Thursday, June 15, 2006

Drive-by shooting

Last week a friend of mine was shot. It was early evening and he was riding his bike, ironically on the way to a meeting of the Austin Cycling Association. Despite the large number of cyclists in Austin, including Lance Armstrong, it seems like we have a lot of incidents where motorists are harassing cyclists. I’m a novice rider but want to get more into it, especially after I bought a new bike this weekend. Unfortunately, stories of harassment make me want to stay off the road and away from motorists.

My friend, G, was in south Austin, near Sunset Valley, when a white van pulled next to him. A teenager, maybe 19, started yelling and shouting obscenities at G, and threw trash at him. G, keeping his composure, just smiled, waved, and kept riding as the van passed. A few blocks later G noticed that the van was stopped at a light. Catching up to the van, G stopped, went to the passenger’s side, put his hands on the open window and asked, “Is there something you wanted to say to me?” Looking in, G noticed that the van was driven by a little person (e.g. a dwarf). The harassing passenger was visibly startled, see G at the window, but the light finally changed and the van drove off.

G makes it through the light, continuing his ride. A little bit up the road he notices the white van pulled into an empty parking lot and senses trouble. As G passes, the passenger pulls out a pellet gun, aiming it directly at G. At this point, G starts peddling as fast as he can. He feels the first pellet fly past him. The second pellet hits his shoulder. As the van drives off, G turns around to see if he could get a license plate number, but couldn’t.

X-rays at the hospital show that the pellet didn’t break G’s skin – he was simply nicked, thank goodness. The police took his statement and seemed to chalk it up to kids and vandalism. They said that since school has been out, there have been increased reports of vandalism with pellet guns. This, in and of itself, is alarming to me. It also bothers me that the police can’t find a little person who drives a white van. As I joked to G, they would be able to find it if it were Law & Order.

What bothers me the most, however, is that this kid seemed to think it was funny to harass a cyclist and that it was okay to shoot another human. This raises all sorts of questions of where we are as a society. But for the time being, I’m just glad my friend is okay.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Austin Bicyclists are some of the most smug, ignorant people I have ever met. Their motto "Share the Road" would be great if they followed the premised. Riding 2-3 wide on major streets is absolutely the opposite of that. Just having Lance Armstrong does not enable one to be such impedence in traffic. Most bicyclists can not travel more than 25mph in a safe manner, yet the majority of our cyclists still find it necessary to travel on major roads with limits way above 35mph. The congest major traffic roads during rush hour traffic, rather than simply switiching to a nearby side street. I suggest driving down South First St. during the 5-6 hour. Frequently there is a major problem with one bicyclist taking up an entire lane, with hundreds of cars affected by that practice. There is Bouldin St., South 5th St. and several other avenues that can be taken, but they still travel on 1st.

While I disagree with the Pellet Shooting, I highly suggest that the Austin Cycling Association review their own members practices on the road, before taking the smug approach of blaming the people the roads were built for in the first place.

Mike said...

'anonymous', you're a moron. A moron who stumbled upon a fairly good example of alternative routes, but still a moron.

You can't get very far in this city without having to bike on a road with a speed limit at 35 or more. You just can't. And guess who the first roads (including in Austin) were built for? Hint: It weren't them durn motorists.

The only roads built even MOSTLY for cars are limited access freeways (main lanes of Mopac, I-35, etc.) and guess what? No bikes. Problem solved.

Doug & Dara said...

I can't really comment on ACA, because I haven't joined. My friend G ecourages me to take the ACA bike safety course and to go on some of their beginners' rides, so I get more comfortable riding. I would like to get more comfortable road riding as the bike path where I ride in Pflugerville gets a bit boring. Doug likes for us to ride on the path as he feels it's a lot safer. I'm not sure about that as some of those walkers walk 4 across and don't respond to the "passing on left" warning. I really liked the woman the other day with two dogs, one on the left side grass, one on the right, and her in the middle with a long leash. I almost crashed into her dogs. Doug crashed into a tunnel wall thanks to a lady on a bike with a baby carriage on the back who was riding in the center of the tunnel. Sometimes I think wide roads would be safer, especially as Doug won't let us ride two abreast.

Anonymous said...

Mike,

People should not be biking on 2222 period.

People should not be biking on 360 period.

They consistently are out there.

You absolutely can get around this city without traveling on the major traffic routes. Its just flat out selfishness or ignorance that these bikers continue to ride on major roads. There are time when you may have to cross a major road, but there are side streets all around this city.

I'd like to know which roads were specifically made for Biking in Austin, not for traveling via Car/Bus to work/local stores/etc? Because I really doubt a city based on a "Grid" was developed for biking ease. Austin is very different from a city like Boston, which was developed around cow paths.

The majority of accidents involving Bicyclists involve major fault on behalf of the biker. You can accuse people of harassing or whatever, but when you're biking at 15mph (just so you know during the Tour De France, Lance's avg speed was 20mph, so I doubt your going that fast) on a 35+mph, your worse than an old lady driving with a cell phone.

But I guess I'm the moron because I have a clue what "sharing the road" might actually be. Enjoy wearing your spandex clothes and dreaming your the next Lance, maybe you'll get pelletted by a midget too.

jimbo said...

A bike bell works quite well along the paths and hike and bike trails. Still no match for the "iPod-blivious" out on the trail but effective for most others.

I used to ride 2222 and 360 alot back in the early nineties. It was if-fy back then but now it's flat out dangerous. Most drivers think that the shoulder is just another lane to be used for turning and cruising past traffic. Another difference is cell phones weren't as widespread here back in the early 90's. People are less engaged in driving.

Mike said...

"anonymous": I rode both 360 and 2222 to get to work. There were no alternates. (I rode the parts of both with shoulders, not the parts without; except for a part of 2222 under 360 which I had to ride on as I picked up the road at Lakewood Drive).

You have no clue what you're talking about.

And the first roads around here, as in most parts of the country, were first built for horses and first paved mainly at the urging of bicyclists.

Your manly rhetoric is truly inspiring coming from behind the cowardice of anonymity.

Midget With a Pellet Gun. said...

Mike,

Have you ever heard of a map? Spicewood Spings Rd and the many side streets can get you where your going. Your the epitomy of the "smug Austin bicyclist". Too lazy or too stupid to even try to make an effort.

How many pairs of spandex shorts and wind shirts do you own? Have you ever heard the term "wardrobe sport"?

There's no question you should try to chose an alternate route, rather than endanger those on major traffic routes with your reckless behavior. 2222 in particular is already dangerous enough without some Lance Armstrong-wanna be in the middle of the road.

But I'm not the one taking on a two ton pickup. Good luck.

MWaPG

Mike said...

Midget:

My office was on 2222, halfway between 360 and 620. I rode Far West Boulevard down to the neighborhood off Lakewood Drive, then Lakewood to 2222. I used as much alternative route _as_ _was_ _possible_, you dumbass.

Midget With a Pellet Gun said...

Mike,

You have been riding without a bicycle seat to much and it must be affecting your thinking. You are only furthering the view of Austin bicyclists by your rash responses. You need to realize that bicyclists are a small, small minority on the road, and the "share the road" concept works about as well as a Vespa Cruiser on i35. At least now I'll have another target with my pellet gun.

MWaPG

Little People of America said...

Mike,

Your comments have been sent to us in regards to yuor harassment of little people. You at no time or place have the right to use the word "midget", nor is calling a little person a "dumbass" acceptible. We have added your Google profile and WebBlog to our watch list. Please stop threatening and harassing my friend with a pellet gun or we will take legal action. I thank you in advance for your actions.

www.lpaonline.org

Anonymous said...

Mike -

I'm fine w/cyclists sharing the road. As Anonymous stated, SOME are taking up entire lanes when doing so. What's wrong with riding close to the shoulder so they can "share the road" with the rest of us who drive cars?

No to mention, MOST of the cyclists I see don't obey the traffic laws. They run lights, don't signal and, like Anonymous said, impede traffic.

- Anonymous2

Kolin said...

Very hard. Innocent people are hurting or dying every day. And we do not know when our turn will come, may be tomorrow, may be not. "Folk devils" are really one of the most big problems of our society. They can be everywhere, even a simple man and van could be very dangerous. I hope it will end as soon as possible. Happy that your friend did not very come to harm.