Thursday, August 10, 2017

Us Versus Them

Photo credit: Keith Olenslager
I've been thinking a lot lately about two types of behavior: rolling coal and the human chain.

Rolling coal, in case you're unfamiliar, is when a vehicle with a diesel engine, usually a large pick up truck or SUV, deliberately spews black toxic fumes at bicyclists.  Yes, deliberately.  These fumes are toxic, especially to those humans who use their lungs in athletic pursuits like cycling.

The human chain is from a story I heard that took place at a Florida beach.  A couple had been out swimming and got caught by the rip tide.  They had been pulled out quite a ways and were in deep trouble.  The onlookers at the beach, all strangers, linked together to form a human chain and saved the couple's lives.  This is some top level human heroism.

I've experienced both types of behavior on rides.  The rolling coal phenomena, which should be pictured next to the word "sociopath" in the dictionary, is dangerous.  It is extreme bullying.  There's an imbalance of power (and intelligence) when a diesel truck, weighing in at approximately 2000 pounds, veers at, revs their engine and blows fumes at a 150 pound human atop a 25 pound bicycle.

If I ever met one of these drivers, I'd dare them to ride a bike, but I suspect they wouldn't even if they could.  I can't help but wonder though, if they read the story about the human chain, would they count themselves as one of the heroic types who would've taken part in that rescue?
Photo credit: Keith Olenslager
On the human chain side of things, most drivers I encounter slow down and go around.  Some motorists will even stop to check on cyclists doing roadside repairs, or offer water.  Cycling acquaintances are totally willing to ruin their ride to spend all day fixing seven flats with me.  Friends are willing to drop everything and come rescue me when an eighth flat will destroy me.  Pro tip: always check your rim tape when installing new tires.