Adam, meet Laura

March 17, 2015 § 45 Comments

On July 18, 2014, reserve police officer Laura Weintraub made a “funny” video in which she mocked cyclists and encouraged running them down.

Last week, Adam Parks of Victorian Farmstead, a luxury meat purveyor in Sonoma County, published a “funny” rant on his company’s web site that advocated running over cyclists. The blog post has been deleted, but I’ve reproduced it at the bottom of this post.

Adam and Laura, nascent humorists, got a “funny” lesson of their own: The Internet works.

As amazingly stupid as it was for a cop to advocate killing cyclists, it was almost as crazy for Meathead to attack the very people who buy his product. A wag out there in Internetville succinctly described Meathead’s self-made marketing headache thus:

meathead_graphic

The angry cyclist community responded by loading up Adam’s Facebag and Yelp pages with, shall we say, unflattering reviews. And Adam took Laura’s path of contrition, only quicker and more forcefully. He apologized, made the rounds of local bike shops with dick in hand, offered to talk over coffee with anyone, any time, and then rubbed his nose in his own poop and swatted his own ass in a newspaper interview with the Press-Democrat.

Naturally, this wasn’t enough for some people, nor will it ever be. If you have ever been hit by a car, threatened by a cager, or know someone killed by a driver, Meathead’s apology may ring hollow. But there’s a deeper problem than his rant or the fateful lighting that has been loosed from the Internet’s swift sword, and it lies in what seems to be Parks’s real objection to cyclists.

We are in the way.

It’s hard to believe that Meathead or Laura really intended to kill cyclists, and their contrition indicates that even if they did, they certainly don’t want to now. What is even harder to believe is that the roads are filled with motorists actively looking for opportunities to maim and kill. After all, when you kill someone and scratch your car, your insurance rates go up.

Nope, the problem is rooted in the deep human psyche of hating that which is “in the way.” Cyclists on the bike path can be just as bad as cagers. I’ve ridden numerous times with groups, and have seen countless individuals, who would rather swerve, shriek “On your left!” and miss the lady and her baby stroller by inches than grab the brake and pass slowly.

This is the key problem with advocating bike lanes and additional “infrastructure” as a solution to the inherent conflict between cars and bikes. As long as bikes are “supposed” to be in the bike lane, and as long as cagers see a perfectly good path running next to the road, they will be outraged when slower and smaller vehicles are “in their way.”

That wouldn’t be a problem, perhaps, if we could create a completely parallel bicycle roadway system, where every single car travel path had a parallel protected bicycle path. But even the craziest bike infrastructure advocates don’t suggest that such a system is possible. So what we’re left with is a patchwork — bike lanes in congested cities, nothing outside of town or off the major thoroughfares or in the neighborhoods — that reinforces the cagers’ mistaken belief that when we’re in the road we’re in the way, and that the best way to deal with an obstacle is to smash it or run it off the road.

Cager rage is often so intense that it even takes me by surprise. A couple of days ago I had a guy lean out the window and curse me, and he was headed in the opposite direction. I clearly wasn’t holding him up, he was just venting his rage at my audacity, and perhaps vocalizing what those going my direction felt but were too afraid to say.

Satisfying as it is when Meathead’s Yelp review page overfloweth with outrage, it’s much less satisfying when you know that the vast majority of the posters will never lift a finger to actually change motorists’ approach by riding in the lane. We’ve seen over our one-year-plus experiment on PCH here in Los Angeles that repeated, continual use of the travel lane reduces motorist hostility to bikes because they have begun to see us as rightful users of the roadway to be steered around, not as obstacles that don’t belong.

And no matter how many cups of coffee Meathead buys, and no matter how sincerely he regrets shooting his business in the foot, as long as bikes stay huddled on the fog line, timorously trying to stay “out of the way,” the Lauras and the Adams will continue to see us as obstacles that, unfortunately for us, need to be cleared — preferably with the bumper of a 2,000-lb. hurtling chunk of steel.

The best revenge you can get isn’t by tapping on your keyboard. It’s by taking your place in the lane, where you belong.

Here’s Meathead’s piece in all its unvarnished glory. Read it and groan.

As a rule, I don’t like cyclists. There… I said it. Big, sweeping generalization that probably throws some good, law-abiding people under the proverbial bus. Nonetheless, I really hate cyclists. Now, if a bike is your preferred or only method of transportation and you follow some basic rules, I’m not talking about you. If you like to cruise your Beach Cruiser on the bike path or pedal your Schwinn to work using the proper lane and hand signals, more power to you. You ride a bike. I’m talking about a completely different animal.

I’m talking about cyclists. You know the ones I mean. They are usually astride a $10,000 graphite-framed bike that is lighter than a can of beer. Their $500 spandex onesie has more advertisements than a NASCAR driver. How do you know if someone is a cyclist??? Don’t worry… they’ll tell you.

It’s probably more noticeable out here in Small Town USA. In the big city, transportation moves so slow that bicycles make sense. What doesn’t make sense is these entitled fools mucking up a perfectly fine drive on a narrow, two lane back road in the country. While it is a beautiful place to drive, and we are blessed to have our “office” out in the fresh air and sunshine, when we country folk are driving these roads it is generally for work-related purposes. We are trying to get someone or something from point A to point B. Get out of the way!

The rare single cyclist is bad enough. This is usually the newbie that decides he’s going to try out his new steed in “the middle of nowhere so I won’t bother my fellow cyclists”. Usually stopped (as there is nowhere to pull over) going uphill on a blind curve, you can actually feel this one questioning his life’s choices as you lay on the horn to move him into to the ditch and out of the way.

The real menace is the Peloton (hey, you thought I don’t do research???). These are the groups of cyclists that seem to be a combination of a mosh pit and a book club on wheels. Often in matching onesies, they are the most obnoxious and entitled group short of the Kardashians. They feel free to take up the whole lane and have no regard for anything or anyone around them. They take it as a personal affront to their space if they have to move over as they are pedaling fast enough to go 30 MPH on flat ground but are actually losing ground to the hill. And chit chatting like the cast of The View to boot!

So, as usual, I have some suggestions for these Tour de Speedbump contestants. First, anyone not in single file and/or on the right side of the solid white line is fair game. And, on that note, all of them should be required to have license plates and carry insurance (that’s Laura’s demand). That way I would be more apt to call Jonny Law and report them rather than resorting my only other option- running them off the road.

Also, let’s get some kickstands on these expensive scooters. Sure, it will double the weight and cost them precious seconds on their time trial runs. But, at least the rest of us won’t have to trip over them as we walk past the local, hipster juice bar where they are usually splayed like corpses on the sidewalk. I asked a cyclist once why they laid the bike on the ground instead of propped against the wall. The answer was simple… she knew it was going to fall so it was better to lay it on the ground gently so the paint wouldn’t get scratched. I really couldn’t make that up.

There was actually one time when I was driving a truck and 5th-wheel RV, got myself into a spot where I should not have been, and was surrounded by cyclists. I was taking the family to Santa Cruz for a little vacation. I had borrowed the RV, so I was a little nervous as it had been a while since I had towed anything that heavy. Anywhooo, I packed everyone up, punched the address for the KOA we were setting up at in the GPS and headed south on 101.

As we got into San Rafael, the GPS Lady suggested I take the Richmond Bridge. Now, I may not know exactly where to go once I got into Santa Cruz, but I know I’m going through San Francisco and south on 280. Everyone knows that. Here is where I made my first mistake. Rather than just let GPS Lady re-route me, I switched from fastest route to most direct. And across the Golden Gate we went.

As we cruised down 280, GPS Lady woke up and told me to take Sand Hill Rd. Now, here is how technology makes us really stupid sometimes. Like anyone who has been around NorCal for a while (in my case 40+ years) I know that to get to Santa Cruz you take 280 to 17 and go over the hill. Pretty hard to screw that up, right? However, GPS Lady said to take Sand Hill Road. Hey, maybe she knows a short cut! Right turn, Clyde…

It wasn’t until we were firmly on our way up a ONE lane road (path???) that I knew I was really and truly screwed. There was no backing up, as the “road” had tighter turns than a prima ballerina. Going forward was the only option, and it was clearly fraught with peril. Never mind having to stop on the blind corner of a 40% grade to check and see if the truck AND borrowed RV were going to make it between the sheer up cliff on the right and the tree that somehow was growing out of the sheer down cliff on the left. What really told me I was in trouble was the cyclists.

Whether it was the highly tuned athletes flying downhill at us like the last few lines of Space Invaders, or the ones who were passing us going UPHILL, I knew that- in this case- I was the one out of place. You know, as a dad, it’s usually when you are at your most frustrated that your kids won’t stop bickering or your wife wants to discuss feelings. This situation was so tense that the cab of the truck was silent. I’m talking about you coulda heard a mouse peeing on a cotton ball quiet. Everyone was pretty clear that this was not your run of the mill pickle dad had gotten us into.

It took us an hour and fifteen minutes to go about 3 miles. The same guy passed us, and was passed by us, four different times. His language and gestures got more colorful with each passing. Normally, I would have returned fire, but in this case it seemed wiser to just offer an apologetic nod and wave. When we finally reached the summit, and yes summit is the correct word, we made a left on the aptly named “Skyline Boulevard” and got into the left lane of a beautiful, four lane highway. At 35 miles an hour it felt like the Autobahn.

A few lessons can be taken from all of this. Know where you are. I was where I wasn’t supposed to be on that bike path. If you are a cyclist out for a tour of the country, be respectful of those who are trying to get from point A to point B. And technology is only as smart as the guy pushing the buttons. Common sense, or the lack of it, will still generally determine how your day turns out. Women have been after men to ask for directions since the invention of the wheel. Now, thanks to GPS, we don’t have to ask. GPS Lady tells where to go. And just like everything else in life, the women are usually right…

END

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§ 45 Responses to Adam, meet Laura

  • debster822 says:

    I was flabbergasted to read that column, put measured comments on it, then shared it on FB & Twitter. Amazing how fast it went from obscure to can’t-miss, and I can only imagine the impact on his business.

    You’re right, Seth — we have to take the lane and be our own advocates. I do this on a regular (nearly daily) basis, when it’s feasible. Being visible and predictable help the cause, I believe. Meanwhile, reading someone’s idea of humor that borders on homicidal mania freak me the eff out.

    • fsethd says:

      Yes, the “humor” sounds a little different when you were just hit and almost killed. By an insured driver.

      • Deb Banks says:

        Can’t really put into words how I’m feeling just this moment. Waaaay to close to home. But I will be sharing this on all of my forums. Thanks Seth.

      • fsethd says:

        Welcome. It’s funny how people think they’re being snarky and clever while some cyclist is trying to recover from a catastrophic injury. Ha. Ha. Ha.

  • Brian in VA says:

    I never cease to be amazed at how disembodied cyclists are, such that someone would take a shot and risk screwing up their business. I’ve seen it multiple times when people were driving company cars/trucks, too. Apparently, we also can’t read.

    • fsethd says:

      I don’t think this guy was a cyclist, but it boggles the mind that he never made the connection between his products and his clientele. Kind of like the cop who didn’t realize her job was to protect cyclists as well as cagers.

  • Greg says:

    Except for a few phrases, e.g. “move him into a ditch,” “running them off the road,” and the ever-popular “fair game,” I didn’t think it was that bad.

    • fsethd says:

      It doesn’t take more than a drop or two of urine to ruin a really fine wine.

    • Worldchamp says:

      I agree. It’s just the one paragraph that’s the problem. I actually had to read it a couple of times to figure out what the fuss was about. And the “fair game”, “running off the road” is clearly coming from anger and is extremely childish. But what’s almost as bad in my opinion is that he thinks that bikes are BY LAW supposed to be to the right of the white line.

      I just wonder if people took the time to know the law (including the cops) if cyclists wouldn’t have a better life. People going around thinking that cyclists are illegally riding in the lane is a HUGE problem.

  • Phil H says:

    This has been a very interesting experience. This guy is local in my community. I ride and try to be a good ambassador for the cycling community. I don’t hurt him, other than the fact that I exist and ride. I didn’t ask him his opinion about any of this; he choose to shove it in my (our) face. I didn’t pick the fight – he did. But now that he’s chosen to do this, I want the consequences to hurt. So yay for social media wrath.

    Our peers ride, are injured and die, yet nothing seems to change. This guy openly advocates the type of driving behavior that leads to these things (and believe me, I’ve seen similar and worse).

    I think many drivers in Sonoma County (and probably the country) have the same mindset in regard to cyclists. We are in the way. I agree that most don’t mean to hit us. BUT they also don’t mean NOT to. It would be great if drivers were open to what we had to say. As many of us know and he summarized, many drivers can’t see past the lycra and our “$10,000 graphite-framed bikes”. We are anathema to them. So how do you create a dialog with people who don’t want to hear anything you have to say and don’t want you out there?

    Maybe bicycling community outreach into the driver training programs might help? Catch them early. Teaching and focusing new drivers on the actual laws pertaining to cycling and what we are doing on the roads -why we are doing some counterintuitive things like taking the lane might help in the long run. I had exactly that conversation with my kids when they started driving. I think it resolved a lot of anxiety for them in their subsequent encounters with cyclists.

    Lastly, if Adam Parks wishes to make amends, I’m open to it – but I want to see it first. And he’s got a long hill to climb.

    • fsethd says:

      Totally agree, and part of the education has to involve cyclists riding where they belong: in the road. No seminar is as effective as daily encountering lots of cyclists in the road way.

      And you make an even more awesome point. They may not mean to hit you, but they don’t mean NOT to.

      Finally, someone on Facebag is all butthurt about how mean the Internet bullies are for piling onto this meathead. As if his behavior and incitement to violence is just “boys being boys” but the people who’ve had their lives wrecked are “bullies.”

      And frankly, I don’t care what amends any of these people make. What I care about is that cyclists exercise their rights as legal vehicles. That’s the only way we’ll be respected as something other than obstacles.

    • I find Park’s contrition dishonest ass-covering. From his professional website:

      #1 The non-apology apology:
      “I’m sorry that what I wrote offended and hurt so many.” Not sorry for his provocative intent, his confession to violent driving behavior, etc. sorry that what he said offended so many, not for what he said.

      #2 Distorting and revising history: who who read the original post could think it was “supposed to be so over the top that nobody could possibly take it seriously.”
      BULSHIT
      He shared views that he assumed would find mainstream acceptance, punching down, advocating violence against vulnerable road users and catering to the basest biasses and hatred of cyclists. It’s a classic bully’s mentality.

      Parks is a bully and a liar, any apology from this guy is worth exactly as much as a cup of warm spit.

  • dan martin says:

    Oh funny ha ha…
    what an ass hat
    He’s got no business driving an RV or writing a blog.
    Dude needs to stick with playing with his meat.

  • Rick Patterson says:

    Thank you for saving the blog post. It is a very good example of the state of mind of many mortorists and will be useful in bicycling education.

    • fsethd says:

      It was sent to me by another cyclist. At first I couldn’t believe it, but there are screenshots posted of it on Yelp and Parks has really gone on tour to apologize for it. It’s ironic because he apparently reached out to the community with a Kickstarter campaign to save his business, and they responded. I’m sure some of those donors were cyclists … cue irony.

  • Sausage™ says:

    As I’ve said before, road rage is nothing new and is not cyclist-specific phenomenon. This video is very instructive:

    And this is 1950! In the 65 years since this short video was made, people are packed much closer together, attention spans are shorter and stress levels are higher.

    You will never get rid of road rage directed at cyclists until you get rid of road rage itself. Good luck with that. Our best bet is the driverless car, which hopefully will be programmed to a default “let’s not kill anyone today” setting.

    Until then, I think education is the best bet. Adults may not be completely lost, but maybe presentations directed to driver’s ed classes would produce the greatest return. But just talking to drivers isn’t enough. Words are just words and studies show our brains don’t learn all that well from just hearing words. And people generally respond best to appeals to change their behavior when they believe the change is in their own self-interest. So videos like this may prove helpful:

    Putting individuals like Adam and Laura in their place makes us feel good, but does it really result in systemic change? I don’t know.

    • fsethd says:

      The fight isn’t for systemic change, it’s for individual recognition by drivers that they can expect bikes in the roadway, same as they expect dump trucks, unloading buses, and potholes. That’s why Dog gave ’em brakes.

  • Don W. says:

    The worst part about his post was comparing cyclists to the Kardashians. That is f’ing offensive!

  • Tom Paterson says:

    First time I saw some real “make it count” lane-taking was years ago in Houston. I was amazed. Didn’t find out until years later the ride leader was a lawyer. Small world, small world.
    That was the only way to ride the surface streets in Houston– in a group that took the lane. Well, the only *survivable* way.
    The other revealing part of my Houston Bicycling Experience was all the shocked reactions I got from hike and bike trail pedestrians (walkers, dog walkers, baby-stroller walkers, etc.). A polite “Passing on your left, please” from an appropriate distance behind, people would sometimes literally jump off the narrow asphalt path, as if they’d been run off the road by a cyclist, previously. Jeeze, like little old podunk Austin me had been the first cyclist to ever do other than “carve” them at speed and with no warning. Imagine that…

    • fsethd says:

      Yep. And now Houston has undercover bike cops who are waiting for you to buzz them. We could use a few battalions of ’em here.

  • dangerstu says:

    I’ve definitely being more active in taking the lane and waving thanks to people for letting me out etc. So far I think it’s working well, people even wave back and smile. I think it’s because once there is an interaction you become another human not an obstacle.

    It’s impossible to deal with the few who randomly act like twats, not just in cars but on bikes.

    So I’m going to continue with the friendly assertiveness.

  • sibex9591 says:

    So, does this guy have a well established history of blogging sarcasm, and that his true devotees knew all along that he wasn’t serious? I suspect not.

    We who follow you, are usually surprised when out of the blue comes a truly well written serious piece, when really, we are used to the usual recipe of truth beaten into fictional sensationalism.

    To me I suppose it is possible to see the sarcasm in some of his rant, but without context, how are you supposed to know? Considering it proposes the same dehumanizing strategy as Ms. Laura last July, who was supposed to be laughing?

    I did have an acquaintance recently engage me in a discussion concerning her experiences with a consistent bicycle commuter on her roads in West Virginia, and how he always seems to be in her way (between her and her destination) almost every morning when she is trying to get her kids to school. Narrow roads, the cyclist is visibly well recognized, front flashing light, rear flashing tail lamp, bright clothing, and taking the lane on a road with many bends (Did I mention West Virginia :)). I did my best to explain the situation to her, and she did thank me for my point of view. Whether she took my advice and got up 5 minutes earlier, or at least left 5 minutes earlier, I do not know.

    As for this guy. After a post like that, how do you really gauge his remorse, and when do you cut him a break? I am not sure I would ever spend another dime (assuming I had spent a dime), at his business.

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the end.

    • fsethd says:

      Don’t know if I can ever forgive you for referring to anything I’ve ever penned as a “serious, well written piece.” That hurts.

      But sure, when you can interact and have dialogue, make the most of it. I’m just pretty sure I’ve never been at a bar talking with a bus driver or driver of a cement mixer and complained to him about being in my way. And I’ve got all my teeth to prove it.

      Anyway, excellent line of the day: “He always seems to be in her way (between her and her destination).” Too funny.

      Did you ask her if her car had brakes and that round thing in the center of console?

  • Peter S. says:

    Santa Rosa here we come! And I am hoping for safer riding in Santa Rosa.

    • fsethd says:

      No one will fuck with you if you’re on Levi’s Grand EPO Fondue!

      • dangerstu says:

        WTF, Stop beating on Lepovi , he’s all right with me, he gave Strava kudos on some random ride a couple of weeks back, and all his cheating ways are forgiven.

      • fsethd says:

        As ye kudoeth, so shall ye be be forgiven. Amen, salami, etc.

  • David Holland says:

    What a moron – he starts his rant saying we are “driving… generally for work-related purposes.” And then he goes onto describe the incident when he is driving the road to go camping on a vacation in an RV.

    Dude – get off the road, you hypocrite. Roads are to be used for work-related purposes!!!

    Oh yeah, and always remember to go the speed limit, stop completely at each and every stop sign, and always use turn signals.

    • fsethd says:

      The surreal part was where he castigated cyclists for being in the way and then completely got in their way, with no suggestion that he and his family should have been shoved in a ditch or off a cliff. So self aware, this meathead.

  • Johnny French says:

    PAre we allowed to use the word ‘cunt’? Because I’d very much like to.

  • pvannuys says:

    OK, sorry Seth. But there’s much valuable content here.
    Let’s start with that priceless post of the Goofy cartoon– from 1950! I was born in 1950!… and the culture of speed and tribalism of motorist vs. non-motorist was already firmly entrenched. So we know this is a cultural issue.
    As posted above, words alone won’t change culture. Even locally. It does take action by our minority group. Sometimes spontaneous action by individuals, but more effectively by groups.
    And as you have also done, it takes action in the courts.
    Sadly, the missing element so far is effective legislative action. “Bicycle Advocacy” is all about selling the Bike, as the movement’s leaders readily admit when they call themselves People for Bikes. Not People for Bicyclists, but bikes.As in “buy the bike, suckers, while we ignore your right to use it.”
    American bicycle advocacy is dominated by the “advocacy-industrial complex” which focuses on advancing the careers of consultants, city staffers, and high paid non-profit execs, all pushing infrastructure solutions to our cultural problem. Like separate drinking fountains would alleviate racial discrimination.
    We cannot rely on the League, People for Bikes, or local groups doggedly focused on segregated “bike lanes” when we’re being assaulted daily by the “meatheads.”
    Be courteous but occupy the lane.
    And support efforts by CABO and others to defend our legal right to do so.
    Thanks again, Seth.

    • Sausage™ says:

      I love my man Seth and all he does for us as cyclists as humans, and when moles like Adam and Laura poke their heads out of their holes they most certainly should be WHACKED but playing Whack-a-Mole will only get you so far. Thus why I think there should also be a focus on systemic solutions to change the hearts and minds of cagers.

      • fsethd says:

        You can have my Mole Whacker when you pry my cold, dead fingers off the handle. But yeah, a few good laws wouldn’t hurt, either … or the repeal of an especially bad one.

    • fsethd says:

      Thanks go to you, Pete. I agree about the legislative imperative. Talk about rolling a giant rock uphill. But it has to be done.

  • Alan says:

    Sigh…and so it goes. Raise a hand, ask for room and hope for the best. Can’t we all just get along?

  • Brian Gaskey says:

    I guess he wants to hit some of his neighbors who are winemakers and avid cyclists… No free wine for him.

    • fsethd says:

      I think now he is pretty much regretting the existence of the Internet thingy.

      • Tom Paterson says:

        Not really as good as The Newspaper for letting us know what they’re up to in some ways, but better in others!

        Remember when Lance Armstrong trimmed Tony Korn– No! Not going there! whatever’s sails for him a few years ago when he advocated “Just knock them out of the way!”?

        Last on the transportation food chain, lowest in the social pecking order (even behind people-who-can’t-afford-even-a-bicycle-so-they-have-to-walk-when-they’re-not-riding-on-a-bus-I-pay-for-with-my-taxes-and-I-don’t-like-it instead of driving).

        Gotta speak up.
        Need a powerful lobby. Which begs a question: How come all those funny-pants people who can afford $30,000 bike-and-clothes outfits, and have all that idle time they’re not working-like-I-have-to-and-I-don’t-like-it *don’t* have a mega-lobby in state and local governments?

      • fsethd says:

        Lobbying is work. Biking is fun. And in my experience, personal and observed, the fancier the bike, the broker the rider.

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