Driving is a right, not a privilege

Whether you’re a driver, a cyclists, or (most likely) both, this post will make you angry.

Topics include:

1) Ranting about cars/capitalism

2) Short slide show of a hut trip I went on two weekends ago

3) Getting punched in the chest by a driver on Flagstaff last Tuesday

4) Cutting myself with a knife and going to the ER for stitches

5) Attending the sentencing of Peggy Brown, who was convicted of a hit and run last summer after she nearly sent triathlete Jeff Wick’s to an early grave. Spoiler alert: she got off scot-free.

6) I got my job back at SmartEtailing! Actually, that’s the full discussion right there. I’m pretty happy to be back, though sadly my new coffee addiction will likely make a dent in my wallet since I’m leaving Amante. Upside: I’ll be able to afford a new wallet.

Now, onto the heart of the matter.

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Pictured above: Black Hawk Colorado. Until recently, bikes were banned entirely from the city. There are still plenty of these no bike signs posted in the state, from canyon roads to downtown Fort Collins. Find me a “no car” sign on a road, anywhere. Good luck with that.

The auto industry’s largest manufacturer, Volkswagon, had a profit of $16 billion in 2013. The largest bike manufacturer, Giant, had a profit of $47.5 million (2012). That’s 340 times smaller. And we wonder why pedestrians and cyclists have fewer rights to the road than cars and trucks? We’re banished to the broken, gravel- and glass- filled edges–out of sight and mind from distracted, turning vehicles. We take up one-fifth the space of a normal-sized car (that typically has one person in it) and yet we’re still banned from riding two abreast on certain roads (Sunshine and Flagstaff come to mind)–and entirely in certain states and cities. Even if it’s legal to ride two abreast, many self-entitled drivers and even a handful of naive police don’t recognize that right.

There’s no need to make an argument about which form of transportation (bikes or cars) is better for the world and its inhabitance. Unfortunately, free market capitalism doesn’t distinguish between right and wrong or what’s better or worse for the environment, animals, or humans. It favors money. It favors corporations. And while corporations depend on the support of people consuming their goods, it’s incredibly easy to persuade us to do whatever they want.

Advertising works on everyone. It does work on you, whether you believe so or not. You may not be convinced to spend 79 cents more on name brand dish washing detergent, but the fact that you’re out buying dish washing detergent in the first place means you believe that you need a dishwasher. Hey, I have one too. It’s easy. It “saves” time. (Valuable time that I can spend on facebook or watching movies). But do I need a dishwasher? No. I have it because, like you, I’m a product of consumerism and I’ve been exposed to thousands upon thousands of hours of advertising, convincing me that things will make my life easier, more convenient, and better. Plus, if everyone else has one, I need one too. Buying things…it’s what we were born and bred to do.

To bring it back to the auto vs bike industry, it’s no wonder why cyclists and pedestrians are so discriminated against. We’re literally in the way of a huge industry, slowing traffic down (albeit not by much) and making it less convenient to drive (again, not by much).

For a short history lesson, click here to learn how the auto industry made people illegal and gave automobiles the right of way. Jaywalking wasn’t always a thing. People use to cross the street wherever and whenever they pleased. They had the right to the road, not cars. Streets are where kids played and people convened to socialize and sell goods. That way of life has changed so dramatically that now we think, “Of course cars should have the right of way. They’re going faster, they’re harder to slow down, they’re more important. People in cars are trying to get somewhere ON TIME for Christ’s sake. Roads are for transportation, not for socializing. We all have places to go, jobs to do, and purchase to make.” People inhabiting the streets meant that drivers had to go slower through cities and pay attention, which made driving less convenient. The auto industry didn’t like that, so they changed the laws, the layout of cities, and our entire way of life. Freedom of choice? Sure, keep telling yourself that.

2013-12-25-not-recommendedThank you sign, for telling me it’s my own fault when I get hit.

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Now for something completely un-depressing.

Last Friday-Sunday (23rd-25th):

I spent three days on a hut trip in the mountains outside of Basalt, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, sipping whisky by the fire with friends, and going to sleep at 8pm. It was a marvelous break from civilization. It was quiet and peaceful and simple.

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Tuesday:

It was time to hammer again. I suffered through my first real set of V02 intervals of the season on NCAR. They weren’t pretty and the numbers weren’t good. But I was happy to complete the workout. My motivation for training is almost back to normal, which is a huge relief. After the intervals I went up Flagstaff, where I got punched.

While riding along, minding my own business as usual, a looked up from the road and saw a car suddenly backing into me around a blind corner. I moved left and began to brake, coming to a stop beside it. Luckily there wasn’t another car coming from behind at the same time to pinch and pop me like a zit between the two. What ensued was a confusing, yet enraging, argument between a “not-all-there-in-the-head” driver and myself.

He accused me of “riding like an idiot” and that he’d almost just hit me. This was the confusing part, as I’d been riding solo, to the far side of the road, and I didn’t even remember him passing me–the pass had been that normal and forgettable. Later that afternoon, after reviewing the footage on my Rideye camera, I saw that he’d passed me roughly two minutes before he stopped and backed up into me. He most likely had me confused with another cyclist. That didn’t matter though. Backing into someone on purpose is the act of a maniac and I intended on reporting him to the police.

We argued and cursed at each other for a while, then he accused me of reaching into his car, which I didn’t do. He said, “reach into my car again and I’ll end you.” I said, “give me a break, old man.” At that, (he was still seated in his car) he punched me in the chest through the open window. I didn’t know if I should laugh at the ridiculousness of it all or drag his ass out and spill his brains on the pavement. I opted for neither. He drove off and I called 911. I had the entire thing on camera.

Here’s a play by play of events to give you an idea of what’s currently going on. You can view the video at the same time or afterwards.

At 1:29 I’m passed by an orange Subaru. It appears that he passes twice at first, which is due to splicing two video segments together since the Rideye records in 5-minute chunks. While the pass seems pretty average, the guy actually pulls out too far into the opposite lane and comes somewhat close to another cyclist heading downhill. A reminder to us all: if there’s not enough room to safely pass, just wait a few seconds.

At 2:30 you can see a truck slowing to a stop up ahead. Just around the corner the Subaru has stopped and is backing up towards me and traffic.

At: 2:36 the Subaru appears.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 9.22.52 PM

To hear anything at all on the video you’ll have to turn your audio way up or plug in some external speakers. I muted everything leading up to the argument so you don’t have to hear all the noisy road chatter. Rideyes record sound but not all that well.

I asked for his name and if he’d been drinking, since he seemed completely out of it and highly irrational. Instead of answering me he asked what my name was. I told him “Kennett Peterson” and asked for his name again. He replied “Fred Flintstone, Bitch.” Uughhh, seriously? When I asked if he’d been drinking he just asked it right back to me. Answering questions with questions is a sign of someone who has very little oxygen flowing to their brain and lots flowing to extremities for fight or flight. Remember that for your next bar brawl.

I told him I was recording the whole thing and that I was going to report him for backing into me on a blind curve and for harassment. I continue pressing for his name and an apology. He denied me both, then accuses me of reaching into his window at 4:53. He strikes me in the chest with a closed fist at 5:00 (the one minute the camera wasn’t pointed at him), then drives off shortly after admitting that he hit me. The video:

When the police arrived he was long gone. They were very helpful and quick to respond, and I’m confident that the charges will stick. I’m pressing charges against him for reckless driving and third degree assault, and have sent the video to the police as evidence.

What a great way to spend a rare 70-degree day in January.

Thursday night: 

Adelaide and I were headed to bed early, since we planned on riding part way to Fort Collins the next morning for the sentencing of Peggy Brown to show support for triathlete Jeff Wicks. Peggy hit Jeff that summer in her car and left him for dead along the roadside.

While preparing breakfast for the next morning, I sliced my finger wide open to the bone when a stale bagel made a break for it and jumped off the cutting board. Blood began pouring out of my index finger instantly and I began fearing for my hematocrit. Adelaide ended up driving me to the ER for stitches (only three). It was the sort of cut that could have done without stitches but would have taken a month to heal fully. So despite our early to bed plans fading into a florescent-lit hospital room at 11PM, the stitches were a good choice.

photo 2

It was Adelaide’s first trip back to a hospital, aside from dropping off a care package to the ICU nurses up in Longmont United. She was a bit of an emotional wreck. It was a pretty hectic night, which foreshadowed and even worse day to come.

Friday:

Jeff Wicks was training for the Boulder Ironman last summer when Peggy Brown pulled out in front of him, exactly like Russell Rosh did, the driver who hit Adelaide. After the impact, which left Jeff with permanent brain damage, she abandoned him. She later made the excuse that she thought he might have been dead anyways. Soooo, it’s okay to just fucking leave then since he’s just a corpse and doesn’t need assistance? She circled back a while later to check out the crime scene, then fled again. She pulled into a parking lot to check the damage to her car two miles away, and that’s when the police nabbed her. Luckily, a witness had been following her and had called the police.

You’d expect a person like this would, at the very least, get jail time and her license revoked for a year or more. Peggy got community service and a $3,000 fine.

The experience left me ashamed of the court system. I was ashamed of her disgusting, lying lawyer, the seemingly uncaring and bored judge who gave her less than a slap on the wrist, and I was even ashamed at the lack of effort (in my opinion) put forth by the DA. I realize that the court has no authority to take away someone’s license (that’s left to the DMV for some stupid reason) but the complete lack of punishment was infuriating. A $3,000 fine for leaving him to die?

People like Peggy need to be punished not only because they are despicable human beings, but also to serve as examples to others. Obviously we should be terrified, for moral reasons, of hurting or killing someone. But is that enough to keep our eyes on the road?

Peggy didn’t get up that morning with the intent of running anyone over, but Jeff and everyone else on the road that day apparently weren’t important enough to receive Peggy’s full attention. She deserves to be punished for being a shitty, inattentive driver because mistakes don’t happen. Mistakes are made. They’re a choice. And it’s obvious that we can’t rely on people’s morals to keep them focused and watching out for others. That leaves us with fear of punishment.

Severe punishment needs to take morality’s place: harsh monetary fines of six or more figures, permanent revocation of driver’s licenses, loss of employment, and serious jail time–especially when it’s a hit and run. A hit and run is essentially taking a gun to someone’s head on purpose. The initial collision may have been unintentional, but to leave someone bleeding to death and unconscious by the side of the road without stopping to call for help is just plain murder. Peggy brown and people like her deserve to spend the rest of their lives behind bars, serving as an example for others to do the right thing. The humane thing. It’s not hard to stop and take responsibility.

I’d stowed my bike in the car so I could ride home from the courthouse, but first Adelaide and I had coffee to drink and minds to unload. We opted for a coffee shop a few blocks away and talked about the court system and how laws need to be changed. Adelaide is giving a speech to the state legislature this coming Tuesday in regards to House Bill 1035, which would enable victims of Careless Driving Resulting In Bodily Injury access to a Victim’s Rights Advocate. It’s something the Colorado state police have wanted for a long time, as it allows access to certain legal information, as well as invaluable help, for the victims of careless driving collisions.

After spending a half hour drinking coffee, Adelaide took off for home and I got on the bike. I spent a solid two hours in a furious rage, obsessing about all the shitty things that had happened recently and how much I hated the justice system, being a cog in a world that’s imprisoned by cars and enslaved by corporations that don’t have anything even close to our best interests in mind, and all the while being part of the problem myself. I drive a car. I buy bananas, lithium ion batteries, and coffee–all imported or mined from half way around the third world. I fly in planes that burn fossil fuel. My bike, clothes, shoes, and toothbrush are all made of fossil fuel. I take a tiny bit of consolation in the fact that at least I’m honest with myself. I realize I’m no better than most. I’m at fault too. If you don’t hate yourself just a little, you’re not being honest. We’re all pretty small-minded for living the lavish lives we’ve been dealt while millions of others starve or die of malaria. And the kind of world we’re willing to leave behind just so we can travel to bike races? We’re a selfish bunch, that’s for sure.

As I was self-loathing my way up Carter Lake, I bumped into Jake Rosenbarger (of Kim and Jake’s Cakes). My anger quickly dissolved as Jake and I caught up and shared a few laughs about my hard times. Some people are just upbeat and positive. Jake’s like that. He’s pretty much always all smiles. I mean, the guy makes cakes for a living! There’s a lot to be pissed off about sometimes: driver’s punching you, your fiance nearly being killed, less-than-human women abandoning unconscious fathers in the ditch as their pulses slowly fade away–and the legal system saying “ehhh, fuck it she’s sort of sorry and he’s just a cyclist,” the deforestation of the rain forests and extinction of dozens of species every day, acidification of the oceans and the loss of coral reefs…sometimes it’s too much to worry about without going insane. Sometimes you need to just enjoy a nice slice of cake.

 

One thought on “Driving is a right, not a privilege

  1. Great job keeping your cool on flagstaff. After all that’s happened that camera paid off quickly. I’m going shopping this week.. Thanks and keep up the good work, be safe!!

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