For those who missed it, Monday's Doo Dah parade included a black SUV smashing into a bicycle, with the person landing on the roof. The license plates of the SUV were covered with the fake plates “BIK-H8R”, and a (hard to read) sign was attached to each side of the vehicle reading, “I'll share the road when you follow the rules." The driver also stopped along the route to place long strips of duct tape over bike infrastructure painted on the street.
In the last 24 hours, this float has received local, statewide, national, and international attention, and is by far the the item receiving the most comments on Doo Dah's own Facebook page. As you can imagine, a very vigorous conversation is happening Facebook on and Twitter.
If you've never marched in or seen the Doo Dah Parade (modeled after Doo Dah Pasadena), here is how it manifests in Columbus, Ohio. The parade publicly embraces a lack of organization (the organizers refer to themselves as the DisOrganizers). Whoever shows up to march is who marches—no pre-registration, no entry fee.
DisOrganizers describe the parade on Facebook as the "Craziest Parade in History, Humorous! Fun! Fantastic, Liberty & Lunacy, Freedom of Speech, through humor, Express yourself, It’s a very important day for the Marching Fidel’s, Satirical, Unique, Symbolic of how Columbus is, You can be who you want to be and have a great time doing it, It’s all meant in Jest and fun, Important for a mother to show her daughter all the uniqueness and diversity, Laughter is the best medicine".
Now we all have the context. Some have said, “Chill. It's Doo Dah. It's satire.”
So, let's just assume this float was an attempt at satire. Perhaps the driver was embracing a completely ridiculous idea, deserving of attack—that cyclists should be killed for failing to "follow the rules"—to create a public dialogue where that idea could be torn to pieces in a constructive social criticism. If so, he did a truly fantastic job of staying in character during the entire parade, angrily responding to boos and flipping off people in the crowd! And now, thanks to his efforts, we as a community all know better than to plow into cyclists for offenses as grievous as failing to stop at a stop sign when there's no oncoming traffic. On behalf of the cycling community....thanks??
But I am a bit confused about a few things. Who is this guy? He seems to be unknown to people within the bike-riding communities in Central Ohio. And this nouveau Swift didn't sign his work. Why stay anonymous? Why cover the license plates? Why not take pride in the clever bit of satirical work? The goal of satire is to make a point. It is important to be accessible as part of the shtick, not to hide from reporters looking for an interview. Satire is tough to do well and should not be taken on by cowards.
If he is not one of us, what is motivating him to create such a stir on our behalf? Why didn't he reach out—we could have been helpful to him if creating a satirical float was his intent. Fantastic ideas to portray satire have shown up in social media conversations, including: *Increasing the accuracy of his satire by texting or playing Angry Birds while driving. *Recruiting a team of people on bikes traveling the parade route wearing targets on their backs, perhaps some in bandages. *Decorating his SUV with trophies of previous kills. An advocacy group could have followed him with a float offering helpful information for motorists who are truly confused about how to interact with people on bikes. Flash back to Doo Dah 2007 and we give you:
This person's 'float' was not satire. It was bullying. His purported desire to get cyclists to follow the rules was revealed as a sham when he covered the sharrows with duct tape. His real desire was to erase us, to keep us from being in a space he believes rightfully belongs to him and his SUV. He wants you to feel unsafe. He wants us to keep the bikes in the garage and drive instead. He wants the people who love us to question whether we're really so safe out there riding roads, to plant that seed of doubt in our minds when we go to choose the bike. He wants to not have to drive slower and pay better attention and re-learn traffic law and adopt a new transportation paradigm that encompasses all comers.
Get that? It's not about cyclists following the rules. There is not enough following of rules in the world to address his root concern regarding cyclists—obliteration.
If you need to feel any sort of way about this lazy display of entitlement and bullying, feel pity. This poor guy is on the losing end of history. I could take time to tear apart the various arguments this parade float attempts to make about unlawful bicyclists (just look at the stats!) creating unsafe road conditions, behaving like scofflaws, and the other bits of tired arguments steeped in entitlement and privilege and ignorance. But the links highlighted in the last sentence do a fine job of it.
The truth of the matter is that no motorist wants to hit a person on a bike—that's just a bully's lie. Do not take the bait. Do not allow yourself to be bullied. And do not collude with him: by trying to keep loved ones from riding with well-intended comments about their safety, by policing your fellow cyclists so he (ostensibly) won't have a case to make, by driving when you'd rather ride.
Riding a bike is safe. Period. No matter what this sad, sad man would have you believe. Feel like arguing about that? Read this.