week, isn't it? I can just feel the electricity in the air!

I hear that a few, or maybe even several, additional people are riding their bikes to work this week -- even a judge of the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court! Handfuls enjoyed a bunch of "bike-related" movies at the Natural History Museum. Dorky, outcast hipsters played bike polo. And there may have even been a proclamation from the mayor of Cleveland, or something. Plus, all sorts of other regular bike activities that were happening anyway were declared to be "Bike Week Activities," including RATL #4 and a towpath night ride.

But the one event I really wanted to see apparently won't happen: a cage match between Andy Clarke and Fred Oswald!

Local racers know Andy Clarke to be an ass-kicking former Tennessean who rides for the RGF Solutions Cycling Team. He rose from Cat 5 to Cat 1 in less than two years and is sickening in many other ways, too -- a handsome, apparently prosperous businessman who is happy, interesting, and downright nice in addition to being a leg-breaker.
Unfortunately, this Andy Clarke, from Medina, is not the one who is speaking here. (Too bad: the RGF version has some cool stories about riding the Tour of Flanders last month.)

No, the Andy Clarke who's speaking is the head of the League of American Cyclists.

Our own Fred Oswald is an engineer from Berea or Brook Park or some other such badlands who also is an excessively cantankerous, abrasive cycling activist and know-it-all.

Clarke -- the one from LAB, not RGF -- is a big advocate of spending gajillions of taxpayer dollars on bike infrastructure -- dedicated bike lanes, dedicated bike paths, dedicated bike tunnels, dedicated bike toilets, dedicated bike spacecraft and such -- while our schools crumble, crime ravages our country and people starve. If he has his way, the prosperous middle class can ride along unswept pavement deluded by the abject illusion that they have been made safe, while sharing space with jog-stroller moms, poodle-on-a-reel dog-walkers and drivers who make right turns across said passageways without a second look. And anyone who rides anywhere that does NOT have a bike lane will get hit in the head with bottles hurled by tattooed women leaning from the passenger window of pickup trucks yelling "Git outta th' road! Use th' bike path!"

More rationally, Clarke also favors concerted public-education campaigns aimed at teaching motorists and cyclists how to coexist safely and with mutual respect.

Oswald is under the "vehicular-cycling" spell of John Forester, who hates bike infrastructure and really, really hates Andy Clarke. (Wanna see geek vitriol in full flower? Follow that link.) Oswald and Forester call bike paths and bike lanes "bike ghettoes" and they pretty much think the sole raison d'etre of motorists is to kiss cyclists' asses. There's a lot of truth in their condemnation of bike infrastructure, of course, but then, Dennis Kucinich makes a good point now and then, too. That doesn't make him any less ridiculous.

Oswald periodically appoints himself the spokesman for all Ohio cyclists, most of whom loathe everything he stands for. ClevelandBikes and other groups that reluctantly acknowledge him as a member kinda roll their eyes and dismissively say, "Well, that's Fred being Fred ... heh heh."

But it's no fun for Fred to just be Fred -- the pariah/messiah and self-appointed "expert" in Cleveland and Ohio. He seems to slip from time to time toward becoming the William "D-Fens" Foster of the so-called "cycling community."

He, Forester and all their ardent sympathizers (about four in toto) are trying to hijack -- er, reclaim -- the League of American Bicyclists by fielding an insurrectionist slate of other militant bike-junta strongmen to take over the LAB board this year.

Now, if these guys really want to take control of a near-laughingstock organization almost completely bereft of any influence and power, I'll be happy to ask them to run for office on my bike club. The LAB is one of those organizations that calls for a sunrise, then claims credit in the morning. Yet Fred and John are wasting enough energy spreading contempt for Clarke that, if it could be harnessed, it could power a recumbent around the globe two times.

Clarke seems to regard them with the same respect and attention that Dick Cheney bestows on anti-war activists. That pisses off the insurrectionists even more.

We should've gotten Vince McMahon to promote the Ultimate Resolution -- right here in Cleveland, right now during Bike Week!

Picture it: First, the two prophets take turns with a bullhorn to proclaim their gospel to the throngs of bloodthirsty spectators on Public Square, and denounce the opponent as someone who rides without a helmet.

Then, the drama unfolds. The blinding light from a high-noon sun glints off their helmet-mounted mirrors as the two warriors face off on Euclid Avenue, hemmed in by a cage of mobile bike racks. Wearing their neon-orange dorkvests, they clutch the bell- and horn-adorned moustache bars of their fender-and-pannier-equipped commuter bikes in sweaty palms.

Then, as a heavily tattooed, limping (but nonetheless kinda hot) bike messenger drops a hanky from cigarette-stained fingers, the two "men" charge toward one another with such fury that their Nexus hubs trail a smoke cloud from burning grease. Hurling expletives ("Three feet, asshole! It's the law!"), they madly swing messenger bags (covered with anti-car bumper stickers) at each other in pass after pass until one of them gets knocked to the ground, or quits.

For entertainment value, this would beat the shit out of a bike-polo expo at the West Side Market.

Then again, this could be even more death-defying, gory and violent!


Page Two:

Hats off to the officer from Cleveland's Finest who pulled Car #512 up behind me this morning while I rode through Rockefeller Park along MLK. She flipped on her lights, bleeped her siren and then sidled up alongside to scold me: "The bike path is for you!" she said (somewhat politely, I readily concede).

"Thanks, ma'am," I replied, "but so is this road."

I think she expected me to cower and comply, and when I didn't, she just drove on.

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