Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Becoming One of the Hated: A Bicycler

Yes, my friends, today I made my initial journey into the ranks of those most despised in my little area of the world.  I took my first bike ride.

As I traveled those first 7.5 miles, I couldn't help but remember a joke I had heard and told numerous times:

There was a trucker who was generally a nice guy except when it came to bicyclists.  He absolutely hated them.  In fact, whenever he saw one cycling down the highway, he would always nudge over and knock them over--such was his distaste.

One day, he picked up a hitch-hiker.  As the hitch-hiker got in the cab, the trucker noticed this was no ordinary hitch-hiker.  It was a priest.

"Thank you, my son," the priest said.  "My car broke down a few miles back, and I've been walking trying to get to the next town.  You were the first who would pick me up."

"No problem, Father," the trucker replied.

Things went swimmingly for the first few miles, but then, just ahead, the trucker noticed a bicycler in the shoulder ahead.  The trucker began twitching.  He changed lanes to get into the right hand lane.  He looked at the priest and then looked at the cyclist.  His fingers began shaking.  He moved his truck onto the shoulder just a bit; thought of his passenger, and moved back onto the highway.  Another look at the cyclist caused him to swerve into the shoulder once again, but at the last minute, the trucker thought of that priest, and swerved back onto the highway.

Yet, the driver still heard an unmistakable "THUMP!"  He looked over at the priest who then said, "I saw you swerve at the last minute.  Don't worry.  I got him with the door."

Such is the attitude toward cyclist that many of us have out here.  Now, don't get me wrong.  None of us begrudge anyone who wishes to get some exercise.  None of us begrudge anyone who wishes to see the beauty of the countryside from the seat of a bicycle.  But we do begrudge those cyclist who come out here and believe they own the road. 

More than a few weekends, our community is overrun with bicyclists from Houston and other urban areas.  They come out here to ride around, and most of them are pretty decent.  But there are those few who spoil it for the rest.  Several of them decide it would be fun to ride two or three or ever four abreast in the road.  Some decide it would be easier to ride in the middle of the lane.  And many times, they don't give a darn that a car is coming up behind them. 

Now, such a prospect isn't a difficult thing down in Houston or Austin or any place they actually have bicycle lanes.  (Head scratch moment: why did these folks gripe and complain about wanting bike lanes in their cities for safety purposes, and when the city installed them, instead they traveled to places where there are no bike lanes?)  Out in the country, we have two lane roads.  Most of them have no shoulder to speak of.  Furthermore, our folks drive around in tractors with equipment and trucks hauling trailers full of hay, cattle, or other such things.  Slowing down and stopping isn't easy, especially when the folks holding up traffic are traveling 10-15 mph down these roads.  And because of the curves and hills, you can't exactly just pass anytime you want.  When cyclists do such things, they don't only endanger themselves, but they endanger others on the road.  Plus, their cavalier attitude toward country folks has earned them the ire of folks around here.

In fact, generally good, solid, caring, compassionate people have their emotions take over to the point where they "wave" to bikers regularly--but they just don't use all their fingers.

I understand their anger.

I understand their frustration.

I understand exactly where they are coming from.

But now, I'm on the other side as well.  Not necessarily by my choosing.  My sciatic had something to do with it.  It started giving me all kinds of fits as I started incorporated running and jogging into my exercise routine.  So I had to start looking for something that was a little less stressful on my sciatic.  My brother-in-law had a bike he wasn't using, so I asked him if I could use it.  He readily agreed, and so I have begun.

There was only one car driving down the same road I biked on this morning.  I waved.  Not sure what the response was.  I can only say this: if you do come across me biking around Cat Spring, please know I am trying to follow all the rules of the road.  I do not wish to slow you down.  I want to use only a small portion of the road.  And if by chance you are forced to slow down because of me and you choose to "wave" at me, please at least remember why I am relegated to doing this and "wave" with a smile.


Anonymous said...

No different than the frustration many of us feel when we get stuck behind an inconsiderate farmer on a tractor with 10 cars behind him yet refuses to pull over. See it in Cat Spring all the time. You'll find no sympathy here. Bikers have just as much a right to be on the road as anybody else.

Kevin Haug said...

Big difference, buddy. Those farmers LIVE out here, pay taxes out here, support the local community, care for their land, raise food to feed the nation, and don't use the area as their personal playground. In many places they simply cannot get off the road to let people pass--see my note in the blog regarding the hills, curves, and narrowness of the roads.

Bikers sure do have a right to use the road just like anyone else, but using common sense goes a long, long way--especially when folks ride two and three abreast.

Anonymous said...

Farmers pay taxes? Really? All you need in Austin County is a minimum of 10 acres and 10 head of cattle and you don't pay any taxes. I wouldn't call that farming or feeding anybody. I know because members of my family have used Ag exempt status to our advantage for years, as do most others all around you. Trust me, those bike riders you despise contribute a lot more to society than you can even imagine.

Kevin Haug said...

My anonymous friend, your statment about taxes is a blatant falsehood. The ag exemption received by farmers does not nullify their tax rate, it decreases it substantially, so yes, these farmers out here pay taxes on their property--a lesser rate than those of us who own non-agricultural property, but they still pay.

And my point still stands, these farmers and ranchers out here are using the roads to WORK and EARN a living. Most bikers use these roads as their personal playgrounds. Big, big difference.

Sure, bicyclists contribute to society--many of them work long hours in their regular jobs, many who bike out here do so for various fundraisers including the MS 150, etc. These are very good things, and I begrudge no one the opportunity to participate in such functions and enjoy the natural beauty of Austin County. It's a joy living out here and now biking out here myself. However, this isn't just about one's "right" to use the road, it's also about responsibility. When bikers come out here to play, a little common courtesy goes a long way.

Anonymous said...

I was hoping to keep this simple, but I guess that's not possible. When a property owner in Austin county on 12 acres pays $4300.00 a year in prop. Taxes (non Ag exempt) and his next door neighbor owns 110 acres (Ag exempt) and pays 183.00 a year, then I call that paying no taxes. Most people spend more than that taking their family to a ballgame. I should know, I write the checks.

Kevin Haug said...

Call it what you like, they still pay taxes, and if you knew the breaks of farming and ranching and the regulations they have to put up with to barely scrape by, that tax exempt status is the difference between profit and loss. And no, I'm not talking about those folks who have moved out here recently and have money to spare and use agriculture as a tax break. I'm talking about the life long farmers and ranchers who do this for a livelihood.

Again, that part is somewhat moot compared to 1. They LIVE here. 2. They WORK here. 3. They EARN their livelihood here. 4. And they don't use the place as their personal playground. And, of course, I notice you glossed completely over the difference between rights versus responsibilities.

Do you actually want to address those points, or do you wish to try to bolster your argument using the periphrial tax thing?

Anonymous said...

Borrowing a friend's bicycle no more makes one an authority on cycling as owning a cow makes one an authority on farming and ranching. By the sound of your stubborn rants, you obviously know little or nothing about either one. And what would you know about rights and responsibilities? Be careful! Pride is a powerful drug.

Kevin Haug said...

It appears, my anonymous friend, that I have struck a nerve by the fact that you have turned to ad hominem attacks to refute my posts. Please begin addressing the issues I raise and argue with them lest I be forced to delete what could be a helpful conversation in bridging the gap between the way folks feel about bicyclists out here and the way bicyclists feel about the folks out here.

And just to allay your fears regarding my so called expertise:

1. I never claimed to be an expert biker. Heaven knows, my butt is constantly reminding me of this right now.

2. Neither am I an expert rancher; however, I do know a tad about agricultural phenomena. You see, my anonymous friend, I grew up spending countless hours on my grandparents' farm. I've walked miles with a cotton hoe in my hand or a backpack sprayer on my back. I spent countless hours on a tractor. My grandfather taught me the ins and outs of planting, fixing equipment, spraying crops, harvesting, and the like. We spent hours in conversation regarding the market and how it would impact his decisions in what to plant. I am probably one of the very, very few people alive in my generation who has actually picked cotton by hand. During the summers I worked at a grain elevator and learned much more about the industry. Being a country preacher, I have spent hours talking to ranchers and listening and learning to what they go through on a yearly basis in regards to land issues, regulatory issues, tax issues, and the like. While I own no livestock, I've garnered enough info to speak with some authority to agricultural issues.

3. And when you ask about rights versus responsibilities, you are heading right up my alley. Do you think we pastors are trained only in theology and the Bible? I've cut a few teeth on philosophy and ethics, so yes, my anonymous friend, I can go a long way down the path of rights and responsibilities. Would you actually care to engage the subject, or would you like to use more personal attacks?

Kevin Haug said...

My anonymous friend left another comment, but unfortunately, in trying to administrate from my phone, I deleted it. I am copying the post in this text in italic. It has not been edited:

Most know that playing the 'Ad hominem' card is a convenient scapegoat as an end-around excuse when someone is pointing out the truth. Nice try, though. And you have that 'anonymous friend' thing down to a fine art. Unfortunately, I can no longer have any more fun with you today. I need to finish up some work. Congratulations on wasting most of your day on things so trivial. Bikes and Cows...hilarious. I just hope they aren't paying you
by the hour. Now run along.

My anonymous friend, if you actually had the courage to sign your name, I might be able to address you personally, so I really have no other choice than to call you what you reveal to me.

Although wikipedia isn't exactly the world's best source, let's look at what they say about ad hominem argument, and lest I remind you, I believe you were the one who began that train.

Quote: An ad hominem (Latin for "to the man" or "to the person"), short for argumentum ad hominem, is an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or belief of the person supporting it.[1] Ad hominem reasoning is normally described as a logical fallacy. End Quote


Now, as you can see, your blatant ad hominem attempt to call into question my authority to speak on matters of ranching, biking, and rights and responsibilities is nothing more than you trying to subvert the truth of my statements.

In your last comments you are now casting me as someone who wastes time and slacks on the job. Well, today's my day off, so there's no sweat off of my brow since I can waste my time as I see fit. I find it interesting that you would say such a thing about me and leave yourself out since you have done just as much posting as me.

Oh well. And just to set the record straight: I'm not the one who's running.

Anonymous said...

You are emotionally melting..you just cannot help yourself. Do you have a parking brake? OK, if it makes you feel better to have a name, here it is. 'Cookie Monster' I just love Sesame Street. Now go spend some time with your family and enjoy your weekend. I'm sure your Sunday sermon will be another classic. Bye

Kevin Haug said...