Thursday, August 7, 2008

I disagree. Cuff me.

I got to thinking after writing my earlier post about whether putting more police on bicycles might somehow benefit cyclists.

I tend to believe that just about everyone, not just police officers, becomes a better person in several ways by riding a bike. And maybe bike patrols will help fight crime or curb air pollution. Or build bridges between alienated communities and distant police, and all that other ethereal feel-good stuff touted by well-meaning, grant-spending, coed-seducing criminal-justice profs who concoct ideas such as community policing and convince the federal government to spend billions of dollars on something that works almost as well as D.A.R.E.!

So because I welcome all comers, I consider it good news that, since that last post, I discovered that someone from Cleveland Heights pledged $2,500 to buy bike gear for Cleveland's still-imaginary bike squad.

Swing a leg over a Trek, Ponch and John! I welcome you! I welcome everyone to the two-wheeled world (except those who ride into oncoming traffic; nihilistic fixie-riding misanthropes; smirky recumbent nuts with stupid beards; fat old guys in CSC jerseys who ride $8,500 bikes at 14 mph; sidewalk cyclists; and anyone who drops me on climbs).

But I have to wonder why bike-booster groups, like Walk+Roll Cleveland, Eco-City Cleveland, the LAB and a lot more give a hoot about whether cops are on bikes. Is there some assumption that this would be good for cyclists in general?

Maybe this is the thinking: A handful of Cleveland officers riding bikes will start a chain reaction of good karma, in which the rest of the police force, and then all the suburban forces, and then everyone, everywhere, will suddenly become bike-friendly. And that those proud pedal officers will set fine examples of bikesmanship and demonstrating how bikes belong. Right?

Riiiiight. And I might pedal my velocipede across Lake Erie for a weekend in Canada. You're welcome to flap your arms and fly alongside.

I've often assumed, without critically thinking it through, that putting cops on bikes and/or or educating them extensively about cycling and cyclists' rights would help eradicate the kind of anti-cyclist bias that pervades much of law enforcement. And if law enforcement took the side of cyclists a bit more often, I reasoned, maybe the rest of the world would share the road a bit more willingly.

But now that I've stopped inhaling solvents, I realized just how idiotic that presumption is.
To buy it, we would have to buy that all those cruiser-driving cops are sympathetic to fellow motorists who speed, blow lights and mow down elderly dog-walkers. The officers, after all, are members of the "motorist community," right?

No, the contrary is the truth.

Some, many or all police officers may have a slight bias in favor of motorists when it comes to cars vs. bikes, as many bike bloggers rail. But that's about as far as the cop kinship with other drivers goes.

I've been around officers all my life, and I can assure you that your own observations are true: They almost universally drive like Ricky Bobby, on duty and off, and they enforce the laws as capriciously, selectively and unfairly as Old Testament God -- against their own fellow motorists!

I can't support either leg of that statement statistically, of course. But anecdotal evidence -- meaning, the life experiences of anyone with two working eyeballs -- would indicate that cops are the among most brazen, careless and arrogant drivers on the road.

I'm sure that's an unfair generalization, and I'm sure some sworn officers follow the rules of the road and drive responsibly. I don't think I've seen it. But I've never seen China either, and yet I can believe it is there.

Yet the norm seems to be that officers speed everywhere, with or without the flashing lights. They blow through stop signs and lights. You may live to be 100 without seeing a police officer signal a turn. I've even seen one pass rush-hour traffic on the left-hand shoulder of I-90 westbound, then cut across three lanes to stop at a gas station on W. 117th and saunter over to the john.

Not that I begrudge the police. If I could drive like they do with the near-absolute immunity that a badge confers, I probably would -- especially if I didn't have to buy the gas, and even more especially if I really, really had to pee. It's more fun than driving at the retreating-glacier pace of Gary B., that's for sure.

Besides, these officers put their lives on the line every goddamn day for your criminal-coddling liberal ass, you flag-burning faggot. If they speed as often as they breathe, then that's a small price to pay for their heroism. If one of them crashes into a school-bus stop while hurrying back to the station for the free-to-the-first-taker tickets to the Browns preseason game, you better not judge, motherf-----, unless you've worn a badge and faced the hate, man. You got something to say about it? Huh? Remember 9/11, jerkoff?

They drive this way not just because they think/know they can get away with it, but also because they universally believe they are so superior behind the wheel. They have spent hours maneuvering around cones in a London, Ohio, parking lot, and therefore can handle their cruisers in situations that would cause some dumbshit like you to wreck and/or endanger others' lives.

So that makes them more inclined, not less, to give you a ticket when, for instance, you dangerously fail to come to a complete stop at the everybody-rolls-it stop by the CVS at Fairmount Circle, or when you're doing 39 in a 35 at East 24th and Rockwell at 6:30 p.m. on a Saturday, when the only other moving things within six square blocks are too busy urinating on the doors of local businesses to be threatened by your lawlessness. You are not qualified to blow stop signs or speed because you do not have the advanced training that Reed and Malloy have.

Moreover, admit it: If somebody waved a magic wand and gave you the power to go out for a day and enforce traffic laws, you wouldn't exactly be entirely fair, would you? You'd like to think so. But after a few hours of righteous justice, human nature would begin to set in: "That jackass over there just changed lanes without signaling --- whoa! She is beaucoups hot! ... Another speeder!-- oh, never mind: That's Dave from the group ride. ... Two cars ran the red light and I can only get one; which looks like less of a hassle? ... That car looks just like my old girlfriend's, and any friend of that bitch is no friend of mine ..."

And if cops behave this way toward fellow motorists after all the special training they go through, then why would we assume that putting some of them on bikes would change the way that even those select officers would treat cyclists, much less their peers in cruisers or on Harleys and horses?

Finally: You wanna bet that this officer used to skateboard when he was 12? Lot of good that did for skaters now, huh?


For that matter, I'll go off on another tangent (it's been almost two weeks since I've posted, as one reader pointedly observed, so I have some tangents to make up for): We all have to pass the driving test to get a license, yet we start breaking the law within four minutes of getting that cherished DL from a BMV clerk. So why would anyone actually believe that putting questions on the written driver's test about cyclists' rights and responsibilities is going to make any difference in our mistreatment?

That, of course, assumes you buy the premise that motorists are hostile to cyclists to begin with. If so, you'd never be able to prove it statistically. Think about how many cars you encounter on an hour-long ride: Ten? A hundred? Then think about how many hours you ride in a week, a month -- how many cars do you encounter in your 30 or 40 hours of riding per month? Thousands. Yet getting buzzed by a car is so rare that you and all your buddies will spend the next week quivering and bitching about how freaking dangerous it is out there and what a damn shame it is and how you wish you were in Portland, Ore. (where you get ticketed for not riding in the kiddie lanes). In that same span, you probably spent less than half as much time in a car, and witnessed five stupid moves by other drivers -- cut-offs, dangerous braking, crossing two lanes to turn, idiocy on the interstate -- all of which you forgot about within an hour ...


Last tangent (maybe):
I don't suppose it ever does much good to smart back to a cop who tells you to start/stop doing something, including all those cops out in Hunting Valley/Moreland Hill/Mayfield etc. who bark at you to "Ride in single file!" But in the event one of them is pissed off enough at his wife to actually ticket you for riding two abreast, don't worry: It's legal. Those local "ordinances" declaring that bicycles must ride single file? They're not.

Those are among the changes that took place almost two years ago, when the General Assembly adopted some pretty sweeping changes in a bill that squashes a lot of the old home-rule nuisance laws. Among the others that went by the books: any local requirement to ride on the sidewalk, and the rule saying we're supposed to ride in the gutter.

You might want to familiarize yourself with the changes. Unless you're the kind of person who likes to argue with cops and tell them how stupid they are because they don't even know the goddamn law. In that case, you didn't get this from me.

Better off just writing a letter to those communities. And getting your ticket dismissed in court.

- JN


Eric said...

Thanks for the morning chuckle. LMAO. Two points.....

My wife broke a side view mirror while riding her bike in Bay Village.....actually some old guy smacked her ass with his about buns of steel. The cop that arrived was definitely on her side and offered a ride home (which she didn't accept).

My neighbor cop drives like an ass ALL the time. I really should call the WESTern suburb near the LAKE where he is working.

Still.....I enjoyed reading your post and it made me laugh.

Rick said...

non-stop laughs...even from Eric!

hmmmm, don't be a Gary hater "It's more fun than driving at the retreating-glacier pace of Gary B., that's for sure." just because he drops you (just about everyone) on a climb! :-)

Thanks for the smile.


cyclonecross said...

Hmmm, "retreating-glacier pace", that's a new one, but it's more correct than you and I both know.

It just occurred to me: I can save the polar bears by slowing down MORE, since there appears to be a relationship between how fast I drive and glacier retreat! Now, if only the rest of the drivers out there could affect glaciers like me... Why am I the only one who can save the polar bears?????

Actually, thanks to you and Rick, I have a new motto: Drive slow; ride fast!


cyclonecross said...

I really liked your 2nd to last tangent about not all drivers being bad. (I liked the rest of your post too for the most part)

I was actually thinking on the way to work this a.m. that I would like to become a driver's ED instructor. Other than through legislation, enforcement, and trying to set a personal example, mentoring new drivers might be a good way to help fix some of the problems on today's roadways.