Family Alive

Brian, Kristine, Analise, and Josiah Toone

The wrong attitude

12th November 2007

In yesterday’s Huntsville Times, an op-ed article was published that’s had both Brian and I up in arms. (I originally posted the link, but decided that we could spare the newspaper all the extra clicks, so here it is, in entirety:

Free-wheeling cyclists must obey the rules of the road

Sunday, November 11,

Huntsville Times

Do all bicycle riders have a death wish, or just the ones I
happen to see? Among a number of other transgressions, I
have noticed time and again that they don’t stop at
intersections. They breeze right through. Are they not
supposed to stop at the signs the same as cars?

Spray paint some shorts on you, get a little pointed
Styrofoam helmet and you are exempt from the rules of the
road – and bulletproof.

As long as you don’t make eye contact, the
fossil-fuelers can’t hurt you. It’s like the
jaywalking in New York theory: Never look at the approaching
cars; play like you don’t see them.

I waited my turn at a four-way stop on a busy four-lane road
in Mississippi. A cyclist zipped past. If she saw the stop
sign I couldn’t tell it. She never slowed. She was
hunched over the handlebars in that awkward position, even
more than normal, fiddling with something. She weaved around
as I came up from behind about 100 yards down the road.

Then I saw what she was doing. She was punishing a
Blackberry, text messaging someone furiously while riding
among a bunch of vehicles, the smallest of which, mine,
would have squashed her like a bug.

A half-mile down the road, I saw her counterpart on his
bike, answering her texts with a Blackberry of his own. How
do I know they were together? They wore matching outfits –
Honey Bear and Sugar Face. A roadside mailbox or an open car
door would have made the perfect ending to this story. Alas,
wishing didn’t make it so.

I probably shouldn’t feel this way, but there’s a
something about many cyclists, an attitude that turns into a
sense of entitlement beyond sharing the road. It approaches
ownership. There can be a piety that’s exceeded only by
Toyota Prius owners – and there’s a good chance
they’re one and the same. It’s an "I’m
skinny and green and you’re fat and emit toxic fumes
from your tailpipe" kind of thing.

I’ve seen herds of cyclists run lights in an endless
stream, a Tour de Chance, just daring you to run them over.
And when it happens? Whose fault will it be? The driver of
the car, of course.

Lance Armstrong rode all over France for seven years and he
didn’t stop at no stinkin’ stop signs and traffic
lights. He didn’t yield. No speed limit applied to him.

If you’re a cyclist, you’ve probably pedaled up a
pretty good case of righteous indignation by now, especially
if you’re doping up for a big race.

Just kidding. Settle down before you rip your Spandex.
Obviously I’m not talking about you – you’re
different. It’s the rest of the bunch that lacks

And I don’t hate bicycles or riders in general.
I’ve been out in the country and witnessed packs of
cyclists pass with a soft whisper as the sleek machines
cleaved the air and ran with the wind. It’s beautiful
and requires a dedication and determination beyond most.

I know cyclists had to fight hard to get any respect on the
road, and I agree they are yours to use, too. I’ll give
you extra room and make all kinds of allowances for you. But
that doesn’t make you above the traffic laws that
attempt to keep us from running over you.

You have to take some responsibility, too.

What if you ran across an idiot in a car who was texting
while driving and maimed you while you were being an idiot
and texting while cycling?

On second thought, never mind. Just keep doing what
you’re doing. I believe it’s called
"Darwinism." Of course, if you’re a
creationist you don’t believe in that anyway. Ride on.

Ricky Thomason’s e-mail:

Brian sent a civil response last night to both the editor and the writer. Ricky wrote a flippant note back this morning, saying that Brian must not have any regards for his (Ricky’s) job, and maybe (Ricky) should be heading out to look for a bike, since he won’t be able to afford a car any more. Hrmph. Not sure he had any regards for his job to be writing and submitting something like this for publication.

I mulled the article over through the night and this morning, and with the thoughts that came to mind, I composed this email:

Mr. Thomason –

My family moved here from Davis, California, one of the most
cycling friendly towns in the nation. I’m amazed to find such an
absolutely opposite attitude here in Alabama. In California, an article
like this would *NEVER* have appeared, and in my time there, I never
heard motorists complain about sharing the road with cyclists. It was
part of life and a given that cyclists have an equal right to be on the road,
as do pedestrians. Throughout Alabama, the prevailing attitude is that
roads are for cars alone. Thankfully, in Birmingham, there is a bit more
tolerance for cyclists than it sounds like there is in the Huntsville

I agree with a majority of your article. And written
in the right tone, I think you might have gotten a positive response from both
cyclists and motorists, including one from me. But calling for cyclists
to be harmed for not obeying the law is ludicrous. There are just as many
distracted drivers out there endangering my life every time I get in a car, and
no one’s calling for them to be harmed.

As I glanced at your other articles, I noticed that you’ve
written about the racism in our state. Kind of disappointing to see such
double-standards, as you’re inciting the same hatred toward cyclists as racism
breeds between cultures.

My husband commutes to work each day on his bike. He
knows every time he puts his helmet on that he has to be on guard for unalert
drivers, motorists who choose to bend the law (i.e. flooring it to make it
through a red light or breezing through stop signs), and cars that just plain
don’t see him, in spite of his neon yellow tagged backpack and blinking
light. He’s been on the losing end of a hit-and-run with a driver who
made a left turn directly into him, even though my husband had the right of way
on the main road. He knows that when it comes down to car versus bike,
the winner is obvious.

And in spite of his alertness and safety on the bike, he was
worried enough to change his brakes last night and leave extra early to
minimize his chances of encountering ill-tempered motorists who might have read
your article. Though I’m inclined to hope that people in Birmingham would
not give your article a second thought because it was so irrational.

Kristine Toone

Birmingham, AL 35216

I’m pretty proud that this letter doesn’t overflow with my anger that such an inflammatory article could be communicated in such a public forum. I don’t get angry very often. But it feels like he’s just made Brian’s life considerably less safe.

In a whole different discussion, I’m very torn as to what my feelings/reactions should be as a Christ-follower? Should I just ignore Ricky and his views? Should I pray that somehow in the onslaught of mail (and possibly reprimand) he’s sure to receive that his feelings are changed? Should I try to get beyond myself and LOVE him, remembering that his malice and slander are equal sins to any other, specifically those that I’m struggling with?

Ok, now that I’ve completely laid all this out here, I’m going to go try to get on with my day. Ricky and his silly views have eaten up more than enough of my thoughts, emotions and time.

One Response to “The wrong attitude”

  1. Lyndsey McCrory Says:

    Way to go Kristine!!! I am VERY proud of your response…polite but equally poignant.

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