August 28, 2016 § 44 Comments
It’s hard to admit you’re wrong.
It’s harder to apologize to the people you’ve wronged.
It’s hardest of all to affirmatively do something about it.
The last couple of weeks have seen a slew of attacks on cyclists. Mason Katz, a professional baseball player, used his Twitter account to attack people who ride bicycles and suggest that their mere existence made him contemplate harming them.
Then there was the woman who I’ll just politely refer to as the Charlotte Nutjob. After assaulting a peaceful group of cyclists she was portrayed in the first news stories as a victim.
At least one follow-up story confirmed that she’s actually an idiot. Maybe that makes some people feel better.
And then there was the San Diego Easy Reader story, peddling lies and absurd analyses from the Cato Institute trying to argue that bike planning is irrational and we should spend more time and money helping the poor beleaguered car industry.
All of this followed hot on the heels of stories in which Peter King, Sports Illustrated flunky, and his flunkette driver Jenny Vrentas, made a ha-ha-ho-ho joke about driving their cage in the bike lane on the way to a football game, which in turn was contemporaneous with a tweet by NFL Network analyst @HeathEvans 44, which highlighted the irrational rage that so many drivers feel at simply encountering an ordinary bicycle rider “clogging the street,” i.e. “riding lawfully.”
But then the story line changed.
One of my Big Orange club members, Delia Park, reached out to @HeathEvans44 and invited him to come apologize to our club before the Sunday ride. “Sure,” I thought. “Like he’s going to show up at 6:30 AM on Sunday to get berated by a bunch of old farts in orange underwear.”
“Sure,” @HeathEvans44 responded. “I’d love to.”
“Believe it when I see it,” was my cynical thought.
Yesterday morning at the Center of the Known Universe a/k/a CotKU a/k/a the Manhattan Beach Pier Starbucks, @HeathEvans44 showed up as promised. Delia, Joann Zwagermann, Greg Leibert, Steve Utter, my youngest son Woodrow, and I were all there.
I had prepped my son about what to expect, prejudiced as I am. “The guy’s going to be some insincere asshat who’s been hassled on social media and probably by his employer to make this right. He’ll be condescending as shit.”
What we found was something so far away from that. @HeathEvans44 was, first and foremost, appalled that he’d tweeted something that condoned violence. He was more than apologetic. His voice, his manner, and his words evinced nothing but regret of the sincerest kind. You got the feeling that here was a guy who was gentle, kind, and who wanted to right a wrong. You know the old saying, “People make mistakes”? Well, they do. What they often don’t do, is apologize for them.
In addition to profoundly apologizing, Heath admitted to not having known the law. He asked forgiveness. He praised cycling as a sport, and he had obvious, unfeigned respect for the riders who were getting ready to roll forth for the day. He was an athlete who respected fitness and athleticism.
As if all that weren’t enough, he agreed that something further needed to be done to help educate the motoring public and to help counteract the gut reaction that many people have when they see a rider “in their way.” In our short pre-ride meeting there was no time to nail down specifics, but he shared his private cell phone and promised to work together with us to help get the word out.
Finally, he stood out at CotKU while iPhones snapped and popped. I’d had no idea that so many cyclists loved football. One rider asked him where he went to college. “Auburn,” he said.
“My daughter goes there,” said the rider, rolling up his sleeve to show an elaborate War Eagles tattoo. Football talk quickly ensured. Far from rushing away as soon as he could, he hung around to chat until the cyclists themselves clicked in and rolled out.
@HeathEvans44’s Twitter tag line is “Don’t dish if you can’t take it.” Pretty admirable to see someone turn a negative into a positive, and be adult enough to reverse course when the initial tack was just plain wrong. It’s a lesson we should all take to heart.
[EDIT: The original post neglected to mention that this would not have happened without the work of Joann Zwagermann, who helped spotlight the problem and who relentlessly engaged. It also omitted to recognize the work that Matt Miller, also of Big Orange, did to make sure that our efforts were positive, peaceful, and dedicated to rapprochement rather than acrimony and recrimination. Thank you to all.]
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August 22, 2016 § 39 Comments
There is a guy named Heath Evans. He is a football journalist. I know, that reads like a joke.
Then there is a guy name Peter King. He is a serious sports journalist who writes for Sports Illustrated. Get it? “Serious sports journalist.” Not as funny as football journalist, actually a pretty bad joke.
Then there is a woman named Jenny Vrentas. She doesn’t know how to drive a car or care to learn how. She’s not funny at all.
So what do you get when you put a joke, a bad joke, and a reckless driver on Twitter? You get this:
Both of these tweets are self-explanatory. The football journalist thinks it’s okay to publicly muse about his desire to kill or injure bicyclists.
The serious sports journalist thinks it’s okay to encourage reckless driving, record it, and then “no comment” on it while the flunkette he’s abetted drives in a bike lane.
You could tweet to @nflnetwork, Heath Evan’s employer, which would be awesome. You could also tweet to @SInow, the employer for fun-loving Jenny and Peter. You could do this, not because the NFL or SI would care, but because it might make your anger at these people dissipate a little bit. Maybe.
Of course, verbalizing violence towards people for riding bicycles pairs up nicely with the reality that people in cars kill and maim bicycle riders with impunity. Lives lost, lives wrecked, families ripped apart, children without parents, just because some dick on his way to a football game is in such a hurry that he can’t wait with all the other people patiently sitting in traffic. Gotta get there first to hit the buffet and the booze in the skybox, dude.
A friend of mine was mowed down last Sunday morning by a fellow who fled the scene. The buddy is still in the ICU and faces a long road to recovery. The felon is probably watching the Big Game on TV. “Guy shouldn’t have been in the bike lane,” he’s probably thinking, if he thinks about it at all.
We saw this casual violence here in RPV last Tuesday when a resident lamented the damage that a cyclist’s body and head had done to someone’s windshield, and we see it in various forms, either on the road or in conversation. “Why do you guys ride in the road?” This is politespeak for “Get out of my way because I want to kill you.”
I even had a cyclist after a bike race today come up and say he thought cyclists should be treated as pedestrians. You know, so we can be legally barred from riding on any part of the roadway at all, forever. “Like skateboarders,” he added, for emphasis.
I looked at him for a minute as if he was insane. But he wasn’t. Just like Heath and Peter and Jenny aren’t insane. They simply think your life isn’t worth shit.
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