Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bicycles, Handguns, and Cameras

Get Off My Hood!
I just read a post on Facebook about a bicyclist in my town who was struck by someone driving a pickup truck.  The driver then yelled at the bicyclist to "get the f*** off my hood" and told him to ride on the sidewalk.  The driver is obviously misinformed about our laws, as well as about civility.

The bicyclist managed to take a picture of the driver's face and his truck, but not his license plate, which is too bad.  

My speedy steed.  Please do not hit me.

Packing Heat On Two Wheels
The comments under the photo were especially interesting.  I'm not sure if he was joking, but the bicyclist (whom I do not know) said that he often bikes with a .45 in his waistband, which dissuades drivers from treating him with hostility.  This time he only had his camera, and he wasn't able to shoot pictures fast enough to capture all the evidence the police would need.

I understand his frustration.  Last summer, while biking on an empty street five lanes wide, a motorist sped up behind me, swerved into my lane (I was biking along the shoulder) and yelled at me to "Get on the sidewalk!" then sped off.  By the time I had my phone out, he was too far away to get a picture of his license plate.  He sped off uphill, making it impossible for me to chase him down.

His recklessness and utter selfishness could have maimed or even killed me had I not safely dodged his oncoming car. His cowardice and lack of regard for my life made me livid.

You Better Outrun My Bullet
But I do not see how a gun would have helped me.  Yes, perhaps he would have seen a gun in my waistband, but at his speed he very well might not have seen it.  And what would I do with it?  I'm not going to start squeezing off rounds at a fleeing motorist; to do so would make me a worse criminal than he.  Besides, I was in no state to be handling a weapon: my heart was pounding, adrenaline was shooting through my veins.  I was angry, and I was feeling that fright that comes when sudden and severe peril suddenly interrupts a calm day.

I don't want my world to be under constant surveillance, but I'm considering getting a GoPro or some other video camera that would run constantly when I bike on the street.  I think if more of us did that, it would be a more effective deterrent than a firearm.

We're In This Together
More importantly, carrying a camera rather than a gun says something about community.  The gun is about taking personal charge of one's security, and while I applaud the individual responsibility that implies, the camera insists that reckless driving is not my problem but our problem, a problem that we will deal with as a community, through the structures of law that constitute our community.  If you harass bicyclists, I will film it, and I will hand the evidence over to the police.

We're in this together.  Can we share the road?
This is what it means to live in a society that respects the rule of law.  We don't live in the time of Euthyphro, who needed to enforce the law himself.  We live in the age of the District Attorney; and whatever you may say about an individual D.A., the point of a state-appointed prosecutor is just this: she is the embodiment of our belief that to offend against one of us is to offend against all of us.  We are in this together.

I don't want to foster hostility between motorists and cyclists; I want to foster mutual respect.  The roads are wide enough to share.  If we can learn to do so, we'll all wind up reaching good destinations, together.


Update: Here's a link to an article by Jill Callison about the confrontation between the cyclist and the motorist in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.


Further Update:  Here's a link to a bit of good news: the driver has been charged with several misdemeanors.  This is good news for bicyclists, and bad news for hotheaded drivers unwilling to share the road with their neighbors. 


  1. Yeah, the US is not the safest place in the world to bike. Hopefully, that will change as more of us take up cycling. The GoPro sounds like the real deal. http://youtu.be/h3LatOGCWVc

    1. That's my hope, too, Chiefy. Thanks for your comment, and thanks for sharing that hope. Cheers!