Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bicycle Follies Cross the Pond

For a while, probably as a result of spending most of my time away from home as a pedestrian on the streets of San Francisco, I was writing about what I called the "defiance culture" of cyclists. When the film Premium Rush came out a couple of years later, I realized that this culture at extended far beyond the Bay Area (and probably beyond more large metropolitan areas than New York). On my own turf, the most dangerous absurdity I had encountered personally was a cyclist who decided to negotiate a bus stop by going down the narrow strip between the bus and the sidewalk, thus endangering those getting on and off the bus at the same time. (Was he keeping score in his head?)

Apparently, the culture has now spread to Great Britain. The following story appeared on the BBC News Web site this morning:
Police are considering what action to take against a Cambridge cyclist who dodged a level crossing barrier, coming within seconds of being hit by a train.
British Transport Police (BTP) confirmed they spoke to a 26-year-old woman from the city on Wednesday. She was filmed cycling through the closed barrier at Waterbeach on 12 September.
The woman came forward voluntarily, and BTP said they were deciding what further action to take.
She was filmed passing the closed barrier and ignoring warning signals and lights.
Rail bosses described it as "one of the closest near misses we've seen".
Hundreds of thousands of people have watched footage of the woman cycling up to the tracks before slamming on her brakes, and edging backwards as the train speeds past.
I know several who attribute this behavior to the extreme sense of self-righteousness that comes with the belief that riding bicycles will save the planet for excess carbon emissions. The fact that this is a fallacy only heightens the self-righteousness, making them an even greater danger to those who come near them, as well as to their own selves.

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